Book Review | Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

need to know

Book Description

In pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil, a CIA analyst uncovers a dangerous secret that will test her loyalty to the agency—and to her family.

What do you do when everything you trust might be a lie?

Vivian Miller is a dedicated CIA counterintelligence analyst assigned to uncover the leaders of Russian sleeper cells in the United States. On track for a much-needed promotion, she’s developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight.

After accessing the computer of a potential Russian operative, Vivian stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents within America’s borders. A few clicks later, everything that matters to her—her job, her husband, even her four children—are threatened.

Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust?

A classy spy novel with intrigue, doubt, and fierce loyalties.  This debut novel by former CIA analyst, Karen Cleveland, grips and doesn’t let go.  The main character, Vivian, tracks Russian sleeper agents for her career, and at the end of chapter one, realizes they are much closer to home than she thinks!  Hacking into a recovered laptop from a known Russian source, she uncovers five covert agents who are sleepers and she is about to expose them.  But what must she do when one of them is related to her?  The book immediately gets the reader thinking ethically and to what extent we might bend the rules.

By chapter six, she makes a decision that affects everyone in her family, her four children and husband included, and the story takes off.  Can she protect her family from those who really wish harm, or is she trapped?  And will she be able to move on when lies are built on lies?

If you love spy stories, or possible real life fiction, this book is for you.  I will admit at some points, I struggled with some of Vivian’s decisions, but her motherly ways influence her in ways I might not have chosen. However, the end is satisfying, and some of the conversations throughout the book aren’t predictable, but flow as if characters are actually having a conversation, which is rather refreshing.  For a debut novel, I would definitely read more by this author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Random House Publishing through NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Movie Update: http://deadline.com/2017/02/charlize-theron-need-to-know-cia-spy-novel-universal-pictures-karen-cleveland-1201924366/

Book Review | After He Killed Me by Natalie Barelli

after he killed me
Emma’s friends are close. Her enemies are closer.

Emma Fern has won at life: she’s a prize-winning author and she’s blissfully happy with her husband, Jim. It wasn’t an easy rise to the top, but Emma knows you can’t achieve success without sacrifice. The trouble is, Jim knows that too.

As her literary triumph starts to fade into the past, Emma comes under pressure to write a second bestseller. But her big secret is that she didn’t write the first one. She’s a fraud, and the only people who ever knew the truth are…no longer a problem.

What Emma didn’t count on was Jim playing the long game too. He has his own secrets—and a dangerous plan that could derail her beautifully orchestrated life. Faced with the loss of everything that defines her, Emma is forced to take increasingly desperate steps.

She won’t go down without a fight. And as Jim should know, she won’t fight fair.

So Emma Fern is back, in the second of two books in this series.  Without giving away spoilers, since I truly am going to suggest that you read the first book, Until I Met Her, this book picks up right after the ending from that book.  Emma is a published author, Poulton Prize winner and she and Jim are happy and moving on after some of the incidents from book one.

Yet within the first three chapters, Emma is struck by a car and things begin to move into motion.  She and Jim seem to have weathered some pretty intense moments in their marriage, and the accident is another one that pulls them together.  Or does it?

After the accident, Emma has some repercussions and as a result, her instinct seems to be a little off.  This time around, Emma needs to write another book, and she coincidentally runs into a ghostwriter who offers help.  Things begin to slowly unfold and Emma’s new reality is revealed.  Prepare for the fast-pace and “what in the world is really happening” moments that are reminiscent of book one.  I laughed out loud a few times, just because Emma always seems to have a plan, and one that involves so many crazy pieces fitting together.

This book made me wish there was a book three, simply because the ending is almost unbelievable.  There’s no way it can just end there.  Do you want to go on the wild ride that is Emma Fern?  Grab a copy, snuggle up by a fire, and maybe grab a bottle of Scotch in honor of Beatrice Johnson Greene.  You’re definitely going to need it!

Book Review | Until I Met Her by Natalie Barelli

 

until i met her

Beatrice Johnson Greene, a bestselling crime writer, has an unusual favor to ask. When a chance encounter brings Emma Fern into her life, she thinks she’s found just the person for the job. Soon Beatrice will wish they’d never met.

For Emma, desperate to please, it’s an offer she can’t refuse. All she has to do is lend her name to Beatrice’s next novel, her first in a new genre. But when the book becomes a huge triumph, Emma finds herself the toast of the literary world. From nobody to somebody without writing a word.

It’s her first taste of success, and now Emma wants more. This is her masterpiece, after all. It says so on the cover.

Only Beatrice knows the truth. And surely there’s a solution to that.

Until I Met Her begins with the funeral of an author- Emma Fern’s best friend and mentor.  There is a private admission from Emma that she in fact, killed Beatrice.  And so the book opens to reveal a mousy character who owns a vintage shop, is married to a successful businessman with a mundane life.  But Emma Fern is nothing if she isn’t incredibly unpredictable.

Her entire world changes when Beatrice Johnson Greene entered her store.  She can’t help but fall all over herself, complimenting her and winning her affection.  The two quickly move from strangers to best friends, and within a short amount of time, trust begins to build between them.  Emma begins to disregard the store, preferring to run off with Beatrice to drunken lunches, and shopping with the rich and famous.

Beatrice confides to Emma that she has written a book that is outside of her genre, and since a previous book of hers had bombed in the past, she was wondering if Emma could be the “author” for a novel she’d already written- take the credit, and be the face of this new book.  At first, Emma is shocked and refuses to do it, but then her dream of being a writer is ignited, and she agrees.

Emma’s lust for fame, and a desire to remain friends with successful, untouchable Beatrice turns to greed as little by little Emma makes subtle changes to the manuscript and takes full possession of the book.  And with no set contract in place, it’s hers, right?

A sidebar to consider in the novel is Emma’s relationship with her husband Jim.  It is incredibly awkward, as she sees no wrong in him at all, and his lack of interest in anything she says/does.  But because of his success, she admires and fawns all over him, even though he’s constantly dismissive of her.  She seems to have a very skewed view of how well her own marriage is going.  Pleasing Jim has always been her main concern, until the book…

Is Beatrice encouraged and thrilled for her best friend to have fame as well?  Or is it truly a passive aggressive friendship that is doomed?  You’ll have to read for yourself.

This was a quick read, one with unpredictable twists and turns, and moments of “what the what!?!!”  I loved the characters, with the exception of Jim, who is so noticeably arrogant, that it makes me wonder what Emma really sees in him.  And even though Emma is nothing like she seems in the beginning, I found that I liked her crazy thinking as she progresses through the story.  She’s feminine, overthinks as many of us do, and a little immature, so I found her to be believable.

I loved Natalie Barelli’s first book in the Emma Fern series, that I’m currently reading the second book, After He Killed Me.  Stay tuned for that review!!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | A Margin of Lust by Greta Boris

margin of lust

The first in a seven-book series on the seven deadly sins, A Margin of Lust, focused on strictly that- LUST.  Gwen Bishop is a real estate agent who lists her dream home and can’t wait to sell it.  She loves real estate and the long-term goals she’ll be able to accomplish with the sale of homes.  Her husband is a school principal who is very focused on their family and his career as well.  As distance comes between Art and Gwen, enter a killer, who has a tie to the house Gwen is trying to sell, with agendas of his own.  Soon after the listing for the multi-million dollar home goes on sale, a body is found in the house, and Gwen is part of the clean-up crew, as well as the next target.

Lust manifests in many shapes and sizes in this book, and it was a suspenseful quick read, with well-developed characters and a strong plot line. It makes you question every person that Gwen encounters, and with chapters written from the perspective of the killer, the story pulls you in until you reach the very end.  Can’t wait to read The Scent of Wrath, Greta’s second book in the series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Fawkes Press and the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html&gt; : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

lies she told

This book was one that I could NOT.PUT.DOWN.  It was a little slow at the beginning, but it took off within the first five chapters. If you are a reader who doesn’t mind shifting perspectives, this suspenseful book takes turns like no other.

Your main character is Liza Cole who is an author with a deadline for a new book.  Liza is married to David. Recently, his partner from work, Nick, goes missing, assumed dead in a local river. Liza begins writing her story about a woman who is named Beth, who also is married and a new mother. Beth catches her husband, Jake, cheating with a coworker of his, named Colleen.  And as Liza writes, we learn more about Beth, her complicated life, and Liza herself.

I didn’t mind the perspective shift from reality to the fiction book.  It was believable, and made me question motives, realities, and conversations between characters.  The best part is about midway through when you begin to realize that these two perspectives will align and when they do, WOW!!  This was my first book by Cate Holahan, but since I have The Widower’s Wife in my Kindle app, I’ll dive into that one in 2018.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crooked Lane Publishing and the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”