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July 2019

Book Review: WHEREVER SHE GOES by Kelley Armstrong

While playing with her daughter in the park one day, Aubrey meets a little boy and his mother. Days later Aubrey sees the boy again—being dragged into an SUV and calling for his mother, who’s mysteriously absent. After the vehicle peels away, Aubrey files a police report, but no one believes her.

Because no one has reported a missing boy.

Aubrey fears the mother is dead, but she’s dismissed by police and the media as an attention seeker. Attention is the last thing she wants, however. She’s been living under an alias, hiding from her past. But as a mother, she can’t ignore what she saw, knowing a child has been abducted with no one looking for him. She sets out to find him herself, confronting not only very bad people but ghosts from her tragic childhood.

As usual with Kelley Armstrong’s books (This Fallen Prey, A Darkness Absolute), the standalone Wherever She Goes starts with a bang, and maintains a steady pace. Aubrey has shades of Detective Casey Duncan from Armstrong’s Rockton series; she’s far from perfect, even borderline criminal, but she’s righteous and sympathetic and never one to bet against.

While she searches for the boy, Aubrey is also dealing with the dissolution of her marriage, struggling to make the right decisions so her daughter won’t be taken away from her. Her relationship with her husband is complicated but refreshingly mature, heading in surprising directions. Armstrong’s characters aren’t superhuman, simply regular people who rise to the occasion in extraordinary circumstances.

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This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers and is reprinted here with permission.

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June 2019 Reading Roundup

I’ve been saying this a lot to friends—how is 2019 half over already?? It feels like I was celebrating New Year’s only a few weeks ago, and I think Christmas lights are still hanging in my bathroom.

Part of my losing track of time has to do with a busy spring, flying back and forth between L.A. and Atlanta to work on an HBO show. The good part is, the forced downtime on flights and sets allowed for lots of reading. I read 7.25 books in June, more than my average of 5. Below are some quick thoughts.

The Favorites

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book about a young woman working as a costume designer in the 1940s New York City theater scene is pure joy, full of sparkly banter reminiscent of the kind Rosalind Russell had with Cary Grant in His Girl Friday. (“What’s her husband like, by the way?” one Girls character says. Replies another: “Apart from being stupid and talentless, he has no faults.”)

You don’t have to be interested in theater to enjoy it. It’s more about a young woman finding herself in a pre-WWII world, eventually realizing she and her friends were feminists before they knew the word existed. The ending is unexpectedly moving and beautiful, a reminder that love comes in all forms.

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker. While reading, I bookdarted the crap out of this thriller, which is supposedly about who killed a toxic male boss but delves much deeper into what it’s like to be a working woman. Baker is so dead on about so many aspects that I shouted, “YESSSS!” quite a few times.

Like when she has the following response to the notion that some women are overly sensitive to certain comments and treatment in the workplace: “Believe it or not, we didn’t want to be offended. We weren’t sitting around twiddling our thumbs waiting for someone to show up and offend us so that we would have something to do that day.” Or when she writes simply: “A job is supposed to pay an employee, not cost her.”

The Rest

The Furies by Katie Lowe. Can’t recommend this novel, about girls at a private school invoking the Furies from Greek mythology to exact revenge on people who done them wrong. The girls are horrible people who don’t elicit much sympathy, and the plot and prose are derivative of that found in better books.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager. Tore through this thriller about a young woman who experiences strange things and hears weird noises at night, while apartment-sitting in a famous but creepy old Manhattan building. I stayed up late reading it in a hotel room, and then was certain I heard scary noises when I turned out the light. Full review to come in Shelf Awareness.

Never Have I Never by Joshilyn Jackson. This novel about a woman being blackmailed was readable, but I was frustrated that the protagonist remained weak throughout. Yes, the secrets from her past are serious, but if the relationships she has with her husband and friends are as strong as she claims, she should trust they wouldn’t abandon her. Allowing the blackmail to escalate puts the lie to her assertions that she now leads a healthy life surrounded by good, loving people. To whom she wants to keep lying. Oookay.

Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin. Gaylin’s previous book, the Edgar-winning If I Die Tonight, was one of my top reads of 2018 (see: review). This one, about a podcaster tracking down a serial killer from the 1970s, is also compelling but the last quarter lost me a bit. Gaylin’s very good at detailing the emotional trauma of violence, but some plot threads seem contrived and the climax felt rushed, with people taking sudden drastic, out-of-character actions just to escalate matters so the book could end.

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman. I tried but couldn’t get into this one and bailed after 81 pages. Its description as an exploration of racism and sexism in 1960s Baltimore had attracted me, but the many POVs of major and minor characters, including a dead one, made the story seem disjointed and gimmicky.

The Warehouse by Rob Hart. This dystopian tale of an Amazon-like conglomerate controlling every aspect of our lives is thought-provoking and unsettling in its plausibility. The world-building is impressive, and Hart paints the bleak visuals in an understated style that quietly drives the messages home. Full review and interview with Hart to come in Shelf Awareness.

What did you read last month, and which books were your favorites? What are your reading plans for the Fourth of July weekend?

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