SYNOPSIS A viral video reveals a teen’s dark family history, leaving him to reckon with his heritage, legacy, and identity in this fiery, conversation-starting novel.
Eran Sharon knows nothing of his father except that he left when Eran was a baby. Now a senior in high school and living with his protective but tight-lipped mother, Eran is a passionate young man deeply interested in social justice and equality. When he learns that the Houston police have launched a program to increase traffic stops, Eran organizes a peaceful protest.
But a heated moment at the protest goes viral, and a reporter connects the Sharon family to a tragedy fifteen years earlier — and asks if Eran is anything like his father, a supposed terrorist. Soon enough, Eran is wondering the same thing, especially when the people he’s gone to school and temple with for years start to look at him differently.
Timely, powerful, and full of nuance, Rafi Mittlefehldt’s sophomore novel confronts the prejudices, fears, and strengths of family and community, striking right to the heart of what makes us who we are.
What Makes Us is a heart-stopping, heartbreaking read — a book full of heart. Mittlefehldt’s thoughtful, nuanced exploration of identity pulled me in from the very first page, and I could barely put it down. Eran’s story takes a universal coming-of-age theme — finding out your parents aren’t who you thought they were — to a tightly wound and thrilling extreme. Most important, this book provides satisfying, much-needed representation of a contemporary, complex Jewish teen and his family. ―Lisa Rosinsky, author of Inevitable and Only
Provocative. ―Kirkus Reviews
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Rafi Mittlefehldt is a writer who has worked as a newspaper reporter, freelance theater critic, and children’s author. His debut novel was It Looks Like This. Rafi Mittlefehldt lives with his husband in New York City.
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR Shortly after the horrific Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, I read an article that mentioned one of the bombers having left behind a wife and three-year-old daughter. It was a throwaway line, but it stuck with me — I couldn’t stop thinking about that girl, who was too young to understand what had happened. When would she find out who her father was, and how would she process that? How would others react to learning about her family history? Would she keep it a secret? Would her mother?
What Makes Us began very simply as a story exploring those questions. But as I fleshed out the two main characters, Eran and Jade, their personalities took the story deeper, toward matters that are personal to me but relatable to so many. Eran’s volatility and tendency to react instinctively force him to confront issues of impulse control and anger management. And both characters’ uncertainty regarding their own pasts compels them to wrestle with self-determination and to ask, What makes a person? As the novel switches between Eran’s and Jade’s perspectives, we see them reluctantly frame and then try to answer this question, all against the backdrop of a community on the brink of chaos.
SYNOPSIS Nora Warren hides her dark side well because she’s had years of practice.
The wife of a lawyer and mother of two girls, she slides under everyone’s radar, never revealing what she really is—a murderer.
At least, she feels like one.
Nora’s plagued by the secrets surrounding her older brother’s suicide decades earlier. Yet she lives as though he never existed.
Now, in her thirties, Nora suspects her husband, Dave, is having an affair with her friend, the wife of a leading US Senate candidate. When her friend’s body is discovered—another apparent suicide—Nora is left with haunting secrets and choices that dredge up her grim nature, the side of herself that no one ever sees. Will she act on her impulses? Mustn’t she?
How far will Nora go to protect the life she has built for herself?
“A nurturing and protective elementary school teacher is thrust into a web of unspeakable evil. Riveting, suspenseful and diabolical, Child’s Play keeps the reader anxiously and eagerly turning the pages.” ―Mary Jane Clark, New York Times best-selling author on Child’s Play
“…thrill ride…packs a wallop. By the end, the body count of Child’s Play adds up to eight (plus one rape), and delivers the shocking answer.” ―Mystery Scene on Child’s Play
“Surprising, dark, and even disturbing. A fragile and vulnerable young teacher faces a terrifying first day of school―and that is just the riveting beginning. Timely, provocative and sinister, this twisty story of family and friendship is not for the faint of heart.” ―Hank Phillippi Ryan, Agatha, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author on Child’s Play
“What’s behind these horrors culminates in helter-skelter chaos. Elle’s home becomes the center of a tragic universe, since she ‘attracted tragedy and death.’ That combination is magnified many fold as bodies pile up. And readers are left enchanted by another ‘Elle-oquent’ thriller.” ―BookReporter on Child’s Play
“The murder of the principal and a teacher on opening day at an elementary school, a terrifying scenario. In Child’s Play Merry Jones showcases her unique skill in delivering this dark, very dark, thriller with a modicum of humor. The end, well, you won’t see it coming amid the tortuous twists and turns. Merry Jones at her best!” ―Patricia Gussin, New York Times best-selling author of After the Fall on Child’s Play
“In Jones’s fast-paced third Elle Harrison novel (after 2014’s Elective Procedures), the Philadelphia second-grade teacher believes that she failed Ty Evans, a former student who later confessed to killing his abusive father, but she hopes to redeem herself with his younger brother, Seth, now enrolled in her class. With Ty newly released from juvenile detention and clashing with their alcoholic mother, Seth’s home life is unstable. When the draconian school principal and a humorless teacher―both of whom treated Ty cruelly―are murdered, Elle is torn between belief in his innocence and her desire to protect Seth. Meanwhile, the realtor charged with selling her house becomes increasingly aggressive, and when someone drugs and rapes Elle, she doesn’t know whether to suspect the realtor or the killer. The identities of the rapist and murderer are obvious well before Elle or other characters identify them. Still, Elle’s complex feelings toward her late husband―who was murdered while they were separated―add nuance and depth.” ―Publishers Weekly on Child’s Play
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Merry Jones is an award winning author who has written humor (eg. I LOVE HIM, BUT…), non-fiction (eg. BIRTHMOTHERS), and dark suspense (eg. the Zoe Hayes mysteries, the Harper Jennings thrillers, and the Elle Harrison suspense novels). Now, with her twentieth book, WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW, she’s entering the domain of domestic psychological suspense. Jones taught college writing courses for fifteen years, and leads seminars, appears on panels at writing conferences, and, with fellow members of the Liars Club, cohosts a monthly writers’ coffeehouse and the weekly Oddcast, a podcast devoted to writing and other creative endeavors.
Jones’s work has been translated into seven languages and has appeared in magazines, such as American Woman and Glamour. Jones is a member of the Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and the Philadelphia Liars Club. The mother of two and grandmother of one (so far) lives with her husband in Philadelphia, where she is an avid rower on the Schuylkill River and a member of Vesper Boat Club. Visit her at MerryJones.com.
This is from the first chapter of WHAT
YOU DON’T KNOW
From Nora’s adult years
Friday, August 10, 2018
The screams came from Sophie, and they were serious,
not the kind that happened in a game, or even in a fight. These were the kind
that happened when someone severed a digit, when their hair caught fire. Nora
jumped to her feet, slamming her coffee mug onto the table, noting the dark
splash on the placemat, the stain that was already forming.
“Girls?” she bellowed as she ran to the playroom,
images pulsing in her head. A finger crushed, an arm broken. An intruder at the
sliding doors. With a knife, with a gun. Oh God.
Nora swung around the newel post, flew down the
half-flight of stairs, took the left past the laundry room into the den. Her
socks had no traction, so she skidded over the hardwood floors into the room.
Her eyes darted left to right, right to left, searching for blood, for damage,
for a stranger. Only when she saw her children intact and uninjured did she
allow herself to breathe.
“What?” she panted.
At the sight of her mother, Sophie stopped screaming.
She halted her stomping and flailing on the sofa as if only now remembering
that she might get scolded for jumping on the furniture. Hopping down, she
crashed into the coffee table and knocked her plastic tea set onto the floor.
Nora thought Sophie would barrel into her arms, but
no, she stopped beside Ellie, who was crouching behind the sofa’s armrest, eyes
gleaming and intense like Tommy’s. Seeing how much Ellie resembled Tommy was
disturbing. Nora almost heard him chuckle.
“Mom! Do something!” Bug-eyed, Sophie raised a hand
and pointed at the floor near the sliding glass door.
Nora blinked Tommy away and stepped farther into the
room, her gaze following the trajectory of Sophie’s finger, unable to
understand the panic.
“Goodness,” she began. “What’s the big—”
Nora stopped mid-sentence, her blood halting its
circulation, her skin erupting in goose bumps. Some primal sense took over,
some paleo-revulsion, and she recoiled, stepping backward, stumbling over her
The spider was huge.
Nora’s shoulders hunched and her throat tightened. Damn.
Her knees dissolved, so that for a few seconds, she couldn’t move.
Sophie shouted, begging her to kill it.
Ellie hugged herself and stared.
Of course, yes. She would have to kill it. But, God,
it was ugly. And as big across as Sophie’s hand, with long pointed spindly
legs. Looking at it made Nora’s stomach wrench and her skin writhe, yet she
couldn’t look away.
“Kill it, Mommy!” Sophie screamed. Or maybe it was
Ellie. It could have been either of them.
For a few heartbeats, the playroom was silent,
electric with tension. Six eyes gawked at the spider. And then Ellie burst into
a high-pitched constant keening that reverberated in Nora’s bones.
“Get it, Mom!” Sophie yelled, covering her ears to
muffle Ellie’s wails. When had her daughters become so casual about killing?
Was it too much television? She’d have to monitor what the girls were watching
and talk to Dave about it. Then again, he’d only tell her she was being
overprotective, that the girls had to be prepared for the world they’d live in.
“It’s coming closer!” Sophie cowered behind Ellie,
hands still over her ears.
“Ellie!” Nora barked. “Cut it out. I can’t think with
“Mom said cut it out!” Sophie yelled into her sister’s
ears. “Be quiet!”
“Sophie, don’t yell in her ears,” Nora yelled, then
softened her voice. “In fact, don’t yell period. And Ellie, hush.”
Finally, Ellie stopped screaming. She stood up, rapt
The spider didn’t move.
Nora edged over to the bookshelf and retrieved a wad
of drawing paper. She held her breath as she rolled it up and held the
makeshift tube at the ready—a slugger waiting for the pitch.
“Mom, hurry. It’s going to get away!”
Nora half hoped it would. She watched it. An alien
being without bones, without a brain. Was it even aware that it existed? That
it was in danger? She stepped closer, her body wracked with disgust. And
definitely, without a doubt, she didn’t just see but felt the spider tense, preparing all its several limbs for battle.
Oh God. How did it know? Could it hear her heartbeat? Was it watching her?
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners and the “delectable, moving” (Entertainment Weekly) My Favorite Half-Night Stand comes a modern love story about what happens when your first love reenters your life when you least expect it…
Sam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak.
During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.
Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.
With Christina Lauren’s signature “beautifully written and remarkably compelling” (Sarah J. Maas, New York Times bestselling author) prose and perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, Twice in a Blue Moon is an unforgettable and moving novel of young love and second chances.
Christine Lauren is my new favorite writing duo. I adored this book as much as I did their last one. This book tugged on my heart strings and I just couldn’t put it down, nor did I want to. Tate was the perfect lead character and her friendships were on point with what she needed.
I don’t want to get into the details of this book but I highly recommend it! I am going to add the rest of their back catalog to my ever growing TBR list.
SEPTEMBER 2017 SELECTION FOR BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB ONE OF KIRKUS’ BEST BOOKS OF 2017
From the author of the USA Today bestselling novel, The Widower’s Wife, comes an electrifying story of love and deceit.
The truth can be darker than fiction.
Cole, a once-successful novelist whose career has seen better days, has
one month to write the thriller that could land her back on the
bestseller list. Meanwhile, she’s struggling to start a family, but her
husband is distracted by the disappearance of his best friend, Nick. As
stresses weigh her down in her professional and personal lives, Liza
escapes into writing the chilling exploits of her latest heroine, Beth.
a new mother, suspects her husband is cheating on her while she’s home
caring for their newborn. Angry and betrayed, she aims to catch him in
the act and make him pay for shattering the illusion of their perfect
life. But before she realizes what she’s doing, she’s tossing the body
of her husband’s mistress into the East River.
Then, the lines between Liza’s fiction and her reality eerily blur. Nick’s body is dragged from the East River, and Liza’s husband is arrested for his murder. Before her deadline is up, Liza will have to face up to the truths about the people around her, including her own. If she doesn’t, the end of her heroine’s story could be the end of her own.
Obviously, I have a backlog of review books on my Netgalley account and I am trying to read through them. This book, though released in 2017, still holds up well in the domestic thriller genre. In an interesting twist, the chapters alternate between the main character, an author, and her novel’s main character. I did listen to this on audio but I am confident that it would read the same in print. It was not one of those books with multiple POV’s that leaves you confused.
I did guess the main plot line twist about half way through however, it did not ruin the book for me. I enjoyed this book for what it was but I wasn’t blown away by it.
A Pretty Woman tale turns toxic and deadly in this provocative thriller of sex, obsession, and murder from Robyn Harding, the “master of domestic suspense” (Kathleen Barber) and the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Party and Her Pretty Face.
Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favors are optional.
Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving.
So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder.
Emotionally powerful and packed with page-turning suspense, The Arrangement delves into the sordid, all-too-real world of shadowy relationships between wealthy, powerful men and the young women who are caught in their web.
This was a twisted story that blurred the moral lines of Natalie, our young main character. The entire idea of Sugar Daddies and Babies is a disturbing one but was well described in this story. I am not going into details with this one but be prepared for a wild ride.
I enjoyed it as a well written story and gave it 4 crowns.
New York Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins crafts an unforgettable story about a sleepy Southern town, two fiercely independent women, and a truly magical friendship.
Sarah Dove is no ordinary bookworm. To her, books have always been more than just objects: they live, they breathe, and sometimes they even speak. When Sarah grows up to become the librarian in her quaint Southern town of Dove Pond, her gift helps place every book in the hands of the perfect reader. Recently, however, the books have been whispering about something out of the ordinary: the arrival of a displaced city girl named Grace Wheeler.
If the books are right, Grace could be the savior that Dove Pond desperately needs. The problem is, Grace wants little to do with the town or its quirky residents—Sarah chief among them. It takes a bit of urging, and the help of an especially wise book, but Grace ultimately embraces the challenge to rescue her charmed new community. In her quest, she discovers the tantalizing promise of new love, the deep strength that comes from having a true friend, and the power of finding just the right book.
“A mesmerizing fusion of the mystical and the everyday” (Susan Andersen, New York Times bestselling author), The Book Charmer is a heartwarming story about the magic of books that feels more than a little magical itself. Prepare to fall under its spell.
July 2019 LibraryReads selection
I adored this book and the people of Dove Pond. It reminds me a bit of Stars Hollow from the Gilmore Girls fame but it has magical elements to it. It is not over the top magical but just the right amount that helps you envision the town and all of its wonders.
Grace is a women that has arrived into this town to try and rehabilitate her ailing Mama G. She is the guardian of her niece and and she is at a loss as what it is she needs to do to survive. As she meets more and more people in Dove Pond, she wonders if she made the right decision to move there.
I highly recommend this story and I can’t wait to read the next in the series.
From T.M. Logan, the bestselling author of Lies, comes 29 Seconds, a sensational new thriller that explores what happens when a split second thought of revenge takes on a life of its own.
“Give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear.”
Sarah is a young professor struggling to prove herself in a workplace controlled by the charming and manipulative Alan Hawthorne. A renowned scholar and television host, Hawthorne rakes in million-dollar grants for the university where Sarah works—so his inappropriate treatment of female colleagues behind closed doors has gone unchallenged for years. And Sarah is his newest target.
When Hawthorne’s advances become threatening, Sarah is left with nowhere to turn. Until the night she witnesses an attempted kidnapping of a young child on her drive home, and impulsively jumps in to intervene. The child’s father turns out to be a successful businessman with dangerous connections—and her act of bravery has put this powerful man in her debt. He gives Sarah a burner phone and an unbelievable offer. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that can make all her problems disappear.
No consequences. No traces. All it takes is a 29-second phone call.
Because everyone has a name to give. Don’t they?
I found the premise of the story to be interesting. If given the chance to do something drastic to someone else without being caught, would you do it? Sarah is in a terrible situation that is quickly spiraling out of control. Her marriage is falling apart and although she loves the work she does, her work environment is toxic. She is constantly harassed by a beloved colleague and has no way of reporting him.
I am not sure how I feel about this book. It has been a full week since I finished it and I don’t remember the ending. This obviously wasn’t too memorable for me.