Center of Gravity

Center of Gravity

by Laura McNeill

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Overview

Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill

The truth could cost her everything.

Her whole life, Ava Carson has been sure of one thing: she doesn’t measure up to her mother’s expectations. So when Mitchell Carson sweeps into her life with his adorable son, the ready-made family seems like a dream come true. In the blink of an eye, she’s married, has a new baby, and life is wonderful.

Or is it?

When her picture-perfect marriage begins unraveling at the seams, Ava convinces herself she can fix it. It’s temporary. It’s the stress. It’s Mitchell’s tragic history of loss.

If only Ava could believe her own excuses.

Mitchell is no longer the charming, thoughtful man she married. He grows more controlling by the day, revealing a violent jealous streak. His behavior is recklessly erratic, and the unanswered questions about his past now hint at something far more sinister than Ava can stomach. Before she can fit the pieces together, Mitchell files for divorce and demands full custody of their boys.

Fueled by fierce love for her children and aided by Graham Thomas, a new attorney in town, Ava takes matters into her own hands, digging deep into the past. But will finding the truth be enough to beat Mitchell at his own game?

Center of Gravity weaves a chilling tale, revealing the unfailing and dangerous truth that things—and people—are not always what they seem.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718030902
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 07/14/2015
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,094,168
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Laura McNeil is a writer, web geek, travel enthusiast, and coffee drinker. In her former life, she was a television news anchor for CBS News affiliates in New York and Alabama. Laura holds a master’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and is completing a graduate program in interactive technology at the University of Alabama. When she’s not writing and doing homework, she enjoys running, yoga, and spending time at the beach. She lives in Mobile, AL with her family.

Read an Excerpt

Center of Gravity


By Laura McNeill

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2015 Laura McNeill
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-3091-9


CHAPTER 1

JACK


ONE MONTH EARLIER WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24

Every day, somebody somewhere needs a hero.

Think about it. The mom lifting a two-ton truck to save her son after a car crash. The dad—who can't swim—who jumps in the water anyway to pull out his drowning daughter. The guy who kicks down the door of a burning building because his friend's kid is trapped inside.

All of a sudden, getting hurt doesn't matter. There's no thinking twice. Just a gut-pumping, jump-off-the-cliff, no turning back.

For these regular people, thrown into crazy life-or-death situations, there's that one big moment. Then they go back to work, their jobs, or school.

And it's someone else's turn.

I'm only in the third grade, but I've been waiting for my whole life.

Waiting for my chance—my moment to be a hero.

An ear-piercing shriek yanks me back to the school playground.

My best friend Mo runs up, breathless. "Emma Dunlop's stuck up in the oak tree." He bends over, chest heaving in the humidity, and puts both hands on his knees. "She's freaking out."

Shielding my eyes, I grit my teeth. The tree's as big as a monster, with twisted brown branches that extend like arms, thick emerald leaves at the fingertips. Spanish moss hangs from the lowest limbs, the ends curling like a snake's tail.

Though I can't see her through the tangle of limbs, I picture Emma hanging on tight to the rough bark. Shaking. Really scared. Trying not to look down at the brick-red clay.

I run a hand through my hair.

She's in trouble. And I know why.

Legend says a man's head—a genie—is hidden in the leaves and branches. Weird, rough pieces of wood make up his face. He has knots for eyes. A bump for his chin. It's for real. I've seen it.

All the kids know the story. If you touch the genie's nose, your wish will come true. Of course my dad doesn't believe in stuff like that and says I shouldn't either. He's a PhD and does an important job at the college. So I guess he knows what he's talking about.

But that's not going to save Emma now. I start to jog, then full-out sprint. At the base of the tree, I push through a crowd of my classmates. Third and fourth graders, gaping, heads tilted, mouths open like baby birds. When I reach the trunk, I squint up and find Emma's brand-new saddle shoes dangling high above me. I see pale, thin legs and the crisp edges of her plaid jumper. And despite everyone talking and whispering, I hear Emma crying. It's a whimpering wail, like a hurt animal.

"Y'all go on back inside now. Go back to class," my teacher says, pushing the group back an inch or two. I end up jostled next to the school librarian, who's holding her hands like she's praying.

Our eyes meet. Mine flicker away.

"Don't even think about it, Jack," she warns.

But I kick off my shoes anyway and grab hold of the trunk. Deep down in my belly, I make myself act like I'm not scared. I don't like heights or even hanging upside down from monkey bars. But Emma needs me. And no one else is doing a thing.

Ms. Martin gasps, but she knows she's too late. I'm out of her reach before she can react. I think hard about one of my favorite superheroes, Daredevil. He's like an Olympic athlete and a master of martial arts. He's blind but uses his other senses to fight crime, beat up bad guys, and save the girl. If he can do it ...

When I look back down at the ground, my stomach churns like I've eaten too many Snickers bars and guzzled a two-liter of Coke. I push the feeling away. Climb, Jack, I say to myself. Just climb. When I start to move my legs again, the first few feet are easy. Soon I'm above everyone's heads.

"They're going to get a ladder," the librarian calls out. "Come on down here, Jack Carson, right this instant. Lord have mercy!"

At the sound of her screech, Emma wobbles. Her saddle shoes kick and knock some bark from a branch. I can't come down now. She's slipping.

"They've called the fire department," my teacher adds. "Truck's on the way."

I pretend I don't hear her and move closer. My head starts to hurt. My ears are ringing. But I take a deep breath and hold on tight to the tree, concentrating on Emma. She's tiny, a first grader, with brown corkscrew curls and a yellow bow pinned to the side of her head. Her pink cheeks are streaked with dirt.

"Hey, Emma," I say, making my voice calm. "Whatcha doing up here?"

She flushes pink. "I wanted to make a w-wish. For my birthday."

A breeze ruffles the leaves, cooling the sweat on my forehead. My hands, gritty with dirt and bark, inch closer. I can almost reach her. "Well, let's make sure you get to your party."

"But I haven't found the genie." She begins to cry, which makes her body wobble. The branch moves up and down, and she starts sobbing harder.

"Emma," I say. "It's okay. I'll help you."

She snuffles and blinks a few times. "I'm scared."

"I know. Me too," I tell her. "But I won't let you fall. Give me your hand."

Her palm is slippery wet. I grip it and try to smile so that she's not so nervous. "Slide your foot toward me. Then the other one."

I watch Emma drag one foot about an inch. She tries the other one but gets her shoe caught on a bump. I inhale sharply, the scent of dirt and sweat filling my nose.

"Wait. Don't move," I say, squeezing her hand.

Sirens wail. The crowd below grows bigger. I swallow hard. Daredevil. Be like Daredevil.

"Hold on," I tell her. "I won't let go."

After what seems like forever, Emma moves her foot closer.

"Can you think of something great, like going on vacation or your birthday?" I ask.

"Or getting a pony." For a moment, she sighs dreamily.

"Right," I say. "Now, let's go."

We begin to climb lower, inch by inch, but my arm muscle cramps. Emma hesitates. I squeeze her hand. I need to get her down. And fast.

"Emma," I whisper. "Look to the right."

The face of the tree genie is right there.

"Oh," Emma breathes.

"Touch his nose, quick."

She reaches out a finger and brushes it, then giggles. Right then, another gust of wind blows through the branches. Her curls tickle my cheek. I almost want to laugh. But I can't. Not yet.

Climbing down is simpler now; the limbs are wider, sturdier. The voices right below us are louder. The last big branch, large enough to hold both of us, is about ten feet up from the ground. We stop here, gasping for breath.

Firefighters are waiting underneath us with a blanket. An ambulance is there with the back door open. Teachers are waving their hands. And saying something.

Jump. They want Emma to jump.

"All right." I use my most grown-up voice. "Emma, I need you to do one more thing."

Her chin moves up and down.

"They want you to let go. So they can catch you."

Emma's arms and legs get stiff. Her eyes widen, and we both swallow a gulp. We're taller than the high dive at Spring Hill Swim Club. I try not to sway when I look at the ground.

"Maybe pretend," I tell her, thinking fast, "that you're a butterfly. Or an eagle."

"How about a unicorn?" She gives me a lopsided grin.

I bite my lip. Enough with the horses. I want to get down. This rescue stuff isn't for sissies.

Emma looks at me.

"They're waiting for you, Emma. On the count of three, okay?"

When the firefighter below calls out "one," she jumps, and her uniform billows open like a plaid parachute. She lands square on the blanket and beams in delight. A firefighter reaches in, grabs Emma, and scoops her up.

Emma waves good-bye to me as the firefighter carries her to the ambulance.

"Think you'll get the pony?" I yell after her.

She shakes her curls. "I can't tell you my wish. It won't come true!"

Emma's mother runs up then, crying, hugging, and kissing her.

With Emma okay, the grown-ups turn back to me. Most of them have their arms crossed and don't look happy. No doubt the principal is ready to dish out a detention or two.

"Dude, your dad's going to freak when he finds out," Mo says and rolls his eyes. "He hates your superhero stuff."

"Don't remind me." Inside, I feel sick. I know that I am supposed to get good grades, play sports, and be polite. My dad isn't a fan of making big scenes.

"It was pretty cool anyway." Mo cocks his head. "Who are you today?"

"Daredevil."

"Nice." He grins and leans against the tree below me, waiting. "You coming down now, superhero?"

I lean back against the trunk, waiting for the firefighters to come back with the blanket. "Yep."

"Go ahead," Mo dares me, raising an eyebrow and grinning.

I hesitate, thinking I'd be crazy to jump. But superheroes take chances, don't they? I'd seen Daredevil jump from this height before. So holding my breath, I let go. Somehow, though, I twist midair and land smack down on my face. Hard.

The belly flop knocks the breath from my lungs. Time stops.

The smell of cut grass makes me want to sneeze. And someone's wearing really, really bad perfume. At least I'm not dead. Everyone is shouting and my ears hurt. There are hands touching my legs and arms. I roll my head an inch to one side. All I can see are shoes. A pair of black heels come closer.

"Jack, sweetheart, can you hear me?"

I push myself up with one arm and swipe at my hair with the back of my hand. "Sure thing," I answer, jaw set at the ridiculous question. Even superheroes stumble sometimes.

"Jack—"

"I'm fine." To prove it, I try to jump up and get to my feet. But like Superman with a mound of Kryptonite in the room, I am so weak that I almost fall over.

The office lady's mouth stretches wide and yawns.

My brain won't work. What is her name? Two of her now? Ink-stained fingers snap in front of my nose. My brain starts to rewind. My knees give out. Everything slides to the right and goes black.

CHAPTER 2

AVA


WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24

Life never quite turns out the way you plan. Take my first attempt at gourmet cooking. The twelve-week-long class was a wedding gift from my husband, Mitchell. I think he secretly hoped the instruction would uncover my amazing talent and I'd be the next Giada De Laurentiis.

So armed with a new apron, thick, glossy new cookbooks, and dazzled by my new home's professional kitchen—full of gleaming stainless steel utensils—I bounced fearlessly into the day of instruction.

I proceeded to set both oven mitts on fire, much to the horror of nearby students. The next week, my crème brûlée singed into a charcoal volcano. Week number three, the heady scent of cloves caused a wave of nausea so strong I had to run outside and gulp fresh air. I turned out to be pregnant, of course. So much for the Food Network and my budding career as a chef.

Since then, we keep a fire extinguisher handy, and I work from a collection of standby, no-fail recipes. We've decided that I do excel at comfort food: chicken salad, tacos, and oatmeal cookies. Tonight's plan: fresh vegetables and pasta.

With baby Sam on my hip, I maneuver down the clean, gleaming aisles of Fresh Market, chatting on the phone with our contractor.

"Heart Pine?" I echo, leaning over to pick up fresh broccoli florets. "Isn't that ... really expensive?" I pause and wince when he tells me the cost.

At Mitchell's request, our contractor is building us an amazing staircase in the foyer of our hundred-twenty-year-old home. Crafted to mirror late eighteen-hundreds décor, it will be quite the showpiece. Lovely and very, very expensive.

"So the down payment? You'll need it this afternoon?" I ask, selecting a ripe, ruby-red tomato and holding it up to the light like a jewel.

The contactor confirms that he will, in fact, need quite a large sum. I almost drop the fruit but manage to set it carefully in the buggy. Mitchell hasn't left me the cash or a check. To withdraw it from my household account would take every last penny. The pennies I've been saving, in secret, for the boys' swing set. The swing set I haven't told Mitchell about yet. Mama always says it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, after all.

I stop wheeling the shopping cart to rub the back of my neck. "And if we miss you today?"

His answer is clear. He'll be gone, out of the country, for a week. We'll be behind schedule, and Mitchell will be less than pleased.

"I'll meet you at the house in thirty minutes."

Throat tight, I hang up and check the time on my phone. Sam breaks the tension with a giggle and presses his cheek to my chest. He's flirting with the produce clerk, a cute redhead with big blue eyes. Sam's the most sweet-natured child, and his blond curls, pink cheeks, and dimples draw a bevy of admirers. Of course, as his mother, I'm unduly biased. He's always had my heart.

As I lean to press my lips to his head, my cell buzzes again. It can't be the contractor again. With a small sigh, I answer and press the phone to my ear. "Hello?"

Urgent and clipped, the voice on the phone stops my world. A comet screaming toward Earth, bent on near destruction.

It's about Jack. My third grader. There's been an accident.

I leave the groceries, stammering out an apology to whoever can hear me. My shopping cart, filled with organic chocolate ice cream, soymilk, and Mitchell's favorite whole grain bread, sits behind us, forgotten. On my budget, it was wishful thinking anyway.

I dash for the automatic doors, which open with a hiss and a jolt. Luckily the parking lot's not crazy, and I make it to my Jeep in a matter of steps.

As I buckle him in, Sam gurgles and bats at my face, wanting to play. With a shaking hand, I rub and kiss the top of his sweet head, move his very necessary fuzzy brown bear close, and shut the door. I sprint to the other side of the Jeep, jump in, and almost lose my shoe.

My Jeep's old engine cranks on the first try. Thank you. I give the dashboard an affectionate pat. This is no time to be temperamental.

The wheels groan and grab gravel, throwing it like confetti as I drive out of the parking lot. Sam claps his hands at the clatter of stones and pebbles. My cell phone slides to the floor, out of reach. The slip from the dry cleaners falls between the seats.

Around a curve, the folded pink heart I keep tucked in the visor flutters to the seat beside me. Jack and Sam's homemade valentine. Construction paper, glue, and crayon—more precious than any gift. Two small stick figures, a taller one in the middle with a hair bow. I press two fingers to the soft paper and say a prayer.


* * *

The road rushes under the wheels. I rearrange snippets of the frantic conversation. Gash. Some blood. Breathing fine. Emergency room. A few more miles to the hospital.

I flash back to this morning. Packed sack lunch, flop of dark hair across his bare forehead, navy backpack slung over one shoulder. A surge of pure love courses through my heart. A stab of worry steals my breath. I force myself to focus.

The traffic light ahead flashes green to yellow. Intersection's clear. I push the accelerator to the floor, glance in the rearview mirror. Air from the open window catches Sam's wisps of hair. He smiles, showing off his first few baby teeth, and reaches a chubby hand at the rays of sunshine streaking by, trying to catch the light.

Thump. Thump. The Jeep jerks to the left. I guide the wheel, hold it steady, and take my foot off the gas. When I pull over and brake, the abrupt stop sends up a dust cloud.

"Uh-oh," Sam says.

I unbuckle, jump out, and survey the damage. A glance at the tire confirms it. Flat. Dead.

Hands on my hips, I bite my lip.

Tentatively, I grab the jack from the back of the Jeep, the weight of it solid and heavy in my hands. I can fix this. After all, in my former life, as a school counselor at Mobile Prep, I was the problem-solver, crisis manager, and shoulder to cry on. I always handled situations. And I didn't need help.

Then my eyes fall on Sam as he babbles and blows bubbles in the backseat. I hesitate, gripping the metal between my palms. As the sun beats down on us, heating my skin, my pulse begins to race. Maybe I was fearless because I didn't know any better. I wasn't a mom then. I didn't have two children depending on me. Trusting me to do the right thing, be on time, and not screw up.

I catch a whiff of gasoline and hear the faint rumble of an engine behind me as I open the red Jeep door and stretch for the cell phone. I dial quickly, hoping that my husband answers.

"You've reached Mitchell Carson ..."

A heavy footstep crunches on the pebbled pavement behind me. I hang up and whirl around, nerves already frayed.

"Ava?"

Disbelief hits me. I take in the broad shoulders and smartly pressed uniform and erupt with emotion at the pure, dumb luck of finding Officer Mike Kennedy next to my broken-down Jeep. Between sobs, I squeeze out an explanation. "Jack ... the school ... accident."

Mike holds up a calloused hand to stop me. He's rescued me more than once. "Whoa! Slow down, Ava." His forehead wrinkles. "He's at Springhill Medical Center?"

Throat tight, I nod, trying to process what to do, what to say. Fingers trembling, I reach for the pink heart. Something to hold on to. A piece of Jack.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill. Copyright © 2015 Laura McNeill. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Center of Gravity 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I started reading this in the eveving. Big mistake. I was up all night. Well written, good development of the characters. Even the minor characters were developed enough to give you a sense of who they were and how they related to the major players. The story line moved with little if any repetiton. The suspense kept the pages turning. I usually have more negative than positive to say, but not this time. Bravo and well done!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I rarely give five stars but this book is worth it. Great character development, well written, a story that is gripping and unsettling and may give you nightmares.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the characters, good story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent representation of the struggles of dealing with a psychopathic spouse. Unfortunately courts still don't recognize it as a threat to children who are often the implement of their abuse.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nothing new here. A father who is a sociopath and a mother who fights for her children.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Told through many points of view, Center of Gravity is an interesting look into what could seemingly be the perfect new American family, but once inside their home the perfection wears off. Ava has been married to Mitchell for a few years and has recently officially adopted his son from a previous relationship and they also now have an infant son who is around the age of one. After a great courtship and early marriage, things start to change. This book was definitely hard to read at times and I had to put it down a few moments, but there was something that really set this book apart for me. As I mentioned above, the book is told through a few points of view and the two that are in this book that really matter are the adopted son who is eight years old and Mitchell himself. From the beginning the reader is able to get into his mind as he wreaks havoc on his wife and kids, but keeps a face at his job. Although again hard to read at times, I was intrigued to read the parts that came from his point of view just to see "his side" of things.
bookloverfl12 More than 1 year ago
Captivating! Attention grabbing and holding! Makes you want to shake your head while you read. I credit Ava for her actions during some trying times. I don't think I could have done the same if I was in that situation. This book made me mad at life as it kept interrupting my reading time! It was a little heavier than the books I have been reading recently but I truly enjoyed this one; it had just enough suspense in it that I didn't get frustrated with the characters to the point I wanted to stop reading.
BooksChatter More than 1 year ago
Powerful. Suspenseful. Emotional. "Center of Gravity" is the poignant and suspenseful tale from Laura McNeill. The novel starts with very emotional scene as a distraught mother, Ava, is trying to get to her children who have been taken away from her. The narration is particularly strong as it is told in the first person, from Ava's point of view, in the present tense. The novel then shifts one month earlier in time, and this time our narrator is Jack, Ava's adopted son (see our teaser excerpt). Laura McNeill unfolds Ava's story for us from the points of view of the characters who are involved (Ava, her husband Mitchell, their son Jack, attorney Graham and social worker Lucy ...). All in the first person, present tense narration. The timeline of the narrative picks up from where the last character left off and there do not seem to be any overlaps or sudden time lapses. Center of Gravity is a compelling and gripping read, with a sense of anticipation and unravelling that builds to a crescendo, as truths come to light and the story reaches its climax. Laura McNeill's writing is flawless, her characters are beautifully and powerfully developed, and the events described are painfully realistic, with all of the emotions associated with them, and we experience them first hand from the point of view of each protagonist. My only criticism is that I felt that Graham was not explored as fully as I would have liked, and at one point he just seemed to disappear. Mitchell is the pivotal character in this story, as his behaviour and manipulative actions have a deep effect on everyone around him. Is Mitchell just a monster or is there more to it? You will have to find out for yourselves - the answers are there, and again the author excelled in her presentation of this character and his motivations. I just feel that she described perfectly something a little bit different to what is referred to in the book, but I am truly splitting hairs. I really cannot say any more without giving spoilers away. Before you pick up this book be aware that it is a very strong and emotionally draining read, you will feel what the characters feel. This is a fast read, but not a light one. Make sure you have a few hours on your hands as you will not want to put this down. [ARC received via Netgalley]
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful characters, well written. This work is a real page turner. I highly recommend this book.
ArianneStClare More than 1 year ago
This had been a really gripping tale about a mad kind of love, the kind of madness that will bring you to the edge of your insanity. Mitchell and his twisted lies, his sick sense of love, his superior regards to himself and abominable attitude towards others. I feel so bad for Ava, for enduring so much pain. She thought she found the man for her. Only to realize in the end that everything about Mitchell was a lie. She endured a lot of pain, she lost her own self-respect and even almost lost her sons. Ava deserved to rise from hell, but how could she even survive when almost everyone in town believed her ex-husband was the decent and truthful one? I've experienced a chock-full of negative emotions while reading this book. I felt anger, fear, contempt, madness and rage, all towards one person - Mitchell Carson. I've never been so disgruntled in a character before, he's so despicable. As for Ava, I felt desperation, agony, distress, misery and a cry for justice. Such a messy life to take! Imagine being accused of incompetent, drunk and unmanageable. Perhaps, the most painful emotion I felt was whenever I read little Jack's point of view. Eight-year old Jack who thought he was his own superhero, that everything he did was what Daredevil, Thor, Spiderman and even Wolverine would have done. The kids, Jack and baby Sam, were the ones affected greatly in this dysfunctional family and I couldn't help but shed a few tears for them. Laura McNeill was able to deliver a story that will really tear you to pieces. She slowly drew me in to Jack's world, pulled me right into Ava's consciousness and delivered me away from Mitchell. Center of Gravity is a powerful story that will leave you hanging by a thread of hope and hoping for a sliver of truth. Truly an intense read!
AnnieMcDonnell More than 1 year ago
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Laura McNeill is now a favorite author of mine. She had me sitting at the edge of my seat, reading this book everywhere…I hated putting it down. This is a truly gripping story from beginning to end. Laura McNeill tells this story from the view of each character involved, which made each of them more real. Ava is a woman fighting for her life and two children. Ava met Mitchell at the school where she worked and his son, Jack attended. Mitchell had lost his wife to a devastating death, and seems to be the perfect man…good looking, hard worker, charming. He seemed to be the perfect mate for any woman. Ava also fell in love with Jack, his 8 year old son…so, after they were married, Ava adopted him. Then, she got pregnant with their son, Sam, who is now 1. They seem to have it all, a beautiful home and a great family life. Until things are no longer great and beautiful! Mitchell becomes increasingly angry, jealous and mean towards Ava for any reason he feels deemed fit. He does not pay any attention to his children. Ava wants to give Mitchell the benefit of the doubt, and believe it is because he lost his last wife, stressed at work, or stressed with the new staircase going in to the house. She wants to believe that this is just a phase. Until he moves out and takes the children with him! Now, she knows this is not a phase. This is where the book takes off because you absolutely cannot look away! I promise that you will be so enthralled in this story, that the outcome cannot come fast enough! Can Ava save herself and her children from this monster of a man? She has to fight to get her children back, as she does this, she learns more about his past….and, it is all rather disturbing. She is finally seeing the real Mitchell. Ava states “I will wear their love like armor”…and, she does just that. But, will it be enough?
LaLucie More than 1 year ago
Having read Laura McNeill’s work under her pen name, Lauren Clark, and even having worked with her on the anthology, Merry & Bright, I fully expected Center of Gravity to be a good book and was excited to read it. However, the Southern charm of Lauren Clark morphs into a much darker version in McNeill’s Domestic Suspense debut. A version that is incredibly compelling while also totally getting under my skin. It did take me a few chapters to settle into the story after reading the pulse-pounding prologue and then being dropped into what felt like a fairly staid domestic life. This is generally why I dislike prologues. However, McNeill provides a few clues during the beginning scenes that hint at the drama yet to unfold. The story quickly develops into a page-turner with one very despicable bad guy manipulating the courts, spreading lies, and even threatening lives. The story is told from several different viewpoints, including that of eight-year-old Jack, whom you just want to rescue so badly from his sociopath father. And once the crazy train left the station, I had trouble putting the book down. This is one of those books where the villain is so awful, yet so realistic that it ties your stomach up in knots. Seriously, I was biting my nails for 75% of the book, both wanting to get the bad guy and rescue the innocents. Pick up this book for an intense and fast-paced, suspenseful narrative that will most surely have you questioning how well you think you know your spouse. Luckily, I’m single, so no harm done.
JerseyGirlBookReviews More than 1 year ago
Center of Gravity is a riveting suspense thriller that easily draws the reader into Ava and Carson Mitchell's disintegrating family dynamic when jealousy, suspicions of adultery, rage, and dark secrets from the past come to the surface. In her debut novel, author Laura McNeill weaves a compelling and powerful tale that takes the reader on one hell of a thrilling roller coaster ride as Ava and Carson's chilling story unfolds. Told in the alternating perspectives of five main characters, the reader can't help but get caught up in the drama, tension, suspense, and intriguing twists and turns, as the once picture perfect Mitchell family disintegrates into a haunting tale that makes the reader pause and wonder just how well you really know a person. I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into each of the main characters' minds with their alternating perspectives, the storyline flows smoothly from one perspective to the next, intertwining them into one heck of gripping tale that is simply stunning. If you want a fast paced realistic psychological thriller that pulls out all the stops and keeps you captivated until the surprising explosive conclusion, then Center of Gravity is a must read! I could easily see this novel as a Lifetime Channel movie, it is one of those rare riveting stories that will stay with the reader for a long time. Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Virginiaw More than 1 year ago
I had no idea what this book might be like when I received it. I was very happy with it. It is well written and wonderful. You want to love some characters, especially Jack, and hate other characters. I hope that Laura writes a lot more books as good as this one. I had a hard time putting this down. I received a copy from Smith Publicity for a fair and honest opinion.
Plankton736 More than 1 year ago
What if everything you think is true and real about your life is a lie? Ava's life in the coastal South appears nearly perfect after her recent marriage to the powerful and handsome Mitchell Carson. She loves her husband and the family they have created. Even Mitchell's young son from a previous marriage, Jack, with his superhero ambitions, can't imagine life without Ava. Outwardly, Mitchell appears to be a caring husband and doting father, but as Ava soon discovers, there is a dark side to Mitchell Carson that she never imagined. When Graham Thomas, a lawyer with a secret past, stumbles into Ava's life, everything changes. Mitchell's jealous streak emerges after an innocent encounter between Graham and Ava, and Mitchell soon convinces himself that Ava is unfaithful. When Mitchell starts divorce proceedings and a custody war, Jack is caught in the middle, which soon makes him question Ava's pure intentions. As Ava searches for a way to save her family she begins to uncover her husband's secret past and capacity for unhinged jealousy and rage. I’m not a huge adult suspense thriller type of person. So I went into the book, not really thinking it was all that. I do have to say I was beyond pleasantly surprised. Center of Gravity was definitely suspenseful. Center of Gravity has 5 point of views, which I feel were done really well. The main characters were Jack the oldest son, Ava the wife, Graham the lawyer. And Lucy the child psychologist, and lastly Mitchell the sinister husband. I really like how the story flowed, it seemed like each situation any character got in. It just got worse and worse. The book definitely made me not want to put it down, to just see what would happen. I really enjoyed the little peeks into the husbands point of view, and how this man was just going crazy and might have grown up that way. I did have little problems with the book like Ava was that sort of sad abused house wife who would say things, like I wont be treated this way anymore, or I will toughen up. Only couple chapters later she is this sad, quiet thing who doesn’t do anything. Also Jack who in the book is eight, and the way he acts and talks seems like he is so much older. And sometimes Graham the lawyer seemed to do nothing for nobody. Other then that it was a really enjoyable and suspenseful story, from a first time author. I received this book for my honest review from the BookLook program. (booklookbloggers.com)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Waited for her kid (she was babysitting )to come