Book Review: The Long Weekend by Gilly Macmillan

Book Review: The Long Weekend by Gilly Macmillan

I received a free copy of The Long Weekend from the publisher, all opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Three couples

Two bodies

One secret

Dark Fell Barn is a “perfectly isolated” retreat, or so says its website when Jayne books a reservation for her friends. A quiet place, far removed from the rest of the world, is exactly what they need.

The women arrive for a girls’ night ahead of their husbands. There’s ex-Army Jayne, hardened and serious, but also damaged. Ruth, the driven doctor and new mother who is battling demons of her own. Young Emily, just wed and insecure, the newest addition of this tight-knit band. Missing this year is Edie, who was the glue holding them together, until her husband died suddenly.

But what they hoped would be a relaxing break soon turns to horror. Upon arrival at Dark Fell Barn, the women find a devastating note claiming one of their husbands will be murdered. There are no phones, no cell service to check on their men. Friendships fracture as the situation spins wildly out of control. Betrayal can come in many forms.

This group has kept each other’s secrets for far too long.

My Review:

The Long Weekend is one of the twistiest thrillers I have read in a long time. And it wasn’t just one big bang at the end: there were twists sprinkled all throughout that had me audibly saying “Whaaaat?”

What starts as a very atmospheric long weekend vacation in a remote countryside location turns into a very tense situation with the arrival of a threatening note. But then the backstory builds for each character until you are constantly suspecting everyone, and the finally outcome is downright scary. This is one of those kind of reviews that is hard to write for fear of giving too much away because the book is just that dynamic!

While it did start to feel a little drawn out in the middle, I don’t feel like it made me enjoyed it less, and I will be looking for more from Macmillan in the future! The format of this one might also be a little different for some, although it didn’t bother me once I got into it: There are no chapters. The book is just sectioned off by days in the long weekend. There are spaces between short chunks of text as the POV changes. It really did not bother me once I got used to it, but I thought I would put that out there.

Overall, a very solid and well done thriller! I highly recommend it!

Book Review: I’ll Be You by Janelle Brown

Book Review: I’ll Be You by Janelle Brown

I received a free digital copy of I’ll Be You from the publisher, all opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

“You be me, and I’ll be you,” I whispered. 

As children, Sam and Elli were two halves of a perfect whole: gorgeous identical twins whose parents sometimes couldn’t even tell them apart. They fell asleep to the sound of each other’s breath at night, holding hands in the dark. And once Hollywood discovered them, they became B-list child TV stars, often inhabiting the same role. 

But as adults, their lives have splintered. After leaving acting, Elli reinvented herself as the perfect homemaker: married to a real estate lawyer, living in a house just blocks from the beach. Meanwhile, Sam has never recovered from her failed Hollywood career, or from her addiction to the pills and booze that have propped her up for the last fifteen years. 

Sam hasn’t spoken to her sister since her destructive behavior finally drove a wedge between them. So when her father calls out of the blue, Sam is shocked to learn that Elli’s life has been in turmoil: her husband moved out, and Elli just adopted a two-year-old girl. Now she’s stopped answering her phone and checked in to a mysterious spa in Ojai. Is her sister just decompressing, or is she in trouble? Could she have possibly joined a cult? As Sam works to connect the dots left by Elli’s baffling disappearance, she realizes that the bond between her and her sister is more complicated than she ever knew. 

My Review:

Janelle Brown is carving her own path in the thriller world, she writes novels that stand apart from other more gimmicky popcorn thrillers. I’ll Be You is another wonderful book under her belt. This one blends a story of twin sister, their lives both together and apart, both in the past and the present. The paths these two sisters have forged leads to some poor choices, life mishaps, and then: one gigantically horrible mistake. While each sister is guilty of her own misdeeds, they aren’t what you would expect.

I enjoyed getting to read about these sisters and see how they were there for each other, whether they were together or apart. I found their relationship to be very realistic; that is to say, it was far from idyllic or perfect. The first half of the book did start to lull just a bit for me, but the second half I couldn’t read fast enough. I appreciated the honestly, the rawness and the thrilling elements of this book. I want to call it a literary thriller, because it goes much deeper than you would expect for the genre. I highly recommend this book and others by Brown.

Book Review: The Book of Cold Cases

Book Review: The Book of Cold Cases

Thank you to Berkley for having me on the blog tour for The Book of Cold Cases and for providing me a free digital copy of the book! All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect – a rich, eccentric 23-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted, and she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.

Oregon, 2017Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases – a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea’s surprise, Beth says yes.

They meet regularly at Beth’s mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she’s not looking, and she could swear she’s seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn’t right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?

My Review:

The Book of Cold Cases is my favorite by Simone St. James yet! It was spooky, mysterious, inspiring, emotional, and all other manner of good things. It was perfectly balanced and paced and just an all around great book!

This one is a combination of past and present times lines. When books are set up this way, sometimes one timeline stands out over the other. Or, my least favorite, one gets most of the focus. Neither of those scenarios was the case with The Book of Cold Cases. The present timeline gets built up enough in the beginning that when the past timelines begins, you need to know what happened to make sense of the plot in the present and both timelines equally play a part in the story and are well balanced.

I also got a lot of female empowerment from this book, which I really enjoyed and I liked that the main character Shea, while not exactly thriving, wasn’t the typical drunk and unreliable narrator. Beth was equally strong. Unconventional, but strong! I loved them both.

I felt like the plotting in this novel was very well done, and while it felt very readable, by the end I was so impressed with how intricate and detailed it all ended up being. I liked St. James’ first two books, but I loved this one! This is the one that has made me a die-hard fan! Can’t wait for whatever she comes up with next!

Book Review: The Heights by Louise Candlish

Book Review: The Heights by Louise Candlish

Synopsis:

The Heights is a tall, slender apartment building among warehouses in London. Its roof terrace is so discreet, you wouldn’t know it existed if you weren’t standing at the window of the flat directly opposite. But you are. And that’s when you see a man up there—a man you’d recognize anywhere. He may be older now, but it’s definitely him.

But that can’t be because he’s been dead for over two years. You know this for a fact.

Because you’re the one who killed him.

My Review:

Talk about slow burn thriller done right! This is the second novel by Candlish that I’ve read (I read last years The Other Passenger) and I think I liked this one more! The whole premise is unique, a woman spots the man she had paid to be killed, and the backstory combined with the present slowly feed the reader the whole sordid tale. The characters played off of one another well and added to the mystery and suspense.

And surprisingly, this thriller gave me some deeper thoughts to ponder such as the relationships between mothers and sons and the plight of the tighter mom. And I always love when a book makes me wonder: what would I do in this situation? I felt like Candlish strongly developed not only the characters and the plot, but the way each supported the other. The ending was a little abrupt, but I did enjoy the book within a book aspect.

Book Review: The Other Family by Wendy Corsi Staub

Book Review: The Other Family by Wendy Corsi Staub

Synopsis:

It’s the perfect home for the perfect family: pretty Nora Howell, her handsome husband, their two teenage daughters, and lovable dog. As California transplants making a fresh start in Brooklyn, they expected to live in a shoebox, but the brownstone has a huge kitchen, lots of light, and a backyard. The catch: its previous residents were victims of a grisly triple homicide that remains unsolved.

Soon, peculiar things begin happening. The pug is nosing around like a bloodhound. Nora unearths a long-hidden rusty box in the flowerbed. Oldest daughter Stacey, obsessed with the family murdered in their house, pokes into the bloody past and becomes convinced that a stranger is watching the house. Watching them.

She’s right. But one of the Howells will recognize his face. Because one of them has a secret that will blindside the others with a truth that lies shockingly close to home–and to this one’s terrifying history.

My Review:

The Other Family is a nice, easy thriller. Not too suspenseful, not too unrealistic, no eye rolling twists, nothing too graphic or violent. All around an easy to read, easy to enjoy thriller. I liked the buildup of backstory and getting to know each of the characters in this family that moves to New York to try and start over. Add in some quirky neighbors and there was enough going on that I was constantly guessing about what all the underlying secrets were and who was keeping them.

This would honestly make a great beach read, because while it was engaging enough to keep me entertained from start to finish, it was also easy to pick up and put down when needed.

I received a free copy of The Other Family from the publisher, all opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Appeal by Janice Hallett

Book Review: The Appeal by Janice Hallett

I received a free copy of The Appeal from the publisher, all opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

ONE MURDER. FIFTEEN SUSPECTS.
CAN YOU UNCOVER THE TRUTH?

There is a mystery to solve in the sleepy town of Lower Lockwood. It starts with the arrival of two secretive newcomers, and ends with a tragic death. Law students Charlotte and Femi have been assigned to the case. Someone has already been sent to prison for murder, but they suspect that they are innocent. And that far darker secrets have yet to be revealed…

Throughout the amateur dramatics society’s disastrous staging of All My Sons and the shady charity appeal for a little girl’s cancer treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Will Charlotte and Femi solve the case? Will you?

My Review:

This was one juicy and fun whodunnit! I am not usually one for the drama, but The Appeal was full of it and I soaked up every page! This is an epistolary novel, told completely through letters between characters. To add a modern twist to that style, The Appeal is a mix of text messages, emails, voicemails and handwritten notes. I found this very entertaining to read and often humorous when one character would say something to another, then send a completely different message to someone else. You get to see just how the rumor mills turn.

Just as the synopsis states, all of the evidence is laid out before you, so you actually get the chance to solve the case yourself as the reader. The Appeal is so unique and perfect for any mystery lover. I honestly couldn’t read this one fast enough, however the last 30 pages or so kind of slowed down as the two law students are conversing over their thoughts on the case and a lot of information is restated and rehashed. The final outcome is very good, however, it’s scandalous but also completely believable and the evidence was there all along. I would recommend this book to just about anyone, I think many readers would enjoy it.

Book Review: As The Wicked Watch by Tamron Hall

Book Review: As The Wicked Watch by Tamron Hall

I received a free copy of As The Wicked Watch from the publisher, all opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

When crime reporter Jordan Manning leaves her hometown in Texas to take a job at a television station in Chicago, she’s one step closer to her dream: a coveted anchor chair on a national network.

Jordan is smart and aggressive, with unabashed star-power, and often the only woman of color in the newsroom. Her signature? Arriving first on the scene—in impractical designer stilettos. Armed with a master’s degree in forensic science and impeccable instincts, Jordan has been able to balance her dueling motivations: breaking every big story—and giving a voice to the voiceless.

From her time in Texas, she’s covered the vilest of human behaviors but nothing has prepared her for Chicago. Jordan is that rare breed of a journalist who can navigate a crime scene as well as she can a newsroom—often noticing what others tend to miss. Again and again, she is called to cover the murders of Black women, many of them sexually assaulted, most brutalized, and all of them quickly forgotten.

All until Masey James—the story that Jordan just can’t shake, despite all efforts. A 15-year-old girl whose body was found in an abandoned lot, Masey has come to represent for Jordan all of the frustration and anger that her job often forces her to repress. Putting the rest of her work and her fraying personal life aside, Jordan does everything she can to give the story the coverage it desperately requires, and that a missing Black child would so rarely get.

There’s a serial killer on the loose, Jordan believes, and he’s hiding in plain sight.

My Review:

I received a free copy of As The Wicked Watch from the publisher, all opinions are my own.

Well color me surprised, this novel was better than I expected! Sometimes when people who were on TV before they became authors, their writing can feel like it was meant for TV. Do you know what I mean? But As The Wicked Watch felt every bit the thrilling suspense novel of a more seasoned author!

I didn’t know who Tamron Hall was before picking this up (I am not a TV watcher) but I learned that she is a TV journalist and she brought all of her expertise into this novel. I really enjoyed reading this mystery from a journalists’ point of view. If what she wrote is true to the job, media journalists put way more effort into their work than I previously thought! The journalist point of view also allowed for much more focus on the families of the victims, which I feel like isn’t as much of a focus in other police procedural type novels, and I really liked that fresh take.

The main character, journalist Jordan Manning was extremely well developed. At times, it did feel like a little too much: Ms. Hall really loves this character! But I think this novel has set up the rest of the series really well. I feel like I really know Jordan and I look forward to reading more in this series for sure!

Finally, I was very happy that Hall included so much information, reflection and anecdotes on being a Black woman, being a Black woman in the work force and in the public eye, and the comparison of how crimes involving Black people are not focused on nearly as critically as crimes against white people. This is a perspective that needs to be continually brought up until we start to see some change. I appreciated that nuanced way that Hall wove these threads throughout the entire novel and appreciated learning new insights myself.

Book Review: A Blizzard of Polar Bears

Book Review: A Blizzard of Polar Bears

I received a free copy of A Blizzard of Polar Bears from the publisher, all opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Fresh off her wolverine study in Montana, wildlife biologist Alex Carter lands a job studying a threatened population of polar bears in the Canadian Arctic. Embedded with a small team of Arctic researchers, she tracks the majestic bears by air, following them over vast, snowy terrain, spending days leaning precariously out of a helicopter with a tranquilizer gun, until she can get down on the ice to examine them up close.

But as her study progresses, and she gathers data on the health of individual bears, things start to go awry. Her helicopter pilot quits unexpectedly, equipment goes missing, and a late-night intruder breaks into her lab and steals the samples she’s collected. She realizes that someone doesn’t want her to complete her study, but Alex is not easily deterred.

Managing to find a replacement pilot, she returns to the icy expanses of Hudson Bay. But the helicopter catches fire in midflight, forcing the team to land on a vast sheet of white far from civilization. Surviving on the frozen landscape is difficult enough, but as armed assailants close in on snowmobiles, Alex must rely on her skills and tenacity to survive this onslaught and carry out her mission.

My Review:

Last year, I read Henderson’s debut thriller A Solitude of Wolverines and found it to be a refreshing spin on the mystery/thriller genre! I loved the inclusion of well researched animal conservation information that was the foundation for the book.

A Blizzard of Polar Bears was more of that same great mix! I loved getting to learn how scientists track and study polar bears on an up-close-and-personal level. And this novel had a lot more action and adventure! This was a non-stop ride and I had so much fun reading it. I’m very impressed with how well balanced this novel was: great detail in setting description, well researched conversation information, strong character development, on-point mystery, and fast pacing! This series is a hit!

Book Review: Reprieve by James Han Mattson

Book Review: Reprieve by James Han Mattson

I received a free copy of Reprieve from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my onw.

Synopsis:

On April 27, 1997, four contestants make it to the final cell of the Quigley House, a full-contact haunted escape room in Lincoln, Nebraska, made famous for its monstrosities, booby-traps, and ghoulishly costumed actors. If the group can endure these horrors without shouting the safe word, “reprieve,” they’ll win a substantial cash prize—a startling feat accomplished only by one other group in the house’s long history. But before they can complete the challenge, a man breaks into the cell and kills one of the contestants.

Those who were present on that fateful night lend their points of view: Kendra Brown, a teenager who’s been uprooted from her childhood home after the sudden loss of her father; Leonard Grandton, a desperate and impressionable hotel manager caught in a series of toxic entanglements; and Jaidee Charoensuk, a gay international student who came to the United States in a besotted search for his former English teacher. As each character’s journey unfurls and overlaps, deceit and misunderstandings fueled by obsession and prejudice are revealed, forcing all to reckon with the ways in which their beliefs and actions contributed to a horrifying catastrophe.

An astonishingly soulful exploration of complicity and masquerade, Reprieve combines the psychological tension of classic horror with searing social criticism to present an unsettling portrait of this tangled American life.

My Review:

I was completely engrossed in this book from the first page. The short introduction let’s the reader know some serious sh*t went down, and then we get to meet Kendra, Jaidee, Bryan and a variety of other very strongly developed characters. I love how much care Mattson put into each of these characters as well as the diversity they each represented. There are themes of racism, sexuality, and prejudice woven into these pages which made for a rich, dynamic story.

This book is marketed as horror, and the Quigley House brought it for sure! I loved the short descriptions of what goes on in the full contact haunted attraction, it really built up the tension by adding it in a piece at a time, or should I say a “cell” at a time.

However, by about the 75% mark, I felt like the novel took a turn, and it went more in the direction of the characters, their interactions with each other, and their personal storylines colliding. It started to feel like two separate books: a horror novel, and contemporary fiction. While I loved the diversity and inclusion of deeper social elements at the beginning, by the end I was disappointed. The resolution for the horror portion of the book and what happened at Quigley House was so rushed I was confused. More effort was put into the resolution of the characters issues with themselves and each other. I was all set to give this one five stars, but the ending left me wanting more and I settled with four stars. I did still enjoy the book overall, and I appreciate what Mattson was trying to do and will look forward to more from this talented writer. 

Book Review: These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant

Book Review: These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant

Thank you to Minotaur for sending me a free copy of These Silent Woods in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

No electricity, no family, no connection to the outside world.

For eight years, Cooper and his young daughter, Finch, have lived in isolation in a remote cabin in the northern Appalachian woods. And that’s exactly the way Cooper wants it, because he’s got a lot to hide. Finch has been raised on the books filling the cabin’s shelves and the beautiful but brutal code of life in the wilderness. But she’s starting to push back against the sheltered life Cooper has created for her—and he’s still haunted by the painful truth of what it took to get them there.

The only people who know they exist are a mysterious local hermit named Scotland, and Cooper’s old friend, Jake, who visits each winter to bring them food and supplies. But this year, Jake doesn’t show up, setting off an irreversible chain of events that reveals just how precarious their situation really is. Suddenly, the boundaries of their safe haven have blurred—and when a stranger wanders into their woods, Finch’s growing obsession with her could put them all in danger. After a shocking disappearance threatens to upend the only life Finch has ever known, Cooper is forced to decide whether to keep hiding—or finally face the sins of his past.

My Review:

This book was everything I wanted it to be! An isolated cabin in the woods made for a perfectly atmospheric setting that pulled me in from start to finish. The characters were great, and little bits of backstory sprinkled in added a lot of depth. I loved that the backstory didn’t take up whole chunks of the book, there was just enough to help you understand the character without the plot getting lost, perfectly executed!

The story itself was also heartfelt and tragic, but so endearing at the same time. I loved the father/daughter relationship between Cooper and Finch and the time I got to spend in their little cabin with them. The ending, while it did feel a tad rushed, was heartbreaking and beautiful. I wouldn’t call this a thriller, but more of a contemporary fiction with some suspense. Loved it!