Book Review: Surrender the Dead by John Burley

Book Review: Surrender the Dead by John Burley

Thank you to William Morrow books for sending me a free copy of Surrender the Dead in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

When Erin Reece left Wolf Point fifteen years ago after graduating high school, she’d planned to never set foot in her childhood hometown again. But an urgent phone call from her father’s doctor leaves Erin with no choice but to return to a place filled with painful memories and wounds that never closed. Two decades ago, people in Wolf Point started disappearing without a trace—including Erin’s mother—and no explanation was ever found.

It’s been years since the last disappearance, but the town is still steeped in suspicion and haunted by the ghosts of the missing. No one is thrilled to see Erin back, including her former best friend, Robbie, who has changed from a spirited, fearless boy to a reclusive shut-in.

Then a body is discovered, buried in a makeshift grave for years . . . on the Reece family’s land. The police reopen their investigation, and the evidence against Erin’s father is damning. After such a long time without answers, the community wants justice. It’s up to Erin to clear her father’s name, but the path to the truth will force her to unearth long-buried secrets and confront a terrible evil. Because in Wolf Point, everyone knows more than they are letting on . . . 

My Review:

Sometimes when a book is described as a slow burn, I think, “Ok, it’s slow paced, I won’t like it”. I always prefer a faster paced book, and can only handle a slower novel if it’s done right. Surrender the Dead is one that is done right! And it is causing me to realize that people use the phrase “slow burn” too frequently and inaccurately. In order to really call a book a slow burn novel, it has to have that tension simmering just below the surface. It has to keep you invested and wanting to keep reading. Maybe it doesn’t move at break neck speed, but you can just tell everything is all building up to something cacophonous!

That was exactly the case with Surrender the Dead. This was one of those books that I carried around with me, trying to sneak in a chapter between every adult responsibility I had, I just couldn’t put it down! A lot of back story gets filled in between the present day chapters, and some chapters were outright terrifying as they described some of the abductions that occurred in the small town of Wolf Point 20 years prior. But the back and forth of timelines wasn’t confusing and I had no problem following along.

The characters were well developed and gave me a sense that Burley really cares about his characters and what happens to them. The relationships were very natural and endearing and added such emotional depth to this thriller, which is not common in the genre. It was heartfelt and thought provoking and a really nice change of pace for me. The ending was wild, full of twists and so much fun! I highly recommend this one!

Book Review: A Solitude of Wolverines by Alice Henderson

Book Review: A Solitude of Wolverines by Alice Henderson

Thank you to William Morrow for sending me a free copy of A Solitude of Wolverines in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

While studying wolverines on a wildlife sanctuary in Montana, biologist Alex Carter is run off the road and threatened by locals determined to force her off the land.

Undeterred in her mission to help save this threatened species, Alex tracks wolverines on foot and by cameras positioned in remote regions of the preserve. But when she reviews the photos, she discovers disturbing images of an animal of a different kind: a severely injured man seemingly lost and wandering in the wilds.

After searches for the unknown man come up empty, local law enforcement is strangely set on dismissing the case altogether, raising Alex’s suspicions. Then another invasive predator trespasses onto the preserve. The hunter turns out to be another human—and the prey is the wildlife biologist herself. Alex realizes too late that she has seen too much—she’s stumbled onto a far-reaching illegal operation and now has become the biggest threat.

In this wild and dangerous landscape, Alex’s life depends on staying one step ahead—using all she knows about the animal world and what it takes to win the brutal battle for survival.

My Review:

A Solitude of Wolverines was such a fun surprise of a suspense book! Part wildlife conservation novel, part suspense thriller, this book is a rare gem!

Before I go any further, I have to comment on the extremely informative land and wildlife conservation portions of the book. Henderson really did her research, and provided what I have to believe are very accurate facts about conversation efforts as well as the life of a conservationist. This is a topic I am definitley interested in but don’t know much about so I really enjoyed learning more about it, and I always love when I can learn from the books I read!

The suspense parts of this book came in little spurts, and at times the plot felt a little loose, like I wasn’t always sure where it was heading, but the ending was spectacularly exciting! I really liked the main character Alex, I felt like she was one of the most realistic female characters I have read in a while. All of her choices are justified and it made her feel like a friend you might already know. There were never any of those moments when you just have to roll your eyes at the stupid life choices the female lead is making, Alex is a female character you can look up to!

I have heard this is the first book in a series, each book focusing on a different animal for conservation efforts, and if that is true, I am definitely on board for the next wild ride! I would recommend this one to suspense lovers and suspense newbies alike! There wasn’t a ton of violence so it would work for those who prefer a tamer thriller.

Book Review: Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay

Book Review: Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free digital copy of Every Last Fear in exchange for my hoenst review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

“They found the bodies on a Tuesday.” So begins this twisty and breathtaking novel that traces the fate of the Pine family, a thriller that will both leave you on the edge of your seat and move you to tears.

After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family—his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister—have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain—and they won’t tell Matt why.

The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny—currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte—was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.

When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison—putting his own life in peril—and forcing him to confront his every last fear.

Told through multiple points-of-view and alternating between past and present, Alex Finlay’s Every Last Fear is not only a page-turning thriller, it’s also a poignant story about a family managing heartbreak and tragedy, and living through a fame they never wanted.

Review:

Over the last few years I have become much more selective on the thrillers I pick up. There are just so many out there, yet they all seem to contain many of the same elements: husbands and wives who lie and cheat, murder for money, or any other nature of scandalous behavior you can cook up. In my opinion, they tend to be a little over the top and unrealistic for my liking.

So the fact that I decided to pick up Every Last Fear should already be an indication to you that it might be a cut above the rest. And boy did it deliver! I loved the combination of small town scandal, mixed with the NYU student trying to leave the past in the past. This novel woven an intricate web to develop a plot that left me guessing until the end.

Matt and his NYU friends added a nice heartwarming component to what would otherwise be a stone cold murder mystery. It was interesting to see Matt grapple with what had happened in the past and with the murder of his family in the present, and seeing how he was trying to grow from it. The support of his motley group of friends was endearing and a nice personal touch.

I also enjoyed the past and present timelines, as well as the multiple viewpoints. Sometimes in books that do that, I tend to crave one particular viewpoint over another but that wasn’t the case with Every Last Fear. It actually felt necessary to hear from everyone to get the full scope of what was going on. The ending was a giant bombshell that pulled everything together! I really enjoyed this one and highly recommend it!

Book Review: The Dead Season by Tessa Wegert

Book Review: The Dead Season by Tessa Wegert

The Dead Season by Tessa Wegert

This is the second installment in the Shana Merchant detective series, and while it was extremely different from the first book, I enjoyed this one just as much!

Synopsis:

After leaving the NYPD following her abduction by serial killer Blake Bram, Shana Merchant hoped for a fresh start in the Thousand Islands of Upstate New York. Her former tormentor has other plans. Shana and Bram share more than just a hometown, and he won’t let her forget it. When the decades-old skeleton of Shana’s estranged uncle is uncovered, Bram issues a challenge: Return home to Vermont and solve the cold case, or the blood he spills next will be on her hands.

As Shana interviews members of her family and the community, mining for secrets that could help her solve her uncle’s murder, she begins to realize how little she remembers of her childhood. And when Bram grows impatient and kidnaps again, leaving a trail of clues Shana alone can understand, she knows his new victim will only survive if she wins the psychopath’s twisted game. In order to solve one mystery, Shana must wade into her murky past to unravel another.

My Review:

I think the best way to come at this review is to tie in the first book in this series Death in the Family. In Death, Shana and Tim head to a remote island in New York’s Thousand Island region to investigate a murder in the only house on the island. The family who lives there have gathered for a reunion, and one of the members turns up missing under suspicious circumstances. A locked room type mystery, inspired by Agatha Christies’ And Then There Were None, I extremely enjoyed it, and also felt similar vibes to the movie Knives Out (but without the humor).

So why the need to mention Death in the Family first? There’s a good answer for that: Shana is suffering from PTSD during that novel, from an abduction shortly before the investigation. Her PTSD symptoms flare in the isolated setting and she makes some poor choices during the investigation but is thankfully rescued by her colleague Tim.

The circumstances of Shana’s abduction are only hinted at in Death, but in The Dead Season, they are addressed head on. In this second novel, Shana is on leave in order to recuperate her mental state. When she gets news that the remains of her long lost uncle are recovered in her hometown, she makes the drive back home to help the local police investigate. However, she quickly realizes that her abductor, who was never caught, has lured her there to toy with her.

I absolutely loved this set up! A more traditional approach would be to start a series learning about the main detective, but I loved that Wegert set up a little mystery surrounding Shanna first, and didn’t reveal her dark past until the second book. Some of the best detective novels have strong, stoic characters whose troubled pasts always make them better at their jobs. This series does just that, and after just two books in the series, I am fully vested!

In The Dead Season, all the characters in Shana’s hometown are examined as possible suspects, and I feel that this was really well by Wegert. Rather than introduce one character after another to the point where the reader can’t keep them straight, she introduces just one or two at a time and weaves them into the story seamlessly. I honestly didn’t know who to suspect and was surprised to find out who really had killed Shana’s uncle 20 years before.

I highly recommend this series and cannot wait to see where it goes from here! But a fair warning: The Dead Season ends in a major cliffhanger! Happy reading!

Book Review: A Caller’s Game by J.D.Barker

Book Review: A Caller’s Game by J.D.Barker

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me a free digital copy of A Caller’s Game in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Controversial satellite radio talk show host, Jordan Briggs, has clawed her way to the top of the broadcast world. She doesn’t hold back, doesn’t spare feelings, and has no trouble sharing what’s on her mind. Her rigorous pursuit of success has come at a price, though. Her marriage is in ruins, she hasn’t spoken to her mother in years, and she’s distanced herself from all those close to her. If not for her young daughter, Charlotte, her personal life would be in complete shambles.

When a subdued man calls into the show and asks to play a game, she sees it as nothing more than a way to kick-start the morning, breathe life into the beginnings of drive-time for her listeners. Against her producer’s advice, she agrees, and unwittingly opens a door to the past.

Live on the air with an audience of millions, what starts out as a game quickly turns deadly—events long thought buried resurface and Jordan Briggs is forced to reconcile with one simple fact—All decisions have consequences. 

My Review:

Wow. Just….wow. This was a non-stop roller coaster ride of a suspense novel that read like an action movie. From the very first page, the reader is treated to razor sharp wit in the form of main character Jordan Briggs, a shock-jock on a satellite radio morning show. A strange call into the show from a listener sends Jordan and the entirety of New York City into terrifying chaos, as bombs begin to explode across the city. From there, this novel peels back layer after layer to unfold a very gripping story.

I do feel like parts of the plot were a little bit of a stretch, realistically speaking, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a fun read, because it was for sure. I also liked the way Barker spiraled Jordan’s character from the strong woman in the beginning into some much deeper and darker components as the story moved on. The big reveals in the novel made sense and gave a lot of depth to the overall plot. I think the book was a little on the long side, but overall, an extremely entertaining read!

*Trigger Warnings* I do feel the need to mention that due to the violent nature of the bombings in NYC the take place in the A Caller’s Game, this books could potentially trigger some troubling emotions in anyone that was connected to the events of 9/11 in any way.

The Preserve by Ariel S. Winter

The Preserve by Ariel S. Winter


Thank you to Atria books for sending me a copy of The Preserve! This action packed sci-fi thriller is out today and you don’t want to miss it!

Decimated by plague, the human population is now a minority. Robots—complex AIs almost indistinguishable from humans—are the ruling majority. Nine months ago, in a controversial move, the robot government opened a series of preserves, designated areas where humans can choose to live without robot interference. Now the preserves face their first challenge: someone has been murdered. 


Synopsis:

Chief of Police Jesse Laughton on the SoCar Preserve is assigned to the case. He fears the factions that were opposed to the preserves will use the crime as evidence that the new system does not work. As he digs for information, robots in the outside world start turning up dead from bad drug-like programs that may have originated on SoCar land. And when Laughton learns his murder victim was a hacker who wrote drug-programs, it appears that the two cases might be linked. Soon, it’s clear that the entire preserve system is in danger of collapsing. Laughton’s former partner, a robot named Kir, arrives to assist on the case, and they soon uncover shocking secrets revealing that life on the preserve is not as peaceful as its human residents claim. But in order to protect humanity’s new way of life, Laughton must solve this murder before it’s too late. 

The Preserve is a fresh and futuristic mystery that is perfect for fans of Westworld and Blade Runner.

One By One By Ruth Ware

One By One By Ruth Ware

❄️ Book Review ❄️
Many of you know that Ruth Ware is one of my auto buy authors and One By One is another guilty pleasure thriller added to her arsenal!
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This was SO atmospheric, which is something Ware does very well. Set in the French Alps, I was so engrossed in the cozy, accessible only by lift chalet! Who wouldn’t want to stay a week in a staffed, luxury mountain resort chalet!?
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The mystery in this one just kept on spiraling out of control. And while I did guess ‘who dunnit’, I still enjoyed the ride. There are quite a few characters and at first I thought I would have trouble keeping track of them, but that didn’t end up being the case. Ware developed them all perfectly, as well as the faux social media app company they worked for.
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This is the type of thriller that I think a wide range of readers will like. It’s got some murders, but it’s not too violent. It has a lot going on but it’s easy to follow. A very fun read indeed!

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

C163A4FB-E662-4E9A-B80E-00D4AB9953FEThank you to Atria books for sending me a free copy of Invisible Girl in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Owen Pick’s life is falling apart.

In his thirties, a virgin, and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a geography teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel—involuntary celibate—forums, where he meets the charismatic, mysterious, and sinister Bryn.

Across the street from Owen lives the Fours family, headed by mom Cate, a physiotherapist, and dad Roan, a child psychologist. But the Fours family have a bad feeling about their neighbor Owen. He’s a bit creepy and their teenaged daughter swears he followed her home from the train station one night.

Meanwhile, young Saffyre Maddox spent three years as a patient of Roan Fours. Feeling abandoned when their therapy ends, she searches for other ways to maintain her connection with him, following him in the shadows and learning more than she wanted to know about Roan and his family. Then, on Valentine’s night, Saffyre Maddox disappears—and the last person to see her alive is Owen Pick.

My Review:

This book really got it’s claws in me, it’s full of dynamic characters that all feel like someone you already know, both the good and the bad!  Lisa Jewell is a master at character driven suspense thrillers and I loved Invisible Girl!

Each character really got under my skin, I was rooting for almost all of them. On the daily, I am constantly thinking about people: the choices they make, their actions, and how they effect others. This books just fueled that brain fire in my head. It’s such a great look at culture, social niceties and expectations, and what happens when someone decides that they will not just sweep the past under the rug or play by the rules.

This novel, while suspenseful for sure, is such a fantastic character study. I loved it, and I think fans of Jewell will love it too.

Cut To The Bone by Ellison Cooper

Cut To The Bone by Ellison Cooper

C8142161-D74F-4A3A-8B6F-F4D1E94331D2Cut To The Bone is the third book in the Agent Sayer Altair series and it is one heart-pounded thrill ride!

Synopsis:

After grieving the death of her fiancé and almost losing her job, Agent Sayer Altair is finally starting to rebuild her life. Her research into the minds of psychopaths is breaking new ground and her strange little family is thriving. But Sayer’s newfound happiness is threatened when she is called in to investigate a girl’s body left inside a circle of animal figurines below a cryptic message written in blood. When they discover that the dead girl is one of twenty-four missing high school students, Sayer quickly realizes that nothing in this case is what it seems.

As the investigation draws her in to a tangled web of fake identities and false leads, the trail soon begins to point directly to her own life. Now, Sayer must confront her painful past to uncover her connection to the deranged killer if she hopes to save the missing teens and protect everything that she loves.

My Review:

I can’t sing enough praise for this series!  It has lightening fast suspense, it has a completely vulnerable yet tough-as-nails lead character, it has intense, intricately built crimes that are mind boggling puzzles.  Agent Sayer’s background in neuroscience adds such a whip-smart edge to these books that they stand out against all the other crime thrillers out there.

Cut To The Bone is a fantastic addition to the series.  This is one of those book reviews that I just want to say “I loved it, I loved it, I loved it” repeatedly because I just can’t seem to fit my thoughts and feelings into anything else coherent. The suspense was insane, the crime and investigation was so sharp, and the ending!!??  It was intense and sets the stage for a fiery sequel!  I can’t wait!  If I recommend one series to you, let it be this one!

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

14D8C0DF-0F7F-4D4E-BDEF-7F4A8640C70DWhat a fun, perfectly balanced ghost story! Sager just seems to hit it out of the park with every book!

I enjoyed the format of Home Before Dark, the chapters alternate between ‘the book’ that Maggie’s dad wrote about their experiences living in a haunted house when she was a child, and Maggie 25 years later trying to debunk what she thinks is all lies. This was new for Sager but he wove the different parts together seamlessly, which I think might be pretty difficult, not giving away too much too soon.

I didn’t think anything was over the top and the haunting seemed about as real as haunting can seem. I wasn’t exactly scared by this book but I did love the suspense. A very fun read that would be perfect in the fall!!