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 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: 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: 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!

Book Review: The Family Plot by Megan Collins

Book Review: The Family Plot by Megan Collins

Thank you to Atria books for sending me a free copy of The Family Plot in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse remains haunted by her upbringing. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has been unable to move beyond the disappearance of her twin brother, Andy, when they were sixteen.

After several years away and following her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house where the family soon makes a gruesome discovery: buried in their father’s plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Dahlia is quick to blame Andy’s murder on the serial killer who terrorized the island for decades, while the rest of the Lighthouses react to the revelation in unsettling ways. Her brother, Charlie, pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister, Tate, forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic facade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.

My Review:

This was one of the most fun books I have read in a while and I have a lot to say about it, so get ready! Right from the first page, I was ready to see where this story was going to go. The Lighthouse family is introduced, reciting all of the murder victims each family member is named after. That would hook you, too, right? It continues on this dark and sinister theme as the plot continues, and I must say that the pacing was absolutely perfect. There was not a dull moment. Reading this book felt like walking up a flight of stair, and each chapter was a step in the staircase. It was constantly building, and something was always happening.

I really want to talk about who might enjoy this book, and it’s more people than you might think! Of course any fans of true crime will love this one, because it is full of the mania that has recently exploded in the genre, with the help of several podcasts and streaming documentaries. Seriously, packed full! But I also think that people who enjoy YA thrillers, those mysterious and atmospheric novels that are light on the gore and violence, because this one had the same hallmarks. Only a handful of curse words were used, and while previous murders are discussed, there isn’t any violence in this one. Which I think is smart because it can reach more people that way. Lastly, this would make the perfect spooky fall read! It reminded me of Home Before Dark by Riley Sage and also the TV adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. The plot is very different from those two stories, but the spooky old house elements are all there. The August release of this one is perfectly timed to get into readers hands before spooky season!

If you can’t tell yet that I loved this one, let me assure you: I loved it! Great characters that were dynamic and interacted with each other well. Dark and ominous setting and back story. A mystery that had me stumped. And not one single lull, I was engrossed in every page! If you like spooky at all, you need to read this one! Out August 17, 2021.

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

Thank you to Atria books for sending me a free copy of The Other Passenger in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

It all happens so quickly. One day you’re living the dream, commuting to work by ferry with your charismatic neighbor Kit in the seat beside you. The next, Kit hasn’t turned up for the boat and his wife, Melia, has reported him missing.

When you get off at your stop, the police are waiting. Another passenger saw you and Kit arguing on the boat home the night before and the police say that you had a reason to want him dead. You protest. You and Kit are friends—ask Melia, she’ll vouch for you. And who exactly is this other passenger pointing the finger? What do they know about your lives?

No, whatever danger followed you home last night, you are innocent, totally innocent.

Aren’t you?

My Review:

The Other Passenger is definitely one of those kind of thrillers that keeps you guessing until the end. Candlish gives you just enough to make you think you might know what’s going on, but you really have no idea! The last third of the book was twist after twist, and those twists are what made this one so fun to read!

I would classify this as a character driven novel, and it moved a little slow at times. I only have one critique, which is that I thought the book was too long, that about 100 pages could have been weeded out. A lot of time was spent building up the characters and their relationships and connections to each other, which is a big part of what drove the plot, but there was jsut a little too much of it, in my opinion.

With that being said, I am glad I made it to the end, all of that build up made it feel realistic and the twists all the more powerful. This is definitely an enjoyable read, especially if you like character driven books and don’t mind a slow rolling build up!

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing

Thank you to Berkley and Kaye Publicity for sending me a free copy of For Your Own Good in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the prestigious Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest.
 
He says his wife couldn’t be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.
 
Teddy really can’t be bothered with a few mysterious deaths on campus that’re looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is pushing these kids to their full academic potential.  
 
All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way. If not, well, they’ll get what they deserve.
 
It’s really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.

My Review:

This is one of the funnest books I have read in a very long time! I was hooked right from the start. For Your Own Good is the perfect balance of plot, setting, love-to-hate-them characters and more twists than a pretzel!

The setting is great: Belmont is the quintessential stuffy prep school run by the pushiest and richest parents around. I don’t know a single person who ever went to a school like that, and I think that is why they make such great novel settings. We get a glimpse into the scandalous and elite lives of the uber rich. And it’s like watching the most polite and polished train wreck ever!

But the twists in this book! Oh my, I didn’t see a single one coming so I was constantly gasping out loud or exclaiming “Omg, that did NOT just happen!?” As soon as one little fire was getting put out, all of a sudden another sprang up. I usually like trying to guess what is going to happen in the story but that was virtually impossible with this book, and I didn’t mind one bit! It’s what made it such a captivating and fun read!

And those characters! Such utterly despicable characters, always poised and polished on the outside for the sake of keeping up appearances but falling apart on the inside. Teddy was such a perfect stereotype of the man who always thinks he knows what’s best, Sonia’s perfectionism made her so unhappy, and Zach is the only one willing to question things, to challenge people, to stand up for what’s right.

The best part: even though this book surrounds multiple murders, it has quite a bit of humor in it as well. It kind of reminded me of the movie Clue! Because of that, it gave the book a slightly lighter feel and I think just about anyone could read and enjoy this. For those of you who want a thriller, but scare easy, this one is for you. A highly entertaining read that I definitely recommend!