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!

Such A Quiet Place by Megan Miranda

Such A Quiet Place by Megan Miranda

Thank you to Simon and Shuster for sending me a free copy of Such A Quiet Place in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

We had no warning that she’d come back.​

Hollow’s Edge used to be a quiet place. A private and idyllic neighborhood where neighbors dropped in on neighbors, celebrated graduation and holiday parties together, and looked out for one another. But then came the murder of Brandon and Fiona Truett. A year and a half later, Hollow’s Edge is simmering. The residents are trapped, unable to sell their homes, confronted daily by the empty Truett house, and suffocated by their trial testimonies that implicated one of their own. Ruby Fletcher. And now, Ruby’s back.

With her conviction overturned, Ruby waltzes right back to Hollow’s Edge, and into the home she once shared with Harper Nash. Harper, five years older, has always treated Ruby like a wayward younger sister. But now she’s terrified. What possible good could come of Ruby returning to the scene of the crime? And how can she possibly turn her away, when she knows Ruby has nowhere to go?

Within days, suspicion spreads like a virus across Hollow’s Edge. It’s increasingly clear that not everyone told the truth about the night of the Truett’s murders. And when Harper begins receiving threatening notes, she realizes she has to uncover the truth before someone else becomes the killer’s next victim.

Pulsating with suspense and with the shocking twists that are Megan Miranda’s trademark, Such a Quiet Place is Megan Miranda’s best novel yet—a twisty locked-box thriller that will keep you turning pages late into the night.


My Review:

This is a book for anyone who has ever regretted living in a neighborhood with an HOA!  Such A Quiet Place starts out just like it’s title suggests: A safe and quiet neighborhood, where the neighbors are all friends and look out for each other.  When two of their own are murdered in their beds, and another is convicted of killing them, it seems as if justice has been served and they can go back to their safe and quiet life.  However, with secret notes and surveillance camera galore, the integrity of each neighbor is put under a microscope and you guessed it: things are not what they seemed! 

I enjoyed this one over all, but it was a slow burn and at times a little too slow for me. I can definitely picture this one being a nice and lazy summer beach read.  It’s not suspenseful enough so that you can’t put it down, but it’s easy to slip back into it after a little break, or nap in the sun. I was a little confused at the beginning, as the main problem wasn’t really apparent and it did take too long for it to get there, in my opinion.  But I did like the take on the ever present HOA rules, spinning something many people miserably deal every day with into something much more sinister. Overall a fun, easy thriller, but not one that will stick with you.

Book Review: The Last Thing To Burn by Will Dean

Book Review: The Last Thing To Burn by Will Dean

A roller coaster of suspense, tension and emotions, The Last Thing To Burn is not one you’ll want to miss!

Synopsis:

On an isolated farm in the United Kingdom, a woman is trapped by the monster who kidnapped her seven years ago. When she discovers she is pregnant, she resolves to protect her child no matter the cost, and starts to meticulously plan her escape. But when another woman is brought into the fold on the farm, her plans go awry. Can she save herself, her child, and this innocent woman at the same time? Or is she doomed to spend the remainder of her life captive on this farm? 

My Review:

To use one word to describe this book, that word would be: tension.  My stomach was in a knot the whole time I was reading The Last Thing To Burn and I simply could not put it down. Literally from page one until the end, I was worried for the main character and admired her strength and selflessness as she thought staying in her horrific situation would help her sister. While this story was similar to Room by Emma Donoghue, there are plenty of differences that make this read equal as entertaining without feeling like you’ve read it before. 

In addition to all the stress and tension, Dean inserted twist after twist that made this novel one of the most compulsive books I have ever read! I really just can’t say enough how much I loved this book: not only did I love the story but my experience reading it was like nothing I have ever felt before!  That’s a powerful book, people! 

I always feel like the books I love most are the hardest to review, and this is no exception. I really enjoyed it, I felt so deeply for the main character and her struggles and of course I was rooting for her the whole time.  I definitely feel the need to address some trigger warnings, however.  This novel includes triggers of abduction and kidnapping, trafficing, capitivity, as well as some sexual abuse, however thankfully Dean did not describe in any kind of detail the sexual acts that may have happened, but rather hinted about what was going on. Because of the intensity and dire situations presented in the book, people with similar traumas in their past may not want to read this. 

Book Review: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

Book Review: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

Thank you so much to Flatiron books for sending me a free copy of Razorblade Tears in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis:

Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.

The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.

Derek’s father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed his father was a criminal. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.

Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.

Provocative and fast-paced, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change – and maybe even redemption.


My Review:

I honestly don’t even know where to start. This book. THIS BOOK! Oh, my…this is just one of those unique, special, inspiring, heart wrenching books that only comes along once in a while. Not only is it a fast paced, action packed, impossible to put down suspenseful thriller, but it is also an insightful and reflective examination of a father and son relationship, and in this case: fathers and sons.

As the main characters Ike and Buddy Lee get wrapped up in the search for their sons’ killer, what grows between them isn’t so much an unlikely friendship but a mutual understanding of each other, which was better in my opinion, it felt more realistic. Their difference in race served as a catalyst for some difficult racial conversations and as both men were trying to come to terms with having a gay son, they both learned and grew into more evolved minds. These two men who had been raised a certain way, with certain ideas about right and wrong, lived their whole lives perpetuating that thinking until unspeakable acts force them to challenge those old school ways. And as loveable as Ike and Buddy Lee are, they are not upstanding citizens, this book has you rooting for the bad guy!

Pair all that deepness with nonstop action and what you have is a book that is near impossible to put down. While there is a lot of action and violence, I don’t feel like any of it was over the top. This is definitely one of the best books I have read all year and I will be recommending this one to anyone and everyone. Cosby’s writing is superb, it is equal parts emotional and cut to the bone raw. He writes sentences that I literally read 2-3 times over, just to absorb them again. I read the last three sentences of the book five times while wiping tears from my face. A must read book, do not pass on this one!

**Trigger warning, which is implied in the description, there is hate and hate crimes towards the LGBTQ community.

Book Review: The Therapist by B.A. Paris

Book Review: The Therapist by B.A. Paris


Thank you St. Martin’s Press for gifting me a copy of The Therapist in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own. 

Synopsis:

When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive…

As Alice is getting to know her neighbours, she discovers a devastating secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before.

Alice becomes obsessed with trying to piece together what happened two years before. But no one wants to talk about it. Her neighbors are keeping secrets and things are not as perfect as they seem…


My Review:

Let me start off by saying that B.A.Paris is one of my favorite authors.  It all started with her first book Behind Closed Doors, which is a book that engrossed me from the first to last page and made me realize just how much I like suspenseful and dark novels.  It literally changed my reading habits.  I used to read mostly literary and historical fiction, but with this one book, I started finding different books to read in darker genres such as mystery, thriller and crime fiction. And instead of slowly reading a book here or there, my true love for reading took off and had me flying through the books that all of a sudden I couldn’t get enough of!   So I can honestly say that this author has made a lasting impact on my reading life.

I have read all of her books, and I feel like they are all different from one another yet each has something to offer.  And I love that!  I do not want to read the same book over and over.  When I feel like an author is following a “formula” I feel a little taken advantage of. 

I enjoyed The Therapist just as much as Paris’ other books for many reasons.  Instead of diving right into the drama, this novel starts out by simply introducing the characters and their place in life, allowing the reader to get to know them at almost a personal level.  But that is not to say that the book starts off slowly, it doesn’t, rather it starts at the beginning and gradually unravels the mystery, suspense and unease as it goes, which I thought was perfectly executed!  

The simmering progression of the plot made things occur in a way that felt natural, rather than forced or ridiculous.  I would imagine it being a fine line for the thriller writer between suspenseful and unrealistic, but with the naturally unfolding chain of events in The Therapist, this story felt almost as if it is something that could actually happen. 

With no gore or violent scenes, this is a thriller for the masses!  I really enjoyed it and I think this one will be a summer hit!

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: 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!

Good Girls Lie by J.T.Ellison

Good Girls Lie by J.T.Ellison

B140B5D4-7460-47E0-99D5-9D13F94763D6Thank you MIRA books for sending me a free copy of Good Girls Lie in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own. 

Synopsis:

Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond.

But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.

In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder.

When a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.

But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.

My Review:

This was a fun thriller packed with just as much drama as you would expect for a story about an exclusive all girls prep school. Good Girls Lie is full of well developed characters and will keep you guessing until the end. In my opinion, JT Ellison is a master at building a realistic thriller plot, which is a refreshing relief compared to the endless list of one-size-fits-all unrealistic domestic drama thrillers out there these days.

There is a lot going on in this novel: catty school girls, a orphan in their midst, high stakes education, secret societies.  The many facets of this story made it a fun and compulsive read. What makes Good Girls Lie special is the ever undulating light the main character, Ash, is shining in.  The reader doesn’t know whether to like her or not, to trust her or not. I was guessing until the end and the last two pages tied up every single lose thread. I greatly enjoyed this one and read it fairly quickly as well. I recommend to it anyone who likes suspenseful reads and novels with a good amount of drama.