Review: A Familiar Stranger by A. R. Torre

Goodreads

Release date: September 27, 2022

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

Such a quiet and ordinary wife and mother. Who will even notice what she’s done?

Lillian Smith leads an unexceptional life, writing obituaries and killing time with her inattentive husband and disconnected son. Then she meets David, a handsome stranger, in a coffee shop. Lured into an affair, she invents a new persona, one without strings, deadlines, or brooding husbands.

Lillian has never felt so reckless, unpredictable, or wanted. But as her affair with David intensifies, she withdraws from everything that’s real, even her closest friend. When evidence of her life as a secret lover finds its way onto her son’s social media, she risks ruining much more than her marriage or reputation.

As lies beget lies, Lillian’s two worlds spiral dangerously out of control. And betrayals run deeper than she imagines. Because Lillian isn’t the only one leading a double life.

Review:

I’ve really enjoyed this authors books in the past, she writes in a really addictive way that always makes me want to read her books in one sitting and basically that’s all I’m looking for in a thriller lately. This one has that same feel and I was into it from the start. At one point things get flipped upside down and I think this particular choice will be divisive. It mostly worked for me, I don’t mind if things get a little unhinged and that’s definitely the case here. I always appreciate the unexpected and I definitely didn’t see things coming ahead of time here. It does require you to just go along for the ride and not ask too many questions so just a heads up there but if you’re looking for a page turner with some bananas surprises this one was fun.

Overall rating: 3.75/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Love in the Time of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson

Goodreads

Release date: August 16, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Romance

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

Turns out that reading nothing but true crime isn’t exactly conducive to modern dating—and one woman is going to have to learn how to give love a chance when she’s used to suspecting the worst.

PhD candidate Phoebe Walsh has always been obsessed with true crime. She’s even analyzing the genre in her dissertation—if she can manage to finish writing it. It’s hard to find the time while she spends the summer in Florida, cleaning out her childhood home, dealing with her obnoxiously good-natured younger brother, and grappling with the complicated feelings of mourning a father she hadn’t had a relationship with for years.

It doesn’t help that she’s low-key convinced that her new neighbor, Sam Dennings, is a serial killer (he may dress business casual by day, but at night he’s clearly up to something). It’s not long before Phoebe realizes that Sam might be something much scarier—a genuinely nice guy who can pierce her armor to reach her vulnerable heart.

Review:

If you like true crime and romance novels (and really, who doesn’t?) this one is a must! Do you think every man you ever met is a potential serial killer? If so, you’re gonna love Phoebe. She’s neurotic (again, who isn’t in 2022) and smart and her brand of wit is right up my alley. Sam was the sweetest most awkwardly adorable hero and together they made such a cute pair. Their relationship was gentle, tender and felt so genuine. They took care with each other in a way that felt so pure. Since Phoebe’s father recently passed away there’s a grief element throughout the story and she’s also trying to rekindle a friendship with someone she lost touch with years ago. Then there’s her brother and his girlfriend who were such fantastic secondary characters I kinda want to read a whole ass book about those two. These extra elements added additional depth to this cute romance, I adored it and can’t wait to see what the author has in store next.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Lucy on the Wild Side by Kerry Rea

Goodreads

Release date: September 13, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Romance

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

Lucy Rourke has two great loves in her life: the gorilla troop she cares for as a primatologist and the laundry list of reality TV shows she watches to escape the fact that her actual love life doesn’t exist. And like a reality contestant gunning for the final rose, Lucy’s laser-focused on one thing: getting promoted to head keeper. So when a wildlife docuseries hosted by hotshot TV personality Kai Bridges chooses her zoo as its summer filming location, she sees an opportunity to showcase her beloved gorillas to the world and land a starring role in her department.

When Kai and his film crew arrive, however, it’s obvious to Lucy that Kai cares more about sky-high ratings than the gorillas, and he considers her a camera-averse know-it-all whose wardrobe consists entirely of khaki. But she’s surprised to discover there’s more to him than his rugged good looks and cheesy catchphrases…and that maybe a promotion isn’t the only thing she wants. But when secrets from their pasts threaten to complicate everything, Lucy discovers that happiness and success aren’t the same thing—and that finding joy just might mean getting a little wild.

Review:

Who knew I needed a romance with a zoo and a troop of gorillas as the backdrop? Kerry Rea knew exactly what I needed even when I didn’t, I absolutely adored this one!

Lucy was the kind of heroine we’ve all been waiting for, she’s child free by choice, fiercely passionate about her career and hilarious. This was full of witty banter between Lucy and Kai and there were so many funny pop culture references interspersed in their exchanges that made me laugh. While much of this was light and funny with the enemies to lovers trope being executed perfectly there was so much emotional depth as well. Both Kai and Lucy experienced trauma in their childhoods and have to work through their issues and this gave their story such a genuine and mature feel. I adored this one just as much as I loved The Wedding Ringer and highly recommend both books.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Lucky One by Jessica Payne

Goodreads

Release date: September 14, 2022

Publisher: Bookouture

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

We were all there that prom night, but one of us didn’t make it home…

Ten years ago: We laughed together on the dance floor that night, our dresses glittering in the swirling lights. One final night of fun before the rest of our lives. We couldn’t have known that for one of us, it would be our last…

Now: They say that I’m the lucky one, the survivor. But no one knows the truth—the thing I’ve been running from all this time. How I escaped.

Back in my hometown a decade later—the place I’ve avoided—I can feel the questioning eyes on me, the whispers. The rumors.

I can’t shake the feeling that I am being followed, the shadow of a reflection in the glass storefronts, the murmur of footsteps before I turn to look. But no one’s ever there, and I tell myself it’s all in my head. Then the anonymous messages land in my inbox, overly familiar and insistent: I’m watching. I’ve been waiting for you.

I should have known I couldn’t run forever. I want to feel safe surrounded by my best friends. But everyone has something to hide, and I don’t know who I can trust.

Someone out there won’t let me forget what really happened that night, what I promised. What if, this time, I’m not so lucky?

Review:

Ohhh this was a pacey and clever little thriller. I really liked the basic setup here, especially that Norah was able to trick a serial killer back when she was in high school into letting her go. Obviously I immediately needed to know how because I just knew anyone who could manage that was someone that would be interesting to read about. Norah was definitely fascinating, she took all her fear and anger surrounding her past trauma and channeled it into a career for herself as she’s now a famous MMA fighter and coach. Seriously badass! So I was definitely rooting for Norah and then you have this exciting and fast paced storyline that really kept me engaged. The chapters were short and many ended on a small cliffhanger which really made me want to keep reading. The author did a pretty good job at misdirecting the reader and I had fun trying to figure out who the killer was. My first by the author but definitely not my last, definitely a fun binge read with good tension and thrills.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Audiobook Review: Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

Goodreads

Release date: August 9, 2022

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers―a stranger who now lives in her apartment and forces her out in the cold. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing, and in its place is a bloodstained knife. That’s when she sees that her hands are covered in black pen, scribbled messages like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE.

Two years ago, Liv was living with her best friend, dating a new man, and thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, the same message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years? Liv finds herself on the run for a crime she doesn’t remember committing as she tries to piece together the fragments of her life. But there’s someone who does know exactly what she did, and they’ll do anything to make her forget―permanently.

In the vein of SJ Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and Christopher Nolan’s cult classic Memento, Megan Goldin’s Stay Awake is an electrifying novel that plays with memory and murder.

Review:

There was really quite a lot to like about this one and while I did enjoy most of it, I did have some issues that left me conflicted in the end. I’ll start with what I liked, because again there was plenty to choose from. It didn’t waste time jumping straight into the story, you’re thrust right into things alongside Liv and I was really curious as to what the hell was actually going on. So as far as grabbing my attention right away goes this one definitely did that. Besides hearing from Liv you also hear from the detectives working her case and I loved the police procedural angle maybe even more than Liv’s chapters. I was pretty invested for the bulk of it too and never really got bored. As for what didn’t work, well…the entire premise is based on Liv needing to stay awake and not sleep and while she may not have memories she still knew she was in danger so I guess I kept thinking why won’t she just go to the hospital, police etc?? Sure, a few reasons were given for her hesitancy but I didn’t fully buy it. Parts of it did seem to drag on for the sake of tension too and I really think the police would’ve figured things out a little faster, they definitely weren’t incompetent. And then the ending just took the expected route and of course I would have preferred to had some surprises. So some minor issues but still a decent read and I did enjoy the audio version. Imogen Church and January LaVoy are both incredible voice actors and we’re both amazing here.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Spotlight: Dirt Creek by Hayley Scrivenor

Happy Thursday everyone! Today I’m sharing some information on Dirt Creek which was just released this week. I can’t wait to read this, is it on your TBR as well?

Goodreads

Synopsis:

When twelve-year-old Esther disappears on the way home from school in a small town in rural Australia, the community is thrown into a maelstrom of suspicion and grief. As Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels arrives in town during the hottest spring in decades and begins her investigation, Esther’s tenacious best friend, Ronnie, is determined to find Esther and bring her home.

When schoolfriend Lewis tells Ronnie that he saw Esther with a strange man at the creek the afternoon she went missing, Ronnie feels she is one step closer to finding her. But why is Lewis refusing to speak to the police? And who else is lying about how much they know about what has happened to Esther?

Punctuated by a Greek chorus, which gives voice to the remaining children of the small, dying town, this novel explores the ties that bind, what we try and leave behind us, and what we can never outrun, while never losing sight of the question of what happened to Esther, and what her loss does to a whole town.

In Hayley Scrivenor’s Dirt Creek, a small-town debut mystery described as The Drymeets Everything I Never Told You, a girl goes missing and a community falls apart and comes together.

Review: You’re Invited by Amanda Jayatissa

Goodreads

Release date: August 9, 2022

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis: When Amaya is invited to Kaavi’s over-the-top wedding in Sri Lanka, she is surprised and a little hurt to hear from her former best friend after so many years of radio silence. But when Amaya learns that the groom is her very own ex-boyfriend, she is consumed by a single thought: She must stop the wedding from happening, no matter the cost.

But as the weeklong wedding celebrations begin and rumors about Amaya’s past begin to swirl, she can’t help but feel like she also has a target on her back. When Kaavi goes missing and is presumed dead, all evidence points to Amaya.

However, nothing is as it seems as Jayatissa expertly unravels that each wedding guest has their own dark secret and agenda, and Amaya may not be the only one with a plan to keep the bride from getting her happily ever after…

Review:

This was one of those reads that took me awhile to get into, but once I was settled in, I was super into it! For me the slowish start paid off in the end, so patience may be required but it does get interesting.

The author did a great job with the format, it’s told both in the present and a few months before the wedding and there are interview transcripts interspersed from various wedding guests that reveal so much juicy gossip. I really liked the look inside Sri Lankan culture and traditions and the lavish wedding was so fun. There’s a lot of dark humor here which I enjoy in a thriller and I found it to be smart and sharp in such a wicked way. I think this is one of those thrillers where the readers enjoyment really hinges on the twist. I didn’t have it fully figured out ahead of time so I ended up really liking the direction it took, but if you guess it early I don’t think you’ll be impressed. I say this because I guessed the twist in the authors debut and I was bummed so just wanted to put it out there. But overall I do recommend it and think if you like whodunnits with lots of secrets this was a fun one.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Luck and Last Resorts by Sarah Grunder Ruiz

Goodreads

Release date: August 9, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Romance

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

Commitment-phobe Nina Lejeune lives by two rules:
1. Always have fun.
2. Don’t rely on anyone but yourself.
The first rule is easy; the second, she’s only broken once.

Ten years after fleeing home, Nina is the chief stewardess on the super yacht Serendipity, single by choice, and perfectly content with how life has turned out.

But Nina’s ex-coworker and old flame, Irish chef Ollie Dunne, isn’t so happy with the status quo. One year after leaving yachting, he’s returned as the Serendipity’s chef with an ultimatum: if Nina continues to deny she’s in love with him by the end of this charter season, he’ll go back to Ireland for good.

Nina and Ollie’s shared secret from their past threatens to shipwreck not only their relationship, but the entire boat. But as their connection grows amidst chaotic guests and crew drama, could there be smooth sailing in their future?

Review:

I absolutely loved the first book in this series when I read it last year and have been so looking forward to getting to read Nina and Ollie’s story and I’m so glad it lived up to the hype for me! It had a different feel to it than the first book, which was a good thing because to me it just showed that the author is multifaceted and able to still right such an amazing romance just with a different feel. I think the biggest difference I noticed was this one was more angsty, but not in an annoying way. Nina and Ollie’s pain came from such a relatable place and I was rooting for them SO hard. They had amazing chemistry which lead to some wickedly funny banter and so much sarcasm. If you like romances with depth, some summery vibes and are a fan of Below Deck this is a must!

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.