Review: I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

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Release date: February 5, 2019

Publisher: MIRA

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Imagine the worst thing a friend could ever do.

This is worse. 

When Mel receives an unexpected email from her oldest friend Abi, it brings back memories she thought she had buried forever. Their friendship belonged in the past. To those carefree days at university.

But Abi is in trouble and needs Mel’s help, and she wants a place to stay. Just for a few days, while she sorts things out. It’s the least Mel can do.

After all, friends look out for each other, don’t they?

I Invited Her In is a blistering tale of wanting what you can’t have, jealousy, and revenge from Sunday Times best-seller Adele Parks. 

Review:

I think at some point or another we can all relate to wanting to get revenge on someone for a perceived wrong and at its core this book is about revenge with a side of manipulation and obsession which are things I LOVE in a thriller. This was a page turner and a slow unraveling of a methodical plan that will have life altering consequences in the end.

Family dynamics fascinate me and when Mel answers an email from her old friend, Abi inviting her to stay with her and her family for awhile she never could’ve dreamed just what she was allowing in her home. This one decision sets off a chain of events that impacts the relationships in the family, especially with her husband, Ben and her oldest son, Liam. All of the characters are well drawn and this is an exploration of human behavior during incredibly tense and odd times.

The situations that occur throughout, while interesting, are also pretty out there. You pretty much have to let the plausibility of the plot fly out the window with this one and just sit back and let it entertain you, it’s a wild ride. I did find it to be predictable but honestly I was so wrapped up in the drama I didn’t even care that I saw most of the twists coming well ahead of time. The author did catch me off guard in the very end which was nice after guessing the earlier events. I hate to use this again since I said it just yesterday in another review, but it’s fitting, this had a very Lifetime movie feel and would actually be a great movie.

I Invited Her In in three words: Obsessive, Manipulative and Dramatic.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Until the Day I Die by Emily Carpenter

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: March 12, 2019

Publisher: Lake Union

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

If there’s a healthy way to grieve, Erin Gaines hasn’t found it. After her husband’s sudden death, the runaway success of the tech company they built with their best friends has become overwhelming. Her nerves are frayed, she’s disengaged, and her frustrated daughter, Shorie, is pulling away from her. Maybe Erin’s friends and family are right. Maybe a few weeks at a spa resort in the Caribbean islands is just what she needs to hit the reset button…

Shorie is not only worried about her mother’s mental state but also for the future of her parents’ company. Especially when she begins to suspect that not all of Erin’s colleagues can be trusted. It seems someone is spinning an intricate web of deception—the foundation for a conspiracy that is putting everything, and everyone she loves, at risk. And she may be the only one who can stop it.

Now, thousands of miles away in a remote, and oftentimes menacing, tropical jungle, Erin is beginning to have similar fears. Things at the resort aren’t exactly how the brochure described, and unless she’s losing her mind, Erin’s pretty sure she wasn’t sent there to recover—she was sent to disappear.

Review:

I’ve read three of Carpenter’s books now and I’m so impressed by how vastly different each of her books are. There’s nothing formulaic about her books, she doesn’t regurgitate the same old tired storylines, instead she comes up with these unusual premises that end up being wildly entertaining.

This flips back and forth between Erin and her daughter Shorie and I adore multiple perspectives. While I liked and felt for Erin I was really enamored with Shorie and I think it’s because Carpenter captured the voice of a young woman so well. She felt genuine and believable and I kept thinking this one would even appeal to the YA crowd. This starts off on the slower side but then at the halfway point things get kicked into high gear and it was a nonstop race to the finish for me. Despite some slightly implausible moments I really enjoyed this one.

I’ve talked a lot before about how having the right expectations for certain books can really help and this is one where I feel like I should say this is exactly that sort of book. Is it a thriller? Yes, but it’s a slower burn with increasing tension as it progresses. Is it a mystery? Yes again, but parts are predictable for seasoned thriller readers so keep that in mind. Is it dark and menacing? Yes, but not in the usual way, there’s definitely danger but the menace is done in an over the top and dramatic fashion that certainly won’t be for everyone. Is it entertaining? Absolutely but the same kind of entertainment that I get when I watch a Lifetime movie, there’s definitely some moments where you have to suspend disbelief, some things are pretty far fetched. All of that to say that I enjoyed this one immensely and I hope by telling you what sort of book this truly is I’ll ensure you pick this one up with the right mindset.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: March 5, 2019

Publisher: Park Row

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Things that make me scared: When Charlie cries. Hospitals and lakes. When Ian drinks vodka in the basement. ISIS. When Ian gets angry… That something is really, really wrong with me.

Maddie and Ian’s romance began with a chance encounter at a party overseas; he was serving in the British army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend, Jo. Now almost two decades later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America. But when a camping accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son, Charlie; and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, sixteen years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of a shocking crime.

Review:

I’m a sucker for a strong start to a thriller, the kind that grabs you instantaneously and makes you want to know more and this one had exactly that. After a brief chapter where Maddie is contemplating therapy, you switch to a police officer who is called to a quiet, family home where something awful has happened but all you know is there’s blood and it’s now referred to as the day of the killing. Aren’t you just dying to find out more?! I sure was and my interest was maintained throughout.

After that shocking opening hook the book flips back and forth between twelve weeks earlier as Maddie begins therapy and then ten years earlier to when her and Ian first met. All along I kept wondering how such a young, happy couple would end up with someone dead ten years later and as more pieces of their complicated relationship were unveiled I was always guessing who was dead and more curiously, why?! Domestic suspense always engages me and I couldn’t get past the idea of this enigmatic couple taking such a sharp downward dive, it was crazy!

Besides a throughly engrossing plot, the use of setting was strong as well and brought a sense of excitement and danger to an already dark storyline. This is a thriller with deep psychological exploration, the author has an evident knowledge of PTSD and the terrible ramifications of it and I found it both eye opening and fascinating. While there are some solid twists along the way, what makes this one a standout is the keen insight into a troubled marriage and the deep exploration into the psychology of people suffering from trauma. Recommended for fans of domestic suspense that are looking for something unique, it’s not your typical suburban thriller.

Beautiful Bad in three words: Explosive, Authentic and Chilling.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Call Me Evie by J. P. Pomare

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Release date: March 5, 2019

Publisher: Putnam

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

For the past two weeks, seventeen-year-old Kate Bennet has lived against her will in an isolated cabin in a remote beach town–brought there by a mysterious man named Bill. Part captor, part benefactor, Bill calls her Evie and tells her he’s hiding her to protect her. That she did something terrible one night back home in Melbourne–something so unspeakable that he had no choice but to take her away. The trouble is, Kate can’t remember the night in question. 

The fragments of Kate’s shattered memories of her old life seem happy: good friends, a big house in the suburbs, a devoted boyfriend. Bill says he’ll help her fill in the blanks–but his story isn’t adding up. And as she tries to reconcile the girl she thought she’d been with the devastating consequences Bill claims she’s responsible for, Kate will unearth secrets about herself and those closest to her that could change everything. 

A riveting debut novel that fearlessly plumbs the darkest recesses of the mind, Call Me Evie explores the fragility of memory and the potential in all of us to hide the truth, even from ourselves.

Review:

Hmm this was a weird read for me, not sure how I feel so I’ll just sort of think out loud with my review and try to process my thoughts and feelings about this with you guys!

This is told in two timelines, before and after and nothing is very clear throughout, especially at the beginning. Evie narrates and all you know is that she’s being held captive, but her captor isn’t hurting her, he says he’s protecting her. You have no idea from who or what exactly they’re hiding from and neither does Evie. It’s all very vague and there are so many questions and while I usually like unknown factors I was annoyed by how little is revealed and how painfully slowly things do end up coming out. When things do finally come to a head I just felt like it was all sort of stupid and weird. It didn’t make a ton of sense for me and there were also several secondary characters that seemed to serve no purpose in the story in the end. I was left thinking, but why about most things about this one. It was all just messy and clunky for me and left me going, what??? and not in a good way.

To end on a positive note, one aspect I did like was the idea of memory and how that can be manipulated or changed throughout time and for various reasons. I’m gonna say no more on that but just that it was an angle I hadn’t exactly seen before and I always appreciate a fresh approach. I seem to be in the minority on this one, there are several glowing reviews on Goodreads that show this may be a me problem because plenty of people loved this so keep that in mind!

Overall rating: 2.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Audiobook Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: January 22, 2019

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Narrator: Katherine Littrell

Blurb:

Kimberly Leamy is a photography teacher in Melbourne, Australia. Twenty-six years earlier, Sammy Went, a two-year old girl vanished from her home in Manson, Kentucky. An American accountant who contacts Kim is convinced she was that child, kidnapped just after her birthday. She cannot believe the woman who raised her, a loving social worker who died of cancer four years ago, crossed international lines to steal a toddler.

On April 3rd, 1990, Jack and Molly Went’s daughter Sammy disappeared from the inside their Kentucky home. Already estranged since the girl’s birth, the couple drifted further apart as time passed. Jack did his best to raise and protect his other daughter and son while Molly found solace in her faith. The Church of the Light Within, a Pentecostal fundamentalist group who handle poisonous snakes as part of their worship, provided that faith. Without Sammy, the Wents eventually fell apart.

Now, with proof that she and Sammy are in fact the same person, Kim travels to America to reunite with a family she never knew she had. And to solve the mystery of her abduction—a mystery that will take her deep into the dark heart of religious fanaticism where she must fight for her life against those determined to save her soul… 

Review:

There are a rare handful of books that when listened to in audio format are taken to the next level and The Nowhere Child is most certainly one of those books. The combination of an incredibly well thought out mystery and top notch narration made this one a must listen.

While the premise itself doesn’t sound all that original I can say that I’ve never seen it handled in the way the author did. This flips back and forth between past and present; in the present Kim learns that her mom may have actually been a kidnapper, and what’s worse is that she’s been dead for years so answers are not easy to come by and in the past you follow the Wendt family in the days leading up to Sammy’s disappearance and after she’s gone. Both past and present were equally enthralling, I found myself riveted no matter what chapter I was listening to. You know just from the blurb that Kim was indeed kidnapped, so there’s no surprise as to the what, but the fun lies in the who and the why. Throw in a crazy, cult like church which never fails to intrigue me and you have a great recipe for a highly original mystery.

The narrator is Australian and I’m a sucker for an accent, but she also pulled off a really well done American drawl without sounding contrived. She was just excellent and like I said earlier, she raised the stakes with impeccable delivery and a smooth voice that was hypnotic. Highly recommended for audio fans!

The Nowhere Child in three words: Nuanced, Seamless and Tense.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

February Wrap Up

Hello lovelies! I can’t even believe we’re in March already, February absolutely flew by! I had another amazing month full of great books, how about you?!

Stalker: Harrowing, Brilliant and Intricate

Forget You Know Me: Genuine, Fluid and Secretive.

Little Darlings: Unsettling, Menacing and Dark.

When You Read This: Poignant, Fresh and Touching

The Beantown Girls: Heartwarming, Precise and Impassioned.

Once A Liar: Duplicitous, Unexpected and Skillful

The Dead Ex: Addictive, Unpredictable and Engrossing

The Hiding Place: Sinister, Scary and Atmospheric.

Say You’re Sorry: Tense, Compelling and Dark.

The Secretary was one I’m really torn about.

More Than Words: Touching, Sweet and Lyrical

Never Tell: Rapid, Intricate and Unputdownable

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls was one that just didn’t work for me at all.

Keep Her Close: Tense, Explosive and Addictive

Dead Memories: Thrilling, Intricate and Pacey.

The Silent Patient: Captivating, Clever and Cunning.

The Lost Night was middle of the Road for me.

The Beautiful Strangers: Glamorous, Dramatic and Classic

Why We Lie: Deceptive, Fast and Entertaining.

Review: In Another Time by Jillian Cantor

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: March 5, 2019

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb:

Love brought them together. But only time can save them…

1931, Germany. Bookshop owner Max Beissinger meets Hanna Ginsberg, a budding concert violinist, and immediately he feels a powerful chemistry between them. It isn’t long before they fall in love and begin making plans for the future. As their love affair unfolds over the next five years, the climate drastically changes in Germany as Hitler comes to power. Their love is tested with the new landscape and the realities of war, not the least of which is that Hanna is Jewish and Max is not. But unbeknownst to Hanna is the fact that Max has a secret, which causes him to leave for months at a time—a secret that Max is convinced will help him save Hanna if Germany becomes too dangerous for her because of her religion. 

In 1946, Hanna Ginsberg awakens in a field outside of Berlin. Disoriented and afraid, she has no memory of the past ten years and no idea what has happened to Max. With no information as to Max’s whereabouts—or if he is even still alive—she decides to move to London to live with her sister while she gets her bearings. Even without an orchestra to play in, she throws herself completely into her music to keep alive her lifelong dream of becoming a concert violinist. But the music also serves as a balm to heal her deeply wounded heart and she eventually gets the opening she long hoped for. Even so, as the days, months, and years pass, taking her from London to Paris to Vienna to America, she continues to be haunted by her forgotten past, and the fate of the only man she has ever loved and cannot forget.

Told in alternating viewpoints—Max in the years leading up to WWII, and Hanna in the ten years after—In Another Time is a beautiful novel about love and survival, passion and music, across time and continents. 

Review:

Oh my heart this was a moving book! While it most definitely falls under the umbrella of historical fiction, this is also an epic love story that transcends time and distance and swept me away to a foreign land.

This alternates between Max and Hanna’s perspectives and spans across the years before and after WW2. I was equally drawn to both of their characters but I was head over heels for sweet, dear Max. He captured my heart almost instantly, he’s the type of character that will remain with me forever. I was also invested in Hanna, she’s just a bit more distant than Max, she’s so focused and passionate about her music career, her violin is her lifeline during a depressing time in history, that’s it hard to foster a deep connection with her. Both were amazingly well crafted and hearing from both of them throughout the years was truly a special treat.

Cantor writes in such a beautiful, evocative manner, even though her books always break my heart in some way, it’s in the best way possible. If you’re like me and you can’t get enough of WW2 fiction this is a must read, there’s a unique spin on the sub genre that I wholeheartedly enjoyed.

In Another Time in three words: Poetic, Moving and Emotional.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Why We Lie by Amy Impellizzeri @AmyImpellizzeri #TallPoppyWriters

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: March 5, 2019

Publisher: Wyatt McKenzie

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Rising star politician and lawyer, Jude Birch, is clearly keeping secrets about his past from his wife, Aby Boyle. And Aby worries that Jude’s relationship with his campaign manager, Laila Rogers, is more complicated that he has let on. Jude has been the bystander victim of a seemingly gang-related shooting, but as the secrets Jude and Laila have kept since law school begin to unravel – with the help of a zealous news reporter and the Capitol Police – Aby is forced to consider that Jude might not have been an unintended victim of the shooting after all.

Meanwhile, Aby’s own secrets are revealed, despite her best efforts to clamp a lid down on a past marked by abuse and lies, and even a false accusation that still haunts her. 

Unpredictable and unexpected, WHY WE LIE is a contemporary political thriller that examines the real life consequences of those who tell the truth about abuse and those who don’t, and asks the question: is the truth always worth the cost? 

Review:

I don’t read many books that fall under the umbrella of political thrillers, no real reason, just not something that usually piques my interest, but after having loved The Truth About Thea I knew I had to give this one a try. I was surprisingly captivated but the world of politics and totally sucked into the drama surrounding Aby and Jude’s lives.

This was a shorter read that packed a solid punch, it was pacey and moved along at a steady clip. After Jude is shot he literally can’t lie anymore, is that a blessing or a curse?! I’m not sure what I really think, but it definitely gives you something to ponder. Besides Jude’s secretive history Aby has her own skeletons in her closet and getting to the truth about them both individually and together was one hell of a wild ride.

The political angle ended up being so intriguing, many of the scenarios portrayed could’ve been ripped straight from the headlines, and while I was highly entertained, it was also scary to think stuff like this happens in DC all of the time! If you like books full of secrets, betrayals and a whole heap of lies check this one out.

Why We Lie in three words: Deceptive, Fast and Entertaining.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the author for my review copy.

Review: The Beautiful Strangers by Camille DiMaio

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: March 5, 2019

Publisher: Lake Union

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb:

A legendary hotel on the Pacific becomes a haven where dreams, love, and a beguiling mystery come alive.

1958. Kate Morgan, tethered to her family’s failing San Francisco restaurant, is looking for an escape. She gets her chance by honoring a cryptic plea from her grandfather: find the beautiful stranger. The search takes her to Hotel del Coronado, the beachfront landmark on the Southern California coast where filming is underway on the movie Some Like It Hot.

For a movie lover like Kate, it’s a fantasy come true. So is the offer of a position at the glamorous hotel. And a new romance is making her heart beat just as fast. But as sure as she is that the Coronado is her future, Kate discovers it’s also where the ghosts of the past have come to stay. Sixty years ago a guest died tragically, and she still haunts the hotel’s halls.

As the lives of two women—generations apart—intertwine, Kate’s courageous journey could change more than she ever imagined. And with the Coronado wending its way through her soul, she must follow her dreams…wherever they may lead. 

Review:

DiMaio wrote one of my favorite HF last year, The Way of Beauty so I’ve been eagerly awaiting her latest since then. When I read the blurb for this and realized it was set in the late fifties while a movie was being filmed I was even more excited and I’m thrilled to say that I loved this one just as much as TWOB!

This is told via dual perspectives, Kate as she sets out on her own for the first time in her life and the other POV is so unique and unexpected that I don’t want to say anything about it, except it was really cool and unusual. Kate was such a darling character, I was endeared to her immediately and following her to the Hotel del Coronado was a blast. DiMaio worked in cameos from Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in an authentic and believable way, she truly brought this era to life and made it so effortlessly easy to envision the story.

Much like her last book this had a little something for everyone, a light romance, a stunning setting and even a light mystery that kept things exciting. Totally recommend for HF fans and even for those that like old Hollywood glitz and glam!

The Beautiful Strangers in three words: Glamorous, Dramatic and Classic.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: February 26, 2019

Publisher: Crown

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

What really happened the night Edie died? Ten years later, her best friend Lindsay will learn how unprepared she is for the truth.

In 2009, Edie had New York’s social world in her thrall. Mercurial and beguiling, she was the shining star of a group of recent graduates living in a Brooklyn loft and treating the city like their playground. When Edie’s body was found near a suicide note at the end of a long, drunken night, no one could believe it. Grief, shock, and resentment scattered the group and brought the era to an abrupt end.

A decade later, Lindsay has come a long way from the drug-addled world of Calhoun Lofts. She has devoted best friends, a cozy apartment, and a thriving career as a magazine’s head fact-checker. But when a chance reunion leads Lindsay to discover an unsettling video from that hazy night, she starts to wonder if Edie was actually murdered—and, worse, if she herself was involved. As she rifles through those months in 2009—combing through case files, old technology, and her fractured memories—Lindsay is forced to confront the demons of her own violent history to bring the truth to light. 

Review:

I absolutely love any sort of book that deals with old murders and unsolved cases and this one appealed to me even more so because it’s unknown whether Edie was even murdered or if she committed suicide like the cops assumed. There was a lot of unknown factors in the one across the board and while it only left me guessing for about half the time, it maintained my interest throughout.

The bulk of the narrative is shaped by Lindsay with a handful of chapters from her old friend group scattered about. Lindsay is a tough character to describe, on the one hand she’s not likable at all, but it’s not really in a fun way, like a love to hate character. Instead she was pretty immature and whiny for a thirty something grown ass woman. It even kind of felt like a YA novel at times due to her lack of maturity, she got on my nerves quite a bit. Edie herself was actually pretty terrible too, she wasn’t portrayed as a very kind person and it was kind of difficult to toss any sympathy her way.

While the characters were pretty awful I was drawn in by the authors writing style, though it was slightly verbose. Full disclosure, I’m not a fan of long chapters, especially in a mystery. I much prefer the fast paced, cliffhanger type chapters that propel me forward and urge me to keep reading just one more chapter. But Bartz’s style was captivating, almost poetic at times and she did bring me back to NYV circa 2009 with surprising ease. I would suggest this one to anyone that’s new to thrillers or someone looking for a lighter style mystery, it was lacking that punch and darkness that I crave when I’m wholly invested in a thriller.

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.