Review: Such Pretty Flowers by K. L. Cerra

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Release date: February 7, 2023

Publisher: Bantam

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

“Get it out of me.”

It was the last message Holly received from her brother, Dane, before he was found cleaved open in his fiancée’s lavish Savannah townhouse. Police ruled his death a suicide sparked by psychosis, but Holly can’t shake the idea that something else must have happened… Something involving another message he sent that night, the one that mentioned a “game” his fiancée, Maura, wanted to play…

Determined to discover the truth, Holly begins to stalk Maura—a magnetic, black-eyed florist with a penchant for carnivorous plants. But what begins as an investigation quickly veers into a darker fixation, one that lures Holly into the depths of Maura’s world: Savannah high society, eerie black roses, and a whisper of something more sinister. Soon, Holly is feeling a dark attraction to the one woman she shouldn’t trust. As Holly falls deeper for Maura and her secrets, she’s left with only one choice: find out what happened to Dane… before she meets the same fate.

A woman investigating her brother’s apparent suicide finds herself falling for her prime suspect—his darkly mysterious girlfriend—in this edgy Southern gothic thriller.

Review:

I finished this book several days ago and have been sitting with my thoughts ever since. It was such a different read and when I finished I wasn’t sure if I liked it or hated it. Such a unique reading experience and definitely one that made me think long after I finished. I liked so many aspects, it was super creepy and unsettling and fairly fast paced. The southern gothic vibes were fantastic and it was so bizarre which I usually enjoy. I don’t think I picked up on it being gothic horror until after I started it and that’s not a genre I normally read. It’s just not usually my thing, but that’s sort of why I’m torn here. Things got really weird as the book went on and I think it was just a little too out there for me in the end. But the setting was awesome, the plot was pretty strong and the concept was original. If you like super strange and out there this could be for you.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Bright and Deadly Things by Lexie Elliott

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Release date: February 14, 2023

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

A remote back-to-basics mountaintop retreat in the French Alps turns deadly as an Oxford fellow finds herself in the crosshairs of her late husband’s dangerous secrets.

The Chalet des Anglais should be the ideal locale for recently-widowed Oxford don Emily to begin cutting through the fog of her grief. With no electricity, running water, or access by car, the rustic chalet nestled at the foot of the verdant, snow-topped Alps should afford Emily both time and space to heal. Joining her will be a collection of friends from the university, as well as other fellows, graduates, and undergraduates.

Something feels off, though—heightening Emily’s existing grief-induced anxiety. Before even making it to the airport, she’s unnerved by a break-in at her home. Once at the chalet, tension amongst the guests is palpable. Her friends and colleagues are behaving oddly, and competition for a newly opened position has introduced a streak of meanness into the otherwise relaxing getaway. As hostilities grow, Emily begins to wonder if the chalet’s dark history has cast a shadow over the retreat. In the salon, a curious grandfather clock looms, the only piece of furniture to survive a deadly blaze a century ago. As its discordant bell begins to invade everyone’s dreams, someone very real has been searching through Emily’s things and attempting to hack into her computer.

When a student disappears, Emily realizes that she’d better separate friend from foe, and real from imagined—or the next disappearance may be her own.

Review:

This one started out strong for me, you could almost immediately feel a sense of dread and unease and the author did a great job of creating a sense of place. I’m a sucker for a locked room style mystery and remote retreat in the French Alps seemed like the best combination of beautiful with a sinister edge that I enjoyed. My interest did start to diminish a little though as things progressed, maybe it was a little too much of a slow burn for me. But there were many clever aspects and despite figuring out the big reveal before it was actually revealed I did mostly enjoy it. Definitely recommend if you enjoy a slow burn and quieter style of suspense.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Family Secret by Kiersten Modglin

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Release date: January 31, 2023

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

Their new home has a terrifying secret…

When freshly engaged Austyn Murphy and Lowell Bass receive the news that Lowell’s parents have died unexpectedly, they set out for the historic Bass estate to handle their affairs and lay the former heads of the family to rest.

Enshrouded in layers of secrecy and tradition, the Bass estate, and the family residing within its walls, give anything but a warm welcome. When the idea of staying in the home permanently is brought up, Austyn witnesses a side of her future husband she’s never seen before.

Late one night, Austyn overhears a whispered conversation, revealing she hasn’t been given the full truth about the world she’s marrying into. And when Emily, an old friend, calls with devastating news of her own, Lowell and Austyn invite her to join them for a visit at the estate.

Upon Emily’s arrival, a confession is made, causing a rift in the seemingly impenetrable bond the girls once had. As Emily settles into their home, becoming closer to Lowell than ever before, Austyn fears she’s made a grave mistake.

Trapped inside the Bass estate under the ever-watchful eye of the staff and her soon-to-be family, Austyn makes another chilling discovery—something so terrible it changes everything.

With distressing revelations hidden around every corner and time running out before final decisions are made about her future, Austyn must uncover the truth about the opulent and powerful Bass family…at the risk of becoming another one of their dark secrets.

Review:

Ahh a book about wealthy people and their scheming ways. That never gets old for me and when KMod writes the book it’s even better. When I settle in with one of her books I know I’m in good hands and will be getting ready to take a wild ride of some kind. You never know what to expect or exactly what you’re in for, but I always know I’ll be entertained and surprised. This book was no exception and it had me in its clutches from the start. There were some scenes towards the end that I never could’ve seen coming, so shocking but also so wickedly fun. Another fun read from the queen of the binge worthy thriller for sure!

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the author for my review copy.

Review: Lovely Girls by Margot Hunt

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Release date: March 1, 2023

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

After the sudden death of her husband, Kate Turner is looking for a fresh start for herself and her teenage daughter, Alex. They relocate to the beachside town of Shoreham, Florida, where all is not as sunny as it seems.

Although Kate makes fast friends with a trio of fellow moms, their daughters take an instant dislike to Alex, who attempts to document their bullying in her video diary. Kate brushes off Alex’s concerns—until she receives a series of chilling warnings about the clique of moms from other parents and neighbors. As it becomes harder for her to ignore the malicious undercurrent she senses among her new friends, Kate grows increasingly unsure of who to believe—and who to trust.

As small-town gossip weaves a harrowing web of jealousy, deceit, and betrayal, Kate and Alex discover that whether you’re in or out, the status quo can turn on you deadly fast.

Review:

As a straight up popcorn thriller this one was alright. I enjoyed it in the moment and found it to be entertaining but will I remember it later? Probably not but that’s ok with me because sometimes a book being good in the moment is really all I need. Most of it was fairly easy to predict too, especially if you read a lot of thrillers but there was definitely still something that compelled me to keep turning the pages. There’s something to be said about an author that has that ability despite a plot that’s not super exciting. I was pretty confident this would be a three star read until the last chapter and the way it ended makes me want to bump it up a half star. In the end this would be a easy one to devour over a weekend, or better yet on vacation as it’s mindless entertainment.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Audiobook Review: Make a Wish by Helena Hunting

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Release date: January 24, 2023

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Narrators: Stella Bloom and Jason Clarke

Synopsis:

Ever have a defining life moment you wish you could do over? Harley Spark has one. The time she almost kissed the widowed father of the toddler she nannied for. It was so bad they moved across the state and she never saw them again.

Fast forward seven years and she’s totally over it. At least she thinks she is. Until Gavin Rhodes and his adorable now nine-year-old daughter, Peyton, reappear at a princess-themed birthday party hosted by Spark House, Harley’s family’s event hotel. Despite trying to avoid the awkwardness of the situation, she can’t help but notice how unbearably sexy he looks in a tutu. Add to that a spontaneous hives breakout, and it’s clear she’s not even remotely over the mortification of her egregious error all those years ago.

Except Gavin seems oblivious to her inner turmoil. So much so that he suggests they get together for lunch. For Peyton’s sake, of course. It’s the perfect opportunity to heal old wounds. Or it could just reopen them. This is one of those times Harley wishes she could see the future…

Review:

This is the third and final book in a trilogy that follows the Spark sisters and I’ve read and really enjoyed them all. You don’t have to read them in order as each sister gets her own book but you should because they’re all really fun and then you get to see their stories grow over all three books.

It’s finally Harley’s turn and I’ve been wanting to get to know her better since the first book. This one has a blend of some tropes, you get second chance, age gap, friends to lovers and a single dad. I love all of those and the author merges them all so well. Helena always brings a certain type of charm and humor to her books and this was no exception. The narration by Stella and Jason was excellent as usual and overall this was a delightful end to the series with an epilogue that brought it all together perfectly.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Take the Lead by Alexis Daria

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Release date: February 14, 2023

Publisher: St. Martins

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

Gina Morales wants to make it big. In her four seasons on The Dance Off, she’s never even made it to the finals. But her latest partner, the sexy star of an Alaskan wilderness show, could be her chance. Who knew the strong, silent, survivalist-type had moves like that? She thinks Stone Nielson is her ticket to win it all—until her producer makes it clear they’re being set up for a showmance.

Joining a celebrity dance competition is the last thing Stone wants. However, he’ll endure anything to help his family, even as he fears revealing their secrets. While the fast pace of Los Angeles makes him long for the peace and privacy of home, he can’t hide his growing attraction for his dance partner. Neither wants to fake a romance for the cameras, but the explosive chemistry that flares between them is undeniable.

As Stone and Gina heat up the dance floor, the tabloids catch on to their developing romance. With the spotlight threatening to ruin everything, will they choose fame and fortune, or let love take the lead?

Review:

If you’re a fan of Dancing With the Stars and like romance novels this is the book for you. I am a fan of the show and I really enjoyed having a reality TV show as the backdrop for a romance. It was super interesting to see behind the scenes and I thought the author did a great job at portraying that aspect. Gina and Stone had great chemistry instantly, there’s something so sexy and intimate about ballroom dance and their dance scenes were almost as hot as the actual sex scenes. Despite the reality tv setting this still had lots of depth too with Gina dealing with being a woman of color in a brutal industry. This was actually the authors debut back in 2017 and it’s being rereleased with a new cover! So a solid debut and since we’ve seen what the author can do this just places her firmly in my must read author list.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Do I Know You? by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

Goodreads

Release date: January 24, 2023

Publisher: Berkley Romance

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

When a couple starts to feel like they’re married to a stranger, a flirtatious game of pretend becomes the spark they need to reignite their relationship.

Eliza and Graham are anticipating an anything-but-sexy, weeklong getaway to celebrate their five-year anniversary. Nestled on the Northern California coastline, the resort prides itself on being a destination for those in love and those looking to find it. For Eliza and Graham, it might as well be a vacation with a roommate.

When a well-meaning guest mistakes Eliza and Graham for being single and introduces them at the hotel bar, they don’t correct him. Suddenly, they’re pretending to be perfect strangers and it’s unexpectedly…fun? Eliza and Graham find themselves flirting like it’s their first date, and waiting with butterflies in their stomach for the other to text back.

Everyone at the retreat can sense the electric chemistry between Eliza and Graham’s alter egos. But when their scintillating game of roleplaying ends, will they still feel the heat?

Review:

I love a marriage in crisis story and I was really interested in the premise here. A little role playing in order to reconnect sounded cute but I didn’t realize that it was going to be one long and drawn out acting gig between Eliza and Graham. I was in it for the first half but by the second I just kept thinking, why the hell wont these two just talk to each other already? Or better yet just go see a marriage counselor? Yes, they had issues but they seemed fairly easy to overcome and all could’ve been solved by an open and honest conversation because they still loved each other so I just found myself wondering why they couldn’t get it together. I did listen to much of this on audio and Brittany Pressley and Dan Bittner were both phenomenal. 3 star story and 5 star narration for sure. This one missed the mark for me but I loved their previous book so I’ll give them another shot for sure.

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita

Goodreads

Release date: January 10, 2023

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

A stranded detective tries to solve a murder in a tiny Alaskan town where everyone lives in a single high-rise building, in this gripping debut by an Academy Award–nominated screenwriter.

When a local teenager discovers a severed hand and foot washed up on the shore of the small town of Point Mettier, Alaska, Cara Kennedy is on the case. A detective from Anchorage, she has her own motives for investigating the possible murder in this isolated place, which can be accessed only by a tunnel.

After a blizzard causes the tunnel to close indefinitely, Cara is stuck among the odd and suspicious residents of the town—all 205 of whom live in the same high-rise building and are as icy as the weather. Cara teams up with Point Mettier police officer Joe Barkowski, but before long the investigation is upended by fearsome gang members from a nearby native village.

Haunted by her past, Cara soon discovers that everyone in this town has something to hide. Will she be able to unravel their secrets before she unravels?”

Review:

If you’re looking for a great thriller to read this winter this would be ideal. It has an isolated and claustrophobic setting where it’s basically always freezing and everyone who lives in the town lives in one building. That was such an unsettling thought for me, I would hate the feeling of being trapped and even more so when there’s body parts popping up. So the atmosphere sucked me in initially but I was soon drawn in by the characters as well. There are several narrators in the story and it did take me a few POV shifts to keep them straight but it wasn’t too bad and each viewpoint was integral to the story. The residents of the town are super kooky and I had my suspicions about everyone and what the hell they were up too but the author was clever and I didn’t have everything totally figured out in the end. Overall I found this to be a suspenseful and engaging read with a unique setting and a solid plot.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

The Housemaid’s Secret by Freida McFadden

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Release date: February 20, 2023

Publisher: Bookouture

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

Don’t go in the guest bedroom.” A shadow falls on Douglas Garrick’s face as he touches the door with his fingertips. “My wife… she’s very ill.” As he continues showing me their incredible penthouse apartment, I have a terrible feeling about the woman behind closed doors. But I can’t risk losing this job—not if I want to keep my darkest secret safe…

It’s hard to find an employer who doesn’t ask too many questions about my past. So I thank my lucky stars that the Garricks miraculously give me a job, cleaning their stunning penthouse with views across the city and preparing fancy meals in their shiny kitchen. I can work here for a while, stay quiet until I get what I want.

It’s almost perfect. But I still haven’t met Mrs Garrick, or seen inside the guest bedroom. I’m sure I hear her crying. I notice spots of blood around the neck of her white nightgowns when I’m doing laundry. And one day I can’t help but knock on the door. When it gently swings open, what I see inside changes everything…

That’s when I make a promise. After all, I’ve done this before. I can protect Mrs Garrick while keeping my own secrets locked up safe.

Douglas Garrick has done wrong. He is going to pay. It’s simply a question of how far I’m willing to go…

Review:

When I talk about a popcorn style thriller this book is exactly what I mean, the very definition of one for me. It’s juicy and fast paced, it’s wickedly fun and twisty and it’s addicting and unputdownable. Really I couldn’t want anything more and if I was worried this wouldn’t be quite as good as the first book I shouldn’t have even wondered for a second. I don’t even really want to discuss the plot at all, it’s too fun for me to even allude to anything but just know if you enjoy devious thrillers this is a must.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Audiobook Review: Begin Again by Emma Lord

Goodreads

Release date: January 24, 2023

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Narrator: Georgina Sadler

Synopsis:

As usual, Andie Rose has a plan: Transfer from community college to the hyper competitive Blue Ridge State, major in psychology, and maintain her lifelong goal of becoming an iconic self-help figure despite the nerves that have recently thrown her for a loop. All it will take is ruthless organization, hard work, and her trademark unrelenting enthusiasm to pull it all together.

But the moment Andie arrives, the rest of her plans go off the rails. Her rocky relationship with her boyfriend Connor only gets more complicated when she discovers he transferred out of Blue Ridge to her community college. Her roommate Shay needs a major, and despite Andie’s impressive track record of being The Fixer, she’s stumped on how to help. And Milo, her coffee-guzzling grump of an R.A. with seafoam green eyes, is somehow disrupting all her ideas about love and relationships one sleep-deprived wisecrack at a time.

But sometimes, when all your plans are in rubble at your feet, you find out what you’re made of. And when Andie starts to find the power of her voice as the anonymous Squire on the school’s legendary pirate radio station–the same one her mom founded, years before she passed away–Andie learns that not all the best laid plans are necessarily the right ones.

Filled with a friend group that feels like family, an empowering journey of finding your own way, and a Just Kiss Already! romance, Begin Again is an unforgettable novel of love and starting again.

Review:

I don’t read YA books super often but when I do they’re usually by Emma Lord. She writes the most adorable, heartfelt and quirky books that always leave me feeling warm and cozy and this was no exception. I swear if you started this one and were in a bad mood you wouldn’t be by the time you finished, it’s too cute! Andie is the most endearing heroine and I loved her personality and sense of humor and her growth throughout the book felt so authentic. I was utterly charmed by this from beginning to end and highly recommend this sweet book as a mood lifting treat.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.