Book Reviews

Book Review: The Friendship Pact by Alison James

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Friendship Pact by Alison JamesThe Friendship Pact by Alison James
Published on July 3, 2019
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Fiction
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 270
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

I’m Lucy, and I have a secret.I have a beautiful home, that I’m desperate to escape. But that’s not my secret.I tell my friends I’ve never wanted children, when I always have. But that’s not my secret. My husband is a celebrated surgeon, who tries to control me. But that’s not my secret.

Adele knows. Once upon a time, I knew everything about her and she knew everything about me. Best friends forever. But now our secret is beginning to surface. I can trust her more than anyone. We made a pact. And she’s never do anything to hurt me. Would she?

This absolutely gripping psychological thriller will have you forgetting everything until the last shocking twist. Fans of Behind Closed Doors, Friend Request, and The Girl on the Train will be hooked.

If you liked Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris, then you will already know what to expect from this novel. It’s almost identical in plot and how it plays out.

The most significant difference is the introduction of Adele Watts, former best friend of our main character, Lucy. Their friendship was an unlikely one. Lucy has never known anything but being wealthy and privileged, while Adele is now an ex-con who has lived in or near poverty her entire life.

When we meet Lucy, she is nearing the breaking point of her marriage with a volatile, abusive, cardiologist husband, Marcus. Once she decides to get out of her situation, at any cost, Lucy reaches out to the one person she believes can help her, Adele.

The novel is called The Friendship Pact, and the synopsis teases the secret kept between Adele and Lucy as a pivotal plot in the book. The mystery does come into play, we learn about it through a now-and-then flashback format, but as far as its plot significance, it’s minimal.

The Friendship Pact is split into three parts. The first part is gripping, although I had issues with the portrayal of abuse, in the same way, I did with Behind Closed Doors, but it is more believable and less exploitative and gleefully disturbing in this book.

Once the story reaches its second and third act, all the urgency has seeped out. I found the second half of the book harder to get through, mainly because poor Lucy is passed from one abusive man to another (a mild spoiler, it’s obvious). The plot becomes increasingly predictable too. You may figure it out before you reach the half-way mark, I did. Only one twist shocked me, and it ended the first part of the book.

Another pet peeve I have with thrillers is the idea that everyone in the protagonists’ world is oblivious, stupid, or evil. I understand these things can happen in real life, but some of the side characters’ reactions didn’t seem realistic. And speaking of side characters, there were several who served no real purpose.

Should you read The Friendship Pact?

It’s not a bad thriller, it is engaging, and the author knows how to write in a gripping way. But after blowing through the first part of the novel in eagerness to find out what happened, you may find yourself as deflated as I did when the rest of the story takes a sharp decline into dullness.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Girls Like Us by Cristina Alger

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Girls Like Us by Cristina AlgerGirls Like Us by Cristina Alger
Published on July 2, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Crime, Thriller, Fiction
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 384
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

From the celebrated and bestselling author of The Banker’s Wife, worlds collide when an FBI agent investigates a string of grisly murders on Long Island that raises the impossible question: What happens when the primary suspect is your father?

FBI Agent Nell Flynn hasn’t been home in twelve years. Nell and her father, Homicide Detective Martin Flynn, have never had much of a relationship. And Suffolk County will always be awash in memories of her mother, Marisol, who was brutally murdered when Nell was just seven.

When Martin Flynn dies in a motorcycle accident, Nell returns to the house she grew up in so that she can spread her father’s ashes and close his estate. At the behest of her father’s partner, Detective Lee Davis, Nell becomes involved in an investigation into the murders of two young Hispanic women in Suffolk County.

The further Nell digs, the more likely it seems to her that her father should be the prime suspect–and that his friends on the police force are covering his tracks. Plagued by doubts about her mother’s murder–and her own role in exonerating her father in that case–Nell can’t help but ask questions about who killed Ria Ruiz and Ariana Marques and why. But she may not like the answers she finds–not just about those she loves, but about herself.

Martin Flynn dies during a late-night motorcycle accident while traversing the dark roads of Suffolk County. To put his affairs in order, his daughter, Nell Flynn, a behavioral analyst from the FBI, returns to her old stomping grounds.

Nell’s task is meant to be a simple one. Disperse her father’s ashes, attend to his will, and decide what to do with his house. Then the body of a young woman is found in an affluent, and Nell is invited to be a consultant on the case by her father’s old partner at the SCPD, Det. Lee Davis.

Girls Like Us veers into FBI procedural territory. It is Alger’s richly descriptive prose and intricate plotting that elevates this novel to a compelling crime thriller.

There is no confirmation that this novel is anything but a standalone; however, in my opinion, it is an excellent foundation story to set up a series, one I would fully support.

Flynn is one of the better-developed characters in the novel. She is sharp, grounded, confident (sometimes to the point of recklessness), and she carries the trademark darkness all the best fictional detectives have. Girls Like Us did what it set out to do in wrapping up its central plot, but it doesn’t quite wrap Nell’s story up.

I don’t mean to say the ending isn’t suitable to the book, it contains a poetic and fitting epilogue, but I did feel like Nell’s narrative arc was left somewhat unresolved.

Regardless of whether or not this was a deliberate action, I hope Alger considers revisiting Nell’s story. She has proven herself as a talented crime writer, a task not easy to accomplish. She has also gifted us with a realistic female detective. It’d be a shame if this outing served as her last.

Should you read Girls Like Us?

I haven’t read Alger’s other novel, The Banker’s Wife (I bought it a while ago, and it sits high on my TBR list), so I can’t compare it to that novel. But I enjoyed Girls Like Us quite a bit. I certainly intend to read The Banker’s Wife when I get the chance.

Girls Like Us hides conspiracy and intrigue under the guise of a typical killing spree. There are many mysteries to be solved across the novel’s 300-something page count, Alger tends to each like a flower in bloom, cultivating each phrase with careful, affectional precision.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

Book Review: The Child Finder by Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder (Naomi Cottle, #1) by Rene Denfeld
Series: Naomi Cottle #1
Published on September 5, 2017
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Fiction
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 274
Format: Hardcover

Source: Barnes and Noble

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

Plenty of people adored this book. I, unfortunately, was not one of them.

The Child Finder follows Naomi, a woman who is plagued by her past trauma as a child who had once gone missing. Now she attempts to make up for the pain she suffered by seeking out the lost children of the world.

She is called to a town in Oregon, a place baked in her bleak history, to aid a pair of desperate parents anxious for their daughter to come home. The police have given up. The media has moved on. Naomi is their only hope.

Naomi’s characterization is one of the most significant issues I had with The Child Finder. To put it succinctly, she doesn’t have any. We know she only trusts three people (repeated ad nauseum). She has a semi-incestual love interest in her foster brother. She cares only about her career in finding lost children, which is fine if every paragraph wasn’t layered with manufactured subtext about the meaning of life and weighted significance of even the briefest encounters.

To put it bluntly, this was a dull read for me. The writing is poetic, I can see why people were drawn to it. Many passages were lyrical and beautiful to read. But beyond the beauty, I found it difficult to grasp any depth, or if there was any, it felt forced upon the reader.

I found the writing style leaned towards sentimentality for sentiment’s sake. It was often cringe-worthy with the amount of sap and romanticized moments that hardly needed it.

Mainly, large portions of the story felt overwritten, and I felt my eyes glazing over as the subplots twisted onwards, and the central mystery fell to the wayside.

The character perspective frequently switches, making it difficult to follow where you are in the story at times because of the style and timeline.

Should you read The Child Finder?

My dislike of the book appears to be in the minority. You might be able to find the magical spark of The Child Finder that I missed. By my own experience with this book, I wouldn’t suggest it, but other people would with intensity!

Book Reviews

Book Review: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

I received this book for free from Dutton Publicity in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Lock Every Door by Riley SagerLock Every Door by Riley Sager
Published on July 2, 2019
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Fiction
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 384
Format: ARC

Source: Dutton Publicity

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen's new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan's most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid's disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew's dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building's hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

Riley Sager returns to dominate the month of July with his best book yet. Lock Every Door is a sinister read that demands to be devoured.

When I picked up Riley Sager’s first book, Final Girls, a few years ago, I was captivated by the newest author to break into the thriller genre. Then I read The Last Time I Lied and realized Sager was quickly becoming a favorite. With the release of Lock Every Door, Sager has cemented his status as an iconic thriller author.

Easily his best book of the three he’s released thus far, Lock Every Door is Rosemary’s Baby for the modern audience. It embraces the same Gothic spirit and sense of dread. I literally could not put this book down if I tried. It demands your attention.

Continue reading my full review at 1428 Elm.

Book Mail

Book Mail: Mother Knows Best

Thank you to Meryl Moss Media for sending me an early copy of Mother Knows Best! I’ll be joining the blog tour for Peikoff’s novel this September so keep an eye out! It’s the crazy story of three people conspiring together to do the unthinkable – create the perfect genetic child from THREE different parents.

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Book Review: The Missing Wife by Sam Carrington

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Missing Wife by Sam CarringtonThe Missing Wife by Sam Carrington
Published on June 27, 2019
Genres: Thriller, Fiction
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 400
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

Imagine turning up to your own party, and recognising no one. Your best friend has just created your worst nightmare.

Louisa is an exhausted, sleep-deprived new mother and, approaching her fortieth birthday, the very last thing she wants to do is celebrate.

But when her best friend Tiff organises a surprise party, inviting the entire list of Lou’s Facebook friends, she’s faced with a new source of anxiety altogether: a room full of old college classmates who she hasn’t spoken to in twenty years. And one person in particular she never expected to see again is there – her ex-boyfriend from college, the handsome and charismatic Oliver Dunmore.

When Oliver’s wife Melissa goes missing after the party, everyone remembers what happened that night differently. It could be the alcohol, but it seems more than one person has something to hide.

Louisa is determined to find the truth about what happened to Melissa. But just how far does she need to look…?

The Missing Wife is the first book I’ve read by this author, and I have to say I’m pretty disappointed in it. I think my main issue is that I felt like I had read this book multiple times already. There seems to be a strange, growing trend in the psychological thriller genre that involves new mothers struggling to keep their sanity in the midst of having a newborn child. I understand that postpartum depression is a real thing, but it is overused and overdone in books and sometimes even a little insensitive to the real-life mothers experiencing it.

Louise is having serious issues with her newborn baby. She continually forgets to feed him! She has a type of amnesia that makes her forget large parts of her past. All this and yet none of her friends, or even her husband, seriously consider getting her help? Then her husband and supposed best friend think it’s a good idea to throw her a birthday party. The party is where the story’s central conflict kicks off. One of Louisa’s exes shows up. His name is Oliver, and he’s a creep.

Oliver’s wife, Melissa, goes missing during Louisa’s birthday party and Lou can’t seem to remember anything about it. It’s an exciting plot, but again, I’ve read this story before. I admit I checked out about halfway through the story and skimmed the rest to figure out what the ending would be.

I was hoping the ending would make up for the rest of the novel, but it doesn’t, sadly. It’s very over-the-top and nonsensical. For a book that was extremely slow-paced for the bulk of the story, the ending suddenly throws the novel into hyperspeed.

Overall, The Missing Wife was not my cup of tea.

Should you read The Missing Wife?

It’s not a book I would recommend. Two other 2019 releases, Little Darlings, and The Mother’s Mistake, both have similar storylines and have tighter-pacing and more inventive plotting. I’d recommend checking those out instead if you’re intrigued by the main plot of this one.

Thank you to NetGalley and AvonBooks UK for allowing me the chance to read an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: The Guilty Friend by Joanne Sefton

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Guilty Friend by Joanne SeftonThe Guilty Friend by Joanne Sefton
Published on June 24, 2019
Genres: Drama, Fiction, Literary
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 400
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

Cambridge, 1986. Alex, Karen, and Misty are an inseparable trio at Cambridge University – one can never be found far from the others. But when Alex dies suddenly, the remaining two friends can’t look one another in the eye – knowing they both had a part to play in her death.

Present day. Misty and Karen haven’t spoken in years, but, convinced she has seen a picture of Alex alive, Karen doesn’t know who else to turn to. She soon becomes obsessed with a past she thought she’d left behind her… and her life begins to spiral out of control.

Because, when you’re living in the past, who is keeping an eye on the present?

BOOK REVIEW

What I anticipated out of The Guilty Friend and what I ended up with are two completely different stories. Based on the novel synopsis, I assumed two best friends would carry dark secrets about what lead to their best friend’s demise – as would be the case with a typical thriller.

That’s not the case here. I do feel like The Guilty Friend fell prey to some false advertising. It’s not a thriller. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t suspenseful or isn’t worth reading, just that it isn’t the book you might anticipate by reading the summary alone.

Mild spoilers ahead.

The story focuses on three girls, Karen, Misty, and Alex, in the past and the present. In the present, Alex is supposedly dead. In the past, we see how the three girls became so close but also the darkness that loomed over them. Alex struggled with anorexia, and the disease became both a weapon and a wall.

In present-day 2019, Karen thinks she sees Alex on television, and it spawns the semi-mystery of whether or not Alex is alive. But if you’re expecting the book to become a sordid tale of Alex’s past, it doesn’t. The focus is really on Karen’s daughter, Tasha, who also succumbs to anorexia and her journey through it.

Misty has become a doctor who specializes in eating disorders as a way of making up for what happened to Alex. She blames herself for not being able to save her.

I understand what the author was trying to do. In her author’s note, she talks about wanting to alter the common thriller trope. Instead of a human antagonist or violence, she wanted the tension to stem from a disease. It does, but the book spends more time on the dramatic tension and relationships between characters than an overarching mystery or story.

There is more angst, sadness, and exploratory emotional beats than there is suspense.

That said, The Guilty Friend is still a compelling read. The author is tasteful and factual in her depiction of anorexia, and it’s nice to see someone tackle this disease without glamorizing it.

However, I did find the story too meandering for my taste. It failed to keep me engaged for large portions. Am I glad I read it? Yes. But it wasn’t always easy to get through and not just because of the heavy content.

Should you read The Guilty Friend?

It depends on your tastes. If you want to read an emotional story about women trying to help each other through intense grief and the terrible disease that is anorexia, then yes. Sefton is a competent writer. The characters are well-crafted, and even though the relationship-building sometimes falls short, there are some stunning scenes in this book.

If you’re expecting a more traditional thriller or suspense story, I advise skipping it. I don’t think you’ll be satisfied with whats offered here.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: The Doctor by Lisa Stone

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Doctor by Lisa StoneThe Doctor by Lisa Stone
Published on June 24, 2019
Genres: Thriller, Fiction
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 390
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

When Emily and Ben move in next door to Dr Burman and his wife Anita, they are keen to get to know their new neighbours. Outgoing and sociable, Emily tries to befriend the doctor’s wife, but Anita is strangely subdued, barely leaving the house, and terrified of answering the phone.

When Emily goes missing a few weeks later, Ben is plunged into a panic. His wife has left him a note, but can she really have abandoned him for another man? Or has Emily’s curiosity about the couple next door led her straight into danger?

A gripping, sinister thriller with a twist you won’t see coming from the international bestseller Lisa Stone.

I’ll never trust a doctor again. Just kidding. Sort of. But seriously, The Doctor did not turn out to be the book I expected it to be. I was expecting a standard domestic thriller of some kind, but it evolved into something far darker and more convoluted than that.

I commend Lisa Stone for coming up with such a unique premise for a thriller. Though I have to wonder why the synopsis talked about “Emily going missing” when that doesn’t kick in until one of the later acts of the book, it’s a spoiler-y note to stick right in the book’s summary. Primarily because it doesn’t become an incentive or plot motivator until close to half-way through the story.

Speaking of, the third act of this book dragged on way too long for my liking. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but in regards to Emily’s kidnapping, the whole circus surrounding finding out what happened to her was repetitive and often involved characters being stupid for the sole purpose of extending the story.

The other aspect of this book I wasn’t too fond of was the primary antagonist, Amit. He was vile and misogynistic to the point of excess. His motivations didn’t feel strong enough because of his hatred for his wife. The Doctor isn’t my book and not my story to tell, but, I almost feel as if it would have been more interesting to make him a caring, increasingly desperate, man who spirals into madness because of his desire to save his wife.

Should you read The Doctor?

I think it depends on what you’re looking for in a thriller! If you want something with a refreshingly unique story, something you haven’t seen done a million times, then absolutely. The Doctor is riveting in its oddity and strangeness, and Stone is adept at weaving suspense into her storytelling.

It reminded me of an old-school R.L. Stine novel. I used to read them ALL the time as a kid and this book gave me some similar vibes. I mean that in a complimentary way! It does feel a little Frankenstein-y and deals with body horror. I liked that element. It should be classified as horror in addition to a thriller, in my opinion.

Once the story gets going, it’s hard to put the book down out of sheer desire to want to know how Amit, Alisha, and Emily’s journey will all play out. But if you’re expecting a more conventional thriller, then you might find yourself dissatisfied with the finished product.

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Boy in the Photo by Nicole Trope

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Boy in the Photo by Nicole TropeThe Boy in the Photo by Nicole Trope
Published on June 28th, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Suspense
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 334
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

Megan waits at the school gates for her six-year-old son, Daniel As children come and go, the playground emptying, panic bubbles inside her. Daniel is nowhere to be found.

According to his teacher, Daniel’s father, Greg, has picked up his son. Except Greg and Megan are no longer together. After years of being controlled by her cruel husband, Megan has finally found the courage to divorce him. Hands trembling, she dials his number, but the line is dead.

Six years later, Megan is feeding baby daughter, Evie, when she gets the call she has dreamt about for years. Daniel has walked into a police station in a remote town just a few miles away. Her son is alive – and he’s coming home.

But their joyful family reunion does not go to plan. His room may have been frozen in time, with his Cookie Monster poster and stack of Lego under the bed, but Daniel is no longer the sweet little boy Megan remembers.

Imagine your child going missing for six years. That is the heart-stopping horror Megan must face when her abusive ex-husband decides to abduct their son, Daniel, from her and take him far, far away.

I’m not a mother, so I can’t say I’m able to 100% understand how Megan felt, but Trope is an astonishing writer. Regardless of whether or not you have children you’ll want to hug someone tight after reading this story. Grab your cat, if you must.

See, after six long years, years in which Megan was torn between wondering if her son was even still alive annd trying desperately to find him either way, Daniel returns home. But their reunion is not the happy ending you might anticipate. Daniel arrives as the product of years of turmoil, bitterness, and lies. Megan realizes that when praying for her son for all that time, she never anticipated what might happen if he came back completely different than the boy he was when he was taken.

In the time it took for Daniel to return, Megan moved on with her life, as best as she could. She remarried and had a second child. Daniel’s sudden reappearance in her life, while a blessing, causes an unprecedented upheaval of the stability she worked so hard to rebuild. Especially when she comes to realize that her son, her baby boy, may be harboring a dark secret that could threaten to destroy everything she’s struggled so hard for in the worst years of her life.

Even though the inevitable twist is somewhat predictable, it doesn’t detract from the moving, yet thrilling, nature of this story.

Should you read The Boy in the Photo?

Yes! Unlike other thrillers, this is a story with a heartfelt emotional core. It’s still a page-turner, but one that will leave you more satisfied and moved than the average one. I haven’t read Nicole Trope’s other books before but I’ll definitely check them out now!