Book Reviews

Book Review: The Last Thing She Remembers by Jon Stock

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 Last Thing She Remembers by Jon StockThe Last Thing She Remembers by Jon Stock, J.S. Monroe
Published on May 28, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 384
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

Who can you trust if you don't know who you are?

She arrives at the train station only to realize her bag had been stolen--her passport, credit cards, laptop, house key now all gone. And even more disturbing, when she goes to report the incident, she can't recall her own name. All she has on her is a train ticket home.

Suffering from stress-induced amnesia, the woman without a name is a source of mystery when she appears at the sleepy Wiltshire village where she thought she lived. She quickly becomes a source of conspiracy and fear among the townspeople. Why does one think he recognizes her from years earlier? And why do the local police take such a strong interest in her arrival?

The beginning of this book hooked me, the idea of a woman showing up with no memory, although cliche, was enough to make me want to read more. However, after being absorbed in the first few chapters, the story began to lose its thread for me. I was turned off by the random political agenda and the alternative viewpoints.

Suddenly more and more characters were being introduced along with several convoluted plots. It got to the point where the book stretched its believability wafer thin. When multiple women were supposed to look identical, I couldn’t keep up any longer.

Plus, for a thriller, this was not paced well, and I found myself bored through most of the middle section. An intriguing beginning isn’t followed through with the novel that follows, unfortunately.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Keep This to Yourself by Tom Ryan

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: Keep This to Yourself by Tom RyanKeep This to Yourself by Tom Ryan
Published on May 21, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, LGBTQ+
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 307
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

It’s been a year since the Catalog Killer terrorized the sleepy seaside town of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing without a trace.

Like everyone else in town, eighteen-year-old Mac Bell is trying to put that horrible summer behind him—easier said than done since Mac’s best friend Connor was the murderer’s final victim. But when he finds a cryptic message from Connor, he’s drawn back into the search for the killer—who might not have been a random drifter after all. Now nobody—friends, neighbors, or even the sexy stranger with his own connection to the case—is beyond suspicion. Sensing that someone is following his every move, Mac struggles to come to terms with his true feelings towards Connor while scrambling to uncover the truth.

So this book hooked me immediately given its premise is about a serial killer terrorizing a small town known as Candle Cove. I’m always a sucker for a good serial killer story. I also love the fact the main character is gay.

However, my main issue with Keep This to Yourself was in the characterization. I found myself struggling to connect with any of the characters because none of them felt very three-dimensional. For the most part they were written in a shallow way (and that’s not to say the book is shallow only that these characters didn’t have as much depth as I would have liked).

But I did still enjoy this book overall. I liked following Mac’s journey to finding out the truth about what happened to his best friend, Connor, who he may or may not have been secretly in love with. I liked seeing him to get find a new relationship with someone who had also lost someone to the “Catalog Killer”.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an absorbing, quick read, but it wasn’t one of my favorites. As far as Young Adult fiction goes though, this is one of the better ones I’ve read in a while so if that’s your thing then I say you should give it a shot.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

Book Review: Before She Knew Him by Peter SwansonBefore She Knew Him by Peter Swanson
Published on March 5, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Fiction, Thriller
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 309
Format: Hardcover

Source: Book of the Month

Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door

Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape.

Henrietta Mazur is an artist most commonly known for drawing disturbing paintings and etchings. She now works as a successful children’s book illustrator. Recently, she and her husband, Lloyd, relocated to a new neighborhood for a fresh start. Who knew that Hen’s dark tendencies would lead her straight into the mouth of a serial killer?

Do you know that saying about “never really knowing your neighbors”? It doesn’t quite apply here in Swanson’s methodical novel Before She Knew Him. The thing is, Hen’s entire problem is that she does know her neighbor is. She figures it out before anyone else can.

What do you do when you learn the man living no more than yards away from you is a murderer? That is the basis of this novel, and boy did I enjoy going on the journey for the answer to that question.

I have never read Swanson’s work before, but he has a new fan in me now. I sometimes shy away from reading novels written by men in this genre, particularly when they have female protagonists, but I was pleasantly surprised by Hen’s character. She doesn’t fit into the typical hard-drinking, edgy, women we’ve come to expect from psychological thrillers. She felt fully-realized and developed, as did all the other characters.

Yes, I did figure out the direction this book was going pretty early on, but I attribute that as a credit to the author. I will always choose to unfold a story where the twists and turns genuinely make sense over one where the sole purpose is to shock me. I don’t mind when I figure it out before the end if it is well-executed and this story is.

Authors who are adept at foreshadowing know how to render a palpable twist that will still engage you even if you do manage to solve it ahead of time.

I snagged this book a couple of months back when it became available from BoTM, and I’m delighted I did. I only regret taking so long to read it!

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Night Before by Wendy Walker

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 Night Before by Wendy WalkerThe Night Before by Wendy Walker
Published on May 14, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 338
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

Laura Lochner has never been lucky in love. She falls too hard and too fast, always choosing the wrong men. Devastated by the end of her last relationship, she fled her Wall Street job and New York City apartment for her sister’s home in the Connecticut suburb where they both grew up. Though still haunted by the tragedy that’s defined her entire life, Laura is determined to take one more chance on love with a man she’s met on an Internet dating site.

Rosie Ferro has spent most of her life worrying about her troubled sister. Fearless but fragile, Laura has always walked an emotional tightrope, and Rosie has always been there to catch her. Laura’s return, under mysterious circumstances, has cast a shadow over Rosie’s peaceful life with her husband and young son – a shadow that grows darker as Laura leaves the house for her blind date.

When Laura does not return home the following morning, Rosie fears the worst. She’s not responding to calls or texts, and she’s left no information about the man she planned to meet. As Rosie begins a desperate search to find her sister, she is not just worried about what this man might have done to Laura. She’s worried about what Laura may have done to him

I was thoroughly captivated by The Night Before. It is the first thriller I’ve read in a while where I wasn’t able to predict where the story was going. I had several predictions in my head of where the story would go, but the ending surprised me. Walker is adept at building tension and suspense into her storytelling. You can tell she is a natural at it. I haven’t read her other novels before this one but I definitely will now! I appreciated the varying point-of-views in this book.

Alternating between Laura’s perspective and Rosie’s perspective allowed for the tension to build and build until the explosive ending although I did find the climax got a bit confusing with the constant back-and-forth. Streamlining the action into a single perspective would have made it more powerful.

Overall, The Night Before is a psychological thriller at its very best. There are so many clues and red herrings, not to mention an extremely complicated, layered and nuanced female protagonist. Laura is a meaty character; one of those you want to dig into and figure out how her mind works. The prose surrounding her inner monologues were pure poetry.

I felt like this was an easy read, but not oversimplified. It was an easy read because it was so captivating and I devoured the entire thing in one sitting. Each chapter ending forces you to turn the next page to keep the momentum moving forward.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

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: Beautiful Bad by Annie WardBeautiful Bad by Annie Ward
Published on March 19, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 384
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

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.

Beautiful Bad had all the makings of the tense domestic thrillers I typically love. I’m fond of the alternating timelines and Annie Ward is a beautiful writer.

I was captivated from the early pages but then the novel and the plot lost me as it descended into a war-torn story spanning across a decade between a pairing that never had any good reason to be so in love with one another. I mean why was Ian so infatuated by Maddie?

I understand the idea of “love at first sight” but we were given so little to go off of. I was so confused by several parts of the novel that depended me to believe on the emotional connection between the two because their relationship always seemed shallow at best.

Then the story simply dragged on for hundreds of pages without adding to the actual mystery. Large swathes of the writing and scenes could have been trimmed down or cut out altogether in favor of scenes that would have built on the relationship in a more realistic way.

Needless to say, I got bored and Beautiful Bad ultimately failed to leave an impression.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

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: Little Darlings by Melanie GoldingLittle Darlings by Melanie Golding
Genres: Thriller, Fiction, Horror, Mystery
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 304
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

“Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and Aimee Molloy's The Perfect Mother.

Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking—and rechecking—your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.

The idea of a changeling child is legendary lore passed through multitudes of cultures around the world for a reason. What could be more frightening than the idea of an unknown being stealing away your children – and even worse, what if you didn’t even know they were stolen until it was much too late?

Melanie Golding approaches the dark heart of fairy tales we all know and love. She bypasses the rosy sheen and instead settles among the black, thorny nettles behind every Disney-fied story into the beating Grimm heart of it all.

The story of Lauren Tranter is a tragedy, a sinister tale about a woman lost to the wilds of her imagination and the gloomy enchantment of a shadow witch who may or may not be real. Is Lauren manifesting demons as part of postpartum depression, or is she truly being stalked by an agent of the watery abyss?

Little Darlings is a fine piece of literary work that falls under the disguise of a thriller only because of the police involvment in the story. The menial police casework is one of the weaker elements of the novel – despite Detective Joanna Harper and her keenness to believe Lauren against all odds being compelling, it is Lauren’s journey that proves the more fascinating one. Both in terms of plot and in terms of character.

In the future, I would love to see Golding’s take on other fables and fairy tales. I appreciate female authors who take it upon themselves to explore the, sometimes, hideous introspection of the female psyche, particularly as they pertain to maternity – a subject that is often so nullified and squeaky clean in media, it’s nice to see an author who embraces it with all its potential pitfalls.

Little Darlings qualifies as my first book of the #SpringHorrorReadathon!

Book Reviews

Book Review: Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

Book Review: Paper Ghosts by Julia HeaberlinPaper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin
Published on May 15, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 351
Format: eBook

Carl Louis Feldman is an old man who was once a celebrated photographer. That was before he was tried for the murder of a young woman and acquitted. before his admission to a care home for dementia. Now his daughter has come to see him, to take him on a trip. Only she's not his daughter and, if she has her way, he's not coming back.

When I first started reading Paper Ghosts I was quickly absorbed in Grace’s story and her journey to discover the truth about her sister’s killer. Unfortunately, I lost interest just as fast as the book slogged onwards into a meandering road trip story without much thrill or suspense.

The idea of a young girl traveling with a serial killer was interesting at first, but I really didn’t find Carl to be a compelling character. Not to mention the fact we read pages upon pages of endless internal monologue from Grace about how she trained for most of her life leading up to the moment she would spring Carl from Mrs. T’s. But we almost never see this “training” come into play. More often than not, Carl outsmarts her by some small mistake she makes.

Nor did I find the somewhat random love story between her and the detective, Andy, to make much sense. It serves as a background plot more than anything and Andy really serves no greater purpose to the story.

By the end of the novel, when we learn the truth about Carl and his supposed kills, it makes nearly everything that occurred before it ultimately pointless. I didn’t feel like the ending had suited the long, winding journey preceding it.

However, I will say that the book is very well-written. Even though I didn’t love the story, I kept reading because Heaberlin’s writing style more than kept me engaged, it made me hope for a stronger pay-off than I got. While I didn’t find this novel to be my cup of tea, I would certainly consider checking out her other books in the future.