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!

Book Reviews

Book Review: Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle

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: Dear Wife by Kimberly BelleDear Wife by Kimberly Belle
Published on June 25, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 336
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning--one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she's taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine's carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that's certain is that someone is lying and the truth won't stay buried for long.

When I first started reading Dear Wife I immediately got sucked into it. Kimberly Belle is a great writer and she knows how to weave a taut thriller. I didn’t want to put it down! For a while, at least.

The story centers around the disappearance of a woman named Sabine. Her husband, Jeffrey, is desperate to find her. He and Sabine’s twin sister, Ingrid, do their best to track her down. Eventually a detective named Marcus is assigned to her case.

I don’t want to reveal much else and risk giving away the novel’s twist because it was fairly well done.

But around the halfway mark, the plot sort of fizzled out. It was around the time a church was introduced that I began to feel my desire to continue reading waning. The story began to drag and there were side characters added I didn’t care about.

Even that, though, is not my biggest issue with Dear Wife. No, my biggest issue with this novel is that it is rife with racist and transphobic descriptions. I mean some of the moments were so bad, so glaring, I can hardly believe a publisher approved it. Mind you, I was sent an ARC so it’s possible that some of these moments could be fixed before the novel is published but it’s worth mentioning.

I haven’t read Belle’s other novels but I understand she is highly praised in the book community. I’m not sure if this is a common trend in her books.

Literally every non-white character in this book is reduced to a racialized stereotype. It’s not subtle either.

Should you read Dear Wife?

In terms of thrillers, it is one of the best I’ve read this year, even if I felt disappointed by the second half of the story, I can still recognize its strengths. I understand why it is so highly praised by the book community. If you’re a big thriller fan, odds are you’ll pick this up. But personally, I’d rather recommend a book without such outdated and callous remarks about minorities.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Thirteen Across by Dan Grant

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

Book Review: Thirteen Across by Dan GrantThirteen Across by Dan Grant
Published on May 6, 2019
Genres: Thriller, Fiction
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 411
Format: ARC

Source: Meryl Moss Media

Seven stops. Seven sets of clues. A race against time. Covert medical research. Will FBI Special Agent Kate Morgan survive it? It starts with an unfolding puzzle and Thirteen Across.

Kate Morgan is on an Orange line train when it is bombed. Phillip Barnes has made his attacks on the nation’s capital personal. Thirteen Across is an ominous sign of the events to come. Kate finds herself thrust into the center of a grander conspiracy.

Thirteen Across is a book for fans of Dan Brown and intense action thrillers. Put yourself in the shoes of FBI Special Agent Kate Morgan, a woman trying to puzzle out a crossword on her way to an urgent hearing only to have her day (literally) derailed by a bomb.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Kate Morgan has fallen into the crosshairs of an evil, potentially sociopathic, mastermind named Philip Barnes. He doesn’t just want Kate dead; he wants to play with her first and has a very elaborate plan to do so. Thirteen Across is a thriller unlike any I’ve read in how it introduces clever clues and puzzles right into the fabric of the text. It allows readers to take the journey alongside Kate. You can experience every grisly turn for yourself if you don’t parse out the clues in time.

Barnes is meticulous in his scheming. Each stop to save the seven victims gives way to a new secret.

Should you read Thirteen Across?

Yes, especially if you’re looking for a thriller a little more unique than what you’ve been reading lately. Thirteen Across is a novel that mostly flew under the radar, and it deserves more attention. Grant is an excellent writer and while Kate Morgan makes a compelling heroine, Philip Barnes is a fascinating study into psychopathy.

In some ways, he reminds me a little of Jigsaw except in a spy-thriller sort of way instead of abject horror. The great thing about this book is that it’s a fast read. The chapters are short and to the point. You won’t want to be put it down because the format of the novel lends itself to propulsive reading.

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Mother’s Mistake by Ruth Heald

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 Mother’s Mistake by Ruth HealdThe Mother's Mistake by Ruth Heald
Published on June 11, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 374
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

Claire’s life is picture perfect. A new home in the countryside. A new-born baby. A doting husband by her side. But behind closed doors, her life is falling apart. And when a threatening note is posted through her letterbox, saying she doesn’t deserve her daughter, it’s clear that someone knows about her past…

Someone knows that Claire doesn’t deserve her perfect life. Someone’s going to do everything in their power to destroy it.

Claire is a brand new mother who is struggling to connect to her daughter, Olivia. Recently relocated to a family cabin of her husband’s, Claire feels out of touch and increasingly alienated from the world around her. Olivia is impossible to manage, her husband, Matt, is never home, and her nosy mother-in-law appears to be doing everything she can to put a wedge between their marriage.

With all the stress she’s under, it’s not surprising then that Claire succumbs to post-natal depression and a resurgence to drink after years of being sober. Her life at the cottage becomes increasingly dark as she begins to fear for both her life and that of her child’s. Is someone stalking her? Is she paranoid?

Heald weaves a compelling narrative that makes it difficult to tell who to trust, both for Claire and the reader. As is common with psychological thrillers, Claire is not a reliable narrator. It works well for the plot because a great portion of this story will force the reader to battle with the protagonist. Are we on Claire’s side or not? Do we believe her or do we think she’s losing her grip?

As a thriller, The Mother’s Mistake works well on multiple levels. The tension is palpable. It’s hard to know who to trust. And there are enough chilling moments to keep you glued to the page and eager to know what comes next.

However, there are a few weaknesses that kept me from giving this a full five stars. I think this book was too long. There were some chapters where the pacing began to slow. At times I felt as if I was being dragged around in circles. Claire would often contend with the same battles over and over again to the point it became repetitive. It could have done with another round of pruning to make it sharper and increase the sense of urgency to find out what was going to happen to Claire and Olivia.

I also found the main twist too predictable from an early point in the novel. That said, there was a supplemental twist I hadn’t entirely pieced together that flowed quite nicely. Overall, I was pleased with the outcome because it did feel well-plotted.

Still, there was also a sub-plot involving Matt and his ex that took up a significant portion of the story and ultimately didn’t amount to much. I wish it had tied into the main thread more.

SHOULD YOU READ IT?

Yes. The Mother’s Mistake is a stunning debut into the thriller genre from author Ruth Heald. She knows Claire inside and out, and the story shows it. If you’re someone who reads psychological thrillers on the regular, you won’t be disappointed by this one.

Heald has a knack for building in her atmosphere through slow, creeping reveals. When Claire is frightened, you’ll be frightened. When Claire is on the brink of discovery, you’ll have your fingers trembling over the next page in an eager rush to see what comes next.

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!

Film Reviews, Film/Television

Movie Review: Primal Fear (1996)

  • Director: Gregory Hoblit
  • Starring: Richard Gere, Edward Norton, Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Alfre Woodard, and Frances McDormand
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
  • Star Rating: ★★★★☆

So I’ve begun the journey of watching Laura Linney’s filmography since she’s one of those actresses that I’ve always enjoyed and inspired to emulate in my own acting journey and I finally got around to watching Primal Fear.

I realize the film is a popular one, garnering numerous awards, most notoriously for Edward Norton who got a supporting actor nomination for his first ever feature film role. But for some reason or other, I had never really heard about it or knew what it was about.

Continue reading “Movie Review: Primal Fear (1996)”

Book Reviews, Thrillers

Book Review: YOU & BONUS: TV Review

  • Author: Caroline Kepnes23492630
  • Edition: Paperback
  • Published: June 15th, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
  • Star Rating: ★★★☆☆
  • Goodreads

Wow, this book was… a lot to process to say the least. YOU is about a bookstore manager named Joe who falls desperately, madly, and scarily in love with Guinevere Beck. A young Brown student who finds herself in his crosshairs after passing through his shop. What makes YOU unique is that the entirety of the story is told through Joe’s point-of-view. His very scary, violent, and downright filthy POV.

** Spoilers ahead. **

If this book were written by a man I doubt I would have even picked it up to begin with. As it stands, I already felt disgusting and dirty reading parts of it. Kepnes is excellent at creating a sense of foreboding, a sense of utter disgust with what her centric character is doing. Seriously, once I finished this book I felt like I needed to jump in the shower immediately. (Partly because Kepnes made me read the phrase “pussy juice” about ten times). I have to give her credit for not writing Joe in a sympathetic light. I never felt as if she wanted asking her readers to like Joe, just to understand his motives and his delusions.

Continue reading “Book Review: YOU & BONUS: TV Review”

Book Reviews

Review: The Last Mrs. Parrish

  • Author: Liv Constantine34043643
  • Edition: Hardcover
  • Published: October 17th, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
  • Star Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
  • Goodreads

Before I get into this review I just want to preface it with two points:

  1. SPOILERS ahead! Please do not read this review if you intend to read the book and would like to do so spoiler-free.
  2. I really ended up hating a lot of things about this book so if you loved it you might want to pass.

I’ll begin with a few of the novel’s strengths before I delve into why I gave this book a one-star review. This book is a highly compelling read. Liv Constantine knows how to write in a way that draws the reader in. I devoured the entirety of The Last Mrs. Parrish in a day, I just wish it hadn’t left such an awful taste in my mouth. I was intrigued by the plot, although I have heard it is very similar to another book I own but haven’t yet read, The Wife Between Us, and I did get sucked into the novel enough that I wanted to see it through even though I had worked out each plot twist before they came to fruition. I knew that Jack was going to be abusive from the moment Daphne panicked when Amber spilled her coffee on the floor, and the moment perspectives shifted from Amber to Daphne, I knew that Daphne would have had a hand in setting Amber up with him. I think that the writing hid these truths enough to be shocking but I’ve read enough books and seen enough television to know plot devices when I see them.

Continue reading “Review: The Last Mrs. Parrish”

Book Reviews

Flash Reviews: The Black Witch & Lies

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  • Author: Laurie Frost
  • Edition: Kindle Edition
  • Published: May 2nd, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Paranormal
  • Star Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
  • Goodreads

MY THOUGHTS:

Apparently, this book was at the centerpiece of a lot of controversy upon its release. I never heard about it but I wasn’t big in the book review circle at the time. By reading the few hundred pages I did, I can see why. The racial allegories in this are ham-fisted at best and offensive at worst, and it’s at its worst for a majority of the book.

Needless to say, I couldn’t finish this one – 600 pages of an MC that was constantly victimized/bullied, it was extremely repetitive and all the world building fell by the wayside and suffered for it, I wasn’t immersed enough to want to wade through all that angst and based on many of the other reviews I read, I really didn’t miss much.


 

  • Author: T.M. Logan33652433
  • Edition: Kindle Edition
  • Published: May 2nd, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery
  • Star Rating: ★★★☆☆
  • Goodreads

I did finish this book but, I found it mediocre at best. It’s a great read if you’re hankering for a mystery and don’t have anything more pressing to read but I didn’t find it anything special and it doesn’t offer anything new to an already overstuffed genre.

The storyline was not engrossing to me but the pacing was snappy and quick (except the middle which was a bit of a slog). I didn’t find the characters super appealing, or the dialogue for that matter, and the ending seemed to come out of left field. Yet, I still found myself mostly entertained. It’s a very easy, readable story that you could easily consume on a lazy Sunday.

Thank you to NetGalley for these ARC’s in exchange for my honest opinions!

Book Reviews

Book Review: Her Name Was Rose

Her name was Rose. You watched her die. And her death has created a vacancy. 

When Emily lets a stranger step out in front of her, she never imagines that split second will change her life. But after Emily watches a car plough into the young mother – killing her instantly – she finds herself unable to move on.

And then she makes a decision she can never take back.

Because Rose had everything Emily had ever dreamed of. A beautiful, loving family, a great job and a stunning home. And now Rose’s husband misses his wife, and their son needs a mother. Why couldn’t Emily fill that space?

But as Emily is about to discover, no one’s life is perfect … and not everything is as it seems.

Continue reading “Book Review: Her Name Was Rose”