REVIEW – The Second Mother by Jenny Milchman

{Available August 18, 2020} Oof. This was a lot. And it was a lot of things that didn’t work for me. I went into this expecting something a bit more thrilling and a bit more heart-racing and it just didn’t deliver. This book is LONG. Given there are a lot of descriptions of the island, a lot of repetitive incidents and a lot of buildup for a plot twist that could have been introduced 200 pages sooner.

The writing isn’t bad – this book just suffers from trying to accomplish too much, and in the end accomplishes very little. I also felt that the ending of the book didn’t uphold the overall vibes of the beginning. For how long the book is, the end wraps up a little too fast and a little too neatly.

Thank you Books Forward PR for the NetGalley ARC!

REVIEW – The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

“Forever was never as long as you thought it was.”

I was already firmly on the Karin Slaughter bandwagon, but this book makes me want to fight to take over the driver’s seat. The Kept Woman is book eight in the Will Trent series. Confession: I’ve only read two books so far in this series (eight and nine…yeah, out of order and with a devil-may-care attitude). My intent is to go back and start at the very beginning, but first I need to order all of those books, and then somehow fit them into my reading schedule…but I digress.

If you are a fan of thrillers and suspense and crime and INTENSITY, you need to read these books. Okay, so….we start off with a dead body (I mean, of course we do). He’s a former cop which automatically increases the interest in investigating his death and supposed murder (is this actually fair? I mean, not really. But that’s the way the system works). There’s a lot of blood at the scene, but it’s quickly discovered that the blood doesn’t belong to the dead body. If that doesn’t hook you, I can’t help you.

“We seek comfort from the very people who do us harm.”

Do you have a literary character you just hate? Not because they’re a bad character, but because they’re so GOOD at being absolutely despicable that you can’t help but love their story but hate them as a human being? You might have a new favorite (least favorite? Most hated?) after reading this book. Phew. People are MESSED. UP. And the worst people can’t help but force their misery upon everyone else. But you also might find a new favorite (actual favorite, a character you root for) in this series too. I just want to hug Will and protect him. And his whole crew – Sara, Amanda, Faith – I LOVE THEM. I want infinite books with these characters.

There are so many side stories crammed into this book but they all fit together and it never feels like too much is going on. Because Karin Slaughter is a writing deity sent to bring us amazing books. There’s no other explanation.

And THAT ENDING. There’s more in store for these characters and I can’t wait to find out what happens.

Content warning: mentions of rape, domestic abuse, child abuse, suicide. Overall gore and violence.

REVIEW – Fire and Vengeance by Robert McCaw

Missing going to the movies? Looking for a summer-y action-packed blockbuster of a book? Fire and Vengeance might be the pick for you!

When a volcanic vent explodes (right under an elementary school…) Koa Kane has some damage control to take care of. First of all, many families are grieving the loss of more than a dozen students and a handful of teachers. Second, why would anyone approve the construction of a school (or any building for that matter) over an active volcanic vent?

As Koa digs into the investigation, he uncovers a decades-long scandal that includes some powerful people in Hawaii. Powerful people who will stop at nothing to cover their own asses.

In addition to the investigation, Koa is also dealing with some family issues. His brother, currently serving time in prison, collapses due to an undiagnosed brain tumor. I actually liked the brother/family storyline more than the main plot of the book, but I still enjoyed my overall reading experience.

McCaw packs a lot of action and intrigue into this book, and you’ll feel like you’re sleuthing right alongside Koa Kane.

Content warning: death of children, brief mentions of suicide, brief mentions of real life school shootings.

Thank you FSB Associates and Oceanview Publishing for the ARC of Fire and Vengeance!

REVIEW – The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

“I am aware of my limitations. I’m not warm, i’m not especially kind. but I can be strong.”

Okay PSA: This is NOT a thriller. It seems that it was marketed as one, but it’s more of a domestic drama/mystery. If you go into this book knowing it’s not a thriller, odds are you’ll enjoy it.

“We have issues because we care too much.”

I had a LOT of feelings over the course of reading this book – at first, I was annoyed that it was primarily based on conflict between two people who are really terrible at communicating. But oh boy, did I end up LOVING this! It’s so entertaining and unexpected.

The story is sad but oddly heartwarming in some places, and it feels fairly realistic (maybe a slightly exaggerated bit of reality). It’s fascinating and nuanced. And I am officially on the Sally Hepworth bandwagon!

REVIEW – Dark August by Katie Tallo

Dark August is a gritty mystery thriller with a relatively isolated vibe for the first chunk of the book. Our main character Gus receives word that her last living relative has died, and she heads back home (leaving behind a pretty pathetic life) to take care of her great-grandmother’s estate. When she uncovers clues from a cold case her late mother was working on, Gus quickly begins an investigation of her own that leads to some dark and twisty places.

There was one part of the mystery that seemed like more of an afterthought, but overall this book was good. It builds slowly and you do wonder where the heck it’s going to end up, but STICK WITH IT. This book surprised the heck out of me in the last 50 pages or so. It’s not often a book catches me off guard, but I have to give credit when a thriller is able to pull a fast one on me.

Dark August should definitely be on your summer thriller tbr!

Content warning: mentions of rape, domestic abuse, suicide, mild animal abuse.

Thank you Harper Perennial for sending me an ARC of this book!

REVIEW – A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

“That’s the hardest part about marriage isn’t it? Somebody else’s problems become your own. It doesn’t always feel fair.”

I frequently choose thrillers for my Book of the Month picks, and they usually don’t disappoint. This was no exception – although not my favorite thriller, A Good Marriage was well-paced, interesting and twisty.

I did think it did a little TOO much towards the end. It’s like there was one connection too many for the plot to feel plausible (but I guess that’s the fun of fiction). Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good thriller that will make them think and surprise them until the very end.

REVIEW – The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni

When Bert Monte receives a mysterious letter in the mail (it’s gilded and it’s in Italian) she quickly learns she has inherited a noble title and a castle in the Alps overlooking a small village. Sounds like a grown-up Princess Diaries, right? Not exactly…

This book starts off strong. There’s an ominous vibe right from the beginning – even Bert mentions a sense of impending doom and considers throwing the letter away. But, she doesn’t. And we get to learn the secrets of the Montebianco family.

At first it’s like a dream come true – a whirlwind trip to Italy on a private jet, a stay in an opulent hotel, instant wealth, prestige. But, something’s not right. If you’re a thriller reader (and if you read the synopsis of this book) you probably have some theories in mind, even as you read this review. I mean, we’ve all read books about rich families with deep dark secrets, literal skeletons in their closets, you know the drill. Trust me when I tell you – with The Ancestor, you DO NOT KNOW THE DRILL. You couldn’t POSSIBLY even begin to imagine what you’ll uncover throughout the course of this book.

I’m not going to even begin to explain what happens here, because I think going in as blind as possible will just make the reading experience better. I can tell you this: the castle has major Beauty and the Beast vibes. The story of the Montebianco family is dark. There are some horrific parts, some incredibly gruesome parts, and some deeply sad moments. There’s a paranormal element here. You might be able to piece some things together near the beginning (I did – somewhat). But then you’ll end up down a path you didn’t expect.

This book isn’t going to be for everyone. It gets weird (especially in the last quarter of the story). The first half was a real slam dunk for me, and the last bit…wasn’t so much. My overall feelings about this book are positive – I read it in the course of a day, partly because the writing flowed so easily and partly because I just had to find out what was going to happen next.

REVIEW – The Guest List by Lucy Foley

“If I can’t move heaven, then I shall raise hell.”

Weddings are supposed to be happy occasions right? WRONG. (At least in the case of this book.) The setting is dark and unsettling right from page one.

The Guest List serves up HEAVY modern-day Agatha Christie vibes with a remote island and an overall feeling of dread where everyone is a suspect. We flash back and forth between the “NOW” (at the wedding reception, after a body has been found) and the “THEN” which encompasses about a day and a half prior to the murder.

“It feels personal, this storm. It feels as though it has saved all its fury for them.”

The island and house (the Folly) feel like characters in their own right – there’s a lot of history on the island and it adds the perfect dash of supernatural spookiness to the entire thing.

“I have my own ghosts. I carry them with me wherever I go.”

Pretty much everyone in this book is a horrible person (some more than others, of course). Not a single one is likable but it just makes the reading experience more fun. Maybe this is a little ridiculous or far-fetched, but if you suspend disbelief for 300-or-so pages, you’ll have a great time reading this story.

Content warning: abortion, talks of suicide, self-harm.

REVIEW – The Better Sister by Alafair Burke

Phew, what a premise! Our main character Chloe is married to her sister’s ex-husband, Adam, and is raising her nephew/stepson, Ethan. Got that straight? When Adam is murdered, suspicions quickly turn to Ethan and we follow a twisty narrative that includes family drama, secrets and a court case.

This story did not go in the direction that I expected, and I really enjoyed it! It gave me some Jodi Picoult vibes – a court battle, moral ambiguity, family secrets, etc. It really comes down to this – how far would you go to protect the people you love?

I think this is a great summer mystery for thriller lovers and newbies alike. Burke’s writing keeps the reader interested, and the short, punchy chapters made for an incredibly fast reading experience.

Thank you Harper Perennial/Harper Books for my copy of The Better Sister!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Hot Fudge Murder by Cynthia Baxter

Looking for a quick, mindless read? This fits the bill. Hot Fudge Murder is frothy fun – focusing a bit more on the ice cream shop than the actual murder mystery, these books don’t offer a lot of substance but they will leave you craving a scoop or two of your favorite flavor.

Other than the delectable descriptions of a wide variety of ice cream flavors, the real star in this series is the relationships between the characters. Kate’s relationship with her grandmother and niece is heartwarming and fun. There are definitely cozier mysteries out there and more mysterious cozies, but this is a great option for something to read while spending a lazy day at the pool or beach.

Thank you Kensington Books for sending me a copy of Hot Fudge Murder!