When Lucy married Ollie ten years ago, she couldn’t wait to become part of his family. But his mother, Diana, had other plans. She kept Lucy at arm’s length, always said exactly the wrong thing and made Lucy feel never-good-enough, and prioritized her job aiding refugees. Who could compete with that? Not stay-at-home mom Lucy.
Now Diana has been found dead of an apparent suicide, a note beside her blaming advanced cancer. But the police aren’t so sure. There are traces of poison in her system—and no trace of cancer. Things aren’t adding up, and every member of the family is under scrutiny—especially Lucy, whose tumultuous relationship with Diana is no secret from anyone.
I was kind of on the fence about this one. I know every mother-in-law isn’t evil—they’re just typecast that way—and I wasn’t sure I wanted to read something predictable. This was not a predictable read. It’s told in alternating viewpoints—Lucy and Diana—then and now, gradually revealing the truth of the relationship between the two—and what drove someone to kill Diana.
Sally Hepworth is a bestselling author who lives in Australia. The Mother-in-law is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Claire Rawlings can’t afford to get sick. Her two little girls are asleep in the back seat. She’s a medical resident. And she’s speeding down the highway. She doesn’t have time to get sick. But nausea and dizziness wait for no woman, so she exits the freeway to find a gas station, runs to the bathroom, and passes out.
When she wakes up a short while later, her car—and her two little girls—are gone. There are no witnesses, and the police struggle to find any leads. As the days pass, Claire struggles against her own guilt as her marriage crumbles under the strain.
The only lead they have—a witness who’s unreliable at best—only leads them to more devastation, but Claire is convinced there is still hope…if only she can hold things together and hang on.
Little Lovely Things is about a mother’s worst nightmare and is at turns horrific. The mystery over who took the girls haunts Claire’s every moment and even when it seems all hope is lost; she clings to the remnant. There’s some interesting—and depressing—bits about Traveler society, and overall, the book is dark with glimmers of hope and light.
Maureen Joyce Connolly is a poet, a foodie, and a dragon boat racer. Little Lovely Things is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Mallory’s step-father is so controlling her mother can’t breathe without him knowing about it, and Mallory is afraid his control will turn violent. She’s sure something sinister lurks in his past, and she’s desperate to get her pregnant mother out of danger. But her mother refuses to leave, and Mallory finds herself staying with a friend for a few days, then out on the streets. The local library is her only refuge: a warm place to get her online schooling completed while she searches for a more permanent solution.
After a stunt gone wrong, Spencer is doing community service at the library. He likes the peace and quiet there—until a body is discovered in the stacks—and he likes Mallory. He’s sure she’s hiding something, and he’s desperate to help her. It takes his mind off his own problems: his parents have certain expectations for him, expectations that make him miserable.
Mallory doesn’t want to trust Spencer, but there’s no one she can turn to, so she slowly accepts his help. But there’s more going on at the library than they imagine. Black fingerprints. Footprints that lead nowhere. Mysterious cries. And the messages left scrawled on the walls. Mallory realizes her secrets are no the only things hidden in the library.
This is billed as a thriller, but I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. Mallory’s storyline is tough and frustrating: her mother’s refusal to leave a bad situation, Mallory’s inability to find help, her struggles while homeless. She has major trust issues, but she starts to work through them with Spencer’s help. Spencer has his own issues—while they may not seem like a big deal to everyone, they’re huge for him, but he still wants to help Mallory. Mallory and Spencer both learn a great deal about who they are—and who they want to be.
Natalie D. Richards lives and writes in Ohio. What You Hide is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)
Sawyer Taft grew up on the wrong side of the tracks with a mom who was unreliable at best and the knowledge that her mother’s family kicked her mom out of the house when she got pregnant in the middle of her debutante season. Now 18-year-old Sawyer is an auto mechanic who’d love to go to college but sees no way to get there.
Until her autocratic grandmother shows up, offering her half a million dollars if she’ll move into the family house and participate in the current debutante season. That’s a whole lot of money to put up with a prim-and-proper crowd with certain expectations and a penchant for the phrase “Bless your heart,” but Sawyer thinks she might be able to solve the mystery of who her father is, so she agrees.
And finds herself in a world of glittering dresses, unending rules, and people with more secrets than she ever imagined. Not to mention the devious minds to keep those secrets and manipulate Sawyer and her new friends. And one of the best-kept secrets is just who Sawyer’s father is—and why he doesn’t want anyone to know.
I read a few of Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ books years ago and enjoyed them, but kind of forgot about her until I saw this one. I’m so glad I picked this up! The glittering world of the debs is far beyond my experience, but it came to life on the pages of Little White Lies. Sawyer is a great character: she does not fit in with this society and she unsettles everyone around her, but she is intent on doing what’s right—and she’s smart. This is an attention-grabbing read, and it was nice that it wasn’t filled with romance like a lot of YA series-openers are.
Jennifer Lynn Barnes was a Fulbright Scholar at Yale, and also holds a Ph.D. from Yale. Her newest novel is Little White Lies.
(Galley provided by Disney Book Group/Freeform in exchange for an honest review.)
Owen Foster is in the middle of a prank war with his best friend Jack when his mom shows up at his fancy New Orleans boarding school. Owen knows it can’t be good news, and it’s not—his dad has disappeared with millions of dollars from the family business that supports most of their small town.
Owen and his mom are the most hated people in town. Most people think they knew what his dad was up to, or at least where he is now, and the threats soon turn to violence. To escape all the anger, Owen finds himself working for Gus on a practically-abandoned pecan farm outside of town.
Owen doesn’t want to believe his father stole the money, but all the evidence points towards him. Soon Owen realizes that someone must have helped his dad, and he’s determined to unravel the mystery and keep his mother safe.
The Lying Woods is told in alternate viewpoints between Owen now, and his father in the past, the year he first came to work for Gus. I’m not generally a fan of male POV characters in YA, but I loved this one. Owen is complex: everything he thinks he knows gets upended in this book, and he has to figure out the new world he inhabits now. He’s hurting from his dad’s betrayal, worried about his mom, and missing his friends, but he learns to see things from other people’s point-of-view as he struggles to right the wrongs he encounters. Definitely read this! I realized after reading this that I’d also read Elston’s The Rules for Disappearing, and it was a great read as well, so she just moved to my must-read list.
Ashley Elston lives and writes in Louisiana. The Lying Woods is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)
The last time Jessie Sloan slept was while her mother was dying. Now, in the wake of years spent caring for her mom, she tries to get her life back together. When the college admissions office tells her her social security number belongs to a dead girl, she’s sure it’s a mix up, but a bit of research finds her name belongs to the girl as well.
As her insomnia stretches into days, she’s desperate to find out the truth hidden in what her mom left behind, but the lack of sleep is causing confusion and hallucinations. At least, she thinks they’re hallucinations.
And twenty years earlier, Jessie’s mom’s obsession with having a baby causes her to make a decision she never imagined she’d make.
There’s a lot of talk online about that ending, and, I have to admit, I didn’t see it coming. However, it made perfect sense for the story—and I actually liked it. Sort of. I loved Jessie, and I cannot imagine what she was going through, but I found Eden a bit obsessive and unlikable. An interesting read, for sure.
Mary Kubica is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. When the Lights Go Out is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)
The Montrose family left Boston to escape the rumors claiming a family scandal. Now ensconced in their new country home, Willow Hall, middle daughter Lydia wants nothing more than peace and quiet, to take care of her younger sister Emeline, and no more family scandals.
At first, things at Willow Hall are peaceful. Emeline cares only about looking for mermaids in the pond, and Catherine can’t seem to make up her mind if she’ll pursue their father’s new partner, John, or his best friend. Reading sounds much better to Lydia, at least at first.
But soon Lydia hears a woman wailing in the night and sees a pale boy in the gardens. The oppressive air around Willow Hall closes in around the family, and darkness hovers, along with memories from Lydia’s childhood. Lydia will have to discover the truth about Willow Hall—and herself—to grasp peace.
This novel is almost Gothic, almost a romance, and all spellbinding. Lydia was a wonderful character. I loved her from the beginning. She cares so much about her family—even the horrible ones—and does her best to save them from themselves. She’s dutiful, but she’s not blind to the faults around her. I’d actually love to read more about her. The Gothic feel of this novel is well-done, without being overpowering or too creepy. Catherine was such an inconsistent character. Sometimes, I almost liked her. The rest of the time, not at all. A very enjoyable book that I read straight through!
Hester Fox is an artist and author. The Witch of Willow Hall is her first novel.
(Galley provided by Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)
When he wakes up in the forest, he has no idea where he is, how he got there, or what he’s doing there. He doesn’t even know who he is. Minutes later, he sees a woman murdered, and her killer hands him a compass and a cryptic direction. How desperate do you have to be to listen to a murderer? About that desperate. But soon he has a name: Aiden Bishop.
The Hardcastles are hosting a house party to mark the anniversary of their son’s death. All the guests are there, but no one has seen the hosts, only their remaining son and daughter. Aiden discovers that nothing is as it seems—and no one.
When he wakes up the second day in the body of a different guest, he realizes he must re-live the same day over and over until he solves the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, who kills herself at the ball that night. He doesn’t know what’s going on. He doesn’t know who to trust. He only knows that someone is trying to stop him from solving the crime—and that person will kill all his bodies to stop him.
This book has one of the most unique premises I’ve ever read. The opening chapter has Aiden with no idea what is going on—and I felt like that the rest of the book. The writing is solid, and the author does a great job of contrasting Aiden’s personality with his host’s. I was intrigued from the very beginning, and I never did figure out what was going on!
Stuart Turton lives in London with his wife. The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is his debut novel.
(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for an honest review.)
Carl Louis Feldman was once a famous photographer who took eerie pictures. Then he was charged with the murder of a young woman, acquitted, and disappeared from the public eye. Now he’s in a halfway house for those with dementia and he doesn’t remember killing anyone. Or so he claims.
But his daughter is visiting him, and she doesn’t believe him. She’s planning to take him on a trip to see if she can jog his memory. Except she’s not really his daughter.
She’s spent years getting ready for this day. Years looking for clues to her sister Rachel’s disappearance, even after the cops gave up. Years of painstaking research finding Carl and tracking him down. Years of training to see to it that he doesn’t come back from their little trip. Is Carl telling the truth, or are they both lying? The middle of the Texas wilderness is no place to be with a serial killer.
You know that little thrill you get when you read a book and it’s set someplace you’re familiar with? I got that on the first page of this book, with the mention of the cemetery in Weatherford, Texas and Mary Martin’s grave. I grew up in Weatherford, after all, so I was hooked from that sentence.
But I stayed hooked throughout the book by the twists and turns the story kept taking, and my curiosity to find out what was going to happen. This is an accurate look at dementia—and the way some dementia patients are sometimes self-aware enough to pretend they don’t remember things (I saw my grandmother do that). It’s an unsettling, creepy read, but the characters are intriguing. And how can you beat Texas as a setting? (You can’t.) Those pictures of the little twin girls were also creepy enough for me to keep reading.
Julia Heaberlin grew up in Texas before becoming a journalist, then an international bestselling author. Paper Ghosts is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Random House/Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.)
When someone leaves a box containing a skull—and two mirrors, one shattered and one complete—at Eve Duncan’s home, she knows she has a work to do. As a forensic sculptor, it’s her job to reconstruct the faces of the dead and bring closure. But this time, it’s personal.
With a killer watching every move as Eve tries to reconstruct the skull, the face of a beautiful woman emerges beneath her hands. A face with ties to Eve and her family. With everyone she loves in danger, Eve must find out who the killer is and stop him—before the unthinkable happens again.
What is there to say about an Eve Duncan book? I’ve read this series for years, and every single one is a solid read, full of mystery, intrigue, and danger. Confession: I’ve not read any of the Eve books since the 2013 series—no idea why not, just got busy, I suppose, so there were some surprises here for me. (Eve and Joe have a son? I have no memory of this…)
I enjoyed Shattered Mirror as I enjoyed Johansen’s other books and found it both compelling and unique. Considering how many books have been written in this series, that in itself is a fantastic accomplishment for the author.
Iris Johansen is a NYT Times best-selling author. Shattered Mirror is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)