Ryan Gracey is a true crime podcaster who nearly lost her life after a fatal error in judgment years before. She knows she can’t compete with her perfect older sister, Wendy, so she stopped trying years ago and went after a life that made her happy. And she is happy, despite some regrets, when her sister calls her out of the blue and begs for her help.
She won’t tell Ryan much, just that there’s been a murder and she’s afraid she’ll be wrongfully accused, so Ryan moves back home to care for Wendy’s two daughters—and to try to prove Wendy’s innocence. But the more Ryan digs, the more secrets she uncovers, and soon Ryan realizes everything she’s ever thought about her big sister is a lie.
This was not what I was expecting at all. It’s marketed as women’s fiction, but I’d say it falls more into the murder mystery/crime investigation genre. I was just as surprised as Ryan at some of her discoveries, and this read takes family drama to a whole new level! I found it hard to put the book down.
Emilie Richards lives and writes—across a multitude of genres—in Florida. A Family of Strangers is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Mira via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Ryan DeMarco didn’t want to come home. But when his estranged wife tries to commit suicide, he’s the one they call. So he finds himself back where he grew up, a place he’s been trying to forget ever since he left. And an old classmate is now sheriff and needs help solving a murder case that might have ties to their high school days.
Ryan and Jayme, his new girlfriend, agree to help with the case, but neither of them has any idea where the case will lead. With the past haunting Ryan’s every step, and the future haunting Jayme’s, neither of them will survive the case unscathed.
It’s not necessary to have read the first two books in the Ryan DeMarco Mystery series to enjoy this book. I had read the first one, but not the second, and I had no problems keeping up. This is a solid read, and I didn’t figure out who the killer was ahead of time, but the characters and their problems are the real focus here, not the mystery.
Randall Silvis is an award-winning author. A Long Way Down is his newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks/Poisoned Pen Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
When Annie was a little girl, she was found wandering in the woods, not far from her mother’s murdered body. Now grown up, she’s the town’s darling, and her imminent wedding is all anyone talks about. Annie’s ready for her life to change, but can she leave behind this small town—and her support system—to start her new life?
Just days before her wedding, Annie disappears. There’s no sign of her. No sign she might have run. No sign she spoke to anyone before she disappeared. With her mother’s accused murderer freshly released from prison, the town fears the worst, and those who love Annie will have to deal with their own issues as they search for her.
I did not connect with this book at all. The small-town vibe was accurate, but I found Annie herself unlikable, as was her secret friend. I didn’t find this very suspenseful, and everyone had secrets, of course, but the only character I liked was Clary. Just not a good fit for me.
Marybeth Mayhew Whalen lives and writes in North Carolina. Only Ever Her is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
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.)