Tag: thriller

Book Review: Under My Skin, by Lisa Unger

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Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title:   Under My Skin
Author:   Lisa Unger
Genre:   suspense, thriller, murder mystery
Rating:   4 out of 5

A year ago, Poppy’s husband, Jack, was murdered while on his morning run in Manhattan. The police have no leads. It seems to be a case of random crime. Poppy is slowly putting her life back together with the help of her best friend, Layla, her therapist, and the pills she takes to sleep.

But Poppy isn’t doing as well as she seems. She’s losing time—again. The first time it happened was after Jack’s funeral, when she disappeared for days and turned up wearing a red dress she doesn’t remember owning. Now she keeps losing track of time. place, people…everything in her life is a swirling maelstrom of confusion.

Poppy believes Jack’s murder wasn’t random, and she intends to find out the truth. When she spots a mysterious man following her, her already-tenuous grip on reality starts to fade, and soon she no longer has any idea what’s real and what’s not.

I don’t think I’ve ever read any of Lisa Unger’s books before. I spent a large portion of this book being just as confused as Poppy was, but completely engrossed in the story. The author weaves together Poppy’s present—distorted and hazy at best—with real memories and her what-might-have-been imaginings until the reader has no more idea than Poppy what is real and what is not. An intriguing read!

Lisa Unger is a New York Times-bestselling and award-winning author. Under My Skin is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: Baby Teeth, by Zoje Stage

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Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Baby Teeth
Author:   Zoje Stage
Genre:   Thriller, Suspense
Rating:   4 out of 5

Hanna is a sweet, silent seven-year-old. She’s far smarter than she should be, but she hides it behind a placid façade. Usually. She’s her father’s baby and her mother’s nemesis.

Suzette has been sick most of her life but thought becoming a mother would leave her fulfilled and renewed. Instead, it just leaves her terrified.

Hanna sees her mother as competition for her father’s affection and will stop at nothing to eliminate her competition. Nothing. As Hanna becomes increasingly more aggressive and her tricks become more dangerous, Suzette is desperate to convince her husband that their beloved daughter may be better off away from home—and that may be the only way she survives her daughter’s intentions.

I’m not super into books about evil children—and Hanna is evil—but the author did an excellent job portraying the love Hanna’s parents still have for her, despite her actions. Parts of this novel were creepy, parts were chilling, but all of them made me glad I don’t know any children like Hanna.

Zoje Stage has a background in film and theatre. Baby Teeth is her new novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Contest: Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage Giveaway

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Baby Teeth, by Zoje Stage, goes on sale on July 17th.

To read an excerpt and see the trailer, go here.

This psychological thriller about a battle of wills between a mother and her seven-year-old daughter who’s defiant, manipulative, deceitful—and determined to turn her father against her mother—will keep readers riveted to the page.

I’ll be reviewing the book on the 18th, but right now, I have three copies to give away!

To enter, comment on this post and tell me why you want to read this book. I’ll pick three readers randomly to send a copy to. The contest will run today, July 1st through Thursday, July 5th.

Book Review: Paper Ghosts, by Julia Heaberlin

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Image belongs to Random House/Ballantine Books.

Title:   Paper Ghosts
Author:  Julia Heaberlin
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   4 out of 5

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.)

Book Review: Shattered Mirror, by Iris Johansen

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Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Shattered Mirror
Author:  Iris Johansen
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   4/5

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.)

Book Review: Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell

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Image belongs to Atria Books.

Title:  Then She Was Gone
Author:  Lisa Jewell
Genre:  Thriller, mystery
Rating:  3.5/5

Ten years ago, Laurel Mack’s teenage daughter, Ellie, disappeared without a trace. The police say she ran away, but Laurel wasn’t so sure. After her daughter disappeared, her marriage fell apart, and Laurel still struggles with her incomplete life.

Then she meets Floyd, a charming author, at a café, and finds herself involved in an intense relationship. Soon she’s meeting Floyd’s youngest daughter, Poppy, who looks exactly like Ellie.

Now Laurel wonders if there’s a darker motive behind Ellie’s disappearance, and she’s desperate to find out the truth as she seeks to untangle the strange relationship between Floyd and Poppy.

I had a hard time putting this book down, but the characters were all a bit strange and distant to me. The mystery surrounding Ellie’s disappearance was compelling, but there were several layers of creepiness connected to Laurel and Floyd, and even the decidedly odd Poppy. Basically, while I was intrigued, I didn’t find any of the characters likable, and their motivations weren’t entirely believable to me.

Lisa Jewell was born and raised in London. Her newest novel is Then She Was Gone.

(Galley provided by Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Night Market, by Jonathan Moore

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Image belongs to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

In a near-future society where mindless shopping—the desire for “more”—motivates humanity, darkness threatens to take over. Most people don’t even notice something is wrong—nor do they care. They just want more stuff. Homicide detective Ross Carver notices. Sometimes. When he’s not too busy trying to solve the unrelenting crimes that threaten the streets.

One Thursday evening, he visits a crime scene where the victim is covered in a strange substance that’s eating his skin. When FBI agents surround Ross, he’s hustled to a decontamination trailer, hosed down, and forced to drink a strange liquid that gives him seizures. He wakes up in his own bed three days later, with no memory of what happened. And he doesn’t know why his neighbor, Mia, whom he’s never spoken to, is sitting by his bed, reading.

Ross sets out to find out what’s going on. The bits he uncovers convince him that something terrible is going on in America, something that is being covered up by people in high places. He doesn’t know how Mia’s involved, but something tells him to keep her close—that she knows far more than she’s letting on.

I didn’t realize The Night Market was part of a larger world of stories, so the worldbuilding really threw me for a loop. It was like the present-day world, except slightly skewed. Skewed in a terrifying, I-don’t-want-to-live-on-this-planet-anymore way. Society has taken consumerism far beyond today’s ridiculous levels. The snapshots of marketing stunts and the feeding frenzy that ensues was horrifying to me—and believable.

Ross unknowing walks into a mess far beyond anything he’s every considered, and it takes every ounce of instinct and skill to keep himself alive. This is a dark book, and I really had no idea what was going on until the end. And even then, I’m still not sure.

Jonathan Moore is a Honolulu attorney whose fiction has been short-listed for the Bram Stoker Award. The Night Market is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Black Painting, by Neil Olson

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Image belongs to Hanover Square.

The Morse family is known for old money, the East Coast, and a stolen Goya painting. The painting, a self-portrait said to cause madness and death in anyone who views it, was stolen years before. None of the four cousins—Kenny, James, Audrey, and Teresa—have visited the family home at Owl’s Point—or their grandfather—since, amidst the accusations and blame over the painting’s disappearance. Not to mention the rumors of madness.

But now their aging grandfather wants to see them. Individually. Considering the patriarch’s age, the cousins think the summons is related to their inheritance, so they go. When Teresa and Audrey arrive, they find their grandfather’s body, his terrified gaze fixed on the spot where the missing painting once hung.

With the family gathered to mourn, old accusations are resurrected, and the police start asking questions—not just about the old man’s death, but about the missing painting, which is worth millions. Determined to find out who killed her grandfather, Teresa starts digging into the past, hoping to prove her own father wasn’t mad…and that she has not inherited that madness. But even missing, the black painting has a strange effect on everyone connected to it, and the darkness may be too much for Teresa.

This book sounded like a perfect fit for me:  I love family mysteries like this, although the painting creeped me out a tiny bit. However, this family is crazy. Legitimately. No matter which family member I was reading about—and even some of the non-familial characters—I could not make a connection because their thoughts and actions seemed completely illogical to me. Which kind of makes sense if viewed through the lens of a family closely associated with a painting that supposedly drives everyone around it mad. I finished reading it, but I am rarely a fan of books without characters I can care about. This book was not the right fit for me.

Neil Olson is a publishing industry professional, as well as an author. The Black Painting is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Hanover Square via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

 

Book Review: Bad Call, by Stephen Wallenfels

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Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

It starts as a poker bet:  Ceo, Colin, Grahame, and Rhody agree to go hiking in Yosemite. In the winter. Except Rhody backs out at the last minute, so Ceo invites Ellie along. Ellie, who doesn’t know she’ll be hiking alone with three guys, and who the guys have never heard of. Ceo is a master manipulator, so this turn of events isn’t a huge surprise to Collin. What is a surprise is the connection he feels with Ellie. With the animosity between Ceo and Grahame rising, soon it’s all Collin and Ellie can do to keep the peace.

Despite warnings from fellow hikers, the group sets off to summit, and finds themselves in the midst of a bad snowstorm, with a leaking Craigslist tent and no food. Trying desperately to survive, they seek to make a camp that will shelter them all from the storm. But one of them does not return, and the circumstances don’t quite add up. In addition to battling the weather, the remaining three will have fight their suspicions—while always watching their backs—if they are to make it off the mountain alive.

I spent most of my reading time for Bad Call wondering why on Earth…1)…did Ellie go hiking in the wilderness with 3 boys, 2 of whom were strangers? 2)…does anyone hang out with Grahame, when he’s such a jerk? 3)…is Collin still friends with Ceo, who totally screwed him over? I had lots of questions about the characters’ motivations, and basically no answers. There was a decent level of suspense, and some chilling bits—creepy and cold—but the characters just didn’t make sense to me.

Stephen Wallenfels is a creative director, IT manager, and author who loves hiking and his family. Bad Call is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Little Broken Things, by Nicole Baart

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Image belongs to Atria Books.

Quinn Cruz hasn’t had much to do with her family for years, until she and her husband moved back to her hometown a few months ago. Her brother is too busy. Her mother is too intrusive. And her sister has been aloof for years. So, when Quinn receives a text from Nora one night, “I have something for you,” she jumps at the chance to meet up with her sister.

That “something” is a frightened little girl named Lucy, whom Nora begs Quinn not to speak a word about to anyone before Nora vanishes into the night. Lucy’s haunted eyes trouble Quinn, and she struggles to connect with the girl who is terrified of “him.” Quinn doesn’t know the evil that Nora is facing, but the two of them are desperate to keep one little girl safe, and find out the truth of who she is.

Little Broken Things is extremely well-written, with a pace that builds slow momentum to a breakneck finish. Lucy is so innocent and so broken the reader will immediately care for her, and want to know her truths. Quinn and Nora’s family is broken, and has been for years. The sisters are united in their desire to keep Lucy safe, but the secrets still lurking in the dark may tear the family apart.

Nicole Baart’s books have been nominated for awards, and she is the co-founder of One Body One Hope. Little Broken Things is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)