Tag: thriller

Book Review: Beautiful Bad, by Annie Ward

beautiful bad
Image belongs to Park Row.

 

Title:  Beautiful Bad
Author:  Annie Ward
Genre:  Psychological thriller
Rating:  3.0 out of 5

An aborted 911-call brings an officer to a quiet house, with signs of a struggle and blood. Lots of blood. A terrified child and two frightened, battered women, along with the dead husband of one of the women tell the same story:  crazy, ex-military man snaps and tries to strangle his wife’s best friend, so his wife kills him in self-defense.

But to get the whole story, you must go back in time to when Maddie and Ian first met, back in the war-torn Balkans where she and Jo lived and worked and played, and Ian was a bodyguard. Back to when Maddie came home after 9-11 and struggled to start her life over, and Ian abandoned her for nine years. Back to their fledgling relationship and new marriage, when Ian wanted a quiet country life and Maddie wanted to travel and explore, and instead they had a baby. Back to that night in the forest camping, where Maddie was injured, but she doesn’t remember how.

Only by going back do you learn what happened now.

I finished reading this, but it was a struggle. Maddie is an unreliable—and for me, unlikable—narrator, and Jo is…erratic. So is Ian. Basically, none of the relationships in this story made sense to me. Obsession, maybe, dependence, surely, but love and caring? Nope. Didn’t see it. The ending is supposed to be a shock, but…it wasn’t. The signs are there all along and aren’t exactly subtle.

Annie Ward lived and worked in the Balkans, was a Fulbright Scholar, and now writes novels. Beautiful Bad is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Park Row via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Advertisements

Book Review: The Perfect Liar, by Thomas Christopher Greene

the perfect liar
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Perfect Liar
Author:  Thomas Christopher Greene
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Susannah’s first marriage was to an older man—her therapist—who spent a lot of time “helping” her work through her issues. Now, she’s married to handsome and charming Max, an artist and speaker whose new job at a university took them out of New York City to a small Vermont town where she hopes her 15-year-old son will thrive.

One morning, Susannah finds a note on the door. “I know who you are.” The note triggers her anxiety, and she worries her family is in danger, but Max thinks the note is just a prank. All the same, he starts looking at his coworkers and their neighbors with new eyes—do they know his secret? When a couple visit for dinner, Susannah finds Max’s behavior suspicious, and, a few days later, the man dies tragically while on a run with Max. Then, a second note appears. “Did you get away with it?”

Susannah knows Max is hiding dark secrets, but she has secrets of her own she wants to keep hidden. Who is leaving the notes? And just which secret is he or she talking about?

I was intrigued by the premise of the book, and the writing was solid, but I couldn’t stand the characters. Susannah had a history of mental health issues as well as abuse, and I felt sorry for her, but I didn’t like her at all. She let life happen to her—except near the end of the book—instead of making choices and moving forward. Max was just creepy to me. I really wish I’d liked the characters more. I finished the book, which speaks to the quality of the plot and the writing, but the characters just didn’t work for me.

Thomas Christopher Greene was born and raised in Massachusetts. The Perfect Liar is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: An Anonymous Girl, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

an anonymous girl
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   An Anonymous Girl
Author:   Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Genre:   Suspense
Rating:   3 out of 5

Jessica Farris is a struggling makeup artist whose past haunts her when she takes a client’s place in a psychology study in an effort to make some extra money. She thought it would just be answering a few questions and collecting a check, but as the questions grow more personal—prompting her raw honesty—she starts to wonder.

Soon she’s meeting Dr. Fields one-on-one, and is fascinated by the brilliant, beautiful doctor. As the doctor’s questions get more personal, Jessica starts to wonder if the doctor knows what she’s thinking. Then their sessions become Jessica dressing as specified and following the doctor’s detailed instructions in encounters with other people.

Jessica isn’t sure she wants to continue in the study, but Dr. Fields knows so much about Jessica’s life she isn’t sure she can break the ties that bind them together—even when Jessica realizes just how twisted the good doctor’s mind really is.

I finished reading this, but my apathetic dislike for the characters made it a close thing. If even one of the characters had been likable, the book probably would have been engrossing, but as it is…well, the irony that Jessica gets into a study on ethics by lying is not lost on me…and tells you everything you need to know about her character. In the end, I think this just wasn’t the right book for me.

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are New York Times bestselling authors. An Anonymous Girl is their newest novel.

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

Book Review: Deadfall, by Stephen Wallenfels

deadfall
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   Deadfall
Author:   Stephen Wallenfels
Genre:   Thriller, YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Ty and Cory Bic are running away from the danger and drama in their lives when they come upon a dying deer in the middle of the road, and tire tracks swerving off the road beside it. Though they need to disappear without a trace, they follow the tracks and find an empty car. The banging from the trunk reveals Astrid, so traumatized she doesn’t speak, and they realize they’ve stumbled into something bad. Something that might be linked to their past—and the death of their father.

Sixteen months before, the twins’ father took them on a hike to show them a secret—and to tell them they were leaving their old lives behind. He moved them hours away, where he soon became involved with some frightening men, while the boys struggled to make a life and clean up the abandoned crack house they found themselves living in. When their father is murdered, they end up in a foster house with a powerful man hiding a secret. When the twins decide to reveal his secret, running away is their only option.

This is a pretty dark book, with lots of heavy topics:  drug use, abuse, human trafficking, murder…it’s not for the faint of heart. I liked Cory; he struggled with people accepting him, but he is such a strong person, he just has to realize it. Ty was less likable for me, but the two of them together make a formidable team.

Stephen Wallenfels lives in Washington. Deadfall is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: Under My Skin, by Lisa Unger

Under-My-Skin-768x1160
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.)

Book Review: Baby Teeth, by Zoje Stage

baby teeth
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

babyteethgiveaway

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

paper-ghosts-400h
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

shattered mirror
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

then-she-was-gone-9781501154645
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.)