From the thrilling voice of Sacha Wunsch comes a heart-stopping psychological mystery in a world where memories can be shared—but maybe not trusted.
Enhanced Memory changed everything. By sharing someone else’s memory, you can experience anything and everything with no risk at all: learn any skill instantly, travel the world from home, and safeguard all your most treasured secrets forever. Nova’s parents invented this technology, and it’s slowly taking over their lives. That’s where Nova comes in. She can pick up the slack for them—and she doesn’t mind. She knows Enhanced Memory is a gift, and its value outweighs its costs.
But Kade says Nova doesn’t even know the costs. Kade runs a secret vlog cataloging real experiences, is always on the move, and he’s strangely afraid of Nova—even though she feels more comfortable with him than she ever has with anyone. Suddenly there are things Nova can’t stop noticing: the way her parents don’t meet her eyes anymore, the questions no one wants her to ask, and the relentless feeling like there’s something she’s forgotten.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sacha Wunsch grew up dividing her time between the family farm in Canada and traveling to numerous fictional worlds. She was a bookseller before discovering her love of writing mind-twisty novels – which has proved an excellent job since she gets to blame all the TV she watches on her love of storytelling. She now splits her time between the city and the lake, and still travels to made-up worlds as often as she can.
I hadn’t even known I was afraid of heights until the moment I stood up there.
The stranger came up to me, grinning. “You’re going to love it,” he said.
My entire body was sweating, most notably my palms, slipping as I tried to grip the safety harness.
Was I really going to do this?
No. I was going to get unclipped, turn around, and simply climb back down what felt like the millions of stairs stretching below me.
And then, just as I started to turn, someone pushed me off the platform.
I screamed as I dropped, nothing but air beneath me.
And then… I started to glide.
The scream kept coming a few seconds more, but my heart did a flip before it could reach my mind. I was soaring. Over the treetops. Whizzing along the zip line at high speeds. It was the best thing I had ever felt.
I had never been this free. Which made sense, I was essentially flying, after all.
Giggling was very much not in my nature, but there I was, giggling anyway. I closed my eyes to get a better sense of the wind on my face, but when the sweet scent of fresh-blooming flowers greeted me, I opened them again. Sure enough, the trees several yards below my feet were blooming some kind of large purple flower.
I sucked in a breath, wishing I could inhale the whole scene, wanting to appreciate it as much as I could—savor it—knowing it wouldn’t last forever, and landed gently on the other side.
I did not have to be pushed off the second platform—barely able to wait my turn to jump again. I soared from platform to platform, wishing nothing more than for this to go on forever, grinning all the way, and realizing only at the last second that the final landing platform wasn’t a platform at all, but a deep, cooling pool.
I sucked in a breath, and with a final burst of adrenaline, I splashed into the crystal-clear water.
TWENTY MINUTES EARLIER
“Come on, open it,” Mom said, her smiling beaming.
I held the small, beautifully wrapped box, unable to imagine what it was. My parents knew I wasn’t really that into jewelry, and neither were they really, but what else could be in such a small box?
I tore into it and flipped the lid open.
Which confused me even more. It wasn’t a ring or a pendant, just a small metal disk.
Dad sensed my confusion. “Give it a second,” he said, beaming even brighter than Mom.
In a blink, a form emerged, a hologram above the disk. There was no sound, but it looked like the person in the hologram was gliding through the tops of trees high in the air.
“This is…really cool,” I said, and meant it, but couldn’t help but feel like I was missing something.
Mom was practically bouncing on the couch. “We wanted to do something special for your birthday.”
“Thank you” was all I could really think to say. The disk was pretty cool, but what the hell was with their enthusiasm?
“You’re welcome Nova,” Dad said. “But this isn’t the whole thing. It’s the experience of it that’s the real gift.”
“The experience of it?”
Mom had gotten up and gone to the desk by the front door. She picked up another box, this one unwrapped, and pulled something from inside.
“Here, you put this on,” she said, handing me a clunky set of headphones plugged into a small handheld device about the size of a phone.
“The disk goes in there,” Dad said, and showed me how to open it, setting my new present inside.
And then I experienced my first ever zip line.
As the experience ended, I blinked my eyes open, a hundred percent sure I’d be soaking wet, but I was sitting right back in my living room. The sensation was a bit disorienting, but my parents were staring at me like they were about to explode.
“What was that?” I asked, grabbing the hem of my shirt, which I couldn’t quite comprehend being dry.
“That was Enhanced Memory,” Dad said, but the look on his face said so much more—like if he’d had feathers, they’d be plumaged out like the most badass peacock of the bunch.
“What did you think?” Mom asked, clasping her hands like she had so much energy whizzing through her body she had to do something to hold it in.
“Well obviously it was amazing, but by the way you two are acting, you already know that.” I couldn’t help but grin. They were just so cute sitting there all proud of themselves. “But seriously, what is this? What is Enhanced Memory?”
I’d seen 3D movies and had even tried virtual reality once, but this was way beyond either of those. This was next level.
“It’s simple,” Dad said. “The headphones are equipped with dozens of…well, let’s call them electrodes for sake of ease, though really, they’re more advanced than that.”
“Okay,” I said, mostly with him still, although knowing Dad it wouldn’t be long until the science-y droning took hold and steered him right off the layman’s term trail.
“And these,” he said, taking the disk out of the machine and holding it up, “are Memories.”
Mom nodded. “We discovered a way to extract memories and reproduce them.”
“Wait, you guys created this?”
Mom nodded, her smile huge and eyes wide. “This is what we’ve been working toward all these years.”
My mouth dropped open. I knew my parents had been working on some kind of project for a long time, but I guess I hadn’t really been that interested in what it was.
Mom laughed at my stunned expression while Dad came over to give me one of his signature kisses on the top of my head.
“Happy birthday, sweetheart,” Mom said, beaming.
I mean, they were scientists and science was basically the last thing I wanted to pay attention to, so I never really asked many questions.
But this was way beyond science. This was…actually kind of awesome.
A smile crept across my face. I couldn’t wait to try it again.
*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest review.
Publication Date: May 31, 2021
Publisher: Minotaur Books
The Guilt Trip follows a small group of friends as they arrive in Portugal for a destination wedding. There are three couples that we are following and they all have secrets they are keeping and things quickly start imploding within the group. The story is told through the perspective of Rachel who has been married to Jack for around twenty years and she is there for her brother in law, Will’s, wedding. Also tagging along on the trip are Rachel and Jack’s best friends, Paige and Noah. Rounding out the group is Will’s bride, Ali, that no one other than Will seems to like.
My biggest problem with this story is that it is marketed as a thriller when it is really an adult contemporary for 90% of it and then we get some action. Which is then quickly resolved since it happened at the end. So, the majority of the story rests on the friend group and none of them are likable. Which is usually fine in a mystery or thriller but when the only “action” is drama in the friend group it wears thin very quickly. As for the drama it all felt fairly obvious and I was just waiting for Rachel to get a clue. I wish that Jones had added a prologue where we got glimpse of what was to come at the end because then this book could have had a suspense element that it desperately needed.
I listened to the audiobook of this and I feel like that is the only reason I was able to fly through it. Clare Corbett narrated this book and she did a fantastic job. The way she read it kept me intrigued way more than I would have had I been physically reading it. Her voices and her use of the different tones of her voice all added elements that kept me wanting to listen.
If you are interested in a slow burn domestic contemporary with shades of a thriller then this would be a great one to pick up. I think the setting alone would make this a good choice for the colder months since it will transport you somewhere tropical and warm. I also highly encourage you to look into the audiobook, whether through your library or other ways you access audiobooks, because it will greatly increase your enjoyment of this story.
Riverdale meets One of Us Is Lying in This Is Why We Lie by Gabriella Lepore, a standalone thriller following two teens who discover a body off the coast of their seaside town. As they search for the killer, they will learn the students of both the local prep school and the nearby reform school will do anything to protect their secrets.
Everyone in Gardiners Bay has a secret.
When Jenna Dallas and Adam Cole find Colleen O’Dell’s body floating off the shore of their coastal town, the community of Gardiners Bay is shaken. But even more shocking is the fact that her drowning was no accident.
Once Jenna’s best friend becomes a key suspect, Jenna starts to look for answers on her own. As she uncovers scandals inside Preston Prep School leading back to Rookwood reform school, she knows she needs Adam on her side.
As a student at Rookwood, Adam is used to getting judgmental looks, but now his friends are being investigated by the police. Adam will do whatever he can to keep them safe, even if that means trusting Jenna.
As lies unravel, the truth starts to blur. Only one thing is certain: somebody must take the fall.
This is an extremely fast paced thriller that I flew through in less than a day without even meaning to. I would pick it up and the next thing I knew I had sped through 30% of the book in a short amount of time. The short chapters helped as well as Lepore’s captivating writing style. The story itself was intriguing enough to keep me guessing on who killed Colleen although I didn’t necessarily care why. The synopsis makes it seem like the schools the characters go to are important but they really aren’t which was a little disappointing. I also found it odd that our two main characters, Jenna and Adam, act like they don’t really know each other but we quickly find out that they run in the same circle of people. The story is told through Adam and Jenna’s perspectives which I enjoyed. It helped give the story a well rounded feel since we see both the boys’ and girls’ sides. However, they both use a lot of flashbacks to tell their side of the story and some of the time it just felt very repetitive to what we just found out. On the other hand, I did enjoy the way Lepore interspersed the story with police interviews, news articles and texts. It helped keep the fast pace of the story and also added a bit of fun. While the ending was action packed and somewhat surprising I do think the fast pace makes it a little difficult to connect to the characters. I do think that you will get the most enjoyment out of this book if you are already a fan of YA thrillers like I am.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gabriella Lepore is a YA author from South Wales in the United Kingdom. She lives in the countryside with her husband James and daughter Sophia. When she isn’t reading or writing, she can usually be found exploring the coastline. She enjoys cups of tea, bookstore coffee shops, stormy beaches, and autumn days.
Gardiners Bay at dawn is my secret. There’s a moment, right before the day starts, when the ocean is bathed in amber light. That first golden breath of morning. Everything is still, apart from the pelicans gathering near the water, their plump bodies shuffling along the shoreline. Sometimes I sit on the promenade for hours with my legs suspended over the pebble beach below, just watching the night turn to day. Watching the darkness turn to light.
It’s often like this, just me and the birds. The only other people I tend to cross paths with at this hour are fishermen wearing heavy-duty gear and hugging their thermoses. They sit on the benches and swig their hot drinks while skimming the daily newspaper. Then they leave. A little while later, their boats drift out onto the water.
Today, though, I’m the only one here.
I raise my camera and adjust the focus, capturing the new light as it spills over the ocean. In the muted daylight, the silver tide is a murky, dull gray and frothing as it slaps against the shore.
“Help! I need help!”
My eyes dart across the shoreline. There’s a boy on the stretch of beach at the foot of Rookwood Cliff. He’s kneedeep in the water, fully dressed.
He shouts again.
I spring to my feet and run along the promenade. Ducking beneath the boardwalk railings, I jump down to the pebbled cove.
The soles of my feet sting at the impact of the stones beneath my Converse. I scramble toward him, my footing slipping on the damp pebbles.
It’s then that I recognize him.
His jeans are soaked to the thigh. He’s wading through the shallows, his legs tangled in fishing net and seaweed. And a body lies limp in his arms. A girl. She’s swollen, her skin has turned purple, and one arm is swinging downward with the momentum of Adam’s labored movements.
I press my hand to my mouth.
“Call an ambulance,” he shouts.
But all I can do is stand there, paralyzed by the sight. He lowers the girl onto the sand and begins CPR, breathing into her mouth.
“I’ve never met someone like me, but when I do, eventually, I think it will be like two wolves meeting in the night, sniffing and recognizing a fellow hunter.”
Meet Chloe Sevre. Freshman honor student. Average-seeming, legging-wearing, hot girl next door…and diagnosed psychopath with an IQ of 135. Her hobbies include yogalates, frat parties, and plotting to kill Will Bachman, a childhood friend who grievously wronged her.
Now Chloe and six other students at John Adams College are part of an unusual clinical study that includes smartwatches to track their moods and movements, in exchange for free tuition. The study, led by a renowned psychiatrist, has inadvertently brought together some of the most dangerous minds who feel no guilt or fear. When one of the participants is found murdered, it becomes obvious they’re all in danger. Chloe goes from hunter to prey, and joins forces with two other psychopaths in the program to discover why they’re being targeted – if they could only trust each other.
Wildly entertaining with compelling characters and a vividly conjured campus setting, NEVER SAW ME COMING will keep you up all night, pinned to the page, wondering why you’re rooting for a would-be killer.
This character driven story was well written and engaging much in the vein of YOU and Dexter. Except Kurian had the task of balancing multiple characters with psychopathy and she did it brilliantly. I adored the way this story slowly unravels and the scope of it becomes larger until you are fully immersed in the world with these characters..Because this book has a few different narrators there were lots of tendrils of storylines that we were constantly following but it never felt overwhelming or confusing. I also appreciated how Kurian still made time to let the characters naturally develop and we really got to know our main characters intimately. It would have been so easy to make the study participants all seem one dimensional but instead Kurian really showcased the different sides of psychopathy which gave each character their own distinct voice. I will say that if you are not a character driven reader than parts of this book may not work as well for you as they did for me since this book mostly feels like a character study. There is a lot of action and twists and turns but there are also quiet moments where we are just getting to know our characters and those happened to be my favorite parts. I did think the ending was satisfying but also farfetched at certain moments. It is an odd feeling to have strong emotional connections to characters who are supposed to be on the “bad” side and yet it is something that Kurian easily succeeded at. For that reason, I highly recommend this book to any fan of true crime or psychology because I think you will also find a lot of value in reading this. I also recommend this to anyone who loves to delve into characters because this is where the book really shines.
VeraKurian is a psychologist and writer and a longtime resident of Washington DC. She has a doctorate in social psychology, specializing in intergroup relations, political ideology, and quantitative methods. She has studied fiction at Breadloaf, Sewanee, VONA, and attended juried workshops at LitCamp, Colgate, Juniper, and the Marlboro Summer Writing Intensive. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a semifinalist for the Mark Twain Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Contest.
As soon as the door to my new dorm room closed, I went to the window, scanning across the quad for him. It wasn’t like there was any possibility he would just happen to be out there among the families lugging moving boxes or the handful of students sprawled in the grass.
But there! A head of dirty-blond waves. Will. My mouth opened. Then the person turned and I saw it was only a girl with an unfortunate haircut. Seriously, you’d think she’d put in more of an effort for move-in day.
I turned and faced my empty dorm room with its sad linoleum floors, mentally going through my to-do list. 1. Get rid of Mom. Check. She had already left and was probably speeding up the I-95, popping open a bottle of champagne now that she was finally rid of me. 2. Claim the most advantageous space be-fore my roommate, Yessica, arrived. 3. Make six to eight friends before 4. My mandatory check-in appointment at the psychology department. 5. Find Will.
We had a double with two bedrooms, one clearly larger than the other. While my normal instinct was to claim the larger one, I immediately saw the problem with that. The larger bed-room had windows that overlooked the quad. What if I wanted to crawl in or out of my window in the middle of the night? People will record anything even remotely interesting on their phones these days, and I could be easily seen from the other dorms and academic halls that lined the quad—too much of an audience for my liking.
I took the smaller room. My generosity would score me points with my new roomie, but more importantly, the room had a view of the brick wall of the building next to us and there was a metal fire escape attached directly to the window. Easy access in and out of my room without detection—perfect. I dumped some of my boxes into the room and made the bed, placing my stuffed plushie whale on top to clearly stake my claim. The voices inside the dorm were calling me and I had to establish myself quickly.
I gave myself a brief once-over before leaving the room, reap-plying my lip gloss and fixing my hair. The hair had to be just right—a loose, effortless side French braid that actually wasn’t effortless. You have to be the kind of girl who “doesn’t put any effort in” but naturally rolls out of bed looking like a horny but somehow demure starlet. If you meet some standard of objective attractiveness, people think you’re better than you actually are—smarter, more interesting, worthier of existing. Combined with the right personality, this can be powerful.
Brewser had one long hallway with rooms shooting off on either side. I peeked into the room next door where two brunettes were wrestling a duvet out of a plastic package. “Hi!” I chirped. “I’m Chloe!” I could be whatever they wanted me to be. A fun girl, a potential best friend, someone to tell secrets to over midnight snacks. This type of socializing was just me playing little roles for a few moments, but when I need to go all in, I can. I can make myself younger when I want to, opting or looser clothes that hide my body and making my eyes shiny with dumbness—a whole costume of innocence. I can look older with makeup and carefully selected clothes, showing skin when necessary. It’s easy because people tend to see what they want to.
I went door to door. Room 202. “Omigod I love your hair,” I said to a bubbly blonde I suspect will end up popular.
Room 206. “You’re not brothers, are you?” I said shyly to two boys on the crew team (nice bodies but baby faces—not my taste). They grinned at me, looked at my boobs, and each vied to say something clever. Neither was clever.
Room 212 was a pair of awkward girls. I was friendly to them but didn’t linger long because I knew they would never be key players.
While I met a few more people, I was simultaneously assessing who seemed like they were going to be part of Greek life. Will was in a frat—SAE—and one of my first orders of business was to get in with that frat. The crew boys were already in the hallway loudly talking about going out to a club that night. That was good—an outing, and the crew boys seemed like they would be the type to pledge a frat. “I love dancing,” I said to what’s-his-name, the taller of the two, fingering the end of my braid. “It’s the best way to get to know people.” He smiled down at me, his eyes crinkling. If high school taught me any-thing, it’s that social life is a game that revolves around navigating hierarchies. Be someone guys want to fuck or you will be invisible to them. Be someone the girls want firmly tucked into their inner circles, whether as friend or enemy, or die the death of being totally irrelevant.
Even from our brief interactions, I could tell no one in this dorm was in my program. I’ve never met someone like me, but when I do eventually, I think it will be like two wolves meet-ing in the night, sniffing and recognizing a fellow hunter. But I doubt they would put two of us in the same dorm—there were only seven and they probably had to spread us out to prevent a war from breaking out.
I had to go then, leaving my new friends behind, to check in with the program.
The psychology department was diagonally across the quad, visible from the windows of the common area of my room. The quad was lush grass crisscrossed with brick paths, with each brick having the name of an alumnus engraved into it—John Smith, class of ’03. Funny—Will was never going to get a brick, but I was. One of the larger dorms, Tyler Hall, had a massive banner hung on it that said WELCOME FRESHMAN!!! I stopped to take a selfie with the banner in the background: here’s a girl excited for her first day of college, busy doing college things!
It’s practically destiny that I ended up at John Adams University. I knew I had to be in DC, which meant applying to Georgetown, American University, George Washington University, John Adams, Catholic University, and Trinity College—all of which are inside the District. As safeties, I also applied to reasonably close places like George Mason and the University of Maryland. I got into all of them except for Georgetown. Seriously, fuck them. My application was golden: I have an IQ of 135—five points short of genius—solid SATs and grades. I paid for most of my wardrobe with a business I set up writing papers for other students. Who knows how many of them got into college with a heartfelt essay about the dead cancer grandmother they didn’t actually have.
I had been offered scholarship money at various schools, but nothing like what Adams had offered. Even if I had turned down the psychology study, I still could have gotten generous scholarships given to students with my pedigree to entice them to a Tier 2 liberal arts school. But I didn’t care—Adams was always my first choice because of Will. Another bonus was the school’s placement in DC: a busy city with a relatively high murder rate. The campus was in the gentrifying neighborhood of Shaw, just east of bougie Logan Circle, and south of U Street, a popular going-out destination. A neighborhood that, despite the presence of nice restaurants, was also a place where drunk people occasionally got into fights and stabbed each other and pedestrians got mugged. Law enforcement was busy with the constant parade of protests, conferences, and visiting diplomats—they probably gave two shits about what was going on in the mind of a random eighteen-year-old girl with an iPhone in her hand and a benign look on her face.
I liked the somber castle look of the psychology department. Its dark red bricks were covered with ivy and the windows, edged with black iron, were warbled like they had old glass in them. The inside was dimly lit by a hanging chandelier with flickering amber bulbs, and the cavernous foyer smelled like old books. When I walked through it, I imagined a camera following me, viewers worried about what dangerous things might come my way. I would be the one they would root for.
I went up the curving staircase to the sixth floor where I was supposed to check in with my program. Room 615 was tucked at the end of the hallway, secluded. A placard on the door said Leonard Wyman, PhD, and Elena Torres, Doctoral Candidate. I recognized the names from my paperwork.
I knocked and a few seconds later a woman flung open the door. “You must be Chloe Sevre!”
She stuck out her hand. They probably had a whole dossier on me. I had had a bunch of phone interviews with a couple of screeners, then one with Wyman himself, and they had also interviewed my mother and high school counselor.
The woman’s hand was bony, but warm and dry, and her eyes were chocolate brown and unafraid. “I’m Elena, one of Dr. Wyman’s grad students.” She smiled and gestured for me to come inside. She led me past a messy reception area, a desk cluttered with papers and three laptops, and down a hallway to a smaller office, hers presumably.
She closed the door behind us. “We’ll get you all settled. Everything was fine with the financial aid office before you got here?” As one of the seven students in the study, I was granted a free ride to John Adams University. All I had to give in ex-change was my willingness to be a full-time guinea pig in their Multimethod Psychopathy Panel Study.
I nodded, looking around. Her shelves were crammed with books and stacks of printed-out articles. Three different versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Tomes on “abnormal” psychology. Robert Hare’s book Without Conscience, which I had read.
“Great,” Elena said. She pulled something up on her computer. She took a bite of the scone resting on her mousepad and chewed loudly. She was pretty in a grad student sort of way. Olive skin and a nice collarbone. You could picture her falling in love with some reedy nerd and trying to have children too late. “Here you are!” She clicked a few times and her printer came to life. When she stood up to retrieve the paper, I leaned over, trying to see her computer screen, but she had a privacy shield. I didn’t know if it was supposed to be a secret or some-thing, but I had found out how many students were in the pro-gram when one of the administrators had been working out my financial aid package. I was dying of curiosity about the other six students. The bizarre elite.
Elena handed me a bunch of paper-clipped documents. They were consent forms for the study, assurances that my data would be kept private, that there was minimal risk associated with computer-based surveys, that blood drawings would be performed by a licensed phlebotomist, blah blah blah. A lot more about privacy, location tracking—which I paid closer attention to—and what their legal obligations were to report it if I threatened to either harm myself or others. Oh, please. I wasn’t planning on making any of my threats known.
Trigger Warning: Check out my Goodreads review here
This deliciously creepy thriller is another stunning work of fiction from the queen of the unreliable narrator, Alice Feeney. Amelia and Adam are having troubles in their marriage so when they win a weekend away in Scotland, and their anniversary is coming up, it seems perfect. Amelia has been wanting to get Adam, a workaholic, away to spend some quality time so she jumps at the chance to plan this trip. However, we quickly realize not only how far things have unraveled between them but also that things are not as they appear with their vacation. Adding to the intrigue is Adam’s prosopagnosia which means he can’t recognize people’s faces. This story is seamlessly interweaved with letters Adam’s wife writes every year on their anniversary that she doesn’t intend for him to read.
There is so much to sink your teeth into with this beautiful but insidious story. Not only is the format of this story brilliant because of the letters that are perfectly placed throughout but Feeney also balances telling the complete story of their marriage along with the spine-chilling situation in Scotland. Despite all the moving parts of this story it still manages to be perfectly paced. I was gripped from the first chapter with the atmospheric setting. I do think a few bits of this book were a little overwritten but overall I was blown away by the gorgeous and mesmerizing writing. Feeney might also be the queen of a great red herring because this book takes you on a whirlwind ride where you aren’t quite sure what is happening.
I’m sure by now it is no surprise that this is one of my favorite books of all time. If you love thrillers then this is one that you cannot pass up. Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of thrillers then I still highly recommend this one. Regardless of genre this is easily one of the best books to come out this year and you don’t want to sleep on it. Feeney is a true master of her craft and her talent only seems to improve with each book.
“Sometimes home is more of a memory than a place.”
“Kind lies are the cousins of white ones.”
“We are our parents’ echoes and sometimes they don’t like what they hear.”
“The scariest haunted houses are always the ones in which you are the ghost.”
This book starts off with our main character, Whitney, dropping her 16 year old daughter, Amelia, off at her friends house where things start to quickly unravel. The next day Amelia’s phone is off and the place where Whitney dropped her off at doesn’t know who she is talking about. As Whitney is trying to figure out where Amelia is, she not only realizes that she doesn’t know her daughter as well as she thought she did, but also her past might be coming back to haunt her.
I was hooked instantly when I started reading this book because Garza did such a great job of reeling me in with her great pacing and storytelling. Whitney’s urgency in finding her daughter really shone through and rubbed off on me and I felt like I was right there with her. That being said, Whitney is a character I didn’t particularly like and definitely didn’t identify with in any way. She is also somehow overbearing but also clueless which was an odd juxtaposition. Garza sprinkles lots of reveals into the story that are both surprising but also help set up the end of the story in a masterful way. Things were constantly building and I was enjoying the ride and then things quickly derailed for me at the end.
First, I wasn’t expecting where this book was going to go and while I’m not particularly sensitive to most topics I do find a couple to be hard to read and one was a big part of the ending. I have linked a Trigger Warning above that will link to a specific Goodreads review if you want to check them out. I don’t want to explicitly say them because it would spoil the whole ending but I do think it is important to include them. Secondly, the ending was so unbelievable that it completely took me out of the story. I feel like Garza could have spent some time and developed it more and it would have been a much stronger ending.
While I did have some issues with this book I still enjoyed it overall. If you are looking for a book that you will fly through during a weekend that will completely capture your attention and you think you can handle the trigger warnings and a possible disappointing ending then I do recommend you should check it out. I am a big fan of Garza’s writing and I recently saw that she has written romance in the past so I plan to dive into her backlist sometime soon.
This adventure filled mystery centers around Marion Lane who is a first year private detective apprentice at a secretive underground station. The book begins with a secretary at the agency, Mrs. White, being murdered and since this is a secret agency, we quickly learn that the list of suspects can be narrowed down to only people who work at the agency. At first, the murder doesn’t concern Marion much since she has a lot of work on her plate along with family drama to contend with. But when her mentor is framed for the murder she has no choice but to try to figure out who murdered Mrs. White.
Willberg has created a distinctive world set in the late 1950’s that is filled with technology and an interesting group of characters. I did find this story to be a bit slippery when it came to nailing down the details of the world and characters. It took quite a large chunk of the book for me to feel like I had a firm grasp on who some of these characters were. The more we learn about the world and get to know people more the more I enjoyed the story. And the story was a thrilling one involving some spooky details, nefarious characters and long held secrets.
I got strong Harry Potter vibes from this story since it is a pretty self contained building that Marion and her fellow apprentices are working at, as well as some other minor plot lines that occur. A big difference is that our characters are all adults and there is relatively low drama amongst them. I also loved all the Clue vibes (they even play Cluedo at one point!) and I think Willberg did a great job using these familiar tropes in a unique way.
I feel like this book, being the first in the series, really cemented the core of the world and the characters who fill it and the next book will just build on it. Which, I’m hoping means that I will find the next one easier to jump into since I did struggle quite a bit with the beginning of this book. If this book sounds like something you would enjoy then I do recommend you pick it up and try not to get discouraged by the rather slow beginning. It took me switching to an audiobook version for me to get past the first few chapters and I really enjoyed the narrator so I also recommend reading this book that way.
From the author of Someone’s Listening comes another thriller that will leave you breathless, about a housewife implicated in a murder investigation, perfect for fans of The Last House Guest and Someone We Know.
Melanie Hale has the perfect life. Her husband, Collin, is a loving and supportive partner and she loves their small-town home just outside of New Orleans. She doesn’t mind (too much) that she’s given up her career dreams to care for her two beautiful children. It’s all worth it.
So why, when she joins a writers’ group for fledgling novelists, does she embark on a steamy affair with Luke, a local bestselling author who gives a talk during the group? Why does she go back to Luke again and again, when she knows it’s wrong?
And then Luke is found dead, and Mel knows she was the last person to see him alive. Now, she not only has to keep the affair a secret, but somehow avoid being implicated in Luke’s death. But who would want to kill him? And if Mel finds the truth, will she be next? What follows is a sinister cat-and-mouse game that will leave readers guessing until the very last page.
When I was reading Glass’s biography I wasn’t surprised to see that she is a playwright because this book felt like it could have been broken down into three acts. And each act was more intense and dramatic than the last. There is a lot that happens in this book and there are major trigger warnings for physical abuse and allusions to rape. Our main character, Mel, also has a son with autism and while I can’t speak to how well that it is portrayed, I did appreciate how Glass normalized it. The gist of the story is made up of a lot of the familiar bones of a domestic thriller but this one really ratchets up the theatrics.
At first, this book felt like it was going to be the typical domestic thriller where our main character is disillusioned with the drudgery of family life and strays and whoops someone is murdered and she is trying to protect her secrets. This book is definitely all of that but the inclusion of the sensational moments kept me not only interested but also trying to figure out how exactly Mel was going to get out of her situation unscathed. I did figure out one part of the ending but I was really wanting it to happen so it actually made me enjoy the book more. The other part of the ending I was completely shocked by and I will probably remember this ending for a very long time. It is over the top and probably belongs in a Lifetime movie but it did wrap things up in a conclusive way. I did have a few issues with this book. Mel isn’t always the most likable character and at times she can be annoying with how paranoid she is. She is also very judgmental of other people which is eye roll inducing considering what she is doing to her family. There were also a few tendrils of story that just felt like they got dropped and left in an unsatisfying way.
While this wasn’t a perfect read for me, I still had a lot of fun reading it and reveling in all the drama. If you are a big fan of domestic thrillers then this is one that you should put at the top of your list. This would also make a fantastic weekend read since it builds so richly to such a volatile ending.
Seraphina Nova Glass is a professor and playwright-in-residence at the University of Texas, Arlington, where she teaches film studies and playwriting. She holds an MFA in playwriting from Smith College, and she’s also a screenwriter and award-winning playwright. Seraphina has traveled the world using theatre and film as a teaching tool, living in South Africa, Guam and Kenya as a volunteer teacher, AIDS relief worker, and documentary filmmaker.
I can pinpoint the day that set everything in motion. Gillian Baker, one block over, holds a book club at her house once a week. Reluctantly, and at her insistence, I finally decided to join. I squeezed a cylinder of cookie dough out of its plastic tube, cut it into disks and put a tray of the artificial-tasting dough in the oven so I had something to bring and pass off as my own. Collin thought the book club idea was great and might inspire me. I told him it’s just a kid-free night for the neighborhood wives so they can drink wine and make vapid, uninformed comments on great literature, but he still thought I would be in my element and should give it a try.
I was going to be a scholar once upon a time, but I dropped out of my master’s program when we learned about Bennett’s condition. I wasn’t forced to stay home, but we decided it made sense. It was for the best, and even better than a degree, because I could write books from home and still pursue that dream. What a gift! All the time in the world to write the great American novel. Except I haven’t written any books, have I? What the hell do I really have to say anyway? Life has gone out of its way to ignore me in many regards. Shelby Fitch two doors down was in the peace corps in freaking Guatemala for two years before she married into this neighborhood. She should write the book.
What will my topics be? “Mom cleans up kid’s barf during carpool.”
“Mom waits half a day for dishwasher repair guy, and guess what? He never shows.”
“Mom tries a Peppa Pig cake recipe from Pinterest, but it looks like deranged farm swine with a phallic nose and makes son cry.” I have nothing to say. The other day I thought I’d get serious again and try to really sit and brainstorm some ideas. I ended up watching videos of people getting hurt on backyard trampolines and a solid hour of baby goats jumping around in onesies. So, I guess maybe at least getting my mind back into the literary world can’t hurt.
At my dressing table, I pulled my hair back and slipped on some dangly earrings. It was my first time out of yoga pants that week, and it felt nice. I applied lip gloss and pressed my lips together; I could hear the chaos begin in the background. The oven was beeping nonstop, beckoning Collin to take out the premade dinner he’d been heating up for the kids, but he was arguing with Ben about a video game he refused to turn off. He still had to make a plate for Claire and help the kids with homework after dinner, and Ralph, our elderly basset hound, was barking excessively at something outside, raising the tension in the room. I felt guilty leaving, but when I appeared in the front hall in a sundress, Collin lit up and gave me a kiss, telling me he had it under control. I knew he ultimately did. It’s not rocket science, it’s just exhausting and emotionally bloodsucking, and he’d already had a twelve-hour day of anxiety at work.
I kissed the top of Ben’s head and said goodbye to Rachel, who was paying no attention, and then I walked out the front door. I carried the plate of cookies and a copy of The Catcher in the Rye as I walked across the street. They were trying too hard, trying to be literary. Why not just choose Fifty Shades or a cozy mystery? When Rachel had to read this book for English, she called it a turd with covers. I, on the other hand, spent hours making meticulous notes so I could be sure to make comments that were sharp and poignant. I rehearse them in my head as I walk.
I was the last to arrive; there were a few other moms from the block already there. We all did the obligatory cheek kisses. Gillian’s living room looked like she was hosting a dinner party rather than a book club. Chardonnay was chilling in ice on the kitchen island next to a spread of food that could have come from a Vegas buffet. I wished I could hide my pathetic tube cookies.
“Wow, Gill. Did you do all this?” I asked, impressed.
“Oh, hell no. Are you kidding? It’s catered, silly.”
I can’t believe she’s had her book club catered. Everyone has wine and something fancy on a toothpick in their hands. She put my sad cookies next to the beautiful chiffon cake on the island, and I was mortified. There was cling wrap over them for God’s sake—on a Spider-Man paper plate left over from Ben’s last birthday. Kill me.
She poured me a glass, pretending not to think anything of my trashy offering, and I walked carefully over her white rug as we made our way into the sitting room. Of course she has a “sitting room.” It’s a bright space in the front of the house with vaulted ceilings and a blingy chandelier. We all perched on the edges of pale furniture. I never did quite know how to feel about these women. They’ve welcomed me so warmly, but they sometimes seem like a foreign species to me. Yes, I live in this neighborhood too, but it’s because of Collin’s success, not anything I’ve done. I guess they can probably say the same. I still feel sort of like an imposter. I don’t lean into it the way they seem to.
I didn’t intend to stay home, of course, but I still feel like I was destined for a career, never dependent on anyone else. It’s not that I feel dependent on Collin. That’s not the right word. What we have is ours. The way I contribute is something he could never handle, but I guess I don’t take it for granted the way they seem to. Gillian was constantly remodeling her house and upgrading things that you’d think it impossible to upgrade. She had a stunning outdoor kitchen next to a pool that appears damn near Olympic-sized. It was even highlighted in the local home tour magazine. One day she gutted the whole thing because she wanted the pool to be teardrop-shaped instead. And here I am using Groupons for my facials.
Even that sounds indulgent. Facials. I grew up in a doublewide trailer in Lafayette with a mother who worked the night shift at the hospital and an alcoholic father who spent his days quiet and glassy-eyed on the front porch, staring at some invisible thing, lost in another time. It will never feel right to buy five-hundred-dollar shoes or drive a luxury car, although I’d never want to lose the safety of it and I’m grateful my children will never have to struggle the way I did. This comfort is for them. This safety is for them. That’s the bottom line, so I brushed away the negative thoughts.
Tammy commented on Gillian’s bracelet. She held Gillian’s wrist, examining it. Everyone oohed and aahed as Gillian explained that it was an early birthday gift from Robert and she had to get it insured. I have never understood charm bracelets. An ugly soccer ball hangs off of her silver chain, but I made my face look delighted along with the others. After we settled in, I assumed the small talk was over and we’d dig into a great piece of literature. Kid-free, wine-lubricated, I was ready.
“Oh my God, you guys, did you see Bethany Burena at Leah’s wedding?” Karen asked. There was mocking laughter. I’d been at that wedding, but I didn’t know what they were referring to, so I stayed quiet. Liz chimed in.
“God, it looked like someone stuffed a couple honey-baked hams into the back of her dress.”
“And the worst part is she did that on purpose,” Tammy said, placing her glass of wine on an end table so she could use her hands to talk. “That ain’t too much buttercream, y’all!” Then she held her hands to her mouth and pretended to whisper sideways. “Although did you see her shoveling it in at the cake table?”
“She had those babies implanted,” Karen agreed.
“No!” Gillian gasped.
“Yep. Ass implants. Ass-plants.” Everyone roared with laughter. I forced a chuckle so I didn’t stand out. I hated these people, I realized right in that moment. I longed to leave. I could fake a headache, or check in at home and say there’s a problem with Ben, I thought. Why didn’t I? Why do I need their approval? Karen kept the gossip going.
“That’s not as bad as Alice. She brought the guy who cleans her pool to the wedding!
“What do you mean?” Liz asked.
“As a date.”
“Scandal much?” Tammy was delighted she had everyone in hysterics.
“Alice Berg?” I asked, not understanding the social sin she’d committed. “Isn’t she single—like, divorced, I thought.”
“Yeah, but she brought The. Pool. Guy. Sad.”
“So sad,” Karen echoed.
“Desperate,” Liz added. She noticed the book in my hands. “What’s that?”
“What do you mean? It’s the book,” I said with a lighthearted scoff.
“Oh, Mel. I’m so sorry I didn’t mention it, I guess I thought everyone just sort of got it—especially since the book was something so random,” Gillian said.
“We don’t, like, read it. We just need an excuse to get rid of the kids and hubbies for one night. I think we deserve at least that?” she said, glancing around for allies.
“Damn right we do.” Liz held her wine up and gulped it down, a sort of toast to herself. “You didn’t read it, did you?” I didn’t answer. I felt like an idiot. I was joking when I said it was an excuse to drink and have a night away. I was at least half joking. I thought that I may have found a few kindred spirits, perhaps—that they were at least making a half-assed attempt at self-betterment.
“I just skimmed it,” I said.
I was probably visibly blushing, so I picked a strawberry carved into a rose shape from the table and picked at it.
“Mel has a master’s in literature. Did y’all know that?” Gillian said, maybe in an attempt to redeem herself from indirectly embarrassing me.
“Oh my gosh, smarty-smart pants. Look at you.” Karen swatted my leg and smiled, supportively. I wanted the attention off me as soon as possible, so I didn’t correct her and say that it was creative writing…and that I never finished the degree.
“You should give me the name of your caterer,” I said, picking up a skewer of chicken and taking a bite. “I was gonna do a thing for Collin’s birthday. Maybe a trip, but if we stay in town we’ll have people to the house.” The subject is officially changed. Her eyes lit up.
“Oh my gosh, I have their card. I told them they should pay me for how many referrals I’m getting for them. Their almond torte is totally to die for. Seriously. If you don’t do a cake, maybe mini tortes.”
“Oh, cute!” Liz said.
We talked about mini tortes, whose phone carrier is the worst, Karen’s daughter’s (nonexistent) modeling career and Botox for the next two hours until I walked home unsteadily with my plate of cookies that Gillian gracefully sent home with me. I had to laugh a little at the idea that they met weekly, like they’d read that much. Made sense now. I tossed The Catcher in the Rye in Brianna Cunningham’s garbage can, which she’d failed to pull back into the garage (Tammy actually made mention of that particular oversight earlier in the evening), and I didn’t know if the crushing disappointment of the evening was worse than going back home to Claire’s bedpan and the mounting stress of teen angst and Ben’s moods. I wished I could just sit in the Cunninghams’ yard, drunk for a little while, but someone would see, and it would be discussed at some other neighbor’s book club.
The temperate dusk air was dense with mosquitoes and the chatter of crickets. I took my time walking back. When I approached our house, I saw Collin in an orange rectangle of warm kitchen light. He was washing dishes, sort of, but mostly looking past the kitchen island at the TV in the living room. I concentrated on appearing more sober than I was as I entered the kitchen. I sat at the table, pulling off my shoes, and he offered me a glass of wine.
“No, thanks.” I got up and filled a plastic Bob the Builder cup under the tap, then sat on a counter stool. He pulled one up next to me.
“Was it fun?” he asked, hopefully, wanting me to find an outlet—some joy in my life while things are so tough. I didn’t know if I should tell him the truth or make him happy, so I went down the middle.
“It was okay.”
“Eh. Not exactly the literary minds I was hoping to connect with.”
“I’m sorry.” He squeezed my hand. “I took Ben to pick out a new chapter book at Classics tonight.”
“Oh fun. What did he pick out?” I asked, thinking Collin was changing the subject.
He handed me a little postcard advert. “There’s a writers’ group starting next week.”
I looked over the glossy square and it had details welcoming any local writers to join the weekly Thursday group to workshop their writing. Before I could dismiss the assertion that I’m a “writer,” he pointed to the bullet point that stated “all levels welcome.” It was so incredibly sweet that he brought this for me, not only to encourage me in pursuing something I care about, but was also willing to hold down the fort every Thursday. I kissed him.
“That’s very thoughtful of you.”
“But?” he asked, anticipating a “no,” but I didn’t have a reason to say no. I mean, except that I had no writing to present to the group. I could write a critical essay on The Catcher in the Rye. That was about it. It sounded thrilling though. Maybe some accountability and pressure would be just what I needed. I glanced past Collin into the living room and saw Bennett asleep in front of WWE SmackDown! on the TV. I gave Collin a look.
“Well, he’s asleep, isn’t he?” he defended himself. Ismiled and shook my head, pressing my thumb into the crumbs on his plate and tasting the remnants of the cookies I left behind for the kids to eat.
“I guess I can try it,” I said, standing and rinsing the plate. Words I’d give anything to take back.
On Friday I decided that I wanted to actually devote time to some Kindle Unlimited books. It annoys me that I pay for it every month and I barely use it. So this weekend I read one book, one short little story, and I am almost done with a non fiction book. I thought it would be fun to wrap them all up today plus another book that I finished last week that also happens to be a part of KU.
This was an odd cozy mystery for the fact that it wasn’t that cozy. There is an out of place secondary story involving a side character’s abusive ex that added nothing to the mystery. The author even went so far to have on paper abuse which I wasn’t expecting and is the main reason I gave this book such a low rating. I did really enjoy the homesteading and farming aspects which is why I plan on reading at least one more from this series. That’s the great part of KU because I wouldn’t pay money for just this series but since they are available to me I can easily give the author one more try. I also was enjoying the sweet romance that was starting in this book and I am looking forward to seeing more of that in the sequel.
This is a super quick 17 page memoir that is an Amazon exclusive. I previously read Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and this little collection of stories felt like an extension of that book. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it as much if I didn’t have that experience of being familiar with her life already since it is so short. Woodson has a way with words that makes everything she writes come vividly to life and I am slowly working my way through her back list.
Since I was focusing on KU books I thought it was the perfect opportunity to continue on with the King series by T.M. Frazier. I am planning on doing a full review of the series but I will say that this was my absolute favorite book so far in the series. I love that the “bad” one in this book was our heroine and I thought the twist in this book was pretty clever. Also the connection between Rage and Nolan was perfection. The King series is dark romance and this one is just as gritty and dark as the others.
Rating: 5/5 (possibly since I’m not quite finished yet)
My brother told me about this book so I picked it up when I was done with All Her Rage and I’m surprised by how much I really like this book. If you love horror movies and true crime then this is a fabulous book. It is very interesting and informative and it goes into to detail about both the movie and the crime. A lot of these cases are pretty brutal so I would be aware of that if it sounds interesting. I have been listening to the audiobook and it is an enjoyable listen and almost feels like a podcast.
This twisted story is a master class in an unreliable narrator and gaslighting. Lucy Harper is a bestselling author of a detective series who has a devastating past. When Lucy was younger her little brother went missing and since she was the last one with him the police made her the center of their investigation. However, Lucy’s imaginary friend, Eliza, was there to make sure that Lucy kept some of their secrets and her brother was never found. Lucy is now married to Dan and while she has been keeping secrets from him it turns out that he has been keeping some from her too.
This book is very much a character centered mystery and most of the drama is related to Lucy’s inner monologue with Eliza or with Lucy’s reactions to events. There was a lot that I loved about this book including how our main character is an author and the behind the scenes look into that kind fo life. I have never thought about how taxing it is to be an author and just how deeply it affects their lives. I also loved that because of Eliza we are never quite sure if Lucy is fully gripped in reality or in her head. I also enjoyed that because Dan and Lucy live on a small private road that the mystery felt like it had a locked room trope which is my favorite. I do want to give some trigger warnings for emotional abuse and the many instances of gaslighting in this book can be a lot to deal with.
Unfortunately, despite how much I was loving this book the ending was a major let down. There are two big mysteries in this story and both had very underwhelming conclusions. I was actually angry at this book after I finished it because it had the potential to be a five star and I felt like I had been duped by what the author did at the end. I don’t know if other people had such a strong reaction as I did but it left a bad taste in my mouth.
Since this is such a character heavy mystery I would only recommend this to someone who is a character driven reader. Although, to be honest, I’m not sure if I would recommend this book at all since I really didn’t care for the ending. I guess if you are a lover of mysteries and are intrigued by the idea of an unreliable narrator and aren’t put off by a possible bad ending then you should pick it up. The writing was really well done and I definitely plan to read more Macmillan in the future.