Review: Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Never Have I EverNever Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Something wicked this way comes…

When Angelica Roux breezes into Amy and Charlotte’s neighborhood Book Club, you would think she belonged there, or at least that she had been invited.

New to the neighborhood, renting a dilapidated house that sees many short-term tenants, Roux is carefree and mysterious.

The other women seem intrigued by Roux’s vivacious personality, but not Amy. She can’t help but wonder what this woman’s angle is. She seems to be intentionally trying to get under her skin.

When Roux proceeds to get the ladies sloshed, minus Charlotte, who is currently pregnant, Amy’s suspicions begin to grow.

Roux gathers them round and suggests they play a drinking game. The game is basically to confess the worst things they’ve ever done. An adult version of ‘never have I ever’. Amy is not playing.

When the party is over, secrets have been spilled that could alter the course of all their lives, but Roux isn’t done.

Turns out, she has dirt on Amy. Real dirt about the worst night of Amy’s life. One she thought was buried forever.

Now Roux has the goods to blackmail Amy for all she’s got.

There’s one problem, Roux has definitely underestimated Amy. The domestic goddess exterior is not the whole of her person and Amy is willing to do anything to protect what is hers.

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

The premise, absolutely is compelling. The writing, however, just didn’t work for me.

I found the dialogue to be wonky and had quite a few eye-roll moments.

Additionally, I felt like the pacing was off. It took a long time for me to get into it and then it would fluctuate between being interesting and being boring for the rest of the book.

The ultimate plot twist was gross. It made me super uncomfortable and yeah, it is just my opinion, but it pretty much ruined the whole book for me.

Basically, I am rounding up because I can admit that for many people this will be a good book. It just wasn’t the book for me.

I want to thank the publisher, William Morrow, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity even though it was a miss for me.

I don’t anticipate picking up further books from the author, but if you think there are other books of hers I would enjoy, let me know!

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Review: All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban

All Your Twisted SecretsAll Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Arriving at a purported scholarship dinner, Amber Prescott, and her classmates, quickly discover something isn’t right.

The teens seem to be the only people in the building and after the door to the banquet room closes, they’re locked in.

Once the purpose of them being trapped is revealed, they realize they have an important decision to make.

They have to choose one of them to die. If they don’t, they’ll all die.

Alternating between the present timeline and the months leading up to the night of the action, this story pieces together the relationship dynamics of all the characters.

Amber is our narrator. She is a musical prodigy, whose main goal is to go to USC for musical composition. The other characters include Queen Bee, Sasha, Amber’s ex-BFF, Priya, Amber’s boyfriend, Robbie, bad boy, Scott, and childhood entrepreneur, Diego.

The characters were fairly stereotypical, but generally I don’t mind that and I didn’t really mind it here.

While the set-up was compelling, I was hoping for a bit more of a mystery. This seemed like a dramatic YA Contemporary to me, with a teensy-tiny bit of suspense sprinkled over the top.

While some of the interactions between the teens was interesting, it just wasn’t what I was looking for going in.

Overall, it was entertaining, though I wouldn’t say particularly memorable. If you are looking for a quick, dramatic story though, it’s absolutely worth reading, just expect more drama than suspense.

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Review: You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

You Are Not AloneYou Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shay Miller is a 30-something data researcher living in New York City. Estranged from her family, with few friends, she spends a good portion of her time on her own.

Sharing an apartment with a cute guy she has an unrequited crush on seems to be the highlight of her existence. That is until he gets a new girlfriend, Jody, who is slowly pushing Shay out.

Shay knows her days in that apartment are numbered, so like her numerous temp jobs, even her living situation is unstable.

As her life seemingly drifts out of her control, Shay witnesses a horrific event on a subway platform that unknowingly sets her on a new course.

Witnessing a young woman’s suicide, Shay is understandably shaken. She feels like she could have done something to stop it.

Compelled to learn more about this tragic girl, she discovers her identity, Amanda Evinger, and ends up attending her memorial service.

Once there, surrounded by Amanda’s friends and loved ones, Shay tries to blend in as well as she can. She makes up a loose acquaintance to Amanda for her cover story.

Everyone is so nice to her, including the glamorous Moore sisters, Cassandra and Jane. Despite herself, Shay gets caught up in the warmth of the service and begins to let her guard down.

After the Moore sisters come into her orbit, things begin to fall into place for Shay. She suddenly finds herself with an alternative living arrangement, a better job, and a potential love life.

When things seem too good too be true, however, they often are.

What happens next is a wild ride through the streets of New York as Shay slowly pieces together the truth of the Moore sisters.

Who is friend? Who is foe? If you don’t read this book, you’ll never know!

Much like previous works by Hendricks and Pekkanen, You Are Not Alone does a great job of building suspense throughout.

Alternating perspectives help to amp up your sense of dread as you rush towards the final conclusion. I was biting my nails, for sure!

It was definitely tense. I really enjoyed Shay and was feeling everything she was feeling.

This is a solid suspense story and it kept me entertained all the way through. At first, I had no clue what was happening and as it was revealed, I thought, how clever.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and will continue to read anything this dynamic duo writes!

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Review: The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni

The AncestorThe Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Alberta ‘Bert’ Monte receives a letter telling her she is the sole heir to a large fortune, including a gothic castle in Italy, she thinks it must be some sort of hoax.

Upon further investigation however, she discovers it is true. Why her parents would keep such a thing secret from her, she cannot imagine.

Before she knows it, she and her estranged husband, Luca, are being whisked away on a private plane to Turin. There she will meet with the estate’s attorneys to discuss the full parameters of her inheritance.

Once there, Bert and Luca are taken with the enchanting atmosphere of the city. They seem to be on the brink of reconciliation, when a brief quarrel finds them separated again.

The next day, Luca is nowhere to be found. He must have left the city, but Bert has no time to figure it out, she is on her way to the mysterious castle to meet her Grandfather’s sister-in-law, Dolores, who is very much alive.

Dolores wants to meet her and teach her more about her family history. Considering she knows next to nothing about her ancestors, she is willing to give it a go.

Arriving at the castle, Bert is hesitant to stay. It is so remote, with little to no contact with the outside world. Add to this the horrifying legends she has heard about creatures living in the surrounding mountains, and you have a perfect mix for an uncomfortable family holiday.

A strange set of events unfold that find Bert scared for her life. Will she ever leave the castle of Montebianco? Will her dark family secrets be the end of her? Will she ever see Luca again?

All of this had me hooked. Not to mention, Trussoni’s writing is super compelling!

I was flipping through these pages so fast, anxiously anticipating the truth behind the Montebianco family.

There were so many twists along the way, with a dark intensity that kept me fully engaged. Then there was a turn in the story unlike any I have ever read before…

And I got to say, my interest sort of fell of a cliff with it. My reason is not so much the content, but it felt like the whole tone of the novel shifted.

Prior to this event, the book is an intriguing tale of gothic suspense with deeply held family secrets. Post-event it meanders into a textbook-style cultural anthropology field experiment.

Obviously, this is 100% my opinion and even with this being said, just because I was less interested in the last quarter of the book, it is still a good book!

If the premise sounds interesting, if you need a way to escape from life for a while, you should definitely check this one out!

Plus, aren’t you curious about what the plot twist is…

Overall, this is a hella unique book with some great gothic atmosphere. I look forward to hearing other reader’s thoughts on this one.

Thank you so much to the author, Danielle Trussoni, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion and had a fun time reading it!

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Review: Rose Madder by Stephen King

Rose MadderRose Madder by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Opening with one of the most vivid scenes of violence I have ever read, Rose Madder tells the compelling tale of Rosie Daniels as she makes the decision to, and subsequently, leaves her vicious husband, Norman.

Admittedly, I had tried to read this book on two prior occasions and just couldn’t make it past that first scene. It is so harsh and was mentally exhausting for me. I would put it down and then just avoid it.

This doesn’t mean I thought it was bad. I knew if I kept going, I would enjoy the book, I just needed to be in the right head space to do so.

Even for King, those first pages are brutal and shattering because you know that is real.

This isn’t a book where the villain is an alien, an ancient spirit, or a ghost; he is just a man. A corrupt cop with a penchant for violence against women.

One of my favorite aspects of King’s writing is his ability to fully develop his characters. That is certainly the case here. From Rosie and Norman, all the way to the smallest side characters, I felt like I knew them all.

Rosie married Norman when she was very young, just out of high school. She had lost her family and had no outside support system. He became her whole world, no matter how difficult that world was.

After she decides to leave him, she discovers just how sheltered she has become. Her ability to navigate the outside world is close to nonexistent. I felt bad for her. I wished I was there to help her and guide her.

She hasn’t a clue where she will go or what she’ll do. She has no skills. What will she do for a job? How will she survive without money?

Regardless of her questions however, Rosie knows if she doesn’t leave, Norman will kill her. It’s not an if, it’s a when.

On a flight for her life, she boards a bus and selects the farthest stop she can afford. Once there, she will try to build a new life for herself with no resources. She left everything behind.

Unfortunately, if there is one thing that Norman is good at, it’s tracking people down. He’s humiliated by Rosie walking out on him and vows to find her.

Now his sole mission, he has big plans to make her pay. No matter what it takes, no matter how many laws he has to break, he will not give up.

The intensity that builds over the course of this book is truly something special. The narrative alternates back and forth between Rosie and Norman, so you can track his progress, and that really helped to build the sense of dread.

I became quite attached to Rosie rather quickly, as did many she met in her new life. That definitely escalated my fear for what I knew was coming.

In addition, there was a really interesting fantastical element thrown in that reminded me a bit of a cross between The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Dark Tower series.

That may seem like a really odd combination, and it is, but in King’s skilled hands, it somehow works.

I truly enjoyed this story. Thank you to all my Constant Reader friends who pushed me to finally pick it up this year.

I found it to be empowering and moving. I loved Rosie so much and her growth was satisfying. I am so happy I made time for it and can absolutely see myself reading it again some day.

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Review: The First Mistake by Sandie Jones

The First MistakeThe First Mistake by Sandie Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The First Mistake was a delight!

I haven’t read a book in under 24-hours in a while. So fun!

Alice’s life hasn’t always been perfect, although from the outside it may appear so.

She lost her first husband, Tom, a decade ago and as expected, the tragedy hit her extremely hard. Her young daughter was really what pulled her through.

Now remarried to her second husband, Nathan, they own a successful design company and have added another little girl to their family.

Alice feels motivated and content.

Unfortunately, Nathan starts to behave curiously and all Alice’s old anxieties rise to the surface.

Her best friend, Beth, who always has her back, tells her she has every right to be suspicious.

As she begins to look into it, Alice wonders if Beth is even someone she can trust.

There were so many twists, turns and revelations in this book, I could not put it down. My head was spinning. I trusted no one.

I could never have guessed the conclusion to this, not in my wildest dreams!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I am looking forward to reading more domestic suspense from Sandie Jones!

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Review: No Bad Deed by Heather Chavez

No Bad DeedNo Bad Deed by Heather Chavez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My head is spinning. Wow, that was a wild ride!!!

Driving home from work one night, Cassie Larkin sees what she assumes to be a domestic conflict happening on the side of the road.

She stops her car and calls 911. Although the operator tells her to remain in her vehicle, Cassie cannot sit idly by while this woman gets assaulted or worse.

As she breaks up the altercation, the man tells her that if she lets him kill this woman, he will let her live. Basically, this woman’s life for hers, but Cassie isn’t having that.

Eventually, the man flees, but unfortunately he does so in Cassie’s van. Now the psycho has her handbag, complete with identification, family photos, address, and her house keys.

Without putting too fine a point on it, this is basically my worse nightmare come to the page. Reading this opening scene, I was so prepared to throw this book in the freezer.

It’s like Heather Chavez knew exactly what to write to freak me the heck out!

And I cherish that.

When Cassie’s husband disappears the next night, on Halloween, while out trick-or-treating with their 6-year old daughter, her instincts tell her something is terribly wrong.

After she reports it, it seems the cops just believe this is a case of a man leaving his family. Cassie knows better, however, and begins her own investigation.

While it did surprise me that the cops didn’t take his disappearance more seriously, especially considering they knew the crazy, violent guy who stole her vehicle had her keys and information, I did love Cassie getting involved and looking into his disappearance herself.

Amateur sleuthing is one of my favorite tropes in a thriller and I think Chavez did a great job with it here.

This story took so many crazy turns, there was no way to predict what was going to happen next. As secrets begin to come out from Cassie’s own dark past, you know the final reveal will probably blow you away.

The final scenes did not disappoint!

I was so impressed with this. I was creeped out almost the entire time and it was so much fun. I cannot wait to read more from Chavez!

Thank you so much to the publisher, William Morrow, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly appreciate it!

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Review: The Dilemma by B.A. Paris

The DilemmaThe Dilemma by B.A. Paris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

B.A. Paris, my Queen.

Although very different from her prior works, I still really enjoyed this. Smaller in scope, yet quite intricate as a character study.

Following husband and wife, Livia and Adam, this story takes place during the course of one day. The day of Livia’s much anticipated 40th birthday party.

Adam and Livia were married very young and never had the chance to have the wedding of her dreams.

She has always looked on this party as an opportunity to celebrate not just her birthday, but also their relationship.

As the day arrives Livia is dragged down by a monumental secret she is keeping from her husband.

Unfortunately, she’s not the only one with a secret. Adam has a life-changing secret as well that he is choosing to keep from her.

The narrative alternates between the two as they struggle with their decisions to keep such important facts secret from one another. It is very introspective in a lot of ways, but there is still quite a bit of suspense.

Over the course of the story, the reader learns the true nature of their respective secrets and what those secrets could mean for the family as a whole.

As I mentioned above, this novel seemed smaller in scope compared to her previous novels. By that I mean, all of the action takes place at their home during the course of one day.

Her previous novels certainly covered larger geographical areas, as well as longer spans of time, making the stories seem more complex.

However, I think after you complete this one, and you sit back and think about what you have read, the real intricacies begin to come to light.

I cried reading this. The characters go through so much, it really moved me.

Although I would classify this as more domestic drama than psychological thriller, which is what I would classify her earlier novels, I appreciated it very much.

Her writing style is just so compelling and never fails to keep me glued to the pages.

B.A. Paris has a fan in me for life. I will always pick up every single thing she has published.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. This was absolutely one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it did not disappoint.

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Review: The Missing Years by Lexie Elliott

The Missing YearsThe Missing Years by Lexie Elliott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

A delightful tale of suspense with surprising twists!

After Ailsa Calder’s mother dies, she inherits the Manse in the Scottish Highlands in which she grew up. Well, half of it anyway.

Upon going to settle the estate, she is told that the other half is owned by her father, a man missing for the last 27-years.

The real kicker, although Ailsa wants nothing more than to sell the property, having no desire to leave her posh London-life behind, she can’t.

In order to do so, she will have to have him legally declared dead. A bureaucratic nightmare perfect for the bereaved.

While she handles that whole mess, she relocates to the Manse, along with her half-sister, Carrie, who she really has no relationship with.

It doesn’t take long after arriving at the remote location before it becomes clear to Ailsa that someone doesn’t want her there.

When intruders show up in the night and the house begins to rebel against her, Ailsa feels like she is coming unhinged. She tries to keep it together and bond with her sister but so much is going wrong, she is literally at wits end.

Tie in an interesting group of side characters and a looming sense of dread and you have yourself a taut little suspense novel!

There is a constant back and forth of, is it supernatural, is it not, that I absolutely loved. I went into this without the highest of expectations and I have to say, I was most pleasantly surprised.

I listened to the audiobook and the narrator did a wonderful job making me feel like I was included in the action.

The pacing was fantastic and it kept me wanting more the entire way through.

This was my first Lexie Elliott but definitely will not be my last!

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Review: The Perfect Son by Lauren North

The Perfect SonThe Perfect Son by Lauren North
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Upon waking in the hospital, Tess Clarke, has one thought on her mind: she must find her son! Something happened on the day of his birthday party. She can’t recall exactly what but it ended with her being stabbed and Jamie being gone.

The format was interesting. We have excerpts of interviews between Tess and her doctor, interviews with two individuals tied to the incident, and the bulk of the story told through flashbacks of the days leading up to the big event.

We discover that Tess had been struggling the past few months with extreme grief. Her husband had recently passed in a terrible accident and she was having a very difficult time with every day life. You come to understand fairly quickly that Tess is an unreliable narrator at best.

A grief counselor, hired by her family, arrives at her cottage one day and begins to aid Tess with her healing. The two quickly form a close bond and before you know it, Shelly, seems more of a friend that a professional service provider.

Tess also has her brother-in-law, Ian, sniffing about, seemingly obsessed with his brother’s estate. He claims that her husband owed him a bunch of money but Tess can find no evidence of that in their finances.

She begins to suspect him of some suspicious activities going on at the house that are really scaring her. What is he after really?

While I did enjoy the format and the pacing was nice and steady, I was completely bummed that I knew the twist to this 35% in. It definitely had an affect on my opinion of this story. The writing was good, just really predictable for me.

It hurts my heart as I was looking forward to this so much!

^^^Literally me upon completion: drinking my whiskey, sadly let down by the whole experience.

This being said, while the overall plot and reveal didn’t work for me, I did see a lot of promise in North’s writing and I would absolutely pick up future works by her. I look forward to it actually!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity!

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