Review: Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

Rock Paper ScissorsRock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Rock Paper Scissors, Feeney examines the age-old question, how well do you know the one you love?

After Amelia wins a mystery weekend away at a historic chapel in the Scottish Highlands, she thinks it may be just what she and her husband, Adam, need to spice up their marriage. Amelia feels like they need some time, and distance from his work, to reconnect.

Surprisingly, Adam agrees and the two set off. The weather isn’t great and rapid snowfall makes the travel difficult.

By the time they, and their sweet dog, Bob, have made the very long journey, everyone is going stir crazy in the car. Arriving at the chapel, they’re taken aback by how isolated it is. There’s literally nothing around as far as the eye can see.

It’s at this point, the couple begin to recognize just how peculiar this entire holiday actually is. Who did she win this trip from again?

The lodgings are strange, eerie and ominous. With the weather getting worse, tension among the couple continues to rise. This is definitely not going as they expected. The power source is questionable and at the rate the snow continues to fall, they may not be able to get out.

Told between alternating perspectives, as well as through annual anniversary letters, the truth of their frightening holiday in the Highlands, as well as their marriage, begins to come to light.

Y’all, Feeney dropped the mic on writing a suspenseful Thriller with this one!

I enjoyed this so much. From the very first chapter I was hooked. Feeney’s clever plotting and magnificent twists kept me glued to the pages. I had to know the truth; who was lying and why?

There was a dark tone glistening just along the surface. I knew it went deeper than what I was getting. The reveals were perfectly paced; what a treat!

This did have quite a few tropes I tend to enjoy, but they came as surprises to me. I don’t even think I read the synopsis prior to picking this up. I saw, Alice Feeney, printed on the cover and that was enough.

If you are fan of things such as isolated locations, creepy houses, hidden secrets, marital strife, jaw-dropping plot twists, characters who are authors and people being stranded places, you should absolutely check this one out!!!

Also, I was impressed with the character work. All of the main characters were just so interesting and besides some lightly-sprinkled craziness, were all quite unique.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flatiron Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I have already bought a finished copy for my shelves.

One of the best Thrillers of the year!!!

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Review: The Family Plot by Megan Collins

The Family PlotThe Family Plot by Megan Collins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars**

After Dahlia Lighthouse’s father passes away, she returns to her family’s isolated island mansion for his burial. She hasn’t been there for many years and still struggles with the memories of her bizarre childhood.

Weighing heaviest on her heart is the disappearance of her beloved twin brother, Andy, when they were 16-years old. It’s assumed he ran away, but hasn’t been seen, or heard from, since. Every moment on the island is a painful reminder of that loss.

Reuniting with her older siblings, Tate and Charlie, as well as with her Mom, feels surreal. She can barely interact with them at all. It’s so awkward.

As the narrative plods along, the truly odd nature of Dahlia and her sibling’s upbringing comes to light. Her parents were unnaturally obsessed with murderers and their victims, even going so far as to include murder history within the curriculum of their home schooling.

The serial killer who hunted on their very island, dubbed the Blackburn Killer, was of particular interest to them; performing peculiar memorial ceremonies to commemorate the victims on their birth and death days. It’s no wonder Dahlia was hesitate to return to all of that.

On the day they are set to bury her Dad in the family plot, they discover another body already in the ground. It appears to be Andy, dead due to blunt force trauma to the head. The suspected murder weapon, Andy’s own axe, is found in the grave with him.

If Andy didn’t run away, what happened to him? Could he be yet another victim of the Blackburn Killer, even though he doesn’t fit with the other victim profiles?

Dahlia needs to get to the bottom of the mystery, even if it unearths a lot of other messy family secrets along the way.

I’m not sure why this didn’t really work for me. It has a lot of elements that I tend to enjoy, such as an isolated location, small town secrets, family drama, murder and adult characters returning to their hometown after an extended absence. However, I can’t say there was ever a moment while reading that I was actually enjoying it.

I’m sorry if that seems harsh, but it’s true. I can see glimmers of a good story underneath, I know some Readers will enjoy it, but for me, it was too much. It felt like the author took everything dark and murderous she could think of, threw it at the page, and hoped something would stick.

I didn’t find it mysterious, or ominous. The atmosphere wasn’t distinct enough. The reveals weren’t surprising. They actually seemed rather obvious. I just didn’t care and couldn’t believe half of the decisions, choices and actions of any of the characters.

It did read extremely quickly, so that’s a thing. I think overall, perhaps this author’s writing style isn’t for me. This is my first book by Collins and I can’t say I’m overly pumped to try anything else.

Thank you to the publisher, Atria Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Although this didn’t work for me, I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion and I’m sure a lot of Readers will have fun with this story.

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Review: We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz

We Were Never HereWe Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When Emily met Kristen in college, she was immediately drawn in by the other girl’s confidence and bold personality. The two hit it off and became best friends.

Years later, even though they live on different continents, the women are still best friends; two peas in a pod. One way they maintain their close relationship, is by traveling together to remote locations around the world. Last year was Cambodia. This year, it’s Chile.

On the final night in Chile, something truly terrible happens. Kristen had headed back to their suite a little early with a cute backpacker they met in a bar. Emily, as a good friend, stayed away for a while to give the two time to be alone.

When Emily does arrive back at the suite, she walks into a horrible mess. Blood, broken glass and a very dead backpacker. Kristen is extremely distraught, saying he attacked her and she hit him in self-defense.

Emily takes control and they do what they have to do in order to get out of the country unscathed. It feels surreal, Emily cannot believe what has happened, mainly because it isn’t the first time.

Their magical trip to Cambodia ended much the same way. Kristen claiming self-defense and both of them cleaning up a giant mess.

Back in Wisconsin, Emily is drowning in guilt. Repetitive thoughts and hazy recollections of the two infamous trips are constantly running through her mind.

She’s having a difficult time putting it in the past and is surprised at how easily Kristen is coping with it all. While Emily is distracted, both at work and in her new relationship with Aaron, Kristen seems to be her normal, carefree self.

When Kristen shows up in Wisconsin for a surprise visit from Australia, Emily is shocked. She’s starting to see her BFF in a whole new light and it’s not flattering.

The tighter Kristen tries to hold onto their friendship, the more Emily begins to feel like she’s trapped. How well does she really know Kristen? What is she truly capable of?

As secrets of Kristen’s past come to light, due to stealthy digging on Emily’s part, it becomes clear that her best friend may not be who she thinks she is.

We Were Never Here is a tense and twisty tale of Suspense. I had fun reading this one, although in my opinion, the pace was a little uneven.

The beginning was great. It kicks of quickly and the stakes are incredibly high. As a person who travels every year with my best friend, I couldn’t even imagine having something happening to us, like what happened to Emily and Kristen in Cambodia. It’s frightening to even think about.

After Chile, it’s clear, something is off with the besties. As the synopsis says, could lightening really strike twice?

Once Emily returns to Wisconsin, I felt like the tense tone was ripped right out from under me. I was bored with being in Emily’s head; her repetitive musings seemed to go on forever.

However, once Kristen arrives, things slowly began to pick back up. I enjoyed the mystery of Kristen’s background and Emily’s sleuthing was definitely an element I appreciated.

The ending was absolutely wild, like WHAT!? The intensity returning with a vigor. We’re talking Lifetime movie levels of drama unfolding. It was definitely fun!

In short, while the pace wasn’t perfect for me, overall, I thought this was a compelling, over-the-top tale of codependent friendship. I am still thinking about and I consider that a great sign; it’s memorable. Kristen, in particular, was a great character!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion!

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Review: The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones

The Guilt TripThe Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Rachel, Jack, Noah and Paige are a friendship foursome with a lot of history. Rachel and Noah have been best friends since college and there was a time when they considered being more than friends.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. Now twenty-years later, Rachel is happily married to Jack, while Noah is married to Paige.

When Jack’s brother, Will, decides on a destination wedding with his flamboyant fiance, Ali, the foursome, with Ali in tow, travel to the beautiful country of Portugal for the event.

It never takes long for drama to arise when Ali is around. It seems to follow her everywhere, and as predicted by the friends, is created before they’ve even left the airport.

Ali’s exuberant, over-the-top nature gets under everyone’s skin. There’s never a break with her. It’s always something.

Rachel is unnerved to observe that Ali seems to be paying special attention to her husband. While Jack doesn’t appear to be recipricating her advances, Rachel still begins to wonder, what exactly is going on there?

As they settle into their cliffside villa, things continuously get worse. Ali flaunting herself around is making everyone uncomfortable, especially now that Jack has revealed to the friends something he heard about her from a work colleague.

Is this even a woman he wants his brother to marry?

But Ali isn’t the only one with secrets. Everyone has something to hide and as suspicions begin to creep across the group of friends, all is threatened to be revealed.

This was a compelling story. I definitely had fun reading it; particularly the first half. I’m all for excessive domestic drama. I love long-buried secrets, deceptions, betrayals; it’s addicting. The setting was great and I loved the whole destination wedding scenerio.

I was hooked. Nevertheless, there were some finer details that didn’t sit quite right with me. It’s a good story, but not perfectly suited to my tastes.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. I’m not mad I read it. It was interesting, it was shocking, wild and not a bad way to spend a weekend!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

I think if you love quick, domestic suspense stories, you should definitely give this one a shot!

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Review: The Dare by Lesley Kara

The DareThe Dare by Lesley Kara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Two things have greatly influenced Lizzie’s life: her epilepsy and the tragic death of her best friend, Alice, when they were just 13-years old.

Twelve years later, Lizzie has finally found contentment. She has successfully moved out of her parent’s house and in with her fiance, Ross. Her parents couldn’t be more happy. Lizzie is engaged to a doctor, the perfect person for her.

Whilst unpacking boxes that have been stored in her parent’s attic, Lizzie comes across one from her teenage years. It contains items that really dig up memories of Alice and her death.

Lizzie was with Alice when she died and was clearly traumatized by the event, but she can’t remember much. Having suffered a seizure, her brain wiped clean all memory of that fateful time.

Dragging on her the most is the fact that Alice’s family, in addition to other kids at school, blamed Lizzie for Alice’s death. They believed she wasn’t telling the whole story.

Alice’s older sister, Catherine, harrassed Lizzie ceaselessly after that. Apparently believing she could scare the truth out of her. Lizzie’s story has always remained the same: she doesn’t remember.

It was so bad, Lizzie’s family had to move house after the accident. They needed a fresh start.

Now that Lizzie has finally got the true fresh start she has been dreaming of, a life with Ross, her past suddenly seems to be coming back to haunt her.

Told through past and present perspectives, The Dare is an absolutely addictive roller coaster ride of deceptions and suspense.

I really enjoyed Kara’s 2019-release, Who Did You Tell?, so was very much looking forward to getting to this one. I love how she weaves past and present perspectives together. She has such a knack for showing how much events in our pasts can influence our present, and this story was no exception.

Lizzie is a great character. She was someone I could really get behind. While initially I thought she may be naive, I think in made sense in light of all she had been through. Her innocence didn’t diminish her intelligence however, and I thought she was able to handle all that was happening to her with incredible control and thoughtfulness.

The level of deceipt in this novel is off the charts. Once the reveals began to unfold, my jaw spent half the time on the floor. My pulse was racing just anticipating what Lizzie would need to do to escape her prediciment.

If you like nail-biting, twisty-turny, who do I trust, Domestic Thrillers, you absolutely need to check this one out!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. At this point, I can confidently say, I will pick up anything Kara ever writes!

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Review: Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda

Such a Quiet PlaceSuch a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

The private neighborhood of Hollow’s Edge has always been a desirable place to live. It’s close to the local private college and a lot of the residents actually work there together.

Because of that, and many other reasons, Hollow’s Edge offers that bougie upper-class feel that many people seek. It’s a solace from the outside world of sorts for the people who live there.

That is until the murder of Brandon and Fiona Truett. A murder for which one of their own, Ruby Fletcher, was sent to prison. But Ruby wasn’t really one of them, was she?

She didn’t own a house in Hollow’s Edge. She was just staying there with Harper Nash after Harper’s fiance moved out. Ruby was younger than everyone else, not as settled. She was known to raise a few eyebrows from time to time.

Now a year and half has passed since the Truett’s tragic deaths. Ruby has been released from prison on a technicality and guess where she ends up?

Right back in Harper’s house. Harper is horrified. There is a possible murderer living under her roof. A murderer who is most likely quite peeved that her friend’s testimony may have helped put her away in the first place.

It doesn’t take long for rumors and suspicions to begin circling around Hollow’s Edge, sowing seeds of contention amongst the remaining residents.

It’s clear to Harper that Ruby is up to something, although she’s not sure what. She knows Ruby is hiding things from her; the scariest of which may be her intentions. Is Ruby seeking revenge, or something else?

Such a Quiet Place is pure entertainment. It kicks off very quickly and the suspense really never lets up.

I though Miranda did a great job building the tension over the course of the story. I was completely enthralled by it the entire time; wanting to know the truth about the Truetts and Ruby Fletcher.

For me, this is a super solid Domestic Thriller. It had red herrings, twists, reveals, unlikable, judgemental characters and a steady, nail-biting pace.

I love stories set in insulated neighborhoods. Stories that portray the often dramatic interactions between neighbors and friends. It’s amazing the sort of secrets that can be found in such places.

I was really looking forward to this title and I had a ton of fun reading it. Completely engaging, beginning to end.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I can’t wait to see what twisted things Megan Miranda comes up with next!!

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Review: Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Leave the World BehindLeave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Leave the World Behind is essentially Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World written for people with a subscription to the New Yorker.

While I was reading this, I felt like I had read it before and frankly, for me, I enjoyed how Tremblay did it more.

Amanda and Clay, a married couple with two teenaged children, have a lovely family vacation planned in a remote area of Long Island.

Their goal is the same as many people going on vacation, to let loose and unplug from the stressors of life in the city. If they happen to reconnect as a family, all the better.

Arriving at the rental house, they’re quite pleased; it’s perfect. Everything they were hoping for. The kids can’t wait to get into the pool.

Over the course of the first evening, Amanda and Clay really begin to settle into vacation mode. All is going swimmingly, until quite late when there’s an unexpected knocking at the door.

Surprised at the interruption, they’re even more surprised when they open the door and find an older black couple standing on the porch.

They say their names are G.H. and Ruth and this is their house.

They’re quite apologetic, but explain that something is happening in the city. They aren’t exactly sure what, but something big. There’s a blackout.

They had been out at an event and didn’t feel safe returning to their apartment. They plead with Amanda and Clay to let them stay, which after a quick debate, the couple agrees to do.

The two couples stay up, having a few drinks, and speculating on the bizarre turn of events. In their minds, Amanda and Clay are questioning whether or not to believe these people at all. They have no cell service, no wifi, there’s no way to check their story.

The morning finds no new information, as the tension and uncertainty continues to build.

This is absolutely a tense and captivating story. You get a glimpse into all of the character’s inner thoughts and at times, it’s confusing AF.

Their reactions and musings, it’s all so potent. I needed to know what was happening!

I think if I hadn’t already read The Cabin at the End of the World, I would have enjoyed this more and given it a higher rating.

However, as mentioned earlier, there were just so many similarities between this book and that one, and I personally, enjoyed the Horror writing style of Tremblay’s version more. It was a better fit for my tastes.

With this being said, I appreciate what this story accomplished. The level of tension and sense of dread this author’s words were able to illicit; it’s powerful.

While I know this may leave some Readers underwhelmed, it’s smart, eerie and subtly terrifying. I would definitely be interested in picking up more from Rumaan Alam.

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Review: The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

The Other Black GirlThe Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

The Other Black Girl is a super smart debut and would make a great freaking movie. I really enjoyed this!

It’s hard to categorize what exactly this book is. While it felt like Horror to me, I’ll settle for describing it as Speculative Fiction with a Thriller twist.

Nella Rogers is an editorial assistant at Wagner Books and the only black employee in that position. Wagner was her goal publishing house. She worked damn hard to get where she is and continues to every day.

No matter how hard she works, however, Nella is still subject to daily microaggressions in the workspace. Regardless, she knows she needs to go along to get along, as they say.

When Harlem-born, Hazel, is introduced to her as a new colleague, Nella is shocked. Another black girl?

This could be fun. She’s never had this before. Maybe she’ll finally have someone willing to back her up when she tries to change the status quo a bit.

While Hazel seems nice at first, there’s something about her Nella just doesn’t trust.

Almost as soon as Hazel begins at Wagner, she’s suddenly the office darling, while Nella gets pushed more and more to the sidelines. Why doesn’t Hazel have to put in the same amount of time at the bottom that Nella did?

Nella is confident that she is damn good at what she does. She knows it isn’t that. So, what is it? Why is everyone so smitten with Hazel?

Then Nella begins to receive threatening and mysterious messages telling her she needs to leave Wagner entirely. Is Hazel behind this, or someone else?

Nella begins to investigate Hazel and makes some shocking discoveries that put her entire future in danger.

If that doesn’t have you intrigued, I don’t know what will!

I loved how Harris framed this story. What starts out feeling like a very tame, contemporary analysis of the U.S. publishing industry quickly evolves into something so much more than that.

As the Reader, you go through it with Nella. I felt everything she was feeling: confused, frustrated, scared, desperate and a whole host of other emotions. Is she being paranoid, is she correct? It is a ride!

It’s sinister, ominous, riddled with a sense of dread and I must say, unpredictable. I couldn’t have predicted this ending in a million years.

I would recommend this to everyone, but particularly if you enjoyed Alyssa Cole’s, When No One is Watching, you should for sure pick this up.

It had that same dark tone, laced with biting, relevant social commentary throughout. A stellar debut. Zakiya Dalila Harris is definitely an author to watch!!!

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Blog Tour: You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon

You Will Remember MeYou Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You Will Remember Me is a deviously twisted tale of obsession and long-buried secrets. That sound great, right!?

A man waking up on a beach in Maryland has no memory of his past, or even his name. He is left with foggy recollections that lead him to the state of Maine and directly to people who recognize him.

They say his name is Asher and he has been missing for years. He is quickly reunited with his long-lost sister, Maya, who takes him in and agrees to care for him during his recuperation.

When Lily Reid’s boyfriend, Jack, goes missing after an evening swim at a beach in their Maryland town, everyone suspects that he has drowned.

Lily refuses to give up on him however, so she begins an investigation into where he may have gone. It leads her to a small town in Maine.

There she spots Jack on the street. Upon approaching him, he has no memory of her. Making matters worse, he and his sister, insist that his name is actually, Asher.

Lily is so confused. Why would Jack have given her a false name? It is clear to all, Ash is suffering from amnesia due to a head injury and Lily decides to stick around for a bit to interact with him more. She’s still in love with him.

Following three perspectives, Ash, Lily and Maya’s, this story is a wild ride. It’s fast-paced and engaging the entire way through.

Personally, I enjoy an amnesia story. I also love obsession tropes and long-buried secrets. This book has all of those things, so was a great recipe for me!

A few of the elements involved in the story were a bit far fetched and a tad convenient, but honestly, it’s still a great time. It’s not a story that’s asking you to take it too seriously.

I think if you go into this looking for fun twists, turns and devious actors, you’re in for heck of a fun experience.

Hannah Mary McKinnon has a way with over-the-top drama. It’s her style and I’m here for it. It’ll keep me coming back, that’s for sure!

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

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Review: Madam by Phoebe Wynn

MadamMadam by Phoebe Wynne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

When 26-year old, Rose Christie, gets hired on as a Classics teacher for the illustrious, Caldonbrae Hall, she’s understandably nervous about the placement.

Caldonbrae, a traditional boarding school for girls, is a far cry from the public schools she has taught in previously and from the start, Rose feels out of place.

Her trepidation doesn’t improve as classes begin. The young ladies treat her with contempt and an overall lack of respect.

She is astounded that such well groomed girls would think that it is okay to treat one of their teachers in such a way.

But it isn’t even just the girls. Other teachers and staff barely give her the time of day. She’s like an annoying gnat they all seem to want to swat away.

The longer Rose is there, the more confounding the whole experience seems to be.

As Rose slowly, and I do mean slowly, begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together, the shocking truth of Calonbrae Hall is revealed.

Y’all, the premise of this book had such promise. I wanted to love it. I expected to love it. Unfortunately for me, it fell a little flat.

The atmosphere was my favorite aspect. It did feel gothic, like the school was trapped in time.

Set on the cliffs of Scotland, it felt cold and remote. While Rose was there, it felt like she was very far removed from the rest of the world; from anyone who could help her.

I was intensely interested in the beginning, for probably the first 20%, and I felt the last 15% was engaging as well. However everything in between was like watching paint dry.

There were so many details. I just kept waiting and waiting for something to happen and it was like, the payoff never came.

I liked the ideas behind where the author was going, but I just think the execution was a miss for me. I feel like it could have been edited down. Perhaps if it were more concise, it would have been more impactful.

In other words, in this case, it’s not the content, but how that content was presented that was the issue for me.

Additionally, I do think it is important to note that I listened to the audiobook. I think the narrator did a good job. Frankly, if I had read a hard copy, I may have been even more displeased with it.

With this being said, just because it didn’t necessarily work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. If the synopsis sounds interesting to you, absolutely give it a shot!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with the opportunity to listen to this audiobook. I do appreciate it very much!

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