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: Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Little SecretsLittle Secrets by Jennifer Hillier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marin Machado is a boss.

A successful business woman, owning upscale hair salons catering to the stars, she is confident and happy.

Her equally successful and handsome husband, Derek, is also a business owner and the couple has a little boy, Sebastian, who is the light of their lives.

Marin has it all.

That is until someone nabs Sebastian from a busy shopping center just prior to the Christmas holiday.

In the blink of an eye, Marin and Derek’s world shatters. Devastated by Sebastian’s disappearance, they both retreat into themselves to deal with their pain and grief.

When the police investigation goes nowhere, Marin hires a PI to continue the search.

Over a year later, the private investigator uncovers something, but it isn’t about her son. It’s about her husband.

As further secrets are revealed the lines between love and hate begin to blur. A woman spurned is a serious force to be reckoned with and Marin has nothing to lose.

Her best friend, Sal, and a grief support group she is a part of, are Marin’s only real connections anymore. She feels so distant from Derek.

But who can she trust?

I had so much fun reading this book. It was captivating from the very first chapter.

I loved Marin’s character. All of her flaws and grief. I found her to be complex, yet relatable.

While I did guess one of the reveals earlier than I expect the reader is supposed to, it didn’t diminsh my enjoyment level at all.

I thought going along with Marin on her journey, as she learns the truth of her husband’s betrayal and what happened to her son, was so satisfying.

Hillier really impressed me with this one. My favorite Thriller of the year so far, I would say.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I cannot wait to see what Jennifer Hillier dreams up next!

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Review: The New Husband by D.J. Palmer

The New HusbandThe New Husband by D.J. Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Close to two years after her husband, Glen, goes missing, Nina Garrity is doing her best to put her life back together. She feels betrayed that he would just ditch her and their two children, Connor and Maggie.

In spite of this, when Simon Fitch walks into her life, she is charmed by him and suddenly ready to try love again.

Not everyone is pleased with this development. Particularly, her daughter, Maggie, whose precocious perspective we get throughout the novel, alternating with Nina’s.

Maggie’s perspective was definitely my favorite to read from. Sure, she’s sassy, but she’s thirteen and wise beyond her years. I found her to be an astute judge of character and considering the circumstances, I cherished her defiance.

When Nina and Simon buy a house together, the living environment becomes quite tense. Connor, Maggie’s older brother, really likes Simon. He believes his Father is dead and he is looking to move on, just as Nina is.

However, Maggie believes her Father is still out there and doesn’t understand why her Mother would just give up on him. Allowing Simon into their family seems like a hasty decision, as far as she is concerned, not to mention the fact that the guy is a complete creep. As a result, she’s fairly combative.

As a reader, it doesn’t take long before you begin to notice that Maggie is on to something. Simon’s behavior is definitely far from normal.

He’s clearly manipulating Nina, gaslighting her and distancing her from her friends, but why? Not only are his behaviors bizarre, they’re also dangerous. You start to fear for everyone in that house.

Full of twists, I mean, absolutely full of twists, I really had a fun time with this book. I loved the perspective shifts and seeing the story be pieced together that way was so intense.

I’ll agree with some earlier reviewers that it was a bit far-fetched as far as some of the plot twists went, but who cares? It was a wild ride and a great way to escape from life for a while. That’s always what I am looking for in a book. I want to get swept up in it, and this definitely provided that.

While it wasn’t perfect for me, it was pretty darn close. I find Palmer’s writing to be super compelling. He absolutely knows how to pull you in.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it and look forward to reading more from this author!

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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: Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

Darling Rose GoldDarling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Patty Watts was arrested and charged with poisoning her daughter, Rose Gold.

An alleged case of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, Patty was purported to have been abusing Rose Gold her entire life.

As a late teenager, Rose Gold confesses some things to a neighborhood friend and the adults around her end up putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

Ultimately, Rose Gold testified against her Mother in court and she was sentenced to five years. As you can imagine, this has led to an estranged relationship.

Darling Rose Gold follow two perspectives, both Patty and Rose Gold.

We follow Patty after she is released from serving her time and Rose Gold after her Mother is prosecuted up through the present day.

As Patty is released, she is picked up outside the prison gates by Rose Gold. It seems during the interim of her time away they have begun the process of healing their relationship.

Rose Gold is now a mother herself, of little Adam, and has purchased her own home. Since Patty has nowhere to go, it is decided that she will move in with them until she can get back on her feet.

This book is full of messed up twists and keeps its intensity throughout as the timelines come closer and closer to merging.

I love this type of format. I always end up racing through so fast to get to that climatic scene at the end.

About mid-way through I knew hoped I knew where this was going. It went there and I was hella happy about it.

A revenge story is one of my favorite tropes of all time. This one satisfied me in that regard and was full of masterful manipulation.

I have often mentioned that I love a good long-game; this story had that in spades. Well played, Wrobel.

There were definitely parts that made me uncomfortable, particularly the focus on Rose Gold’s ruined teeth, but I understand where the author was coming from in framing it that way.

Rose Gold and Patty definitely shared one of the most f*ed up relationships I have ever read. It’s also one I remember for a long time.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to more from Stephanie Wrobel.

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Review: No Exit by Taylor Adams

No ExitNo Exit by Taylor Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Darby Thorne has just received terrible news from her sister. Their mother is dying of cancer and she doesn’t have much time left.

Rushing home to Utah to be by her side, Darby encounters a blizzard in Colorado that makes all roads impassable.

Luckily, she comes across a remote rest stop that seems like a safe space to wait out the storm.

It has to be better than being trapped alone in her car for the night in freezing conditions.

Seeing other vehicles in the lot, Darby realizes she isn’t the only traveler stuck in this horrible situation. Upon entering, she finds three people inside who seem amiable enough.

Then a fourth person pops up who creeps her the f* out.

After his arrival, Darby is on edge and seemingly for good reason. As she is out in the parking lot, she notices a little girl locked in a dog cage in the back of a work van.

One of the people stuck here is a kidnapper and god knows what else!

Now Darby has to figure out how to free the girl, keep her safe and survive the night. All the while, not knowing who the predator is. So, no pressure.

This book was hella fun. Adams did a wonderful job of consistently building momentum throughout the story.

As I was reading, I found my level of anxiety getting higher, higher and higher. In a good way. The fun, edge-of-your-seat, kind of way; not the crawl under a blanket and not leave my house for a week kind of way.

When this book was released, there was quite a bit of hype surrounding it. Happy to report, that hype is legit.

Channeling strong horror movie vibes, this story will stick with me for a while. I loved the different characters and the horrific circumstances just seemed to get more and more dire as the hours at the rest stop ticked by.

Great pacing by Adams. I am really excited to see what he comes up with next. I hope he consistently stays in this thriller/horror zone. I definitely think he’s found his sweet spot!

As an aside, perfect winter read if you live in a climate where you get a lot of snow.

Blizzard coming this weekend? No problem. Just pick up No Exit and STAY AT HOME!!!

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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 Look-Alike by Erica Spindler

The Look-AlikeThe Look-Alike by Erica Spindler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Ten years ago, Sienna Scott, stumbled across a murdered girl in the snow. Sienna was leaving the library and she recognized the girl as one of her classmates.

Understandably traumatized by this event, Sienna has a hard time forgetting the incident.

In fact, she has thought about it so much, she thinks she was the actual target that night, not the poor dead girl.

This coupled with some family issues, leads to Sienna getting shipped off to live with her Grandmother in London, where she becomes a professional chef.

Now upon returning to Tranquility Bluffs, a decade later, Sienna immediately begins to fixate again on the murder. They never caught the real killer after all. He could still be out there and still be after her.

Sienna’s mentally unstable mother is a huge part of this narrative. Her delusional disorder makes it close to impossible for her to be around Sienna, as Sienna’s safety is one of her biggest triggers.

I have to be honest and say, this whole dynamic made me super uncomfortable. Something about it just did not work for me.

I would actually say, overall, the author’s writing didn’t work for me. There were entire aspects to the plot that drove me crazy. Number one being the relationship with the neighbor.

There were a lot of red herrings and plot twists. At times, I felt myself sort of getting into it. Then something wonky would come up and it would kick me right out of the story again.

I would put this in a middling to average category for Adult Thrillers. Although with this being said, there is a reader for every book and just because this didn’t work for me personally, doesn’t mean you won’t love it!

If the premise sounds interesting to you, give it a try. Don’t let me sway you!

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

Even though this one wasn’t necessarily for me, I still appreciate the opportunity so much!

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Review: The Whisper Man by Alex North

The Whisper ManThe Whisper Man by Alex North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

This is exactly how I like my police procedural/investigative thrillers. Well done, Alex North!

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy thinks a fresh start is just what he and Jake, his young son, need.

They move into a house in the small town of Featherbank. A town with a sordid past.

20-years ago a serial killer abducted and killed 5 residents. He was captured, tried for his crimes and imprisoned.

The killer’s name was Frank Carter, but he was known to the world as The Whisper Man, as he lured children out of their homes by whispering at their windows.

The Whisper Man has become a bit of a legend in the small town and even decades later seems fresh in the minds of many.

When a boy in Jake’s class gets abducted, the similarities to the Whisper Man crimes, cause many to wonder if he had an accomplice all those years ago, or if there is a clever copy cat in town.

This story follows the perspectives of Tom and Jake, two detectives working the case, and even into the mind of the killer.

I loved the atmosphere of this one. It felt gritty and heavy. Any scene with Jake in it, your classic creepy kid, left me entirely unsettled.

The action was high-intensity and I felt the investigatory portions were well done.

I will admit, I was a little nervous going into this one because I had heard mixed reviews. I was pleasantly surprised and will definitely read more books by this author.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Celadon Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. My apologies for taking so long. It was definitely worth the wait!

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Review: The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters

The Dead Girls ClubThe Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

When Heather Cole receives a necklace in the mail, with one half of a ‘Best Friends’ pendant on it, she can’t believe it. She knows this necklace because it was on the neck of her best friend the night she died. It went with her to her grave.

Or did it?

She panics. What could this mean? She is the only one who knows what happened to Becca that night nearly 30-years ago.

She has to figure out who mailed her this and stop them before they reveal the truth!

Alternating between ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ perspectives, the reader slowly learns Becca’s fate. Following the girls 12-year old perspectives, as they hang out discussing all things macabre was the most interesting part of the story for me.

Becca was obsessed with a story of a woman called The Red Lady, think Bloody Mary, and would not stop talking about her.

She regales their friend group with stories about The Red Lady, a woman killed for being a witch, seeking her revenge. Her storytelling is so vivid the girls begin to believe it.

Is she real?

The ‘Now’ perspective follows grown-up Heather, a child psychologist, as she tries to piece together who knows about her and Becca.

This part of the story was not as enjoyable for me. Personally, I found adult Heather annoying AF and I could not understand the decisions she was making.

Her thought process and decisions were more like she was still 12-years old than an actual functioning adult.

Because of my disconnect from the ‘Now’ portions, the overall story felt uneven. I would rush through ‘Now’ in order to get back to ‘Then’. Unfortunately, due to this, it took me a bit longer to get through this than it would the average Thriller.

The premise was very interesting but the execution fell a little short. Also, for me, I was disappointed with one of the big reveals and felt that some of the narrative didn’t fully back up that reveal. I know this sounds cryptic but I don’t want to risk giving anything away.

This being said, there are definitely a lot of interesting aspects to this story and I think the writing shows a lot of promise. I would pick up more work from this author.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion and I know a lot of readers will really enjoy this one!

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