Review: You Know What You Did by K.T. Nguyen

You Know What You DidYou Know What You Did by K.T. Nguyen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

You Know What You Did is an intensely-suspenseful Mystery/Thriller debut from a hot up-and-coming author, K.T. Nguyen. And what a crackling debut it is!!

This story follows a fascinating-MC, Anh Le, who goes by Annie. She’s married, and the mother of a teenaged daughter. Annie is also an artist, although she’s feeling unsatisfied with her career lately.

In fact, a few aspects of Annie’s life are beginning to derail after the passing of her Mom, a Vietnam War refugee, who Annie had a contentious relationship with.

Annie’s mother had been residing in an out-building on their family property, so she had been a fairly constant presence in Annie’s life.

The loss impacted Annie in a lot of unexpected ways. Her severe-OCD comes roaring back and the dark fixations of her mind seem to be morphing into her reality.

When Annie’s most wealthy patron goes missing, shortly after Annie visited her home, the police come knocking.

The disappearance is shocking and it has Annie questioning everything, even herself. She can’t seem to keep current events straight in her mind.

She’s confused about many things and it’s scary. She begins to distance herself from her family and friends.

With Annie’s husband traveling for work, and her daughter off to summer camp, Annie is left to her own devices. As you can imagine, that doesn’t go well.

Waking up in a hotel, with a lifeless body beside her, Annie has officially hit rock bottom. The police are back and she doesn’t have answers that make sense, not even to herself.

Y’all, I loved this. I found it completely engaging, creepy and thought-provoking. K.T. Nguyen delivered all the tense, claustrophobic, desperate, unreliable narrator vibes that I could ever hope for.

I found it so easy to connect with Annie. I felt everything she was feeling. It made me incredibly anxious, but in a good, entertaining way, if that’s possible. There were times that I was crawling out of my skin of anticipation.

I was sympathetic to Annie’s character from the start, particularly since I couldn’t stand her husband, or her daughter. It often felt like they were ganging up on Annie and were just not giving her any slack.

I was happy when they both left, so Annie could be alone. Although it definitely didn’t help her mental state.

It’s funny, I was Buddy Reading this with a friend and she mentioned, like how much is what Annie is relaying to us about her husband and daughter true? Could it be her paranoia? Part of her mental spiral? Or were they really being that rotten to her?

It’s so funny, I didn’t even consider that before she said it, but yeah, Annie’s mental state definitely added so much to the suspense of this story. It was an exceptionally well-executed unreliable narrator situation.

I absolutely loved Nguyen’s writing. The character work in particular, I was so impressed. I enjoyed not only the suspense and mystery of this story, but Nguyen also chose to tackle some difficult topics, such as the immigrant experience and mental health.

I enjoyed the levels of depth that these topics added to the story. This is more than just your standard Popcorn Thriller. This story has meat and I enjoyed every bite.

I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a taut, engaging and emotional Mystery/Thriller. Particularly, if you enjoy an unreliable narrator.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dutton, for providing me with a copy to read and review. If this is her debut, I cannot wait to see what Nguyen delivers next!!!

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Review: Five Bad Deeds by Caz Frear

Five Bad DeedsFive Bad Deeds by Caz Frear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

💜💙💕💜💙💕💜💙💕💜💙💕💜💙💕💜

Five Bad Deeds is suspenseful Domestic Drama from one of my go-to authors, Caz Frear.

I really enjoyed all the books in the Cat Kinsella series by this author, so was looking forward to this standalone novel. The synopsis sounded intriguing and luckily, it delivered.

We do get a few different perspectives in this story, but our main perspective is that of Ellen; a wife, mother, and by all appearances, a good person.

Ellen has a lot on her plate, raising a head-strong teenage daughter, as well as toddler twin sons. She’s currently job-hunting and undertaking a fairly significant renovation on their beautiful family home.

She’s also balancing time with her sister and friends, just trying to keep all the balls in the air.

When the first sinister note arrives, Ellen can hardly believe it. Is someone threatening her? Who could possibly dislike her so much they would be this cruel? What has she ever done to deserve this kind of ire?

The anonymous enemy doesn’t stop with notes though, it seems this person is truly out to trash Ellen’s life and her reputation. As the threats intensify, Ellen scrambles to figure out who is behind it all and stop them, before it’s too late.

I had so much fun with this. I read 43% in the first sitting. I couldn’t put it down once I started. I loved the perspective shifts and how they were used to build-out the story.

As mentioned above, Ellen is our MC and we are getting her perspective the majority of the time. But every once in a while, mixed amongst the Ellen sections, we get the perspectives of various side characters in her life.

Their perspectives are pretty much solely providing their personal commentary on Ellen. So, in this way, it’s very how you see your life, versus how outsiders see it. It was interesting to me to have it formatted this way.

Ellen’s sister, Kristy, plays a big role in the story, and her thoughts on Ellen were some of the most enlightening, IMO. It’s very true that there are two sides to every story, and it was never more evident than in the sister’s thoughts about one another and their relationship.

This is just the kind of secret-laden, spite-filled Domestic Drama I love. I was captivated by the twisty storyline. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any crazier, it did.

The structure felt unique and I loved how the truth was revealed. It was a bit of a jaw-dropper. Well done by Frear!!

While I understand this type of Domestic Suspense/Drama may not be for everyone, I tend to have a lot of fun with this type of story. I eat it up like cake; it’s so good.

If you are the type of Reader who loves small town stories, with a cast of characters harboring a ton of secrets, than this story may be for you. Also, if you are reading for fun, or escape, and are mainly looking for something to take your mind off life for a while, this could fit the bill.

If the synopsis sounds intriguing to you, give it a go. Hopefully, you’ll end up enjoying it as much as I did.

Thank you to the publisher, Harper Paperbacks, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

Caz Frear is a go-to author for me. I’m definitely looking forward to whatever she delivers next!

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Review: The Clinic by Cate Quinn

The ClinicThe Clinic by Cate Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Cate Quinn’s recent Thriller, The Clinic, the Reader is transported to the Pacific Northwest coast, where a remote Addictions Treatment Center caters to the rich and famous.

One of the perspectives we follow is Meg, whose estranged sister, Haley, a famous actress, has been receiving in-patient care there. When Meg hears the news that her sister has overdosed while in treatment, and rumors swirl it was possibly suicide, Meg doesn’t believe it.

As in, she really thinks there is no way in heck her sister would have overdosed, let alone on purpose. Meg suspects foul play and decides to go undercover at the Clinic to try to figure out what really happened to Haley.

We also follow a woman employed at the Clinic, Cara. She’s relatively new and as she begins to settle in and get to know everyone around her, she too suspects something may be off.

As the narrative shifts back and forth, it offers the Reader an inside glimpse into the Clinic from both a worker’s and a patient’s perspective. It’s through that dual view that the truth is able to come to light.

Y’all, this is a very basic way of summing up all that is going on in this story, but I don’t want to risk giving anything else away. It’s best to go into this knowing as little as possible.

I enjoyed the set-up of this one a lot, as well as the setting. It hooked me from the very start. I felt like the opening scene really set the stage for all that was about to play out.

I really loved Meg as a main character. Her perspective just fit my tastes so well. She’s tough, smart and no-nonsense, but also flawed and struggling with a lot of things in her life; including her own addiction to painkillers and alcohol.

I liked learning about her, the events in her past that had propelled her to her current state. I felt like Quinn did an incredible job of bringing Meg to life, breathing humanity into her and making her actions and motivations understandable. Honestly, I became very attached to her.

That’s unsurprising though, as I love flawed characters. If characters are too perfect, I don’t like ’em. No one is perfect, why would I want my fictional characters to be?

I was excited to go undercover with Meg and investigate the Clinic. It seemed shady as all get out from the start and I liked meeting all the various players within that setting.

It also felt very claustrophobic; like once Meg was in there, it felt like there was seriously no turning back. The fact that she was also grappling with her own addictions issues, and that her mind wasn’t in top form through that, added to the sense of being trapped and desperate.

I feel like Quinn really succeeded in that regard.

I wasn’t as sold on the other perspective, Cara, but I do understand and appreciate why it was necessary for the overall story. For things to ultimately play out the way they did, both women were needed.

This definitely went in an unexpected direction for me and I thought it was so much fun. It gets pretty wild and I loved being with Meg as she tried to navigate through all the chaos. Some of her choices, oh baby, were they intense.

I would definitely recommend this to Readers who enjoy tense, suspenseful Thrillers with flawed MCs and questionable organizations. This had a lot of action and a full cast of unlikable side characters as well. It’s engaging and a bit OTT. Overall, a great read!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I cannot wait to read more from Cate Quinn!!!

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Review: Twenty-Seven Minutes by Ashley Tate

Twenty-Seven MinutesTwenty-Seven Minutes by Ashley Tate
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Twenty-Seven Minutes, what I would classify as a slow-burn Literary Suspense novel, is a debut for author, Ashley Tate.

In this story, we settle into the small town of West Wilmer, where 10-years ago, their local It-Girl, Phoebe Dean was killed in a car accident on the way home from a party.

Her brother, Grant, was the driver that night and for unknown reasons, he waited 27-minutes after the crash before he called 9-1-1.

Yeah, it’s suspicious and rumors have swirled for years that the reason he waited so long was that he needed to sober up.

For a multitude of reasons, this tragedy hit the town especially hard. As the 10th-anniversary approaches, a memorial is planned for Phoebe and the town is abuzz again with theories and speculation about that night.

As you can imagine, this causes stress for those closest to the incident. It’s like they have to keep repeating the worst night of their life over and over again. Why won’t people just let them forget?

This story is told via multiple POVs and a dual timeline, as we follow those most effected by the events of that night.

Basically, if Phoebe’s death were a pebble dropped in a pond, we’d be following the ripples closest to impact. And honestly, that’s how I thought of this set-up. It worked.

As past and present begin to merge, the truth about that night is finally made clear for the Reader. It’s an emotional and angst-filled journey that doesn’t rush anything along.

I enjoyed this one. I found it to be well-written and the mystery behind that night, the pace at which all is revealed, I thought was really well done.

I think it is important to keep in mind though, this is a slow burn. If you are looking for a fast-paced Thriller, there may be better options. You have to be comfortable just sitting with characters and getting to know them through their thoughts and reflections.

For me, this was truly a story about surviving grief and trauma. Each journey through that space is going to look different. People deal with such events using the resources available to them, and some fare better than others.

I loved the small town atmosphere; she ran deep. I feel like anyone who grew up in a small town could relate with a lot of the vibes Tate created here.

I also enjoyed all the messy, damaged relationships and characters. I found them interesting and frankly, I don’t trust characters who are too perfect. I thought Tate did a great job of blending all of their stories together and pulling off a solid conclusion.

Overall, I think for Readers who really love to sink their teeth into fabulous character work, and they don’t need to like those characters, this will be a great read.

As far as this being a debut, I’m impressed. I think Tate brought everything she needed and more to this story. I am really looking forward to getting more from her!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

While this wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be, I am very pleased with what I got!

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Review: No One Can Know by Kate Alice Marshall

No One Can KnowNo One Can Know by Kate Alice Marshall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

No One Can Know is the most recent Adult release from beloved author, Kate Alice Marshall, who made her Adult Debut last January with What Lies in the Woods. I enjoyed that quite a bit, so have been anxiously awaiting this release.

Happily, it didn’t disappoint for a moment. I listened to the audiobook and yet again, Karissa Vacker’s stellar narration knocked it out of the park.

In this story we meet Emma, who after her husband, Nathan, loses his job, and essentially their housing, has to come clean to him about that fact that she actually already owns a home. It has the potential to save them.

As you can imagine, he’s surprised, but the truth is, Emma hasn’t told him much about her past. He knows her parents are dead and that she’s estranged from her two sisters, other than that, he knows nothing of the bloody and tragic events that shaped Emma’s life.

The situation is that Emma owns her parent’s home jointly with her sisters. They can’t sell it, but they can live in it.

Without having much of a choice, and trust, Emma would do anything else if she could, they move in.

Unfortunately, moving back to her hometown and into her family home means that Emma’s going to have to come clean with Nathan about a few more things…

For example, like the fact that her parents were actually murdered in the home and many in the town believed that Emma was the one responsible.

Emma’s sudden presence comes as a shock to the town and yet again, rumors and speculations begin to swirl. She sort of figured that would happen though, that’s why she stayed away for so long.

Her being back has another, more unexpected consequence. It lures her sisters back too. The three have never actually talked about what happened. Each of them has their own thoughts and secrets regarding that fateful night.

But are their secrets continuing to put them in more danger? If Emma didn’t do it, then who did? And will they ever be able to rekindle their once loving relationships?

I found this set-up so interesting. I liked Emma as a character from the start, but I hated her husband.

Those feelings continued throughout and only helped to solidify my connection to the story. My ire towards Nathan alone, kept me glued to the pages.

I felt bad for Emma, having lost her parents and then her sisters. It seemed unfair to me, as she seemed genuinely distraught by the events that had led to the family demise.

We eventually get the perspectives of Emma’s sisters, Juliette, now going by J.J., and Daphne. While I didn’t have the same level of feelings for them that I felt for Emma, I did find them interesting; messy, but interesting.

I loved getting the back-and-forth between the past and present. I always enjoy that, as the puzzle pieces are set in place. I love just sitting back and enjoying the ride as everything becomes clear.

I will say, this one kept me guessing for way longer than I expected. I think Marshall did a great job of keeping enough possibilities in play to keep the Reader engaged and guessing. It wasn’t quite clear until almost the very end.

I suspected everyone at one time or another. I also enjoyed how the pace steadily increased the further you got along, until it was pedal to the floor, full throttle, full speed ahead!

I’m really enjoying KAM in this Adult space. I also love her YA work, so it’s clear to me, she’ll be successful with whatever she chooses to write. She’s just that good.

If you haven’t yet read Kate Alice Marshall, I feel like this could be a fun place to start. I definitely recommend this audiobook too, if that is an option for you. Karissa Vacker is one of my all-time favorite narrators and she definitely helped to bring this story to life.

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

This was fantastic and certainly delivered on the tense family drama and deep dark secrets I was expecting. I can’t wait to see what Marshall gives us next!

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Review: The Woman on the Ledge by Ruth Mancini

The Woman on the LedgeThe Woman on the Ledge by Ruth Mancini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Prior to receiving a copy of this book, I had been hearing so much buzz about it, almost entirely favorable.

I definitely wanted to get on board the hype-train, because in my life FOMO is a very real thing. If I see friends reading and enjoying something, I want it.

I was super excited to check it out and see if I would love it as much as everyone else seemed to.

Y’all, I’m so happy to report, the hype is real with this one. I found it absolutely gripping from the very first pages. It was so intriguing and it actually felt different to me than other recent Psychological Thrillers.

I’m not knocking other Psychological Thrillers, it’s one of my favorite subgenres, but this one just had a unique feel to it that’s hard for me to explain.

In this story, we meet Tate, who at the very beginning of the story is arrested for murder after a woman plunged to her death from the rooftop of the building Tate works in.

We have police interviews, attorney-client consultations, flashbacks, all of these different components weaving together beautifully to build-out this narrative.

I loved watching the truth be revealed. As a Reader, you initially have no idea what is going on. You’re getting a lot of the presentation of events from Tate, but how trustworthy is she? What is her motive and what is she hiding?

I’ve said it a million times, I am such a sucker for an unreliable narrator and Tate definitely fits the bill. Additionally, the pace with which Mancini reveals the truth at the heart of this story is exceptional.

There was a little bit of a lull for me somewhere around the 60% point, where some of the explorations of the issue this story mainly tackles got a bit, for my taste, repetitive and heavy-handed, but that is purely personal taste.

Overall, I was quite impressed with the structure of this story, the character development and the constantly compelling story arc.

This is the first that I have read from Ruth Mancini, but I cannot wait to read more. I definitely recommend this one to anyone who enjoys an intense, twisted, thought-provoking and engaging Psychological Thriller.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Harper Paperbacks, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I had such a fun time reading this and have been thinking about it ever since. This was a great way to kick off a new year of reading!

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Review: A Twisted Love Story by Samantha Downing

A Twisted Love StoryA Twisted Love Story by Samantha Downing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure what to expect from A Twisted Love Story after seeing a few mixed reviews. For me it was a fun and engaging Domestic Drama, which offered up quite a bit of food for thought that I wasn’t necessarily anticipating.

Downing was able to draw me in and keep my attention, which is pretty tough to do during the holiday season!

This story focuses on Wes and Ivy, whose contentious romance has nevertheless lasted for a decade.

Their on-again, off-again nature may seem toxic to outsiders, but for them, it is their deep, passionate love for one another that pushes them to extremes at times.

Ivy messes up though and ends up contacting the wrong outsider and drawing her attention to their relationship. Unfortunately, the new woman in their life is a detective and Wes and Ivy have something they’re desperate to hide.

As Detective Karen Colglazier begins to circle the couple like a shark, the heat ramps up and they start feeling serious pressure. It’s a classic game of cat-and-mouse as Ivy and Wes scramble to get out from under the Detective’s scrutiny.

When I first began this story, I hadn’t read the full synopsis. Samantha Downing’s name was enough to attract me to the book. As it was first kicking off, we’re getting a lot of info regarding Ivy, Wes and their relationship. I was curious how it was going to gain intensity, or suspense, from that set-up.

It soon became clear Downing had a plan and I just needed to relax into it. She definitely pulled it off in the end.

I found this story to be compelling and highly readable. While I would tamper your expectations as far as thrills go, I think as a character exploration and twisted romance, this one is extremely well-paced and plotted.

I may be reading too much into it, but it made me think a lot about assumptions. We all make assumptions, even if unintentional, a lot of time based on our own experiences.

We’ve all heard of, or even know of, relationships like Wes and Ivy’s. I enjoyed watching the side characters interacting with them and discussing their relationship with them.

Each of these friends and family members it seemed felt they knew what was best, but I don’t feel like any of them were ever truly spot on with this couple.

Most interesting to me was the Detective’s perspective. She was definitely making assumptions about them, which I felt were incorrect, but then things would happen that would make me second-guess my own interpretation. It was super enjoyable and engaging.

I would recommend this story to people who enjoy dramatic, possibly OTT-Domestic Dramas. This title says it all, this is a twisted love story. That’s exactly what it is.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This is only my second Downing novel, but I’m excited to pick up more!

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Review: The Guest by B.A. Paris

The GuestThe Guest by B.A. Paris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

B.A. Paris is back and she’s bringing my favorite kind of suspenseful Domestic Drama with her.

I had so much fun reading The Guest. Frustrating in the best ways, I found it to be completely addictive and one heck of a gripping roller coaster ride.

In this story we meet Iris and Gabriel, a married couple living in the British countryside. They have a grown daughter who is currently working abroad in Greece, so all is fairly peaceful on the homefront.

That is until the day a local boy suffered a terrible accident, falling into a nearby quarry. Gabriel was the one to find the boy’s battered body and even though Gabriel’s a skilled doctor, there was nothing he could do.

The boy couldn’t be saved, but Gabriel did get to be with him in his final moments, so he wasn’t alone.

Gabriel hasn’t been the same since that tragic day, and even though Iris is trying to help him cope, it’s definitely put a strain on their relationship.

As they are grappling with this, an unexpected house guest arrives. Their old friend, Laure, has shown up from Paris. She says that she and her husband, Pierre, have had a terrible fight and she needs a place to stay.

Iris and Gabriel have been best friends with Laure and Pierre for many, many years, so they tell Laure that she is welcome and that she can stay for as long as she needs.

Laure moves herself in and makes herself as comfortable as possible, wearing Iris’s clothes and shadowing her every move. As the days and even weeks pass, the couple begins to question Laure’s story and her motives.

What is she really doing there and when the heck is she going to leave?

As tension mounts, more people get drawn into the twisted drama; the new couple in town, their handsome gardener and even Iris and Gabriel’s daughter.

As mentioned above, I really enjoyed this one and found the narrative to be compulsively readable. From the Prologue, Paris had absolutely hooked me. She definitely has a gift for drawing the Reader in.

From the initial set-up, with Laure arriving at the house, you can just tell it is going to get freaking wild. There’s a vibe under the surface of constant tension and intrigue.

No matter how crazy things get though, I always find Paris’s main characters to be relatable. I never have a problem putting myself in their shoes and imagining what I would do in any given situation.

This one had me biting my nails with tension, yelling at Laure, yelling at Iris. I would have done some major clean-out of my house, that’s for sure.

I really got sucked into all of the interpersonal drama in this story, but also loved the mystery running throughout. It was hard to tell who you could trust and some of the connections were also shady.

There were some real strong reveals and I was happy with the way it ultimately concluded. This did feel more reminiscent to some of Paris’s earlier works as well, which were a little stronger for me than her more recent releases.

I would definitely recommend this one to anyone who enjoys a taut, twisted Domestic Drama, particularly if you have enjoyed B.A. Paris’s earlier stories.

I would also recommend reading this one with a friend, or Book Club. I actually Buddy Read it and thought it was exciting to discuss it with someone else as we discovered the twists and turns together.

Overall, I thought this was such a great read. I’m so happy Paris continues to write these types of stories. As long as she is writing them, I’ll be reading them.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio, for providing me copies to read and review. The Guest is releasing on February 20, 2024, and IMO, this one should not be missed!!

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Review: The Night of the Sleepover (Sleepover #1) by Kerry Wilkinson

The Night of the Sleepover (Sleepover #1)The Night of the Sleepover by Kerry Wilkinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Night of the Sleepover is the first book in Kerry Wilkinson’s Sleepover series. Having never read from this author before, I had no real expectations going in.

I found Wilkinson’s writing to be quite engaging. She was able to hook me from the start. I was intrigued and couldn’t stop thinking about this when I wasn’t reading it.

In this story we are following single-mom, Leah, who 20-years ago had a her three best friends disappear during a weekend sleepover.

Four girls started out the night, comfy in their pajamas, eating pizza and even sneaking some vodka, but only one remained in the morning. Leah.

As you can imagine, the years since haven’t been easy. She’s had a difficult time getting close to people. It’s a small town, everyone knows her troubled past. Some even cast suspicion on her, how could she have slept through that? Those who don’t, tip-toe around her with pity in their eyes.

As the 20th-anniversary approaches, Leah receives word that, Owen, the little brother of one of her missing friends is going to be making a documentary on the disappearance. He reaches out for her help.

Soon after the news of the upcoming documentary spreads, Leah receives a mystery email from a dummy account stating two words, ‘stop them’.

Leah is scared. Is this message from a friend, or a foe? What could their motivations be? Why would someone want to stop the truth from coming out? After all these years, is the truth better off staying buried?

As mentioned above, I was hooked into this story very quickly. I liked Leah’s perspective and we do get her both in the present, as well as flashbacks to the time of the infamous sleepover.

I thought both timelines were equally intriguing and liked following along as they perfectly-pieced together the truth of what happened that night. This is the kind of story where you need to know and there’s no stopping until you find out.

I enjoyed the level of intensity that Wilkinson was able to conjure here as well. I felt for Leah, to have that night always looming over her like a dark shadow, and then with the anniversary approaching! Honestly, it was like cutting open your own old wounds.

I wasn’t sure who to trust either. We meet a few different side characters throughout Leah’s story and many of them seemed suspicious as heck to me.

The narrator for the audiobook had me feeling like I was literally listening to Leah recount what was happening to her. It brought it to life and in my opinion, made the narrative even more thrilling.

Full disclosure, this was a 3.5-star book for me, which I would have rounded up, pretty much the whole way through, but that ending…

Yeah baby, that’s what I like!!!

I’m so excited for the next book, After the Sleepover. I haven’t read too much about it, so I am not sure in what direction it is going, but regardless, the anticipation is real. I’m starting it tonight!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Bookouture and Bookouture Audio, for providing me copies to read and review. I can’t wait to pick up more from Kerry Wilkinson!!

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Review: The Stranger Upstairs by Lisa M. Matlin

The Stranger UpstairsThe Stranger Upstairs by Lisa M. Matlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Things to know about me: I am a huge sucker for an unreliable narrator, particularly if alcohol is involved, and I like unlikable MCs. Check and check for this book.

Unsurprisingly, the first thing that attracted me to The Stranger Upstairs was the cover. I’m shallow. Seriously, can we just take a moment to drink in these colors?

Next was the synopsis, which sold me on the idea of a social media influencer buying a murder house to renovate for content. And with gothic vibes!?

We love that. Additionally, it’s from a debut author and is set in Australia. We love that even more!!

Unfortunately, due to over-extending myself, and I didn’t get to it as quickly as I wanted to. Then the reviews started rolling in and some of them weren’t the greatest.

I started to get nervous. I started to prioritize other books over this one. It was a whole thing. Having now completed this, I wish I would have read it sooner. I thought it was so much fun; a gripping page-turner!

In this story we follow Sarah Slade, a therapist, who is also gaining some traction as a lifestyle influencer.

Black Wood House was once the scene of a grisly murder-suicide, and now it’s Sarah’s latest pet project. She and her husband need a place to start over, and due to its murder house status, they’re able to procure Black Wood at a ridiculously low price in a highly-desirable neighborhood.

Sarah’s idea is to renovate it and she can use the renovation as constant content to attract new followers, helping her to reach the next level in social media status.

Her husband, not a fan of purchasing the house in the first place, can hardly stand to be there. He doesn’t understand Sarah’s determination with this project.

Once the builders, hired on to help with the reno, begin acting strangely and having unexplained accidents, it appears maybe Sarah’s husband is on to something about the malevolent nature of the house.

Nothing is shaking Sarah though, not even the threatening notes that begin showing up for her. Someone doesn’t want her there. Is it the house, or someone else and is Sarah really willing to risk everything just for content?

There are so many layers to this story, but you’ll have to read it to discover all the little avenues Matlin takes us down. Admittedly, the writing style took me a minute to get used to, as it didn’t flow quite the way I expected.

However, after reading the entire story, I sort of feel like the way it was written matches Sarah’s personality perfectly. It’s like viewing the world through her eyes and I not only came to enjoy it, but I became extremely invested in it.

If I had to compare it, I would say the style reminds me of Mona Awad’s style, particularly in All’s Well.

I was extremely intrigued by the house and Sarah’s motivations for being there. I did feel like the house had a lot of Amityville vibes, but it wasn’t a turn off for me. I actually quite liked that.

Sarah, as a character isn’t particularly likable, and you might even classify her as unreliable, but I don’t need to like characters to enjoy a story. Additionally, as mentioned above, I love an unreliable narrator, so I think this story was just set-up to work for me.

I also really enjoyed the mystery behind what was happening with the house. It had a great, is it supernatural, is it not-intrigue to it that I always enjoy.

As Sarah is coming more unhinged the longer she stays in the house, she’s also simultaneously trying to figure out what is going on. I thought Matlin did a great job keeping the intensity up throughout and making Sarah’s investigations into her circumstances believable.

I think as far as debuts go, this one is very strong. I think if this is the kind of story that usually works for you, you should absolutely give this one a go. It’s tense and gripping throughout, with a very interesting conclusion.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Bantam, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I am really looking forward to reading more from Lisa M. Matlin!

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