Review: Before She Falls

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**4 Goodreads Stars**

When I read the synopsis for Dylan Young’s Before She Falls, I was intrigued. This book is one of the several books I’ve read this past year that examines how social media can be unleashed for evil. The books that come to mind include Britney King’s The Replacement Wife and The Social Affair, Nick Clark Windo’s The Feed, Laura Marshall’s Friend Request, AV Geiger’s Follow Me Back, and Kathleen Barber’s Are You Sleeping. Given these times, I do often wonder what would happen if social media and the internet ceased to exist.

How would we learn to communicate with each other again? Would we be better off?

Dylan Young’s Before She Falls makes me believe that yes, we might be better off without social media. It involves the deaths of mostly young people that appear to be inspired by a social media challenge called the “Black Squid.” The Black Squid challenge specifically targets people who are depressed, lonely, isolated, and experiencing suicidal ideations. The challenge helps accentuate these feelings, encouraging participants to commit suicide. As the book describes,

“This was the destruction of a human being from a distance. A sick and twisted game with death as the prize.”

I appreciated the author’s knowledge of the entire forensics process. As someone who has a tad bit of knowledge in this area (such as how to identify human remains), I could tell the author knew what he was writing about. I also liked that the author paid close attention to character development. This story was not merely about a crime, but also the people who were trying to solve it. Anna, the lead detective in the story, had an interesting and intriguing back story that intersected with the case she was trying to solve.

Overall, this is a really strong read that made me think twice about the “power” of social media. Thank you to Bookouture, Dylan Young, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Before She Falls!

Before She Falls - Blog Tour

BUY LINKS

Amazon:  http://geni.us/BSFSocial

iBookstore: https://tinyurl.com/y7bw9tcn

Kobo: https://tinyurl.com/ycojzwvj

Googleplay: https://tinyurl.com/y7gvpyxb

Description

Kimberley was a beautiful young girl with the world at her feet.
Before she fell.
Before she was gone.

When Kimberley Williams jumps off Southerndown Cliff, her family and the close-knit community are shocked. What would make her take her own life when she had so much of it left to live?

Detective Anna Gwynne is assigned to the case after it becomes clear that someone made Kimberley jump. Someone had been sending Kimberley messages, saying they would tell everyone her secret…

Then Anna realises there are others, all being sent the same messages, all with their lives at risk. To find the truth she will have to confront her own past, the lies she’s told about her childhood and the demons hidden there…

Can she save these innocent lives?

What is the secret they’re all dying for?

An absolutely gripping thriller that will hook you from beginning to end. If you love Val McDermid, Angela Marsons and Robert Dugoni, you won’t be able to put down Before She Falls.

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Author Bio

Dylan Young grew up in a mining village in South Wales before boarding a train for university in London. A career in the NHS followed, but the urge to write never went away. Three dark psychological thrillers for Random House emerged in the late nineties, two of which were made into BBC films. Over the last decade, under different pseudonyms, he’s written children’s books and an adult contemporary fantasy series. But his liking for crime (writing) never died. Book 1 in the Detective Anne Gwynne crime thriller series, The Silent Girls, and Book 2, Blood Runs Cold, are available now.

Author Social Media Links

Website: http://www.dylanyoungauthor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dyoungwrites/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/dyoungwrites

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Review: The Neighbors

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**4.5 Goodreads Stars**

Abby is in a horrific car crash as a teenager and loses her beloved brother, Tom, in it. She survives and blames herself for the accident, never truly moving on from it. She carries the trauma with her every single day as she was supposedly drinking behind the wheel when the accident happened.

Flash forward to many years later where we find her happily married to the loving Nate. Nate and Abby have a snarky teenage daughter named Sarah, who is hell-bent on challenging her mom’s strict rules.

Their three lives are about dramatically change when their new neighbors move next door. There is Liam, who is to die for handsome and in incredible shape for a middle-aged man. There’s Nancy, his wife, who is insecure about her looks and wishes Liam would give her more attention. And then there is Zac, their son, who is a typical teenage boy with the exception of his exceedingly attractive looks, looks he inherited from his father.

Abby and Liam know each other from their teenage years, and are absolutely stunned to discover they are neighbors. Their secret threatens to destroy the happy couples’ lives, a secret that will shock readers right to the very last page of this book!

What I enjoyed about this book is the complexity of the characters. By the end of the book, you feel like you know them and can envision them being real human beings. I felt bad for Abby, who has been denied so much love and affection in her life that she seems unable to be happy even when Nate bends over backward to take care of her.
The final pages of this book packed a huge punch and will not disappoint. If you like thrillers that have clever twists and turns, this book is for you!

I rated this book 4.5 stars (🌟🌟🌟🌟) out of 5! Highly recommend it! Thank you to Harlequin, NetGalley, and the author, Hannah Mary McKinnon for an advanced reader copy of this book.

Review: Speak of the Devil

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**4 Goodreads Stars**

Vanessa is a housewife who lives under the controlling eye of her much older husband, a man who is deeply involved in a church cult. She also serves as Siren for the cult, befriending and courting men who might serve the cult’s nefarious plans.

Elliot is a recently separated chemist who is lonely and looking to get his wife back whatever way possible. He develops and pioneers a new drug, one that makes people happily compliant. He’s Vanessa’s mark – his life will be turned upside down thanks to the cult.

If you haven’t read the other two books in the series, you might struggle to pick up some of the backstory. I really enjoyed both of the other books – they kept me interested from page one. This book builds slowly, ending with a crescendo that leaves you wondering what will happen in the next installment of the series (if there will be one!).

Thank you to the author for an opportunity to read an advanced reader copy of this book. I love how she writes interesting, complex characters who draw you in with first person narratives!

Title: Speak of the Devil
Author: Britney King
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Release Date: October 4, 2018

Speak of the Devil is a captivating, darkly satiric psychological thriller which offers readers another savage look into a utopian cultish society where beauty and perfection are valued at all costs and it’s best to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. 

In the upscale suburb where Vanessa Bolton lives, she’s your average suburban housewife.

She does her grocery shopping on Tuesday, Thursday mornings are reserved for Pilates, Sundays for church. At home, she’s an impeccable housekeeper and a mother with a mediocre track record.

But in discreet hotel rooms throughout the city, she can be whatever you want her to be—provided you can afford the hourly fee.

In the rapidly expanding cult to which she belongs, Vanessa has been assigned the role of a “Siren”—a recruiter trained to use seduction to elicit compliance from her marks.

Vanessa’s latest assignment—an unsuspecting chemist merely looking for something without strings—proves to be her toughest yet. Unwilling to neatly slide into the roles society has prescribed for them, the two collide in a sensual and savage affair that threatens not only their own lives but also those they seek to protect most.

Featuring “tantalizing suspense, pulse-pounding danger, sex, and double-dealing,” Speak of the Devil is a timely and riveting psychological thriller that is impossible to put down.




“….this is a series that stands apart from all other psychological thrillers out there as Britney King uses unique concepts and slays character roles.” – Elle’s Book Blog

“By far my favorite of the New Hope series. I couldn’t put it down!!” – Goodreads review

“The writing in fantastic. The plot was engaging and original…” – Between the Bookends

Britney King lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, children, two dogs, one ridiculous cat, and a partridge in a pear tree.

When she’s not wrangling the things mentioned above, she writes psychological, domestic and romantic thrillers set in suburbia.

Currently, she’s writing three series and several standalone novels.

The Bedrock Series features an unlikely heroine who should have known better. Turns out, she didn’t. Thus she finds herself tangled in a messy, dangerous, forbidden love story and face-to-face with a madman hell-bent on revenge. The series has been compared to Fatal Attraction, Single White Female, and Basic Instinct.

The Water Series follows the shady love story of an unconventional married couple—he’s an assassin—she kills for fun. It has been compared to a crazier book version of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Also, Dexter.

Around The Bend is a heart-pounding standalone, which traces the journey of a well-to-do suburban housewife, and her life as it unravels, thanks to the secrets she keeps. If she were the only one with things she wanted to keep hidden, then maybe it wouldn’t have turned out so bad. But she wasn’t.
The With You Series at its core is a deep love story about unlikely friends who travel the world; trying to find themselves, together and apart. Packed with drama and adventure along with a heavy dose of suspense, it has been compared to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Love, Rosie.
The Social Affair is an intense standalone about a timeless couple who find themselves with a secret admirer they hadn’t bargained for. For fans of the anti-heroine and stories told in unorthodox ways, the novel explores what can happen when privacy is traded for convenience. It is reminiscent of films such as One Hour Photo and Play Misty For Me. 

Without a doubt, connecting with readers is the best part of this gig. You can find Britney online here: 

To get more– grab two books for free, by subscribing to her mailing list at britneyking.com or just copy and paste bit.ly/britneykingweb into your browser. 

Happy reading.

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Review: No Exit

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**4 Goodreads Stars**

Taylor Adam’s No Exit is a keep-you-on-your-toes thriller that mixes classic storytelling with contemporary high-velocity suspense novel pacing. It’s been forever since I  read a thriller that was so scary I had to put it down at night. No Exit had so many skin-crawling twists and turns that I ended up reading most of it during the day!

This book is basically one of my worst fears made real. I used to live in a remote, rural part of the inland Pacific Northwest (United States) and spent a good deal of time driving from one really remote place to another. Rest stops were the only places where I encountered other human beings, and when you are driving for hours on end to get from one small city to another, you have to stop to go to the restroom. I absolutely hated these drives, especially in the winter, because rest stops are usually pretty empty spare a few questionable folks.

The lead character, Darby, is embarking on the same kind of trip in the middle of a snowstorm. The storm becomes so bad that the roads are closed and she is forced to stop overnight at a sketchy rest stop with a cast of equally oddball characters. Darby has been desperately trying to get home to see her mother, who has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing surgery for it. Her mind is clouded with regret over things she hasn’t said to her and things she wishes she didn’t say to her mother.

Amid these terrible feelings, she soon begins to suspect that something is gravely amiss at the rest stop when, in an attempt to get cell phone service outside, she sees what appears to be a child trapped in a sketchy looking van. Is her guilt and mind playing tricks on her, or is something absolutely horrific taking place at the rest stop? When Darby goes back inside the rest stop, she must figure out who is lying, who is the owner of the van, and who may be posing a threat to the entire rest stop. This is a very traditional whodunit (like Ten Little Indians or Clue!) in that the lead character must follow clues to decipher the potential killer/child-kidnappers.

My only complaint is that I am not a huge fan of horror writing, and this is a personal preference There are many gruesome parts of the book that I could have skipped. Nonetheless, this book kept me on the edge of my seat during the entire read. There were so many terrifying twists and turns, many of which I did not see coming!

Thank you to the publisher, William Morrow, the author, Taylor Adams, and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy of this book!

Review: An Anonymous Girl

**4.5 Goodreads Stars**

“Sometimes a simple gift is actually a vessel utilized to issue a warning shot.”

“We all have reasons for our actions. Even if we hide the reason from those who think they know us best. Even if the reasons are so deeply buried we can’t recognize them ourselves.”

To what lengths would you go if you were barely making ends meet?

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen’s latest book, An Anonymous Girl, examines this question when the book’s lead character, Jessica, finds herself embroiled in a psychological study for generous compensation. Jessica is working as a struggling makeup artist when a client mentions a psychological study in which they are enrolled. This study piques Jessica’s interest as she needs money to make rent and help her family out. Jessica decides to pose as her client to get access to the study. Surprisingly, she is accepted into the study.

At first, the study seems like a financial dream come true. She gets paid a generous sum each time she fills out digital surveys about morality and choices she would make in particular scenarios. Soon, however, Jessica starts to question the purpose of the study and the intentions of the psychologist running it. Jessica feels as though she is revealing her entire life story – good and bad – to the mysterious psychologist behind the computer screen and begins to wonder if sharing such intimate details of her life is worth the price.

She becomes infatuated with the psychologist running the study, Dr. Shields, and wants to know why Dr. Shields needs to know so much information about her study’s subjects. Jessica discovers the gorgeous, wealthy, academically brilliant Dr. Shields has a dark past, one that Jessica believes may have led to the death of one of Dr. Shields’ subjects. Jessica finds herself drawn closer to Dr. Shields, befriending her with the intention of unraveling the shocking truth about the psychological study and its effect on its participants. The closer Jessica gets the more she questions her initial consent to the study.

I really liked the premise of this book, but I think it could have used a bit more editing; at times it felt a bit drawn out and slow. That being said, the authors know how to weave a clever, engaging story with characters with whom the reader can relate. They are brilliant writers who craft interesting prose that keeps you reading even if the story is a bit farfetched. As a researcher who has to follow the same institutional review board protocols discussed in this book, I can’t imagine someone like Dr. Shields surviving in academia (though she was on leave in the book for her misdeeds!). Psychological studies like the Stanford Prison Experiment have been known to take advantage of their subjects, though I would hope those are now far and few between.

If you are interested in the author’s other works: I read Sarah Pekkanen’s The Ever After earlier this year, and you can read my review here. I also read Hendricks and Pekkanen’s The Wife Between Us, and my review can be found here. Thank you to the authors, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced e-galley of what will likely be one of the hottest psychological thrillers of 2018!

Review: Lies

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**5 Goodreads Stars**

“Everything you know is a lie. There was a stranger in my house, and I was married to her.”

Joe’s ordinary life as a part-time English high school teacher and stay-at-home-dad to his adorable 4-year-old son William is thrown into absolute chaos when William sees his mother’s car parked at a seedy hotel. William begs his dad to stop to see his mommy, which Joe does out of curiosity. What is his wife, a stunning, successful businesswoman, doing at a rundown hotel in the middle of the afternoon when she should be at work?

Joe reluctantly parks their car and enters the hotel. There, he discovers that his wife is meeting with a mutual family friend, Ben, who is wealthy beyond imagination. Ben and Joe’s wife are having what appears to be a heated discussion over a meal. Realizing this isn’t the best place for a 4-year-old, Joe quickly exits the hotel hoping his wife and Ben did not see them. As soon as they get to their car, Ben appears out of nowhere. Joe and Ben get into a confrontation, which leads to Joe pushing Ben onto the ground. Ben’s head hits the pavement and he is knocked unconscious.

As if things can’t get worse, William starts to have an asthma attack and Joe can’t find his inhaler. Joe abandons Ben in the parking lot and speeds home to get William’s inhaler. Plagued with guilt, Joe heads back to the parking lot once William is better only to discover Ben is no longer there. What happened to Ben? Is he okay? Or did something terrible happen?

Even worse, Joe confronts his wife about Ben and fails to get a straight answer from her about their meeting. What is Joe’s wife lying about? Why won’t she tell Joe the truth? In the meantime, Ben has gone missing. Ben’s wife, Beth, and teenage daughter, Alice, are distraught and report his disappearance to the police. Soon Joe is drawn into a police investigation and becomes the number one suspect in Ben’s possible murder. Joe’s friends and family doubt his innocence, leaving him on his own to solve the mystery of what happened to Ben.

TM Logan’s Lies is a heart-pounding, fast-paced thriller that never has a dull moment. There are so many creative twists and turns in this book and I was sad to see it end.  I loved all the cyber espionage in the story and the discussions of how technology can be used to sabotage a police investigation and conceal reality. Logan has a gift for drawing the reader into the story. I love books that have characters who are relatable, empathetic, and authentic. Joe, the lead character, was all of these things and more. While the ending was a bit Lifetime Movie-esque, I was captivated by all the scenes leading up to the finale. If you like novels that keep you guessing until the very last page, Lies is definitely for you.

Thank you to the author, TM Logan, and NetGalley for an advanced e-galley of Lies. I look forward to reading Logan’s next book!

Review: Almost Everything

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**5++ Goodreads Stars**

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

“Haters want us to hate them, because hate is incapacitating. When we hate, we can’t operate from our real selves, which is our strength.”

Oh Anne Lamott, how do you manage to rip my heart into pieces and then mend it ever so carefully back together? This is what Lamott calls a paradox or conundrum, that life brings both immense joy and heart-wrenching pain, pain that, at times, is unbearable. Take her discussion of having children:

“We are consumed by the most intense love for one another and the joy of living, along with the grief and terror that we and our babies will know unbelievable hurt: broken bones, bad boyfriends, old age…Every day we’re in the grip of the impossible conundrum: the truth that it’s over in a blink, and we may be near the end, and that we have to live as if it’s going to be okay, no matter what.”

Lamott’s Almost Everything: Notes on Hope is meandering and rambling in the most poignant way, a method of writing only Lamott can get away with. It is structured around themes that she wants to share with her grandchild, stories she wants to pass on that she deems critical for one’s survival in a brutal world.

As with Lamott’s other books, I highlighted nearly everything. So many beautiful passages, so much wisdom that has come from the pain that Lamott has known well. This is not a pain she monopolizes. Rather, this book is about how pain is part of the human condition. And because it can happen to any one of us, Lamott believes that we must find peace and happiness every single day. That joy cannot come from a number on a scale or your paystub, though:

“Could you say this about yourself right now, that you have immense and intrinsic value, at your current weight and income level, while waiting to hear if you got the job or didn’t, or sold your book or didn’t? This idea that I had all the value I’d ever needed was concealed from me my whole life. I want a refund.”

“The opposite of love is the bathroom scale.”

Lamott argues that happiness is not found in materiality but something that is omnipresent, waiting to be found in the most mundane places. There is also beauty in grief and beauty in tragedy, though she certainly does not argue that there is a rhyme or reason as to who gets saddled with grief in this universe. Grief is not a lesson to learn, forced upon those who have sinned.

“We do get a taste of the spheres in birdsong, eclipses, the surf, tangerines. In the dark, we see the stars. In the aftermath of devastating fire, the sun rose red. To pay close attention to and mostly accept your life, inside and out and around your body, is to be halfway home.”

How do we cultivate this love of the quotidian? Through play, observing the world around you, through helping others, and, of course, through reading:

“Books! To fling myself into a book, to be carried away to another world while being at my most grounded, on my butt or in my bed or favorite chair, is literally how I have survived being here at all. Someone else is doing the living for me, and all I have to do is let their stories, humor, knowledge, and images – some of which I’ll never forget – flow through me, even as I forget to turn off the car when I arrive at my destination.”

As always, Lamott also has some brilliant things to say about writing:

“Write because you have to, because the process brings great satisfaction. Write because you have a story to tell, not because you think publishing will make you the person you always wanted to be. There is approximately zero chance of that happening.”

“We have to cultivate the habits of curiosity and paying attention, which are essential to living rich lives and writing. You raise your eyes out of the pit, which is so miserable and stifling to be in and which tried to grab you and keep you there, until something sneaky hauled you out and changed you.”

Lamott won’t give you easy answers about life in this book, but she will give you a lot to chew on. She challenges you to be reflexive, to examine what’s holding you back in life and what you need to move forward – that these things are not a one size fits all sort of solution. We need to dig deep and find that with which we struggle: confront it and learn to live with it the best we can.

Above all else, she asks her reader to sit with the world: watch it, learn from it, listen to it, breathe it in. For “God is often in solitude and quiet, through the still, small voice – in the breeze, not the thunder.”

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I loved this book. I love nearly everything Lamott writes (Bird by Bird is one of my all-time favorite books!). Thank you to Edelweiss, Anne Lamott, and Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House for an advanced reader copy of Almost Everything.