Review: Little Disasters


**4 Stars**

Jess is a picture-perfect stay at home mother; she is pretty, thin, and has three beautiful children, including her beautiful baby Betsey. She is married to Ed, a successful businessman who works long days and nights to sustain his family and help his wife stay home. Jess’ world is flipped upside down when she finds herself being charged with negligent parenting after bringing Betsey into the ER. To make matters worse, the charges have been filed by Jess’ friend and ER doctor, Liz, who she befriended in a mother-baby group with their first children.

The story is told from the competing perspectives of Jess and Liz. Liz is a hard-working mother who feels terrible for reporting Jess. However, Betsey’s injuries appear serious; it seems as though she sustained a head injury, an injury that resulted in Betsey seizing and remaining hospitalized. Jess’ story of how Betsey got injured is inconsistent, making everyone around her wonder if she committed an unforgivable crime.

Did the taxing nature of motherhood cause Jess to hurt her child? Or is someone else responsible for Betsey’s serious injury?

Perhaps the guilty party is Ed, who might be having an affair on the side with Jess’ friend, Charlotte. Or maybe it is one of Jess’ sons, who are somewhat neglected due to the arrival of their newborn sister, Betsey. Or maybe it is Jess herself, who has been suffering from delusions and anxiety since she had Betsey. Liz also seems to have some skeletons in her closet and is working with doctors who are notoriously difficult to please.

This book is a good character study on the challenges and difficulties of being a parent. I appreciated the time the author put into developing the plot and characters. There were also lots of twists and turns that were unexpected that kept me engaged and interested in the book.

Thank you to Atria/Emily Bestler Books, NetGalley, and the author, Sarah Vaughan, for an advanced reader copy of Little Disasters!


Review: Playing Nice


**5 Stars**

I took a bit of a break from book reviewing due to some health issues and am slowly working my way back to reading and reviewing regularly. When I was approved for J.P. Delaney’s Playing Nice, I was super excited to dive in and see what Delaney has cooked up for his readers. I have reviewed his last three books and loved them all; here are the links to my reviews of his last three books: Review: The Perfect Wife, Review: Believe Me, and Review: The Girl Before.

Playing Nice is a bit of a departure from his last three books. I don’t mean this in a negative way – it’s just a different type of book that looks deeply at what happens when a child is switched at birth and ends up with the “wrong” biological family. This book spends a good deal of time developing two characters – the parents (Pete and Maddie) of a child, Theo, who they discover is not their biological child. Pete and Maddie’s world is shattered when Miles and Lucy, Theo’s biological parents, show up unannounced in their lives and reveal the devastating truth that their children were switched at birth. I was super interested in how this complex, unusual situation would unravel and how each of the characters would respond to it.

How did Theo get switched at birth? Who is responsible? Nurses? The hospital? Or is it something more sinister, such as one of the parents? 

I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, but let’s just say that Miles and Lucy have ulterior motives in sharing this shocking information with Pete and Maddie. At first, it seems as though Miles and Lucy are good-natured folks who want the hospital responsible for the switch to be held accountable. There are vast class differences between the two families; Miles and Lucy are wealthy, while Pete and Maddie are struggling to get by. Both couples seem to have fractured relationships that also complicate matters.

What did I think of this book? I did miss some of the shocking twists and turns of Delaney’s last 3 books, but that doesn’t mean this book wasn’t enjoyable. As I said before, this is a book that is focused on character development more than pulling the rug under readers. Delaney has a real talent for making his characters come to life and feel relatable, no matter what questionable deeds they’ve committed. There are some surprising twists in this book, but they are simply not as dramatic in Delaney’s previous works. If you enjoy well-crafted characters and a skillfully paced plot, this book is for you!

Thank you to the author, J.P. Delaney, the publisher, Random House Publishing, and NetGalley for an advanced reviewer copy of Playing Nice!

Review: Follow Me


**5++ Stars**

Another hit from Kathleen Barber! I really enjoyed her last book (Are You Sleeping), which focused on how social media can add complexities and nuances to our modern lives. Follow Me also looks at how people’s worlds have changed thanks to social media and how social media has made it so much easier for people to stalk and harass others.

Audrey, the lead character of the book, is beautiful, and, from everything one sees on her social media, successful. She has a new, exciting job helping create social media buzz and content for the hottest and edgiest new art installation at a hip museum in Washington, DC. From outward appearances, it looks like she has it all – the looks, the job, the friends, the boyfriend….but what is really going on behind the scenes?

The reality is that Audrey is self-serving and careless with her friendships and relationships. She sometimes sees friends and boyfriends as simply a backdrop in her Instagram-perfect life, taking advantage of people’s kindness and desire to be around her. Audrey is somewhat clueless about how the people in her life feel about her.

All of this is about to change when a stalker – possibly multiple stalkers – starts to follow Audrey’s every move. Who is this person – or people – following her? What do they want from her? Perhaps the most dangerous people in Audrey’s life are those who are the closest to her.</b>

What I loved about this book is how the tension builds page by page. This was truly a classic mystery with a modern social media twist.

If you enjoy Riley Sager or even classic Agatha Christie novels, Barber is definitely your cup of tea! I read this SO quickly, which is kind of a bummer because now I have to wait for another new Barber book to come out!

Thanks to Kathleen Barber, Gallery/Pocket Books, and NetGalley for an advance reader copy of Follow Me.

Review: Lock Every Door


**5++ Stars**

Jules has a dark past, one from which she has been running since she lost everyone and everything that mattered to her in her life. When she is laid off from her job and catches her boyfriend cheating on her, she finds herself broke without a place to live.

But then an amazing job opportunity appears in the local newspaper, one that Jules can’t believe is real. The job involves housesitting a posh loft in Bartholomew, a historic building in a very upscale neighborhood. What’s even more incredible about the job is that it pays 12k: money that Jules desperately needs.

Jules takes it without hesitation despite the fact that there are a number of red flags. The building is known to be haunted and has its own mysterious past, one that involves numerous residents’ deaths and disappearances. Jules is asked to follow a strict set of rules while living in the loft. These rules include no guests, no leaving the loft overnight, and no talking to the residents of the buildings. These rules seem weird to her one and only best friend, who encourages her to stay with her until she gets a new job and some money in her bank account.

The weirdness doesn’t stop there. Jules makes friends with two of the residents (which is against the rules) who are also professional housesitters at the Bartholomew, and soon thereafter one of them disappears under suspicious circumstances. Jules’ boss says that her friend who disappeared gave notice and left in the middle of the night, but Jules doesn’t buy it. She starts investigating her friend’s disappearance and finds that no one has seen or heard from her. What Jules discovers about the Bartholomew is even worse than the ghost stories people tell about the building, but can she reveal the building and its residents’ crimes before it’s too late for her and the other housesitters?

I loved this book – the pacing was fantastic. It read like a classic Agatha Christie novel for the modern age. I loved Sager’s last two books, too, but I think this one is even better than the last two. If you enjoy thrillers, I highly recommend Lock Every Door. Sager clearly has another hit on his hands with this one! Thank you to Riley Sager, Penguin/Dutton, and NetGalley for the advanced reader copy!

Review: The Perfect Wife


**5 stars**

If you have read my blog or Instagram feed, you’ll know I am a huge JP Delaney fan. His books hook you from the very first page right until the very last! You can read my review of The Girl Before here and Believe Me here.

His latest book, The Perfect Wife, is no exception. If you like cleverly written character driven thrillers with jaw-dropping twists, Delaney is a must read.

The Perfect Wife takes place in the competitive, misogynistic environment of Silicon Valley, a place where tech giants will go to astounding (and unethical) lengths to ensure they make the most money and have the most power. The book explores how far Tim, a tech CEO and billionaire, will go to pursue perfection in his life and in his soulmate.

Tim founds an innovative AI (artificial intelligence) company that provides “shopbots” for department stores. Shopbots are designed to replace salespeople in stores, as they are more efficient, cheaper, and can intuitively determine a customer’s needs. Tim rules his company with an iron fist; the ground quakes when he’s angry, and his employees are accustomed to his ridicule when they fail to live up to Tim’s impossibly high standards.

Given Tim’s authoritarian temperament, one would not expect him to be drawn to the arts. But he announces that he is hiring an artist in residence for the company, much to the shock and surprise of his employees. The artist’s name is Abbie, and she is everything Tim is not: free-spirited, creative, artistic, go-with-the-flow, impulsive, and laid-back. She is also drop-dead gorgeous.

Abbie observes the employees and Tim, and makes art that reflects these interactions. Her art becomes a commentary on the abuse Tim’s employees suffer under Tim’s management. His employees expect a backlash from Tim, but instead, Tim seeks to take the art to heart, changing his management style while Abbie is around. Tim also starts to court Abbie, who, surprisingly, accepts his advances. They end up getting married and having one child, a son named Danny, who is on the spectrum.

Tragedy strikes Tim when Abbie disappears from their sprawling mansion on the sea, her body never recovered from the ocean.  Some people speculate that Abbie’s past as a wild child caught up with her; others wonder if the pressure of raising a child on the spectrum drove her to depression and ultimately suicide. Many assume that Tim killed her given his controlling nature, but he is acquitted of all charges and set free to continue to rule his empire at work.

Imagine his employees’ shock when Tim reveals he has remade Abbie in the form of a “cobot,” or companion AI. Abbie’s memories and past have been downloaded from a cloud of social media about her. The new Abbie realizes, however, that parts of her past are missing, including what happened the day the “real” Abbie went missing. AI Abbie also discovers that the “real” Abbie and Tim disagreed on their son, Danny’s treatment. Tim wanted not only the “perfect wife,” but also the “perfect son.” He wanted the latter so much that he was willing to place his son in an experimental school, one that is known for corporeal punishment.

Tim’s drive for money, fortune, success, and perfection makes him seem less human than Abbie the AI. This makes the reader ponder if AIs might have the potential to be more thoughtful, more caring, and more human than their makers. As Abbie the AI astutely observes,

“Perhaps the real test of someone’s humanity, you think, is how tenderly they treat those like Danny. Whether they blindly try to fix them and make them more like everyone else, or whether they accept their differentness and adapt the world to it.”

I greatly enjoyed the deep, philosophical questions this novel raises about humanity and AI, as well as about how people on the spectrum should be treated in this world. Delaney is especially sensitive to and well versed on issues relating to autism: his adult son is on the spectrum (and serves, I am guessing, as a mirror for the character of Danny in his book) and Delaney has devoted his life to caring for him. This book has a lot of heart for a thriller; it will make you reflect on what it truly means to be a sentient human being.

Thank you to the author, JP Delaney, Random House, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of the thrilling The Perfect Wife.

Review: The Last House Guest


**5 Stars**

“And still there were people like Evelyn, my grandmother’s neighbor, hiring me for odd jobs, trying to make sure I got by. All it did was bring me closer to more of the things I didn’t have. 

That was the problem with a place like this: everything was right out in the open, including the life you could never have.”

Avery Greer’s young life has been marked by tragedy; her parents died in a horrific car accident, leaving her to live with her grandmother, who was also injured in the crash. Not too long afterward, Avery’s grandmother passes, leaving Avery to build a life for herself with no help or relatives to support her.

Avery makes a life for herself in a Littleport, Maine, a beach town known for its contrasts. Windy, rainy winters give way to sunfilled, blue-skied summer. The wealthy 1% of the town’s residents own towering mansions that defy gravity by dangling off of the cliffsides, nearly tumbling into the seaside below; the rest of the residents, the 99%, labor and toil to maintain and keep up Littleport’s picturesque facade, properties, and beachscapes, hoping to sustain the summer tourism industry to make ends (barely) meet.

Avery falls into the latter group; nearly destitute, she sells her grandmother’s house – all that was left of her inheritance – to the Loman family, the wealthiest people in Littleport who control nearly every beautiful property in town. Soon, she finds herself working for the Loman family, cleaning their properties and managing them as they rent them out to summer vacationers. She proves her worth to the Lomans, eventually becoming a full-time property manager.

In the process, Sadie Loman, the Lomans’ daughter, befriends Avery unexpectedly. Sadie takes her in as though Avery is a wounded bird in need of care; Sadie gifts Avery expensive clothing beyond Avery’s paygrade and offers to share an apartment with Avery. Avery and Sadie develop a tight-knit, seemingly unbreakable friendship; they are inseparable 24/7. Avery feels as though she is becoming a Loman, or maybe even becoming a clone of Sadie. She doesn’t protest, as it is a way of escaping her past. As Miranda writes,

“I believe that a person can become possessed by someone else – at least in part. That one life can slip inside another, giving it shape. In this way, I could judge Sadie’s reaction before it occurred, picture an expression in the second before she shared it.”

This illusion of safety and shelter that Sadie’s friendship provides is shattered when Sadie is murdered, her body found lapping against the rocks of Littleton’s shoreline.

Avery immediately becomes a suspect because of her proximity to Sadie.

Did Avery become jealous with Sadie started developing a new friendship with her brother, Parker’s girlfriend, Luce? Did Avery discover that Sadie was having a relationship with Avery’s former lover, Connor?

Amid the town’s speculation and gossiping about Avery, she discovers that she was never really a Loman (as much as she tried to become one, much to the discontent of the town’s residents):

“How you could get pulled into the orbit of one world, thinking you had a place in it, even if you weren’t fully part of it.”

Avery races against time to solve the murder of Sadie in order to absolve herself of Sadie’s murder and find out the truth about what happened to her. Digging into Sadie and the Lomans’ past may uncover some unsavory and even shocking truths about the town of Littleton and the lengths to which its residents will go to hide its scandals, crimes, and misdeeds.

This was my second book by Miranda, and I think it’s safe to say that after this book I’ve become a really big fan. I did not see the ending coming at all – I really loved how it came together nicely and made complete sense. Miranda dropped a lot of hints along the way – I just missed them! I also liked the themes that this book explored – youthful friendships and the tensions that arise within them; class inequality; the longing to be someone else, or have someone else’s life (that seems perfect from the outside…but you know what they say about the grass); and loss and grief. Miranda tackled these topics with sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and care reflective of a gifted writer.

You can read my 5/5 star review of Miranda’s last book, The Perfect Stranger, here. Thank you so very much to the author, Megan Miranda, Simon & Schuster, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of The Last House Guest! I can’t wait to read Miranda’s next hit 🙂

Review: One Little Secret


**4 Stars**

In Cate Holahan’s One Little Secret, three couples who are neighbors decide to rent out a gorgeous beach house for a getaway. By the end of the trip, one person is dead and the remaining “friends” are all murder suspects.

The book reads like a modern twist on an Agatha Christie novel; though the book’s title suggests only one person has a secret, it appears as though every person on the trip is hiding something that could easily incriminate them. There are affairs – including ones between not just one but possibly TWO couples on the trip; there are financial issues between the couples; and, finally, there is a pending lawsuit involving two couples on the trip.  Yes, this is absolute recipe for disaster, to say the least.

Why any of these couples would willingly go on vacation with each other is beyond me, but it sure makes for a suspenseful read.

Readers should be aware that there is domestic violence in this book, and the author has dealt with it in the most delicate, critical way possible. It’s clear she has researched the psychology and manipulation involved in domestic violence. In this case, the women who is being abused is successful, smart, and has a fantastic career; her husband, the abuser, also has a successful career as a physician. He uses his career and training to mask the violence he is inflicting on his wife; his training grants him the knowledge of how to 1) conceal the bruises/physical trauma he causes, and 2) provide medications to his wife so that she can cope with the pain of abuse.

The ending of this book was satisfying, if not emotional. I highly recommend it for readers who enjoy suspense, thrillers, and crime novels.

I was really excited to get a copy of Holahan’s book because I really enjoyed her last book, Lies She Told, which I reviewed here. If you haven’t read that book, I highly recommend it (I gave it 5/5 stars!). Thank you to NetGalley, Cate Holahan, and Crooked Lane Books for an advanced reader copy of One Little Secret!

Review: The Silent Patient


**4 Goodreads Starsn (3.5 stars rounded up)**

Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient begins with a fascinating psychiatric case: a woman, Alicia Berenson, has gone completely silent – refusing to utter a single word – after being accused and convicted of brutally murdering her husband. Theo Faber, a criminal psychotherapist, hears of her story and decides he will take a risky job at a failing psychiatric institution to try to break Alicia’s silent spell.

Theo’s work is complicated by drama taking place between himself and his wife. His wife is growing more and more distant from him, which results in Theo plunging himself even deeper into his work at the institution. As his home life unravels, he discovers that some of the doctors at the institution have suspicious connections to Alicia and her now deceased husband, connections that may shed more light on what happened the night Alicia supposedly killed her husband.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style, and the characters, at times, felt flat or disingenuous. What kept me reading was wanting to know what happened the night Alicia murdered her husband and if she truly did commit the act. I was leaning towards a 3 star review, but the final twist of the book (and discovering how the characters were all connected) made me round the score up to a 3.5/4 stars.

Thank you to the author, Celadon Books, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of The Silent Patient.



Review: Between the Lies


**4 Stars**

Michelle Adams’ Between the Lies starts with bang: a woman – Chloe – awakes from a coma, completely unaware of who she is, what has happened to her, and, most importantly, who she can trust. She knows little about her past – just that she was in a serious car accident that took the life of her son, a car accident still under investigation by the police.

Her father, a psychiatrist studying memory, brings her home to their historic mansion, which is situated on sprawling acreage in the countryside. She is monitored closely by her father, her sister, and her mother, all of whom express concern and worry about her condition.

But something doesn’t feel right, and Chloe must regain her health to figure it out.

Soon, Chloe begins to suspect her family are not telling the truth about her past. They are keeping secrets from her and she must find a way off of their fenced-in property to discover who she was and what has happened to her. She also believes her father may be using her as part of a medical experiment, deliberately withholding memories from her to help her avoid dealing with the trauma of what happened.

I don’t want to say too much more about the plot in fear of revealing of it. I will say that Adams is a master at crafting characters with whom you instantly relate, people who you want to befriend even if they are damaged or made terrible albeit all so human choices. Chloe felt like a real, living, breathing human being, fully fleshed out to me as a reader. I look forward to reading more of Adams’ books in the future. Thank you to Adams, NetGalley, and St. Martin’s Press for the advanced reader copy of Between the Lies!

Review: The Stranger Inside


**4 Stars**

In Laura Benedict’s The Stranger Inside, Kimber Hannon’s life seemed to be going smoothly until she returns from a vacation to discover someone has moved into her house and taken over essentially her entire life. She calls the cops, who are completely unhelpful. They tell her the person who is in her house has a valid lease, and that she will have to figure out somewhere else to live until the courts can get things figured out.

Shocked and having no roof over her head, she seeks solace from her best friend, Diana, who lives in a huge cushy mansion with her handsome husband and delightful young daughter. Things seem okay while Kimber is safely enclosed within the four walls of Diana’s posh house, that is until she ventures out of the house and to her job. Things to start to deteriorate at work and in her personal life, making her wonder if someone – such as the person who has taken over her house – is intentionally trying to destroy her life. And just maybe Kimber holds some responsibility for this situation.

If you enjoy books with an unreliable narrator and lots of shocking twists and turns, The Stranger Inside is definitely for you. It’s well written and the suspense builds page after page. Thank you to Laura Benedict, Mulholland Books, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of the book!

Review: The Last


**4 Stars**

“The giant slate of the world was clean. Consequences no longer existed.”

If I had to choose one word to describe Hanna Jameson’s The Last, it would be “haunting.” The Last is a brilliant piece of work that is a satisfying mix of old school Agatha Christie who-dun-it murder mystery and dystopian apocalyptic world gone to hell in a handbasket thriller. It will be a pleasant treat for fans of both dystopian literature and classic murder mystery.

As an academic who travels for work, the premise of the book is terrifying to me. The lead of the book, Jon Keller, is attending an academic conference abroad in Switzerland at a hauntingly beautiful historic mansion turned hotel. Mind-numbingly horrific life-altering news shatters the serenity of his trip: nuclear bombs have been detonated over the US and the UK. Jon is ripped from his family – his wife Nadia and two young daughters who are in the US – as all television and Internet communications go down, leaving a vast geographical space between him and all that he loves.

To cope with the terror around him, he does what any academic would do: meticulously documents and details the events that transpire after the nuclear blast:

“I need to write about day one, before too much time passes and my memories of it become too repressed. That’s what the mind does with trauma; it erases it, making you relive it occasionally in flashbacks and dreams, sensations of vertigo, hyperventilation and panic. But the memory itself becomes a work of fiction.”

In the process of creating this historiography of a world amid nuclear fallout, Jon immediately realizes the limitations of modern society. All his resources are no longer available, as so much of them have been digitized:

“I had no journals, no library, no resources. The era of instant information was over.”

As if this wasn’t enough to deal with, Jon and his colleagues discover the body of a young child in the water tank of the hotel. This places a curtain of suspension over the entire hotel and its guests, leaving Jon wondering who he can trust. Is the murderer hiding in plain sight, or did they leave the hotel when the first exodus of guests occurred immediately after the fallout?

As Jon tries to piece together this mystery and make sense of what his life will look like in this brave new world, secrets are revealed about his past that also call into question his motivations for telling us his story and essentially writing the history of this post-apocalyptic world. Who can we believe if the storyteller isn’t honest with his readers?

The ending left open the possibility of a sequel, which I would definitely be up for reading. I hope to read more from Hanna Jameson and appreciate the opportunity to read this advanced reader copy of The Last! Thank you to Hanna Jameson, Atria Books, and NetGalley for a copy of the book!

Review: The Favorite Daughter


**5 Stars**

Kaira Rouda’s latest book, The Favorite Daughter, is a haunting, first-person follow up to her hit Best Day Ever. In both books, Rouda painstakingly details what it might be like to live in the shoes of a psychotic, narcissistic person who thinks any and every single thing revolves around their needs, desires, and wants.

Jane Harris – the lead character – is an Orange County, California housewife and socialite who has spent the last year mourning her bright young daughter’s strange disappearance and subsequent murder. Her family life is crumbling around her – her husband seems to be straying and her other daughter is hanging out with the wrong crowd – but Jane is determined to take the helm again and show that they are strong amid tragedy. Getting her family to comply won’t be easy, but soon enough they will once be the talk of Orange County’s elite circles. To do so will also mean hiding a past – one that the police involved in her daughter’s case are onto.

This was a quick read for me because 1) I’m from Orange County, California, where this story takes place and can relate a lot to the places and shallowness of the wealthier subset of folks living there, and 2) because I love well written first person thrillers. I appreciated that Rouda tried to dive deep into the mind of someone who tries to rationalize every single terrible, destructive decision they make. She really gives you a sense of what a sociopath might be thinking when they decide to betray, trick, and con the people they supposedly love.

I saw some of the plotline coming, but that didn’t ruin it for me. If you are a fan of thrillers and domestic noir, you’ll like this book a lot. There are lots of crazy twists and turns for every the most seasoned thriller readers.

Thank you to Kaira Rouda, NetGalley, and Harlequin for the opportunity to read this exciting new thriller!