Thursday, May 5, 2022

An Honest Lie by Tarryn Fisher

An Honest Lie
by Tarryn Fisher
Published April 26th 2022 by Graydon House

“I’m going to kill her. You’d better come if you want to save her.”

Lorraine—“Rainy”—lives at the top of Tiger Mountain. Remote, moody, cloistered in pine trees and fog, it’s a sanctuary, a new life. She can hide from the disturbing past she wants to forget.


If she’s allowed to.

When Rainy reluctantly agrees to a girls’ weekend in Vegas, she’s prepared for an exhausting parade of shots and slot machines. But after a wild night, her friend Braithe doesn’t come back to the hotel room.

And then Rainy gets the text message, sent from Braithe’s phone: someone has her. But Rainy is who they really want, and Rainy knows why.

What follows is a twisted, shocking journey on the knife-edge of life and death. If she wants to save Braithe—and herself—the only way is to step back into the past.

This seething, gut-punch of a thriller can only have sprung from the fiendish brain of Tarryn Fisher, one of the most cunning writers of our time.

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5 Stars

Oh Tarryn, thank you so much for finally giving us the cult read we've been begging for. You know, now I'm just going to want more, because there are not enough cult fiction reads out there for me, especially those that capture the truth about cults. That's right, An Honest Lie follows a woman who was once in a cult, a woman who made a brave escape in her youth, but lives her life in fear of the repercussions of leaving. Of course, that's not what her new life is about, at least it wasn't until a fated trip to Las Vegas.

Rainy, an artist by trade, has recently moved to the mountains of Washington for her boyfriend, Grant, exchanging the blur of Manhattan for the quiet life. She wants to give him everything, so she goes along with making friends with the wives' of his friends, even accepting a trip to Las Vegas, a place she never wanted to go back to. The trip, though laced with jealous feelings and the one-upping nature of women, feels almost normal. There's clubs, shots, dancing, and pool time. She feels closer to Braithe, she thinks she might have a break through with Tara, and the other girls begin to show their true personality. There's drunken behavior and bonding moments. There's also a tension there underneath the surface, one that Rainy believes is connected to her past, but it isn't until she receives a text from Braithe's phone that she knows her past has come for her. What follows isn't the Las Vegas trip she planned for, but the terrifying escape from her past that she has spent avoiding.

I love a good feminist thriller and this one has all the makings of one. The girls are naturally catty, I love that Tarryn doesn't lie about the nature of women in a time where we form these opinions so young, she lets the women be, it is their strength when the time comes. There's no faking that friendships are perfect, that there isn't always an undertone of competition and fear laced in it. That the insecurity isn't there. It just so happens that Rainy's insecurity is much larger than anyone else's and it has nothing to do with her looks or her personality. Rainy is insecure about her past and when it comes for her, she cannot allow herself to be the young follower she once was, instead she must step up, for herself and for the women she has befriended and unwillingly put in this position. It's a haunted tail of love, loss, and the things we let slide by using religion as a reason.

I always love Tarryn Fisher's work, I am a true fangirl who believes she can do no wrong, but I will say this is the best release from her out of the past three novels. This one is unique, standout, and emotionally riveting. I couldn't put it down and I hope you won't be able to either.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Boy Fallen by Chris Gill

Boy Fallen
by Chris Gill
Published March 22, 2022 by PRNTD Publishing

When the body of wealthy teen and aspiring photographer Evan Wiley is found faceup at the base of Taonga Falls, one thing is immediately clear: he didn’t jump.

Detective Brooke Palmer races down to the struggling New Zealand town she once called home to comfort her oldest friend – Evan’s mother.

But when Brooke learns Evan had been hanging out with a boy who used to bully him, she quickly gets drawn into the case. She fears this dangerous new friendship may have cost Evan his life – or at the very least, his heart.

And as Brooke confronts her own past, she is reminded that in Taonga, even those who have it all can hit rock bottom.

A gripping whodunnit through a fresh lens, Boy Fallen will keep you guessing until the very end.

4 Stars

Evan Wiley is found dead and the talk of the town is that it's a copy cat of young Jack's death nearly twenty years ago. Brooke, older sister of Jack and best friend to Lana, Evan's mother, return to town to pay her respects, but is soon swept up in the case. Alongside the assigned inspector, Brooke and Collins take a walk in Evan's shoes in the prior months leading to his death. He was coming to terms with his identity and finding his footing after years of bullying. Brooke sees herself in Evan and uses her previous experiences of bullying and the loss of her brother to fuel her to find Evan's killer.

While it's easy to classify Boy Fallen as an LGBTQ+ mystery, it's more of a police procedural with a coming of age story within. Evan Wiley is gone, but the real story is the journey he was on leading up to his death. He had friends and he was discovering his identity, something the small town of Taonga always seemed to want to keep from him. Brooke, both a friend and a detective assisting on the case, fears the worst, that the bullying caught up to him too, but instead she discovers that Evan was coming into his own. Evan was happy, all signs point to it, so what happened? As Brooke dives into solving the homicide readers are gifted with glimpses into the past from Evan's perspective. We see the aftermath of the loss of Evan and the impact it has across family, friends, and the entire town. We also see the grip that adolescent insecurity can have on you, even well into adulthood.

Boy Fallen is a stunning sophomore novel from Chris Gill that new fans and prior fans of The Nowhere will love. There's so much heart in this book that I almost forgot I was reading a mystery and seeking out a killer.

Monday, February 28, 2022

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The Golden Couple
by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Expected publication: March 8, 2022 by St. Martin's Press

If Avery Chambers can’t fix you in 10 sessions, she won’t take you on as a client. Her successes are phenomenal--she helps people overcome everything from domineering parents to assault--and almost absorb the emptiness she sometimes feels since her husband’s death.

Marissa and Mathew Bishop seem like the golden couple--until Marissa cheats. She wants to repair things, both because she loves her husband and for the sake of their 8-year-old son. After a friend forwards an article about Avery, Marissa takes a chance on this maverick therapist, who lost her license due to controversial methods.

When the Bishops glide through Avery’s door and Marissa reveals her infidelity, all three are set on a collision course. Because the biggest secrets in the room are still hidden, and it’s no longer simply a marriage that’s in danger.

The Golden Couple is the next electrifying novel from Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, the #1 New York Times bestselling author duo behind You Are Not Alone, An Anonymous Girl, and The Wife Between Us.

4 Stars

Avery has the freedom to run her ten-step consulting program now that she's no longer a licensed therapist. With unconventional methods and significant involvement in her patient's lives, Avery can help her therapists through anything. When Marissa brings her husband, Matthew, in for help after infidelity, trust issues, and quality time issues, Avery thinks it might be the easiest work in her life. Only, this golden couple has a lot tarnishing their walls. Avery is presented with one secret, but as she walks the couple down the path of healing more secrets begin to be uncovered and these secrets are a threat to all three of them.

I loved Avery, I tolerated Marissa, and I could not put this book down for anything. I had both printed and audio ARCs of The Golden Couple and while I don't usually believe in switching between the two, I had to for this book. I wanted to be reading or listening at all times, unable to focus on anything when in-between the words. While it's a classic suburban drama and thriller, I found myself entertained and intrigued, happy to find twists and reveals that were unexpected amidst the predictable parts. There was a lot to unravel in this book, which made me enjoy it all the more. I like a good mixture of both, it wasn't something totally unfathomable, but I couldn't guess everything. This is another success for Hendricks and Pekkanen, in my opinion, a winner for all suburban thriller fans.

The audio is fantastic, as usual for Hendricks and Pekkanen books. It did suffer a bit when sped up to my usual listening speed, taking on a robotic quality, but at 1-1.3x it was perfect. Easy to follow with unique voices for each perspective and the right amount of emotion put into the words.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

The Damaged by Tijan

The Damaged
(The Insiders Trilogy #2)
by Tijan
Published February 8, 2022 by St. Martin's Griffin

No longer an outsider, Bailey has a family and love that she never could’ve imagined.

Used to living in the shadows, Kash will now do anything to protect his family and his woman.

They will take on the world together…

In the meantime, stunning motives, lies, and explosive secrets continue to unfold.

1. Quinn is in jail, awaiting trial.

2. Friends might actually be enemies.

3. And what is Calhoun plotting? More importantly, will Kash discover it before it’s too late?

Everything will come to a head as passion and danger ignite in The Damaged.

"Obsessed from page one! The Insiders is yet another addicting read from Tijan."—Jennifer L. Armentrout, #1 New York Times bestselling author

4 Stars

    Do I really have to wait for the next book? Can't I have it right now? The Damaged was IMPOSSIBLE to put down, more so than The Insiders even, and I just know the third and final book will be the same. Suspenseful, sexy, and somehow both a new adult and adult read. The Damaged packs a punch, taking readers back into Bailey's world, but this time we also get the occasional glimpse into Kash's mind. We're back in the world of the rich and famous-by-association. The money drips, from their clothes and their cars and the hotels they call home. Doors open for them, clubs open ropes up, and Bailey is finally going to see what money and power can do for her as she begins school at Hawking University.

    One of my favorite parts of The Insiders was Bailey's brain, she's so dang smart and even when she relaxed into her family role she still responded smartly. In The Damaged it is clear love has taken over some space in her brain, she's a bit less insightful, and she's always dripping in lust for Kash. It would be annoying, if there chemistry wasn't so off the charts and if I didn't love books with all-consuming relationships so much. Her brain shows its stuff when it comes to school though and I really enjoyed her world expanding, to see her gain friendships, to grow her relationship with Matt, and to see a future setting itself up for her.

    Unfortunately, things go off the rails, as they do when you're Peter Francis' unknown daughter and dating the ninth richest man in the world. Jealousy, greed, anger, lust, and revenge take Bailey and Kash on a wild ride and based on the ending of this book, it's not done yet. It's a rollercoaster, one that Tijan gives you a break from with intense romance scenes and brother-sister bonding. I knew though that the unknown figure from the first novel would show up again, I knew there was something to come, and my word I cannot wait for it! I need book three. I need to know more. Tijan did such a good job foreshadowing what is to come and I am just begging to have it revealed to me this instant.

    The Damaged is another excellent release from Tijan and a stunning secondary novel in the trilogy. I rarely love the second book in any series, but oh my word, this could end up being my favorite. The writing is new-adult-ish, with quicker dialogue and a lack of complex world building, but I sort of enjoyed that. While The Damaged isn't challenging to read, it is entertaining and what it lacks in depth it makes up for in excitement and intrigue. The Insiders Trilogy is one I am highly recommending to romance-suspense fans like me.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

A Flicker in the Dark
By Stacy Willingham
Narrated by Karissa Vacker
Published January 11, 2022 by Minotaur Books

From debut author Stacy Willingham comes a masterfully done, lyrical thriller, certain to be the launch of an amazing career. A Flicker in the Dark is eerily compelling to the very last page.

When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, Chloe’s father had been arrested as a serial killer and promptly put in prison. Chloe and the rest of her family were left to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.

Now 20 years later, Chloe is a psychologist in private practice in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. She finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to get. Sometimes, though, she feels as out of control of her own life as the troubled teens who are her patients. And then a local teenage girl goes missing, and then another, and that terrifying summer comes crashing back. Is she paranoid, and seeing parallels that aren't really there, or for the second time in her life, is she about to unmask a killer?

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4 Stars

 Chloe's dad is a serial killer. She spent her youth wrapped up in his story, in his crimes, and while it's made her unable to trust, she's finally figured out her own life, her own story. She's a psychologist, a fiancĂ©, a friend, and a good sister. Sure, sometimes she doesn't feel like she's really happy, but who would be with a background like her? Then a reporter calls, dredging up the past, shaking up her fragile security, and then a girl goes missing. Chloe sees too many similarities, she knows how this works and she won't let the pattern repeat itself.

I'm a thriller girl and I love when a book lets readers go along for the ride in figuring out who a serial killer is. A Flicker in the Dark takes it a step further, giving us the serial killer up front and showing us the impact that made on his daughter's life. Sure, she's a psychologist helping youth now, but the past has shaped her and when the present starts to feel similar, well we all know what trauma can do to someone. With a lot of attention to the psychological state of Chloe, Stacy Willingham takes readers on a who-dun-it copy cat murder investigation in Baton Rouge. I was gripped by this story, I loved the premise, and the writing is far better than I usually see in a debut novel. This one is just very good; while the pacing is slow, the story stays interesting, it's a bit hard to guess what's really going on, and when the pacing does pick up, it's full speed ahead with reveals and twists.

Here's where I struggled with this book; Chloe is a psychologist with plenty of experience, and personal knowledge of teenage angst and family turmoil, so why is she so good at lying both to herself and to others? Her reliance on medication, her drinking, and her ill-placed trust all while touting her intuitive nature just didn't sit well with me. I knew she was an unreliable narrator, I love unreliable narrators, but Chloe presents herself as reliable and what makes her unreliable doesn't feel right. (I need an alternative word for reliable.) It feels forced, like it was the obvious choice, like it wasn't written into Chloe's history and personality. I still enjoyed it, of course it makes all the events that occur plausible, I just didn't like it.

This was, hands down, one of the Top Ten best audiobooks I have ever listened to. I normally love dual narration, I typically choose my audiobooks based on having alternating perspectives, but A Flicker in the Dark just sounded so good and, well, Karissa Vacker is an excellent narrator. She brought the eerie feelings of being watched to life, made Baton Rouge feel somber with the concern of missing girls, and her pacing and breathe made our unreliable narrator feel just the right amount of unhinged. I really enjoyed A Flicker in the Dark, but I loved it because of the audiobook narration. Fellow psychological thriller fans will love this in print or audio. It is an absolutely standout debut novel and I cannot wait to see what stories Stacy Willingham will tell us in the future.

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