Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

The Other Passenger
by Louise Candlish
Published July 20th 2021 by Atria Books

It all happens so quickly. One day you’re living the dream, commuting to work by ferry with your charismatic neighbor Kit in the seat beside you. The next, Kit hasn’t turned up for the boat and his wife, Melia, has reported him missing.

When you get off at your stop, the police are waiting. Another passenger saw you and Kit arguing on the boat home the night before and the police say that you had a reason to want him dead. You protest. You and Kit are friends—ask Melia, she’ll vouch for you. And who exactly is this other passenger pointing the finger? What do they know about your lives?

No, whatever danger followed you home last night, you are innocent, totally innocent.

Aren’t you?

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5 Stars

I loved this book, far more than I expected to. I really thought, based on the first half, I had it all figured out, but Louise Candlish threw some excellent twists in there that had me reading late into the evening. The Other Passenger follows Jamie as he and his wife, Clare, make friends with the new twenty-something couple in their neighborhood. Kit and Melia live in envy of the wealth and home of the older couple, but they make Jamie and Clare feel younger with their drinking and debauchery. Jamie grows quite close with Kit, the two take the boat to commute to work along with two other friends, part of their River Rat crew. While he considers Kit a close friends, Jamie finds himself entangled with Melia and when Kit goes missing all eyes turn to the older man.

The concept of this book isn't new, but I think the layout and the characters were totally fresh. Jamie is older, he's recently taken a new, relaxed approach to life, and he's not who you'd expect to find at the other side of a missing person's investigation. While the affair was totally expected, what Louise Candlish did to form the suspenseful storyline was not. The cops line of questioning, the secrets, the plotting, it all kept me from truly figuring out the plot. Then there's Clare, she's absolutely brilliant, and I so loved her contribution as Jamie's partner to the storyline. Jamie was the last person to see Kit, the cops are all over him for it, and The Other Passenger takes readers into the crime with a fantastic jumping timeline.

Louise Candlish absolutely delivered with The Other Passenger and I'm so glad I got my hands on this book. It's dramatic, smart, and totally suspenseful. Very old school crime style in modern times.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones

The Guilt Trip
by Sandie Jones
August 3, 2021 by Minotaur Books

Six friends.

Rachel and Noah have been friends since they met at university. While they once thought that they might be something more, now, twenty years later, they are each happily married to other people, Jack and Paige respectively. Jack’s brother Will is getting married, to the dazzling, impulsive Ali, and the group of six travel to Portugal for their destination weekend.

Three couples.

As they arrive at a gorgeous villa perched on a cliff-edge, overlooking towering waves that crash on the famous surfing beaches below at Nazaré, they try to settle into a weekend of fun. While Rachel is looking forward to getting to know her future sister-in-law Ali better, Ali can’t help but rub many of the group up the wrong way: Rachel’s best friend Paige thinks Ali is attention-seeking and childish, and while Jack is trying to support his brother Will’s choice of wife, he is also finding plenty to disagree with Noah about.

One fatal misunderstanding . . .

But when Rachel discovers something about Ali that she can hardly believe, everything changes. As the wedding weekend unfolds, the secrets each of them hold begin to spill, and friendships and marriages threaten to unravel. Soon, jumping to conclusions becomes the difference between life and death.

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3 Stars

Okay, I admit I really did read this in part due to the cover. I had made a joke that a ton of books were coming out that looked the same and that I'd take on reading them all. Little did I know that all of them would be about destination weddings. Those are some of my faveeee. Give me a beautiful destination, a brewing storm, and some unruly guests and I am all about it. The Guilt Trip is, no surprise, about a secret, or rather many, that are threatening to consumed each guest. The guilt in this story is like a whole separate character, a character that wants to take over.

I read The Guilt Trip in one sitting, staying up too late to witness the secrets being exposed. In a fun twist of events, I did not see the reveal coming and I definitely did not see the last 10% playing out how it did. Rachel, the person whose perspective we watch the events unfold from, appears to be trying to be the bigger person, but her own secret is threatening to come to light. Her husband, Jack, is massively angry at something, her best friend, Noah, is hinting at knowing something, Noah's wife, Paige, seems to want to egg everyone on, the bridge, Ali, is taking everything just a bit too far, and her groom, Will, is none the wiser. Throw in a pile of secondary characters, and well, The Guilt Trip unfortunately becomes a soap opera. Like a soap opera, I couldn't look away, but I admit it was too much. It got to the point that I knew all the secrets and twists couldn't possibly all be revealed, not every plot could be completed, and there was no way the book could end cleanly in the number of pages available to it. Did I keep reading though? You bet.

The Guilt Trip may suffer a bit from having just so much going on, but it's enjoyable, like a reality show about the rich but in the pages of a book. I wish the ending had given us more, it really lacked the full drawn out reveal I wanted, but I have to say I loved that I didn't see anything coming. Sandie Jones puts it all in here, so if dramatic suspense is your thing, this is the book to grab.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens

Dark Roads
Chevy Stevens
Published August 3, 2021 by St. Martin's Press

The Cold Creek Highway stretches close to five hundred miles through British Columbia’s rugged wilderness to the west coast. Isolated and vast, it has become a prime hunting ground for predators. For decades, young women traveling the road have gone missing. Motorists and hitchhikers, those passing through or living in one of the small towns scattered along the region, have fallen prey time and again. And no killer or abductor who has stalked the highway has ever been brought to justice.

Hailey McBride calls Cold Creek home. Her father taught her to respect nature, how to live and survive off the land, and to never travel the highway alone. Now he’s gone, leaving her a teenage orphan in the care of her aunt whose police officer husband uses his badge as a means to bully and control Hailey. Overwhelmed by grief and forbidden to work, socialize, or date, Hailey vanishes into the mountainous terrain, hoping everyone will believe she’s left town. Rumors spread that she was taken by the highway killer—who’s claimed another victim over the summer.

One year later, Beth Chevalier arrives in Cold Creek, where her sister Amber lived—and where she was murdered. Estranged from her parents and seeking closure, Beth takes a waitressing job at the local diner, just as Amber did, desperate to understand what happened to her and why. But Beth’s search for answers puts a target on her back—and threatens to reveal the truth behind Hailey’s disappearance…

4 Stars

The cover and the blurb for Dark Roads pulled me in, but Chevy Stevens writing kept me engaged through out. I'd listened to a true crime podcast on the highway Dark Roads' plot draws from and when I recognized the similarities I knew I'd be into this book. That podcast has never left my mind, so many unsolved crimes, so I loved that Chevy Stevens gave us a novel that solved a few for us. With three parts and a few different perspectives, Dark Roads is a dramatic, suspenseful tale of the lost souls of Cold Creek Highway and the locals who live in fear of it.

Hailey McBride is a Cold Creek local, she's grown up knowing the tales of the missing, of the found bodies with no killer to pin it on, the rules of the highway. She's spent forever avoiding certain death by a trucker or some other serial killer, but Hailey didn't know Officer Vaughn might be who she really needed to fear. In the care of her Aunt and Vaughn, Hailey is kept from her friends, from the outside world, and with her father on her mind, Hailey snoops and discovers a horrible truth about Vaughn. Hailey must go into survival mode, hoping to trick the town and the dirty cop into believing she has disappeared. In Part Two, we meet Beth, the sister of one of the missing girls. She's unreliable, a recent addict, a former perfectionist, and desperate for the truth. She makes incredibly dumb choices, but it is through her actions that the town begins to wake up, to pay attention. It is through Beth that Hailey's plan begins to play out.

With an eerily realistic storyline, relatable characters, and a mystery you want to solve, Dark Roads is a fascinating and gripping suspense from Chevy Stevens. It does start out a bit slow, repetitive, but it picks up and becomes the kind of page-turning thriller I love.

Just One Look by Lindsay Cameron

Just One Look
Lindsay Cameron
Published July 27, 2021 by Ballantine Books

A young woman's escalating obsession with a seemingly perfect man leads her down a dangerous path in this novel of suspense brimming with envy, desire, and deception.

Eyes aren't the windows to the soul. Emails are.

Cassie Woodson is adrift. After suffering an epic tumble down the corporate ladder, Cassie finds the only way she can pay her bills is to take a thankless temp job reviewing correspondence for a large-scale fraud suit. The daily drudgery amplifies all that her life is lacking--love, friends, stability--and leaves her with too much time on her hands, which she spends fixating on the mistakes that brought her to this point.

While sorting through a relentless deluge of emails, something catches her eye: the tender (and totally private) exchanges between a partner at the firm, Forest Watts, and his enchanting wife, Annabelle. Cassie knows she shouldn't read them. But it's just one look. And once that door opens, she finds she can't look away.

Every day, twenty floors below Forest's corner office, Cassie dissects their emails from her dingy workstation. A few clicks of her mouse and she can see every adoring word they write to each other. By peeking into their apparently perfect life, Cassie finds renewed purpose and happiness, reveling in their penchant for vintage wines, morning juice presses, and lavish dinner parties thrown in their stately Westchester home. There are no secrets from her. Or so she thinks.

Her admiration quickly escalates into all-out mimicry, because she wants this life more than anything. Maybe if she plays make-believe long enough, it will become real for her. But when Cassie orchestrates a "chance" meeting with Forest in the real world and sees something that throws the state of his marriage into question, the fantasy she's been carefully cultivating shatters. Suddenly, she doesn't simply admire Annabelle--she wants to take her place. And she's armed with the tools to make that happen.

3 Stars

Unreliable narrators are my jammmmmm. Seriously, I have never found an unreliable narrator I didn't like. They are often so smart, but a slave to whatever makes them unreliable, be it alcohol, drugs, mental illness, etc. I love a good fiction novel with a character off the rails. In this case, Cassie Woodson is a disgraced lawyer who had a bit of a mental breakdown that went viral. Using any lie she can she's found her way into a new, temporary job, but she wants to make her position permanent, permanent with one of the lawyers she's obsessed with that is. His emails draw her in at first, but soon she's looked him up everywhere she can, going so far as to imitate his wife in her style choices. Her favorites are now Cassie's favorites, it's just a matter of time before Forrest Watts falls for her too.

Just One Looks is a lot like You, albeit a bit less dramatic in some ways. Unlike You, we don't have nearly as much of Cassie's background so her slip into obsession is jarring. What she sees as the truth is all we see, it's only in the unraveling that we learn the truth. Cassie can keep a job, she even makes a new friend, but with alcohol fueling her late nights she soon is tumbling, losing track of her lies and her on goings. Like most unreliable narrators, common sense goes out the window and Cassie makes some questionable choices. How she didn't get caught or revealed sooner is beyond me, but boy was it entertaining to read. Then, Lindsay Cameron throw a complete twist in there and the finale of this novel is explosive.

Just One Look is a fast-paced drama read with just a bit of thrill. There's a lot going on in this book, some of it leave some holes in the plot that, for me, just really irked at me. I want all the facts, even if its from an incredibly unreliable perspective. I loved Cameron's twist, but I almost needed more of it to really turn this book into a total winner for me. She hits it out of the park with the creepiness and obsession though, if you love a good stalker read, Just One Look is it for you.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The Husbands - Chandler Baker - Audiobook

The Husbands
by Chandler Baker 
Narrated by Allyson Ryan
Published August 3rd 2021 by Flatiron Books

Chandler Baker, the New York Times bestselling author of Whisper Network, is back with The Husbands, a novel that asks: to what lengths will a woman go for a little more help from her husband?

Nora Spangler is a successful attorney but when it comes to domestic life, she packs the lunches, schedules the doctor appointments, knows where the extra paper towel rolls are, and designs and orders the holiday cards. Her husband works hard, too... but why does it seem like she is always working so much harder?

When the Spanglers go house hunting in Dynasty Ranch, an exclusive suburban neighborhood, Nora meets a group of high-powered women--a tech CEO, a neurosurgeon, an award-winning therapist, a bestselling author--with enviably supportive husbands. When she agrees to help with a resident's wrongful death case, she is pulled into the lives of the women there. She finds the air is different in Dynasty Ranch. The women aren't hanging on by a thread.

But as the case unravels, Nora uncovers a plot that may explain the secret to having-it-all. One that's worth killing for. Calling to mind a Stepford Wives gender-swap, The Husbands imagines a world where the burden of the "second shift" is equally shared--and what it may take to get there. 

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4 Stars

With fun influence from The Stepford Wives and enough twists to keep you hooked, in Chandler Baker's The Husbands, it's the wives who do it all, who have the hotshot careers, who need their husbands to step up. Satirical in tone throughout, The Husbands is a psychological drama told in mixed mediums from the perspective of Nora Spangler and various online articles, forums, and social media posts. Nora is a lawyer looking to make partner after having her first child. While keeping her second a secret she pushes her husband to step up his game like the men from Dynasty Ranch, her dream community to live in. The men respect their wives, they do the household chores, they're, well, perfect. Nora is brought in as both a prospective buyer and as a potential lawyer for a wrongful death suit, but little does she know the wool is really being pulled over her eyes.

The men get to work and relax, while the women get to work and work and work. We hear this every single day, it's commonplace, and it's fun that Baker takes a true-to-life scenario and adds some science fiction thrill to it. It felt relatable, while also being totally impossible. Nora as the narrator is just fantastic, with so much sass and spunk, while also being incredibly smart. As the reader it was so easy to know what was going to happen, but I liked stepping into Nora's head while it occurred. While I think Baker missed the mark on making this a true thriller read, it had all the drama I could want and plenty to keep me entertained. It does drag on a bit and somehow she wraps up all the dirt and drama in the last 10%, but I still found myself totally enjoying The Husbands. I'd recommend this one to readers of suburban dramas, it's certainly a fun, relaxing day read.

Audiobook: The narrator of The Husbands is Allyson Ryan and she really does a fantastic job. Her voice really lends itself to the wealthy, elite women in The Husbands, but it does not work great at my preferred listening speed. Her tone is just so perfect, but at 1.5x it came across as quite shrill. I was able to listen to this while working and driving, so for me, as a busy woman, I have to say this audiobook was still great and I would recommend it.

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