Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

The Good Sister
by Sally Hepworth
Published April 13th 2021 by St. Martin's Press

From the outside, everyone might think Fern and Rose are as close as twin sisters can be: Rose is the responsible one and Fern is the quirky one. But the sisters are devoted to one another and Rose has always been Fern's protector from the time they were small.

Fern needed protecting because their mother was a true sociopath who hid her true nature from the world, and only Rose could see it. Fern always saw the good in everyone. Years ago, Fern did something very, very bad. And Rose has never told a soul. When Fern decides to help her sister achieve her heart's desire of having a baby, Rose realizes with growing horror that Fern might make choices that can only have a terrible outcome. What Rose doesn't realize is that Fern is growing more and more aware of the secrets Rose, herself, is keeping. And that their mother might have the last word after all.

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4 Stars

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth is a dual-perspective story told from the present day view of Fern and the diary pages of her twin, Rose. Fern has an undiagnosed sensory processing disorder, Rose has viewed herself as her caretaker since day one, guiding her to keep her safe. Fern believes she can finally pay Rose back for all she has given up for her, only as she reveals her gift she discovers that maybe Rose hasn't really been guiding her at all.

A twisted, methodical thriller that knocked my socks off without terrifying me completely. Rose and Fern are as twin sister as they come, continuing to live in the same town they grew up in and spending every free moment together. Fern doesn't have the ability to process that this is strange, not until a kind stranger enters her life and opens her eyes to the world she now wants to experience. Only, she has a plan to help her sister and her sister...she has a plan too. This one was messed up, the kind of messed up that I honestly would expect to see on TV, because it is that believable. Sally Hepworth takes us through the twins youth and daily adult lives, there's nothing really sinister going on, at least there isn't at the surface. As the cracks begin to show, The Good Sister turns into a thriller that makes you question just how good of a sister one of the twins really is.

I am a bit down about the fact that The Good Sister just wasn't as big of a win for me as it was for others. I guessed far too early on what was occurring and while I remained engaged, guessing it really took away the excitement of the read, dropping it to 4 stats for me. The story flows at a great pace, there's just enough information given to keep you hanging on, and I love that it wasn't a super amped up high energy thriller, this one felt plausible. I just needed a few more things kept in the dark.

I think The Good Sister is a fantastic read that thriller fans should absolutely pick up. It's not crazy fast paced, but even more so, it's not obscenely impossible. This could happen. This probably has happened! It's that kind of read, the kind that makes you think about it all.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Where Secrets Lie by Eva V. Gibson

Where Secrets Lie
by Eva V. Gibson
Published April 20th 2021 by Simon Pulse

Told in two interwoven timelines—the summer when everything changed, and the summer that changes everything—Where Secrets Lie is a seductive thriller as dark as it is enthralling.

Amy Larsen has spent every summer with her cousin Ben and their best friend Teddy in River Run, Kentucky, loving country life and welcoming the break from her intensive ambitions and overbearing mother—until the summer she and Teddy confront the changing feelings and simmering sexual tension growing between them, destroying the threesome's friendship in a dramatic face-off.

One year later, Amy returns to River Run dreading what she might find. But when Teddy's sister disappears, Amy, Ben and Teddy agree to put aside their differences to search for her. As they dig deeper into the dark history of their small town, all three friends must unearth the truths that tie their families to tragedy, cope with their own toxic upbringings and beliefs, and atone for the damage done to each other and themselves.

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4 Stars

A young-adult mystery thriller that feels almost a touch too real for comfort. Three best friends held together by familial bonds and summers spent running wild and free. The summer of 16 pushed them apart, putting a school year's worth of space and silence between them, but the summer of 17 holds promise of connecting again. Amy, Ben, and Teddy feel the pull to be together, even when they're mad at one another. The summer pulls them together again, breaking the silence, allowing the silent looks and hushed connections to start once again. Then, the unthinkable happens, Teddy's sister disappears and the friends must fully set aside their differences.

I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I was just not into it at first, Amy is so surface level, but as I kept reading I realized she is meant to be this way. She's straight up an onion character, the kind you have to peel back to understand, and only Teddy and Ben have the ability to do it. Eva V. Gibson, you're a genius writer. Learning about Amy, her past, her family's past, all of it, it just was incredibly well done. Then, you mix in a missing girl? Three friends becoming detectives on the most horrific crime? I was hooked.

Where Secrets Lie is so much more than a missing child thriller, that missing child highlights the differences in society. From class differences, family secrets, money, and first love, Where Secrets Lie has a bit of it all. The secrets these kids and their parents and the community are secret? Holy SH! It's an unputdownable young adult romance thriller, the kind I think teens and younger readers will enjoy the most, but is worth picking up for any well-written novel fan.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Little Pieces of Me by Alison Hammer

Little Pieces of Me
by Alison Hammer
Published April 13th 2021 by William Morrow Paperbacks

When Paige Meyer gets an email from a DNA testing website announcing that her father is a man she never met, she is convinced there must be a mistake. But as she digs deeper into her mother's past and her own feelings of being the odd child out growing up, Paige begins to question everything she thought she knew. Could this be why Paige never felt like she fit in her family, and why her mother always seemed to keep her at an arm's length? And what does it mean for Paige's memories of her father, a man she idolized and whose death she is still grieving? Back in 1975, Betsy Kaplan, Paige's mom, is a straightlaced sophomore at the University of Kansas. When her sweet but boring boyfriend disappoints her, Betsy decides she wants more out of life, and is tired of playing it safe. Enter Andy Abrams, the golden boy on campus with a potentially devastating secret. After their night together has unexpected consequences, Betsy is determined to bury the truth and rebuild a stable life for her unborn child, whatever the cost.

When Paige can't get answers from her mother, she goes looking for the only other person who was there that night. The more she learns about what happened, the more she sees her unflappable, distant mother as a real person faced with an impossible choice. But will it be enough to mend their broken relationship?

Told in dual timelines, Little Pieces of Me examines identity and how the way we define ourselves changes (or not) through our life experiences.

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5 Stars

I had no idea what I was getting into this book, someone should have warned me that I would need an entire box of tissues to get through it. This book is gosh darn BEAUTIFUL. Heartbreaking, deep, hard, and beautiful. A story of identity, family, and self-love, Little Pieces of Me by Alison Hammer is one of those books that sits inside you.

Paige took a free DNA test as part of a previous job campaign, she never expected the email that came in telling her a new match had been found and not just any match, a parent match. A parent match after the father she loved so dearly had passed. The email upends Paige's already frail life path, the only thing holding together is her two best friends and her fiance. What follows is a journey of discovery, both in the past and the present. Told from multiple perspectives and dual timelines, Alison Hammer weaves a compelling story of friendship, secrets, and truth, by taking readers into the past of Paige's mom, her best friend, and the man who just might be her father.

I cannot say enough good things about Little Pieces of Me, honestly I could ramble about it forever, but I would give way too much away. The DNA test may have turned her life upside down, but it gives Paige a chance to get to know the unflappable mother she believes she's never had a connection to. It gives her a chance to get to know who her parents and who she really is. This is a complex family drama with relatable characters and so much emotional depth that yes, you do need to be prepared with tissues.

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Nowhere by Chris Gill

The Nowhere
by Chris Gill
Published June 4th 2019 by PRNTD Publishing

Two boys. Two farms. One deadly secret.

Every day’s the same on the farm. Seventeen-year-old Seb rides his quad bike alongside his dad and cattle dog, dreaming about a different life. A life that doesn’t require him to spend all day in the blistering sun. Where the nearest town isn’t a forty-minute drive away with a population of less than three hundred people. Where he can talk to someone who isn’t his little brother or short-tempered father.

So when new neighbours move into the derelict farm on the opposite side of the shrub, Seb hopes his luck is finally about to change. Could Jake, the enigmatic boy with a dangerous glint in his eye, be his ticket out of The Nowhere? And if so, how far are they both willing to go to escape?

Fast forward two decades and Seb’s working as a nurse back in Perth. With his dad living in his home, Seb is tormented by the demons that have followed him his entire adult life. He begins confiding in his caring colleague Sandra, who convinces him the only way he’ll be able to move forward is to exorcise his ghosts and seek closure.

But when Jake calls out the blue telling Seb he’s coming to visit, Seb has to decide whether he’s ready to face exactly what happened that summer. On the night that forever changed not only the lives of the two boys, but that of their entire families.

Youthful, brutal and ferociously fantastic, The Nowhere is a coming-of-age novel about aspiration and isolation, sexuality and sadness, love, loss, and how life changes. Despite his best efforts, Seb learns that secrets can’t be kept forever. The truth always comes out eventually.

You can’t keep it secret forever, the truth always comes out eventually.

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4 Stars

Writing a review for The Nowhere feels impossible. I don't think I can adequately express in words just how profound an experience I had reading it. Chris Gill captures the very essence of what it is to be young, to know something is different from what you're told is normal, and to be so wholly wrapped up in someone else. Those teenage years are hard, but even harder when you must live with the consequences of them forever. We are left wondering about what must have occurred as we follow Seb through various times in his life. We see him in his youth, as an adult seeking to break away from his father, and finally as he for the first time lets another into his life.

The Nowhere is a difficult book to read, both due to being non-chronological and due to the impossible weight Seb puts on himself. He frequently speaks terribly to himself, words of shame and sin and hatred that were so heavy on my heart. It is incredible how Gill captured both the external and internal homophobia, Seb is coming-of-age in a time and a place where he does not feel loved and does not know how to love himself. When he finally does find another he feels a bond to, Jake, it only makes him question further who he is and who Jake could be to him. His upbringing are apparent in how he carries himself well into adulthood, the words and experiences keeping him from truly accepting even himself.

I would call The Nowhere a coming-of-age New Adult novel, however it is filled with complexities, the topics Gill touches on are heavy. The characters and the relationships they share are fraught with emotional and physical abuse. It's a journey of familial relationships and friendships, intimacy, and loss. It's a powerful, heart wrenching story that I will revisit and that I highly recommend.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Chasing Shadows by Brittney Sahin

Chasing Shadows 
(Stealth Ops #9)
by Brittney Sahin
Published March 25th 2021

From the hunters . . . to the hunted.

When former CIA officer, Harper Brooks, joined an elite unit of special operators, her mission was to serve and protect, not to fall in love. But Roman Riviera was like no one she’d ever met.

Echo Four was the quiet one. A broody genius. And that intense and gorgeous Navy SEAL stole her heart. But would he also steal her focus?

Roman may have set his sights on Harper, but being together could prove fatal for the brilliant, witty woman he couldn’t stop thinking about—and he couldn’t risk her life for love.

After giving in to the intense attraction, Harper and Roman are desperate to save their friendship . . . until an operation goes awry, forcing them to question everything, even each other.

With Echo and Bravo Teams cornered by an unexpected threat, Roman must share his closely guarded secrets to protect the teams. But sometimes facing your demons means having to become a devil in a three-thousand-dollar suit.

In this risky game of cat-and-mouse, Roman and Harper will be tested like never before, and all bets are off the table.

Chasing Shadows is a full-length standalone romantic suspense novel with no cliffhanger and a happily-ever-after. 

4 Stars

Roman and Harper gave into the attraction they share, but neither can commit, their secrets hold them back, so they vow to keep it a friendship so that they can remain focused on their work within a special operations unit. When a request for Harper comes from someone in her CIA past, the team follows to protect her as she meets the informant. It is there that Roman begins to realize that he cannot deny his need for her and there that a threat against the Bravo and Echo teams happens in the form of a car explosion. As more threats pop up, leading them down a path that just might turn deadly, both Harper and Roman's shadows come to light. Together they must chase the shadows.

Oh man, Brittney just keeps nailing it with the Stealth Ops series, this time with Roman and Harper, two of my more recent faves in the books. Harper is a more subdued female in Brittney's line of strong female characters, but she is no less smart, sassy, or strong. I liked how different she is, she's a truly fresh face and brings a unique perspective to the teams and the cases they handle. Roman, on the other hand, is as broody as he's been as a secondary character, only with the dirtiest thoughts ever. These two can get indecent, but they shape up when things go south on their mission. This whole dang book is on fire, both in chemistry and action, which makes it so hard to put down.

This one had a lot more romance, at least in my opinion, than previous novels in the series and I have to say, I liked it. There was a lot of building blocks to Roman and Harper's relationship and getting that insight was such a nice treat. Plus, this one has a lot of suspense and a lot of nail biting scenes, so I needed the lighter dialogue and sizzling chemistry to break it up. Written in dual-perspectives, Chasing Shadows is the ninth book in the Stealth Ops series, but is a complete standalone. That's right, you can read any of Brittney's books by themselves or all together, which is my personal favorite, because she is fantastic at giving readers glimpses into previous characters lives. If you're a romantic-suspense fan, don't skip on Chasing Shadows OR Brittney Sahin.

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