Book Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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BOOK INFO
Title: The Last Time I Lied
Author: Riley Sager
Publisher: Dutton
Publish Date: July 3, 2018

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. But the games ended the night Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin into the darkness. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. When the paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, she implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor. Seeing an opportunity to find out what really happened to her friends all those years ago, Emma agrees.

Familiar faces, unchanged cabins, and the same dark lake haunt Nightingale, even though the camp is opening its doors for the first time since the disappearances. Emma is even assigned to the same cabin she slept in as a teenager, but soon discovers a security camera – the only one on the property – pointed directly at its door. Then cryptic clues that Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins begin surfacing. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing mysterious threats in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale and what really happened to those girls, the more she realizes that closure could come at a deadly price.


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MY REVIEW
Fifteen years ago, Emma was a camper at Camp Nightingale. Emma was the youngest in the cabin she shared with three other girls. One night, she awakened to see the other girls sneaking out of the cabin, and they never returned. That night has haunted Emma. When the owner of the camp contacts Emma and invites her to their reopening, she accepts the offer, thinking she might be able to finally discover what happened to her friends. Emma is an artist, and she is hired to be the camp’s painting instructor. She is back at camp, and everything is the same – familiar faces, the same cabins, and the same eerie lake.

Emma is an intriguing character. She carries guilt from that summer when her friends went missing, and she questions everyone and everything at Camp Nightingale when she returns. I was never sure if Emma was a reliable narrator, and that made for an interesting read.

This book is a slow-burning read that has the right amount of twists and turns. A great read for fans of dark psychological thrillers. Creepy, clever, and mysterious.

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Under My Skin by Lisa Unger

Under My Skin by Lisa Unger

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BOOK INFO
Title: Under My Skin
Author: Lisa Unger
Publisher: Park Row
Publish Date: October 2, 2018

BOOK BLURB
It’s been a year since Poppy’s husband, Jack, was brutally murdered during his morning run through Manhattan’s Riverside Park. In the immediate aftermath, Poppy spiraled into an oblivion of grief, disappearing for several days only to turn up ragged and confused wearing a tight red dress she didn’t recognize. What happened to Poppy during those lost days? And more importantly, what happened to Jack?

The case was never solved, and Poppy has finally begun to move on. But those lost days have never stopped haunting her. Poppy starts having nightmares and blackouts—there are periods of time she can’t remember, and she’s unable to tell the difference between what is real and what she’s imagining. When she begins to sense that someone is following her, Poppy is plunged into a game of cat and mouse, determined to unravel the mystery around her husband’s death. But can she handle the truth about what really happened?


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MY REVIEW
Poppy is grieving the loss of her husband. It has been a year since he was murdered, and the case has not been solved. Soon after her husband’s death, Poppy disappeared from her family and friends for a few days. She never told them where she was or what she was doing, and, in fact, Poppy has blocked those days from her memory. Now that Poppy is attempting to move on, she wants to remember those days, and feels that if only she could regain her memories, she could discover what happened to her husband.

Poppy is a mess of a character. She is, understandably, devastated with the loss of her husband. She self-medicates and drinks too much to deal with her depression. The mixing of pills and alcohol causes Poppy to suffer from blackouts. She thinks that someone is following her, but she’s not sure who or why. Since she’s not the most stable person, it’s hard to believe if she’s really in danger. When Poppy seems to be onto something that may lead to answers, she self-destructs. It’s frustrating, but gripping.

The story is told from Poppy’s viewpoint, which is confusing and chaotic. An engaging and unpredictable psychological thriller. Dark, suspenseful, and twisty.

I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Lies Between Us by Ronnie Turner

Lies Between Us by Ronnie Turner

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BOOK INFO
Title: Lies Between Us
Author: Ronnie Turner
Publisher: HQ Digital
Publish Date: October 1, 2018

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
Three people, leading very different lives, are about to be brought together – with devastating consequences . . .

John has a perfect life, until the day his daughter goes missing.

Maisie cares for her patients, but hides her own traumatic past.

Miller should be an innocent child, but is obsessed with something he can’t have.

They all have something in common, though none of them know it – and the truth won’t stay hidden for long . . .


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MY REVIEW
Multiple storylines (John, Maise, and Miller) come together in this psychological thriller. John’s six-year-old daughter has been abducted, and it appears the kidnapper has been watching John for a long time. Maise is a nurse taking care of a patient that may not make it. Miller is a sociopath with a disturbing past.

Multiple points of view and multiple timelines are used in this novel. I found the switching between POVs and timelines to be too confusing. It might just be me, but I tend to lose focus when books use a lot of switching between people and time to tell a story. In this book, that meant I had a hard time getting into the flow of the story and never connected with the characters.

That said, this is a dark and interesting thriller. The mystery part was good, and I wasn’t sure how things were going to end. Best read by people who enjoy a more complicated story that takes some focus.

Chilling, suspenseful, and convoluted.

I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: We Were Mothers by Katie Sise

We Were Mothers by Katie Sise

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BOOK INFO
Title: We Were Mothers
Author: Katie Sise
Publisher: Little A
Publish Date: October 1, 2018

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
A scandalous revelation is about to devastate a picturesque town where the houses are immaculate and the neighborhoods are tightly knit. Devoted mother Cora O’Connell has found the journal of her friend Laurel’s daughter—a beautiful college student who lives next door—revealing an illicit encounter. Hours later, Laurel makes a shattering discovery of her own: her daughter has vanished without a trace. Over the course of one weekend, the crises of two close families are about to trigger a chain reaction that will expose a far more disturbing web of secrets. Now everything is at stake as they’re forced to confront the lies they have told in order to survive.


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MY REVIEW
Cora and her husband host a birthday party for their two year old twins, and things go downhill quickly afterwards. Cora discovers a journal of her neighbor’s daughter that reveals a secret. Soon after, the neighbor’s daughter goes missing.

As one weekend’s events unravel, the lives of multiple families are changed. The story opens with a birthday party for toddlers, where Cora has invited family and friends to celebrate her young children. The guests include Cora’s mother Sarah, her friend Jade, and her neighbor Laurel. Each of these women has something going on in her life that they haven’t been able to discuss with anyone else.

Central to the story is Cora, a married mom of toddler twins. She lost her sister, Maggie, in a tragic accident years earlier, and still has trouble dealing with that loss. The loss of Maggie also greatly affected her mother, Sarah, and friend, Jade. The current emotions and actions of these women can be traced back to the night they lost a loved one.

This book uses multiple points of view from Cora, Sarah, Jade, and Laurel to tell the story. This book is part women’s fiction and part suspense. Some of the issues the women are dealing with are very real, as is the feeling of having no one to talk to about those issues. One of the things I liked about this book was the women’s desire to protect their children, and how most of their actions are related to the fact that they are mothers. We Were Mothers is a fitting title for the book.

The suspense part of the story comes from Laurel’s missing daughter. There are, of course, other events going on, but it seems one missing college student starts the unraveling process.

Some of the topics throughout the book deal with motherhood, domestic abuse, and adultery. A good read for fans of family drama and suspense. This book does have a bit of a slow start, and I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending, but it was still a good, light read.

This was my pick for Amazon’s First Reads in September 2018.

Book Review: All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson

All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson

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BOOK INFO
Title: All the Beautiful Lies
Author: Peter Swanson
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: April 3, 2018

BOOK BLURB
Harry Ackerson has always considered his step-mother Alice to be sexy and beautiful, in an “other worldly” way. She has always been kind and attentive, if a little aloof in the last few years.

Days before his college graduation, Alice calls with shocking news. His father is dead and the police think it’s suicide. Devastated, he returns to his father’s home in Maine. There, he and Alice will help one another pick up of the pieces of their lives and uncover what happened to his father.

Shortly after he arrives, Harry meets a mysterious young woman named Grace McGowan. Though she claims to be new to the area, Harry begins to suspect that Grace may not be a complete stranger to his family. But she isn’t the only attractive woman taking an interest in Harry. The sensual Alice is also growing closer, coming on to him in an enticing, clearly sexual way.

Mesmerized by these two women, Harry finds himself falling deeper under their spell. Yet the closer he gets to them, the more isolated he feels, disoriented by a growing fear that both women are hiding dangerous—even deadly—secrets . . . and that neither one is telling the truth.


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MY REVIEW
Days before Harry is set to graduate college, his father dies. His father’s death is suspicious, and the authorities aren’t sure if his death was an accident, suicide, or murder. Harry returns to the small town in Maine where his father lived. While in town, Harry spends time with his stepmother Alice, works in his father’s bookstore, meets the new girl in town, Grace, and tries to connect the pieces surrounding his father’s death.

This book is told with multiple points of view and multiple timelines. The “then” timeline is Alice’s story. The “now” timeline is Harry’s story. Alice’s story is disturbing and uncomfortable to read. Harry’s story is more mysterious. Harry is not mysterious, but the circumstances of his father’s death and the people connected to his father are mysterious.

A slow-burning thriller that focuses on the characters. The action takes a backseat to the characters, but there are some interesting things happening. Harry’s father’s death isn’t the only suspicious death in the book. Now, let’s talk about the characters. They are complex and seriously messed up. Pretty much every relationship in the book is May-December, and some are more borderline pedophilia. That makes for tough reading.

Suspenseful, twisted, and tragic.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

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BOOK INFO
Title: The Perfect Mother
Author: Aimee Molloy
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: May 1, 2018

BOOK BLURB
They call themselves the May Mothers—a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. Twice a week, they get together in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for some much-needed adult time.

When the women go out for drinks at the hip neighborhood bar,they are looking for a fun break from their daily routine. But on this hot Fourth of July night, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is taken from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but her fellow May Mothers insisted everything would be fine. Now he is missing. What follows is a heart-pounding race to find Midas, during which secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are destroyed.


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MY REVIEW
The May Mothers are a mommy group. They all gave birth in the same month, and now get together to share the joys and fears of being new moms. The group normally meets at the park with their babies, but they decide to go out for drinks one night. One of the mothers, a single mom, is hesitant to leave her little one with a babysitter. The others convince her everything will be fine, but she returns home to find her baby has been abducted. As the new moms fall under suspicion for their night out, relationships are tested.

A relevant topic of a group of new moms that meet on the internet and start a mom group to form friendships, receive advice and support, and get out of the house for a while. Being a new mom is stressful, and moms tend to question and compare themselves, and their kids, to others. This book does a good job of illustrating the pressures we put on ourselves for the unattainable role of perfect mother.

Not all of the members of the May Mothers are central to the plot. The characters, whether they are more fleshed out or not, are all relatable. Nell, Francie, and Collette, are especially well-developed. Sometimes stories with multiple characters can get a little confusing, but the characters are easy to keep up with in this one.

A gripping psychological thriller. Great read for fans of domestic thrillers, especially ones with missing children. Disturbing, complex, and suspenseful.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: The Proposal by S. E. Lynes

The Proposal by S. E. Lynes

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BOOK INFO
Title: The Proposal
Author: S. E. Lynes
Publisher: Bookouture
Publish Date: September 21, 2018

BOOK BLURB
Teacher Pippa wants a second chance. Recently divorced and unhappy at work, she uproots her life to renovate a beautiful farmhouse in the countryside, determined to make a fresh start. But Pippa soon realises: your troubles are never far behind.

When Pippa meets blue-eyed Ryan Marks, he is funny, charming, and haunted by his past. He might just be the answer to all her problems. But how well does she really know him?

She knows the story of his life, the pain that stays with him, the warmth of his smile and the smell of his skin. She knows he can make her laugh over a glass of wine.

Pippa can tell truth from lies. She’d know if she were in danger. Wouldn’t she?


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MY REVIEW
Pippa works as a teacher, but dreams of writing a best seller. That proves to be harder than she imagined, especially when she can’t even come up with a first draft for her new book. Enter Ryan, a down on his luck ex-con and door-to-door salesman. When he knocks on Pippa’s door, they have a connection, which leads to a story for her book.

Told from Pippa’s point of view using journal entries and blog posts. She is recently divorced and a little unhappy with her life. She is also impulsive, which sometimes results in questionable decisions on her part.

I was hooked from the opening line, “The first thing you should know, dear reader, is that I am dead.” With an opener like that, I just had to know what happened to Pippa. Clever, dark, and disturbing.

I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Reclaiming Raven by Mary Holt

Reclaiming Raven by Mary Holt

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BOOK INFO
Title: Reclaiming Raven
Author: Mary Holt
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Publish Date: June 17, 2018

BOOK BLURB
Murder, even in self-defense, is a preemptive act. Raven Balback’s obsessive husband demands she return to their marriage. The frightened woman, partially paralyzed from her last encounter with him, flees. Unable to locate his wife, Cole burns the buildings that sheltered her in the past and endangers lives. Raven must decide whether to sacrifice herself for strangers or grasp for a life free of her vows.


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MY REVIEW
Raven is a disabled woman trying to escape from her abusive husband. Her husband, Cole, has contacts that make escaping from him very difficult. She manages to make her way to a new town, but when Cole is unable to locate her, he starts targeting innocent people to bring her out of hiding.

Raven is determined to get away from Cole. Though she is met with additional challenges due to her disabilities, she remains independent and resourceful. Her disabilities are physical (partial paralysis); however, she possesses all her mental faculties. A good thing, because Cole is coming after her with everything he’s got. Cole is methodical and cruel in his hunt for Raven. He is obsessed with her, and thinks he must control everything about her. The story focuses on Raven’s attempt to stay far away from Cole, but there are flashbacks that highlight some of the abusive and disturbing behavior she suffered while married to Cole.

The characters are mostly well developed. Personally, I didn’t care for Raven, though I did feel for her situation and wanted her to get away from Cole. She possesses several great traits in a female protagonist, like being strong-willed and enterprising, but she is also naive. Considering her position and her past experiences, it seems like she would be more discerning. As for Cole, he is really easy to hate. His behavior is frenzied and brutal. The supporting characters add to the story, with some being likable and others not so likable. Kelsey is a particularly maddening character, though very realistic. Hands down my favorite character is Millie, Raven’s service dog.

This is Mary Holt’s debut novel. A gripping thriller about a woman on the run. Dark, disturbing, and fast-paced.

I received a digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

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BOOK INFO
Title: The Broken Girls
Author: Simone St. James
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: March 20, 2018

BOOK BLURB
Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants—the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming—until one of them mysteriously disappears…

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past—and a voice that won’t be silenced…


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MY REVIEW
Idlewild Hall was once a boarding school where wayward girls were sent. Since the opening of the school, there were rumors that it was haunted. The school closed in the 1970s and set abandoned until 2014. When the owner of the property decides to restore it, old secrets are revealed.

Told with the multiple timelines of 1950 and 2014. In 1950, four students at Idlewild bonded during their time there, but one of them mysteriously disappeared. In 2014, Fiona can’t stop thinking about her sister’s death twenty years earlier. Her sister’s body was found on the grounds of the abandoned boarding school, and Fiona can’t shake the feeling that there was something off about the case. Fiona is a journalist, and when she learns that a restoration project is set to begin on the school, she thinks it will make a good local interest piece. During Fiona’s visit to the school, a new discovery is made during the renovations.

This novel has a lot happening. For one, Fiona wants to know if there was more to her sister’s death. This is not a story about the wrong guy being caught and convicted for her sister’s death. It’s about there being more to the story than people were led to believe. While working on the article about the boarding school, Fiona discovers clues to an old cold case concerning a missing girl. Concerning the cold case, Fiona interviews old staff and students to connect the pieces. In amongst all of this, there is a ghost story. With so much happening, it is easy for a story to get messy, but this one came together nicely.

I’m not a big fan of paranormal mysteries, so I put off reading this one for a long time. Finally, I caved and checked it out at my local library. Even there, the librarian said how good it was and that she recommended it. So, while not exactly my genre, I had high hopes due to all the praise I’ve heard about this book. I’m happy to say that it was a captivating and suspenseful thriller, and I’m so glad I gave it a chance. Atmospheric, eerie, and compelling.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: The Classroom by A. L. Bird

The Classroom by A. L. Bird

BOOK INFO
Title: The Classroom
Author: A. L. Bird
Publisher: HQ Digital
Publish Date: September 16, 2018

BOOK BLURB
Letting go of your daughter for the first time isn’t easy…

After years of IVF, Kirsten White is a devoted mum to Harriet – and she can’t believe the time has come to send her little girl off to school. But Harriet has now turned five, and she can’t stay Kirsten’s baby forever. It might be hard, but it’s time to entrust her daughter’s care to her new teacher.

… the classroom is the one place she should be safe.

Miriam Robertson has been waiting for the perfect little girl to walk into her class. She’s very picky… but when Harriet walks in, Miriam knows: this is the child she’s been waiting for.

Harriet knows not to speak to strangers. But her lovely new teacher isn’t a stranger at all. In fact, she’s her new best friend. And you can always trust your friends… can’t you?


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MY REVIEW
Kirsten loves her daughter, Harriet, and is nervous about sending her to school for the first time. Miriam is Harriet’s Kindergarten teacher, and she’s been waiting for the perfect child to walk into her classroom. With Kirsten’s busy work schedule, Harriet spends more and more time at school. During that time, Harriet grows closer and closer to Miriam.

Told with alternating points of view and alternate timelines. At first, the flashback timeline is confusing, but as the story progresses, the flashbacks become integral to the story. Obviously, the past is going to catch up with the present in some way, but it isn’t clear how things connect until about 30% into the novel.

Kirsten is a working mother who puts in a lot of hours at her job. Kirsten’s husband, Ian, is mostly distracted and useless. He seems unconcerned with the issues going on with Kirsten, Harriet, and him. Miriam appears to be a dedicated teacher worried about her students, but she’s also a bit unstable. Harriet is a precocious five-year-old. Really, none of the characters are likable, making it difficult to care how things play out. Admittedly, Kirsten seems a little paranoid, but maybe she has a right to be. It seems not everything is as it appears to be, and there are several secrets waiting to be revealed.

An entertaining domestic thriller. Creepy, complex, and twisty.

I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.