Book Review: Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak

Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak

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BOOK INFO
Title: Before We Were Strangers
Author: Brenda Novak
Publisher: MIRA
Publish Date: December 4, 2018
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 3.93

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
Something happened to her mother that night. Something no one wants to talk about. But she’s determined to uncover her family’s dark secrets, even if they bury her.

Five-year-old Sloane McBride couldn’t sleep that night. Her parents were arguing again, their harsh words heating the cool autumn air. And then there was that other sound — the ominous thump before all went quiet.

In the morning, her mother was gone.

The official story was that she left. Her loving, devoted mother! That hadn’t sat any better at the time than it did when Sloane moved out at eighteen, anxious to leave her small Texas hometown in search of anywhere else. But not even a fresh start working as a model in New York could keep the nightmares at bay. Or her fears that the domineering father she grew up with wasn’t just difficult — he was deadly.

Now another traumatic loss forces Sloane to realize she owes it to her mother to find out the truth, even if it means returning to a small town full of secrets and lies, a jilted ex-boyfriend, and a father and brother who’d rather see her silenced. But as Sloane starts digging into the past, the question isn’t whether she can uncover what really happened that night… it’s what will remain of her family if she does?


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MY REVIEW
Sloane was five years old when her mother disappeared. Sloane remembers hearing her parents argue, and the next day her mother was gone. Sloane left home at eighteen, moved to New York, and started a career as a model. She has done well for herself, but she has always felt there was more to the story about her mother. A loving mother doesn’t just walk away from her children. Sloane decides to move back to her small town and finally discover what happened to her mother.

Sloane is an interesting character. She moved away from home as soon as she could, and she did well for herself. She’s smart, independent, and determined. When she left home, she left behind a father she didn’t get along with, a brother who did whatever their father said, a high school boyfriend who loved her, and a childhood best friend. After years away, Sloane’s relationship with everyone is different when she returns to her hometown.

A suspenseful mystery with plenty of drama. Family drama, mystery, and a little romance make this a compelling read.

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local library.

Book Review: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

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BOOK INFO
Title: My Lovely Wife
Author: Samantha Downing
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: March 26, 2019
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 4.08

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith in this wildly compulsive debut thriller about a couple whose fifteen-year marriage has finally gotten too interesting…

Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored.

We look like a normal couple. We’re your neighbors, the parents of your kid’s friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.

We all have our secrets to keeping a marriage alive.

Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.


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MY REVIEW
Millicent and her husband are a married couple with two teenagers, great jobs, and a home in a nice neighborhood. They also have a shared interest in murder.

Told from the husband’s point of view. Interestingly, the husband is never named. He and his wife, Millicent, live in a nice, quiet neighborhood. Millicent and her husband occasionally have date nights, but these aren’t the usual type of date nights. During these dates, they plot and scheme how to get away with murder.

Wonderful debut novel. Well written story with complex characters and an intriguing plot. Psychological thrillers often have one crazy spouse, but in this novel, the readers get a double dose of demented.

A deliciously wicked domestic thriller. Great for fans of psychological thrillers. Twisted, dark, and disturbing.

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

Book Review: The Temp by Michelle Frances

The Temp by Michelle Frances

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BOOK INFO
Title: The Temp
Author: Michelle Frances
Publisher: Kensington
Publish Date: January 29, 2019
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 3.72

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
Wanted: Assistant to provide maternity cover for high-powered TV producer. Must be bright, creative, with killer instincts.

Emma would do anything to work for the woman who has the job she wants. Carrie is at the top of her game, with a dream career, a baby on the way, and a handsome screenwriter husband. For Emma, with parents who don’t understand her ambition and a serious misstep behind her, this temp position might be her last chance.

Carrie has given up more than anyone knows to get to the top of a ruthless business. She won’t give up this baby too. But with Emma filling in for her at the office, her perfect life starts to unravel. Her bank account is inexplicably overdrawn, her husband seems strangely distant and colleagues are all too happy to take Emma’s creative direction. Carrie finds herself dying to get back to work . . . until a letter left at her door changes everything.

Trust and fear trade places in a love triangle that defies readers’ expectations at every turn.


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MY REVIEW
Carrie, a successful TV producer, is pregnant and needs to hire a temp. She will need time off work after the baby comes, even though she hates having to leave her job. She hires Emma. Emma is ambitious and eager to work with Carrie.

Told with the alternating points of view of Carrie and Emma. Carrie and her husband have successful careers and a happy marriage. When Carrie finds out she is pregnant, they’re well planned lives get off course. Emma wants to work in the television industry, but hasn’t had much luck. A temp position with Carrie is a dream for her, and she desperately wants it to work.

A slow-burning psychological thriller. Interesting characters and twisty plot made for a captivating read. Intriguing, suspenseful, and twisted.

I borrowed a copy of this book from my local library.

Book Review: And Then You Were Gone by R.J. Jacobs

And Then You Were Gone by R.J. Jacobs

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BOOK INFO
Title: And Then You Were Gone
Author: R.J. Jacobs
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publish Date: March 13, 2019
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 3.78

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
For fans of B. A. Paris and Mary Kubica comes a propulsive, twisting psychological thriller that asks, How can you save someone else if you can’t save yourself?

After years of learning how to manage her bipolar disorder, Emily Firestone finally has it under control. Even better, her life is coming together: she’s got a great job, her own place, and a boyfriend, Paolo, who adores her. So when Paolo suggests a weekend sailing trip, Emily agrees—wine, water, and the man she loves? What could be better? But when Emily wakes the morning after they set sail, the boat is still adrift…and Paolo is gone.

A strong swimmer, there’s no way Paolo drowned, but Emily is at a loss for any other explanation. Where else could he have gone? And why? As the hours and days pass by, each moment marking Paolo’s disappearance, Emily’s hard-won stability begins to slip.

But when Emily uncovers evidence suggesting Paolo was murdered, the investigation throws her mania into overdrive, even as she becomes a person of interest in her own personal tragedy. To clear her name, Emily must find the truth—but can she hold onto her own sanity in the process?


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MY REVIEW
While on a sailing trip, Emily wakes to find her boyfriend Paolo is missing. Since Paolo is a strong swimmer, Emily finds it hard to believe he could have drowned. As days pass, Paolo’s disappearance starts to lean toward murder… with Emily as a suspect. Emily struggles with managing her bipolar disorder, which she though was under control, while she searches for answers to what happened to Paolo.

Emily makes for an interesting unreliable narrator. She has been managing her bipolar disorder well, but when Paolo goes missing and she becomes a suspect, she no longer has control. In addition to that, her memory of the night Paolo went missing is very hazy. The fun thing about unreliable narrators is the reader never knows if they can be trusted.

When Emily looks into Paolo’s disappearance, she learns more about his work. Paolo works in medical research, and while Emily was aware of the virus he was working with, she learns a lot more about his research and coworkers as she questions what happened to him.

A fast-paced thriller. Intriguing, suspenseful, and twisty.

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

Book Review: Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare

Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
Title: Call Me Evie
Author: J.P. Pomare
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publish Date: March 5, 2019
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Goodreads Ratings: Me 3.0 / Community 3.97

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
In this propulsive, twist-filled, and haunting psychological suspense debut perfect for fans of Sharp Objects and Room, a seventeen-year-old girl struggles to remember the role she played on the night her life changed forever.

For the past two weeks, seventeen-year-old Kate Bennet has lived against her will in an isolated cabin in a remote beach town–brought there by a mysterious man named Bill. Part captor, part benefactor, Bill calls her Evie and tells her he’s hiding her to protect her. That she did something terrible one night back home in Melbourne–something so unspeakable that he had no choice but to take her away. The trouble is, Kate can’t remember the night in question.

The fragments of Kate’s shattered memories of her old life seem happy: good friends, a big house in the suburbs, a devoted boyfriend. Bill says he’ll help her fill in the blanks–but his story isn’t adding up. And as she tries to reconcile the girl she thought she’d been with the devastating consequences Bill claims she’s responsible for, Kate will unearth secrets about herself and those closest to her that could change everything.

A riveting debut novel that fearlessly plumbs the darkest recesses of the mind, Call Me Evie explores the fragility of memory and the potential in all of us to hide the truth, even from ourselves.


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MY REVIEW
Kate, a teenager, is living in a remote cabin with Jim. She has no memory of why she is being kept in the cabin, or who Jim is. She only knows that something terrible has happened. Jim says he’s trying to help her, but she’s not sure she can really trust him.

Told with alternating timelines – before and after. In the before timeline, Kate has some disturbing things from her past, but also some pretty normal teenage problems. In the after timeline, it’s clear something bad has happened, but the details are slowly revealed.

A story that combines memory loss and kidnapping into an entertaining psychological thriller. The main character is a teenager, and this book does read a lot like a young adult story rather than adult. Good for fans of YA thrillers. Suspenseful story of secrets and lies.

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

Book Review: The Perfect Child by Lucinda Berry

The Perfect Child by Lucinda Berry

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
Title: The Perfect Child
Author: Lucinda Berry
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publish Date: March 1, 2019
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Goodreads Ratings: Me 3.0 / Community 4.21

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
A page-turning debut of suspense about a young couple desperate to have a child of their own—and the unsettling consequences of getting what they always wanted.

Christopher and Hannah are a happily married surgeon and nurse with picture-perfect lives. All that’s missing is a child. When Janie, an abandoned six-year-old, turns up at their hospital, Christopher forms an instant connection with her, and he convinces Hannah they should take her home as their own.

But Janie is no ordinary child, and her damaged psyche proves to be more than her new parents were expecting. Janie is fiercely devoted to Christopher, but she acts out in increasingly disturbing ways, directing all her rage at Hannah. Unable to bond with Janie, Hannah is drowning under the pressure, and Christopher refuses to see Janie’s true nature.

Hannah knows that Janie is manipulating Christopher and isolating him from her, despite Hannah’s attempts to bring them all together. But as Janie’s behavior threatens to tear Christopher and Hannah apart, the truth behind Janie’s past may be enough to push them all over the edge.


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MY REVIEW
Christopher and Hannah are a happy couple, but they long to have a child. When Janie, an abandoned six-year-old, shows up at the hospital where they work, Christopher wants to foster her. Despite the warnings about raising a child with an abusive past, they take her into their home and family. They are not prepared for the challenges they face.

Told with alternating points of view – Christopher, Hannah, and Piper, Janie’s social worker. Christopher adores Janie and finds it difficult to believe she is capable of the harmful behavior others warn him about. Hannah is more realistic about the difficulties they face. Piper is Janie’s social worker, and presents an outsider’s view of the family and their behaviors.

It’s no surprise that Janie suffers from physical and mental issues due to her abusive past. With their medical background, Christopher and Hannah do seem like the perfect couple to take care of Janie. Unfortunately, Christopher is blinded by his love, and Janie’s manipulation, to see how bad things are. My biggest issue with this book was Christopher’s disregard for Hannah’s concerns and the safety of their family. If Christopher hadn’t been such a dolt, this would have been a better book for me.

A disturbing domestic thriller. While it is clear something very bad has happened, the very bad thing isn’t revealed until late in the book. Makes for a suspenseful read. Good for fans of Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage.

This was my pick for Amazon First Reads in February 2019.

Book Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

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BOOK INFO
Title: Beautiful Bad
Author: Annie Ward
Publisher: Park Row
Publish Date: March 5, 2019
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 3.83

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
In the tradition of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train comes the psychological thriller everyone is talking about, a twisted novel about a devoted wife, a loving husband, and a chilling crime that will stun even the cleverest readers.

There are two sides to every story… And every person.

Maddie and Ian’s love story began with a chance encounter at a party overseas, while she was a travel writer visiting her best friend, Jo. Now almost two decades later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America. But when a camping accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian; her concerns for the safety of their young son; and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, sixteen years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of a shocking crime.


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MY REVIEW
Maddie and Ian appear to have a wonderful life. After a camping accident leaves Maddie disfigured, she begins going to therapy. Maddie and Ian’s past is slowly revealed, along with their current situation – the day of the killing.

Told using flashbacks, this suspenseful novel covers two decades and a variety of locations. Maddie and Ian met when they were both living in the Balkans. Maddie was working as a travel writer and Ian was a soldier working as a bodyguard. They had a brief flirtation, but as their work took them elsewhere, their relationship was complicated. In the present day story, they are married and have a son, but their relationship still has difficulties.

A complex and intriguing psychological thriller. The novel opens with a frantic 911 call, which leads to the responding officer finding a bloody scene. The story then alternates between the events of Maddie and Ian’s past and the present day investigation.

A captivating read for fans of slow-burning domestic thrillers. Compelling characters. Complicated relationships. Unreliable narrator. Murder investigation.

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

Book Review: Between the Lies by Michelle Adams

Between the Lies by Michelle Adams

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
Title: Between the Lies
Author: Michelle Adams
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publish Date: March 5, 2019
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Goodreads Ratings: Me 3.0 / Community 4.07

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
In the vein of Allison Brennan, Michelle Adams’s Between the Lies is an addictive psychological thriller with twists that keep the reader guessing until the last page, in which a woman who’s lost her memory is back home with a family she doesn’t know—who are keeping secrets of their own.

The truth is hiding between the lies.

~~~

What would you do if you woke up and didn’t know who you were?

Chloe Daniels regains consciousness in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
She doesn’t recognise the strangers who call themselves family. She can’t even remember her own name.

What if your past remained a mystery?

As she slowly recovers, her parents and sister begin to share details of her life.
The successful career. The seaside home. The near-fatal car crash.
But Chloe senses they’re keeping dark secrets—and her determination to uncover the truth will have devastating consequences.

What if the people you should be able to trust are lying to you?


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MY REVIEW
Chloe awakens in the hospital after a terrible car accident. Not only does she not remember the accident, but she doesn’t remember who she is or anything about her life and family. Her parents and sister attempt to help her remember her life, but Chloe feels they are also keeping secrets.

It took me a little while to get into this story. Once I did, it was a thrilling ride. Complex and twisty story. Intriguing characters, with everyone seemingly hiding something. Chloe is a bit of an unreliable narrator. Her memory loss is clearly an issue, and her regaining of memories is, let’s say, suspicious. As Chloe starts to learn more about who she is, she questions everything about the accident and what really happened.

Good for fans of psychological thrillers, especially ones where the protagonist has memory loss. Dark, intense, and suspenseful.

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

Book Review: Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

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BOOK INFO
Title: Before She Knew Him
Author: Peter Swanson
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: March 5, 2019
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Goodreads Ratings: Me 5.0 / Community 4.14

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
Catching a killer is dangerous — especially if he lives next door.

From the hugely talented author of The Kind Worth Killing comes an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder…

Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder — an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape…


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MY REVIEW
Henrietta, Hen for short, and her husband Lloyd have moved into a new home and are adjusting to their quiet suburban life. While visiting with new neighbors, Matthew and Mira, Hen sees something in Matthews’s home office that leads her to believe he is a killer. Hen’s past makes it difficult for her to be a reliable source, so she struggles with knowing the truth and finding someone to believe her.

Told with alternating points of view, both Hen and Matthew’s stories are told. Hen is bipolar and has had difficult times in her past. She seems to have things under control, but her past does lead her to be an unreliable source. However, Matthew is hiding dark secrets from his own past.

Hen has played armchair detective in the past, but that has never worked out to her favor. When she spots something in Matthew’s office that she believes connects him with a cold case she was once obsessed with, she gets a bit obsessed again. Matthew isn’t the innocent man he pretends to be, which leads to an interesting relationship between him and Hen.

An intriguing psychological thriller with flawed characters, dark pasts, obsession, and murder. Clever, suspenseful, and twisted.

I received a free eARC of this book via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase.

BOOK INFO
Title: Pieces of Her
Author: Karin Slaughter
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: August 21, 2018
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 3.81

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
The #1 internationally bestselling author returns with a new novel in the vein of her New York Times bestsellers Pretty Girls and The Good Daughter—a story even more electrifying, provocative, and suspenseful than anything she’s written before.

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all…?

Andrea knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them…


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MY REVIEW
Andrea (Andy) and her mother Laura are having lunch at a mall, when a man shows up and starts shooting. Andy sees a very different side of her mother during the attack. Andy soon learns her mother wasn’t always Laura. In fact, Laura has been hiding from her past for thirty years. Andy starts on a journey to find who her mother really is.

Told using multiple timelines, this novel flips between 2018 and 1986. The present day story opens with Andy realizing there is more to her mother than she ever thought. This revelation leads Andy on a search into her mother’s past. The past (1986) is Laura’s story about who she was and how she became the woman she is in the present timeline.

Laura has maintained a low-key lifestyle, but that changes when she and her daughter are under attack. It turns out, she’s pretty badass. On the flip side, Andy is insecure, dependent, and timid.

This story has plenty of mystery and action, but it also examines a mother-daughter relationship. The mystery is who is Laura, and what is she hiding. The action is bouts of violence and mayhem in both timelines. The mother-daughter relationship shows that Laura had a life before becoming a mother.

I enjoyed this book by Karin Slaughter, but it was different than others I’ve read by her. I loved The Good Daughter and Pretty Girls, but both of those novels are darker and more graphic than Pieces of Her.

An intense story that involves secrets and lies. Intriguing, suspenseful, and twisty.

I borrowed this book from my local library.