Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Rebecca
Author: Daphne du Maurier
Genre: Gothic / Romance / Suspense
Audience: Adult
Format: eBook
Length: 449 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Release Date: August 1, 1938
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Agatha Christie, Gothic romance, domestic thrillers
Content Warnings: suicide, suicidal thoughts, toxic relationship, outdated language relating to race and mental illness

SYNOPSIS

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

First published in 1938, this classic gothic novel is such a compelling read that it won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Century.

MY THOUGHTS

I was so excited when my book club picked this for November, because it is truly the perfect fall book. The new Mrs. de Winter finds herself in over her head after a whirlwind romance with the much older Maxim. When they return to his estate at Manderley, she doesn’t know how to interact with the staff, Maxim becomes very distant, and she is constantly haunted by the lingering presence of Maxim’s dead wife Rebecca. (Disclaimer: this is NOT a ghost story)

I thoroughly enjoyed the Gothic vibes, and the writing is so gripping. I found the narrator’s mental state very relatable; she has a vivid imagination and frequently gets lost in thoughts of worst-case-scenarios. The story eventually reaches a twist where it shifts to what feels like a modern domestic thriller; by that point, I couldn’t put it down. And can we talk about how utterly creepy Mrs. Danvers is??

I initially rated this book 4 stars because the beginning is a bit slow and the ending is very abrupt (like you will think that the final pages must be missing). However, now that a couple weeks have passed since I finished, I’ve watched two movie versions (Netflix: bad, Hitchcock: good), and I can’t stop thinking about this story. I can see myself rereading this classic again when the weather is right.

Review: Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Little Darlings
Author: Melanie Golding
Genre: Thriller/Horror
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Stephanie Racine
Length: 12 hours (312 pages)
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Release Date: April 30, 2019
Source: Audible
Recommended for fans of: psychological thrillers, folklore and fairy tales
Content Warnings: childbirth, gaslighting, infidelity

SYNOPSIS

“Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking―and rechecking―your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.

MY THOUGHTS

This psychological thriller about a mother who believes her newborn twins are replaced with changelings was absolutely haunting, bordering on horror. I was drawn to this book because of the fairy/folklore influence, but I got more than I bargained for.

The depictions of the trauma of childbirth, the loneliness of new motherhood, a dismissive and unsupportive husband, and Lauren’s growing paranoia were painfully raw and real. It was so hard to read that I set it aside for a week and almost didn’t pick it back up. I usually read thrillers for twisty drama, but this was so sad.

That being said, I am glad I finished this. Lauren’s mental illness was explored with nuance and empathy rather than being reduced to a thriller plot device. The atmosphere was downright eerie, and it often felt like supernatural forces were truly at play (as a fantasy reader, I obviously want to believe).

Review: Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Good Girl, Bad Blood
Author: Holly Jackson
Series: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #2
Genre: Mystery
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 401 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Veronica Mars, Karen M. McManus
Content Warnings: death, references to rape, gun violence, knife violence, child abuse

SYNOPSIS

Pip is not a detective anymore.

With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.

But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared, on the very same night the town hosted a memorial for the sixth-year anniversary of the deaths of Andie Bell and Sal Singh.

The police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time everyone is listening. But will she find him before it’s too late?

MY THOUGHTS

My Veronica Mars loving heart cannot get enough of Pip Fitz-Amobi! This is a really great YA mystery series. For whatever reason I am ALL ABOUT books about fictional podcasts, and I love the epistolary content that brings Pip’s investigations to life.

I didn’t think this mystery was as compelling from the beginning compared to book one (I honestly thought the premise was a bit ridiculous), but by the end I was shocked, horrified, and fascinated by the twists and turns. I also wanted more Ravi in this book. He’s still a major character, but I just didn’t feel his presence as much throughout this book.

Pip has a lot of character development in this book as she figures out who she is and what her priorities are. I can’t wait to read the conclusion of this series!

Review: One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: One of Us Is Next
Author: Karen M. McManus
Series: One of Us Is Lying #2
Genre: Thriller
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 377 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press for Young Readers
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: One of Us Is Lying, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
Content Warnings: death, sexual assault, bullying, cancer, alcoholism

SYNOPSIS

Come on, Bayview, you know you’ve missed this.

A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.

Until now.

This time it’s not an app, though—it’s a game.

Truth or Dare.

Phoebe’s the first target. If you choose not to play, it’s a truth. And hers is dark.

Then comes Maeve and she should know better—always choose the dare.

But by the time Knox is about to be tagged, things have gotten dangerous. The dares have become deadly, and if Maeve learned anything from Bronwyn last year, it’s that they can’t count on the police for help. Or protection.

Simon’s gone, but someone’s determined to keep his legacy at Bayview High alive. And this time, there’s a whole new set of rules.

MY THOUGHTS

It’s been a few years since I’ve read one of Karen M. McManus’s YA thrillers, but this one was not as fast-paced and compelling as I remember her books being. The mystery was slow to develop, and there was a lot of filler in the first half of the book, but I still finished this book quickly.

I really like how all of the characters are fully realized people who have their own problems outside of the dangerous game of Truth or Dare. These are believable teen characters with believable teen relationships, and the friendships and romance are what separate YA thrillers from their adult counterparts.

I mostly liked the way the twists played out, but one reveal was painfully obvious and the characters were too smart to not even consider the possibility. I also did not love the twist in the epilogue. I normally love it when thrillers include twists up to the very last page, but this one was unnecessary.

Review: For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: For Your Own Good
Author: Samantha Downing
Genre: Thriller
Audience: Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 373 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 20, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: dark academia

SYNOPSIS

Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the esteemed Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest.

He says his wife couldn’t be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.

Teddy really can’t be bothered with the death of a school parent that’s looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is on pushing these kids to their full academic potential.

All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way.

It’s really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.

MY THOUGHTS

I love Samantha Downing’s twisty, compelling writing. She does such a great job of shocking the reader and tying everything together. I flew through this thriller in a day (which is pretty rare for me!).

This didn’t completely blow my mind the way I wanted it to, but it was still very, very good. I think part of the reason I struggled a bit with this book is because I am a teacher, but I could not at all relate to these teachers and their mindsets. Teddy deciding in the middle of class to teach a completely different novel than he had planned?? The teachers and students alike were way too obsessed with the school, which drove them to extreme actions.

The twisted characters and their desperate actions made for a very entertaining thriller about an elite private school with a slight murder problem.

ARC Review: Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Dark Roads
Author: Chevy Stevens
Genre: Thriller
Audience: Audience
Format: eARC
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: August 3, 2021
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Content Warnings: sexual harassment, sexual assault, corrupt law enforcement, addiction

SYNOPSIS

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…

MY THOUGHTS

This book had a lot going on between the highway killer, Hailey’s abusive uncle, wilderness survival, multiple narrators, and a romantic subplot, so I had a hard time seeing where this story was going.

There was a bit too much focus on survival skills that just didn’t interest me. I was not a fan of the romance; it just caused unnecessary drama. But while the ages and maturity levels of the main characters made most of this book almost feel like a YA thriller, it took a VERY dark and adult turn when the killer was revealed.

I was not completely satisfied with the way all the pieces came together and were explained at the end, but the story built to some very thrilling, twisty moments that gave me that heart racing feeling I crave from a thriller.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the eARC.

Review: The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆
Title: The Maidens
Author: Alex Michaelides
Genre: Thriller
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Louise Brealey
Length: 9 hours (337 pages)
Publisher: Celadon; Macmillan Audio
Release Date: June 14, 2021
Source: Libro.fm ALC
Recommended for fans of: Greek mythology, dark academia

SYNOPSIS

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.

MY THOUGHTS

The book had such a great premise and beautiful writing, but it did not come together for me at the end.

I loved the Greek mythology influence and academia setting, which pointed to a highly intellectual killer. Mariana’s personal connections to the case were confusing, and her fixation on Fosca as the killer was clearly a red herring. Speaking of red herrings…this book was full of them. So many that they left a lot of loose ends that were never fully explained.

The big twist at the end was gross and unbelievable. It blurred the bigger picture and ruined the book for me. I really think there was a better way to explain these murders with a different killer!

I have not read The Silent Patient, but I’ve seen a lot of very mixed reviews for it, and while it’s been on my “want to read” list, I’m not sure if it will be worth picking up after reading this one.

Thank you to Libro.fm and the publisher for the ALC and ARC.

Review: Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Firekeeper’s Daughter
Author: Angeline Boulley
Genre: Mystery
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Isabella Star LaBlanc
Length: 14 hours (496 pages)
Publisher: Henry, Holt & Co (BYR); Macmillan Audio
Release Date: March 16, 2021
Source: Libro.fm ALC
Recommended for fans of: hockey, YA mystery/thriller
Content Warnings:

SYNOPSIS

As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.

The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.

Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

MY THOUGHTS

This is a beautifully written story about the bonds that tie communities together and the secrets that can tear them apart.

The Ojibwe culture came to life in this story, exploring complex family and tribal dynamics as well as the dichotomy between personal identity and community belonging.

The mystery was fantastic, and the drug problems facing the community felt real and urgent. I also really enjoyed the role that hockey played in this story.

This is the type of YA story that is just as impactful for adult readers. The story was both heartracing and heartbreaking, and it’s the kind of book that sticks with readers long after finishing the last page.

Thank you to Libro.fm and the publisher for the ALC.

Review: Sleeping Dogs Lie by Samantha Downing

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Sleeping Dogs Lie
Author: Samantha Downing
Genre: Thriller/Mystery
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Melanie Nicholls-King, Lindsey Dorcus
Length: 2 hours
Publisher: Audible Original
Release Date: April 1, 2021
Source: Audible

SYNOPSIS

From the internationally best-selling author of My Lovely Wife and He Started It comes a twisted, entertaining novella about a dog walker swept into a criminal investigation when her client winds up dead.

Shelby works as a dog walker in Northern California, and she’s just finished up her biweekly trip to the park with a husky named Pluto. When she brings him back to his house, she finds his owner—Todd Burke, a well-known local businessman and founder of an organic supplements company—dead on the bathroom floor. As a detective interviews Shelby, a medical examiner inspects the body, and more cops search Todd’s home, it becomes clear that the victim’s life was less picture-perfect than his clean-cut persona might lead you to believe.

MY THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed the first two chapters of this three chapter novella. Samantha Downing delivers a signature thrilling murder mystery with an impressive attention to detail and and clever and compelling twist.

However, the killer’s motivations were so far-fetched, and her rationale took away from her cleverness in the third chapter.

Dog lovers will enjoy this story!

Review: Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: Finlay Donovan is Killing It
Author: Elle Cosimano
Series: Finlay Donovan #1
Genre: Mystery/Humor
Audience: Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: February 2, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: The Good Girls
Content Warnings: infidelity, violence, murder

SYNOPSIS

Finlay Donovan is killing it . . . except, she’s really not. She’s a stressed-out single-mom of two and struggling novelist, Finlay’s life is in chaos: the new book she promised her literary agent isn’t written, her ex-husband fired the nanny without telling her, and this morning she had to send her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head after an incident with scissors.

When Finlay is overheard discussing the plot of her new suspense novel with her agent over lunch, she’s mistaken for a contract killer, and inadvertently accepts an offer to dispose of a problem husband in order to make ends meet . . . Soon, Finlay discovers that crime in real life is a lot more difficult than its fictional counterpart, as she becomes tangled in a real-life murder investigation.

Fast-paced, deliciously witty, and wholeheartedly authentic in depicting the frustrations and triumphs of motherhood in all its messiness, hilarity, and heartfelt moment, Finlay Donovan Is Killing It is the first in a brilliant new series from YA Edgar Award nominee Elle Cosimano.

MY THOUGHTS

Finlay is such a relatable hot mess mom who gets in way over her head in a hilarious and thrilling way when she is mistakenly hired for a hit job. This fast-paced mystery kept me guessing, laughing, and turning pages. Even though I did not even come close to predicting the killer’s true identity, I expected a bit more from the ending, although I’m not really sure what (I read this during a bit of a reading slump, so that may have influenced my reactions to the book). This book is perfect for mystery and thriller fans in need of something light and fun, and I am so excited to see that this is going to be a series!