ALC Review: Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson


Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Mother May I
Author: Joshilyn Jackson
Genre: Thriller
Audience: Adult
Format: ALC
Narrator: Joshilyn Jackson
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: William Morrow; Harper Audio
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Source: Netgalley
Content Warnings: rape, kidnapping, murder, poison, gun violence


Revenge doesn’t wait for permission.

Growing up poor in rural Georgia, Bree Cabbat was warned by her single mother that the world was a dark and scary place. Bree rejected her mother’s fearful outlook, and life has proved her right. Having married into a family with wealth, power, and connections, Bree now has all a woman could ever dream of: a loving lawyer husband, two talented teenage daughters, a new baby boy, a gorgeous home, and every opportunity in the world.

Until the day she awakens and sees a witch peering into her bedroom window—an old gray-haired woman dressed all in black who vanishes as quickly as she appears. It must be a play of the early morning light or the remnant of a waking dream, Bree tells herself, shaking off the bad feeling that overcomes her.

Later that day though, she spies the old woman again, in the parking lot of her daugh­ters’ private school . . . just minutes before Bree’s infant son, asleep in his car seat only a few feet away, vanishes. It happened so quickly—Bree looked away only for a second. There is a note left in his place, warning her that she is being is being watched; if she wants her baby back, she must not call the police or deviate in any way from the instructions that will follow.

The mysterious woman makes contact, and Bree learns she, too, is a mother. Why would another mother do this? What does she want? And why has she targeted Bree? Of course Bree will pay anything, do anything. It’s her child.

To get her baby back, Bree must complete one small—but critical—task. It seems harmless enough, but her action comes with a devastating price, making her complicit in a tangled web of tragedy and shocking secrets that could destroy everything she loves. It is the beginning of an odyssey that will lead Bree to dangerous places, explosive confrontations, and chilling truths.

Bree will do whatever it takes to protect her family—but what if the cost tears their world apart?


It’s been awhile since I’ve read a thriller, and this one was perfectly dark and twisted. Bree’s mind was not a pleasant place to be. After her child is kidnapped, Bree’s spiraling thoughts led her to develop a disturbing yet compelling empathy with the woman who kidnapped her child. This book explores the lengths a mother will go for her children, how the past is never truly behind you, and how even the people you know best can harbor the darkest secrets.

I didn’t like the romantic elements of the story at first, but it grew on me by the end. I also thought the ending dragged out a bit… there was an explosive scene that felt like the end, but there were still more twists and turns to come. This thriller was well-written, thought-provoking, and unsettling.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the audiobook listening copy.

Review: The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins


Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Wife Upstairs
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Genre: Domestic Suspense
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Emily Shaffer, Kirby Heyborne, Lauren Fortgang
Length: ~9 hours (304 pages)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Macmillan Audio
Release Date: January 5, 2021
Source: influencer program
Recommended for fans of: Jane Eyre, domestic thrillers, Verity
Content Warnings:


A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, Rachel Hawkins’s The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?


In The Wife Upstairs, the classic gothic romance Jane Eyre is reimagined as a domestic suspense in the Deep South. In case you don’t know me, that premise is RIGHT. UP. MY. ALLEY.

Even though Jane Eyre is my favorite classic, I didn’t see all of the twists coming. I loved all the nods to the OG, but this retelling forged its own identity.

This book is straight up #RichPeopleProblems, complete with the mysterious death of not one but TWO socialites. Jane, a dogwalker, catches the eye of Eddie, the widower of the recently-deceased Bea, as she attempts to social climb her way to the top. It’s clear that Jane has a shady past, but I wish the specifics of her situation had been revealed earlier in the story.

Most of the book is told from Jane’s POV, but we get flashback chapters from Bea’s POV throughout, and even a glimpse into Eddie’s mind toward the end. The audiobook narrators did a fantastic job bringing the characters to life.

The drama was suspenseful throughout and crescendoed into a thrilling ending. While the book was clever, entertaining, and compelling, it lacked that extra wow factor to make a 5-star read for me. If you are a fan of Colleen Hoover’s Verity, you should check out The Wife Upstairs!

Thank you to, Macmillan Audio, and St. Martin’s Press for the advance listening copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin


Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Night Swim
Author: Megan Goldin
Genre: Mystery
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Length: 10 hours (352 pages)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: August 4, 2020
Source: Library (Libby app)
Recommended for fans of: true crime podcasts
Content Warnings: sexual assault, rape


After the first season of her true crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help.

The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved.

Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?


This book was marketed as a thriller, but I think it is more accurately classified as part mystery, part courtroom drama. When Rachel Krall visits the small town of Neapolis to cover a local rape trial for her true crime podcast, she begins receiving mysterious notes from a woman named Hannah, who claims that her sister’s drowning death twenty-five years before was no accident. Although Rachel wants to focus all her energy on making season 3 of her podcast a success, she feels drawn to investigate Jenny’s death.

The courtroom coverage was brutal and heartbreaking, with clear parallels to the Brock Turner case. This book creates a stark picture of rape trials in America and how poorly the justice system treats traumatized victims. I got very emotional during the trial scenes.

I really enjoyed the chapters that were episodes of Rachel’s podcast. They translated really well to audiobook and and made me wish it was a real podcast I could subscribe to! I thought that the connections between present-day trial and Jenny’s disappearance in the past could’ve played a stronger role earlier in the book. I wish Hannah’s letters had felt more integrated into the overall story rather than a distraction from what I considered the main plot.

This book was full of suspense, and while it wasn’t entirely unpredictable, it had a few surprising twists and gut-wrenching scenes. I recommend The Night Swim for fans of mystery, suspense, and true crime podcasts.

Review: Still Life by Louise Penny


Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Still Life
Author: Louise Penny
Series: Chief Inspector Gamache #1
Genre: Mystery
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 312 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: January 1, 2005
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: quirky, cozy mysteries


Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces–and this series–with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.


This is not the type of book I normally reach for, but it was my book club’s pick. I didn’t love it, but it is a promising start to a mystery series.

Three Pines is an odd town. All of the residents we meet are incredibly eccentric. The art and archery crowd. The first chapter introduced the town and its residents in a very overwhelming way, but after the shock of the first chapter, the story started to make more sense.

The writing style was also tricky to get into. Penny writes an omniscient POV, abruptly switching back and forth between characters in a way I’m not used to reading.

Gamache is an intelligent detective, and while we don’t learn much about his personal life, we get enough hints into his past to intrigue readers to stick with the series. This was a really quirky mystery. Parts were a bit slow. There was a mostly incompetent newbie on the force, and I never really understood the point of her character. I successfully predicted the killer, but most members of my book club did not. I’m not sure if I will continue the series, but if you’re looking for a series of cozy Canadian mysteries, this might be the book for you.

Review: When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole


Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: When No One Is Watching
Author: Alyssa Cole
Genre: Suspense
Audience: Adult
Format: ALC
Length: 8.5 hours (368 pages)
Publisher: HarperAudio; William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Recommended for fans of: social justice, conspiracy theories


 The gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood takes on a sinister new meaning…

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?


While this fell a bit short of my expectations, it was an interesting and important book that I recommend for the way it portrays racism in America.

When No One Is Watching reveals the sinister side of gentrification. Sydney, a Brooklyn native, is disturbed by subtle and sudden changes in her neighborhood that threaten the local Black community: longstanding businesses and longtime neighbors disappear without a trace, to be replaced just as quickly by white people. As she investigates the neighborhood’s rich history to preserve it from whitewashing with the help of unlikely ally Theo, a new white neighbor with a shady past, they discover a chilling connection to the disappearances.

The story suffers from issues of pacing and genre identity. It is not the thriller it’s marketed as, and it almost feels like two different books. The first 75% of the book feels like contemporary fiction with a subtle mystery. Yes, it’s suspenseful, but it’s definitely a slow burn. The last 25% takes a shocking turn with fast-paced, heart-racing action that borders on horror, reminiscent of Get Out. I really enjoyed the ending, but it was a jarring twist, and I wish the story had a bit more resolution. There is also a romantic subplot (unsurprising since Alyssa Cole is a romance writer) but I thought it was unnecessary.

What makes this book so chilling is that as much as I’d like to say its events are far fetched, it feels entirely realistic and possible. This book is incredibly timely, and even though it’s many components didn’t fit together seamlessly, I still recommend it for fans of conspiracy theories, social justice, and true crime podcasts.

Thank you to HarperAudio and for the gifted ALC

ARC Review: Cover Your Tracks by Daco S. Auffenorde


Rating: ☆☆☆1/2
Title: Cover Your Tracks
Author: Daco S. Auffenorde
Genre: Thriller
Audience: Adult
Format: ARC
Length: 260 pages
Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
Release Date: October 20, 2020
Source: author/publisher
Recommended for fans of: survival stories
Content Warnings: animal mutilation, abortion, military combat, PTSD


Margo Fletcher, eight months pregnant, is traveling by train from Chicago to Spokane, her childhood home. While passing through an isolated portion of the Rockies in blizzard conditions, the train unexpectedly brakes. Up ahead, deadly snow from a massive avalanche plummets down the mountain. Despite the conductor’s order for the passengers to stay seated, former Army Ranger Nick Eliot insists that survival depends on moving to the back of the train. Only Margo believes him. They take refuge in the last train car, which Nick heroically uncouples in time to avoid the avalanche. The rest of the train is hurled down the mountainside and is soon lost forever in a blanket of snow. Margo and Nick, the sole survivors, are stranded in the snowstorm without food, water, or heat. Rescuers might not arrive for days.

When the weather turns violent again, the pair must flee the shelter of the passenger car and run for their lives into the wilderness. They must fend off the deadly cold as well as predatory wild animals foraging for food. Eventually, Nick leads Margo to shelter in a watchtower atop a mountain. There, we learn that both Margo and Nick have secrets that have brought them together and threaten to destroy them.

Cover Your Tracks is a chilling story of love and hate, the devastating power of nature, and the will to survive.


This fast-paced survival thriller has got me in the mood for winter. The first chapter starts off with a bang, immediately immersing readers into the action. I do not even want to imagine how terrifying it would be to find myself stranded in the frozen wilderness with a complete stranger, cut off from civilization and struggling to survive, but Auffenorde brings that experience to life.

Margo, 8 months pregnant with no previous survival skills, has no choice but to trust Nick, a former Army Ranger, to keep her and her unborn child alive, but something is clearly off about him, and she doesn’t know if she can trust that he truly has her best interests at heart.

The story alternates between past and present, providing insights into the characters’ pasts that shaped who they are today. These flashback sometimes included unnecessary details that slowed the story down, but the short chapters kept the pace moving.

Nick’s backstory is particularly disturbing. The ARC includes a problematic scene in which a young Nick and a classmate discuss Native Americans scalping their enemies, foreshadowing animal mutilation. However, the author informed me that the publisher is removing all references to Native Americans in her book at her request.

This thriller is full of disturbing twists that lead to a shocking and pretty graphic ending. Some scenes toward the end were pretty gross and I can only imagine the horrified facial expressions I was making, but I couldn’t put it down. This book takes readers on a wild ride, but it is not for the faint of heart.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the gifted review copy.

Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier


Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Jar of Hearts
Author: Jennifer Hillier
Genre: Thriller
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: January LaVoy
Length: 11 hours (311 pages)
Publisher: Macmillan Audio; Minotaur Books
Release Date: June 11, 2018
Source: Library (Libby app)
Recommended for fans of: crime thrillers, serial killers
Triggers: rape (multiple scenes), abusive relationship


This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?


This was my first book by Jennifer Hillier, but it will not be my last. Jar of Hearts is an intense, twisted, and original crime thriller where past meets present and dark secrets are uncovered.

Geo’s past finally catches up to her when she is convicted of helping her ex-boyfriend (turned serial killer) Calvin murder and hide the body of her childhood best friend Angela. I thought the first section describing Geo’s life in prison was interesting but a little slow, but the story really picked up after her release. The introduction of Kaiser’s POV created an interesting juxtaposition between detective and criminal, past and present, as Kaiser investigates recent killings that point at Calvin and tries to reconcile the Geo he knew in his youth with the woman she is today.

The storyline is intense and does not shy away from difficult topics, reminding me of Karin Slaughter’s writing. This book includes three rape scenes and other graphic depictions of violence and abuse.

I did not see this ending coming. Every time I thought I had the story figured out, Hillier dropped a mind-blowing twist to totally change the direction of the book, leading up to an explosive conclusion. The ending was overall satisfying, and I highly recommend this thriller for those who can handle reading the intense and detailed subject-matter.

Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager


Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: The Last Time I Lied
Author: Riley Sager
Genre: Thriller
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 370 pages
Publisher: Dutton Books
Release Date: July 3, 2018
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: heart-racing thrillers with twist endings


Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. 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. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

In the new novel from the bestselling author of Final Girls, The Last Time I Lied follows a young woman as she returns to her childhood summer camp to uncover the truth about a tragedy that happened there fifteen years ago.


WOW! This is another great book for the transition from summer to fall as it takes place at a summer camp but is full of spooky thrills. I totally understand why everyone says this is Sager’s best.

I was skeptical at first. I am a big Sager fan, but I think Final Girls is overhyped, and I was worried I would feel the same way about this one. At first I thought the mystery and secrets were compelling, but I kept waiting for this book to blow me away… AND IT DID!

There were so many twists and turns. Every time I thought I had things figure out, I was only half right, and I was missing something huge. There were so many details that seemed random or unimportant that later played a crucial role in the story. The truth was shocking, but still believable and earned. The ending gave me full body chills. SO GOOD! A must read for all thriller lovers.

Review: He Started It by Samantha Downing


Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: He Started It
Author: Samantha Downing
Genre: Thriller
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Karissa Vacker
Length: ~10 hours (384 pages)
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 21, 2020
Source: Libby app


From the twisted mind behind mega hit My Lovely Wife comes the story of a family—not unlike your own—just with a few more violent tendencies thrown in….

Beth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan haven’t all been together in years. And for very good reasons—we’ll get to those later. But when their wealthy grandfather dies and leaves a cryptic final message in his wake, the siblings and their respective partners must come together for a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish and—more importantly—secure their inheritance.

But time with your family can be tough. It is for everyone.

It’s even harder when you’re all keeping secrets and trying to forget a memory—a missing person, an act of revenge, the man in the black truck who won’t stop following your car—and especially when at least one of you is a killer and there’s a body in the trunk. Just to name a few reasons.

But money is a powerful motivator. It is for everyone. 


This is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Remember how original and mind blowing Gone Girl was when it was first published (before every other thriller writer tried to imitate its formula?) The plots have little in common, but the effect is the same. He Started It takes the thriller genre to the next level.

This is my kind of family drama. Every single character is a messed-up compulsive liar. No one can be trusted and everyone is dangerous. The unexpected twists kept coming on this road trip from hell. I never knew quite where the story was going, but I continued to be shocked, disturbed, and awed by each turn of events.

The ending literally made my jaw drop.

I thought the audiobook narrator was fantastic. I might pick my next audiobook just because Karissa Vacker is the narrator.

READ THIS BOOK. It will blow your mind.

Review: Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle


Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Stranger in the Lake
Author: Kimberly Belle
Genre: Thriller
Audience: Adult
Format: eARC
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Park Row Books
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Source: Giveaway win; Netgalley
Triggers/Content: suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, drowning


When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.


This was my first book by Kimberly Belle, and it was very solid thriller. It was not the most original thriller I’ve ever read, but it was not too predictable either. The too-good-to-be-true marriage to a rich husband is nothing new to the genre, but I appreciated that Charlotte was a smart and decisive main character who had more agency than many women in thrillers. I also enjoyed the atmospheric setting of a wintry, secluded lake in a small town and the mystery of a series of deaths in the lake that may or may not be connected.

However, I struggled to connect with the characters, so I never felt fully invested in the story. Every few chapters were written as flashbacks from the POV of a different character, but the purpose was not apparent until about halfway through the book. Paul was not what I expected.

I think a lot of readers will enjoy this book. It was suspenseful and surprising, and it avoided many tropes I’ve gotten sick of in the thriller genre. I of course had my suspicions throughout the book, but I was shocked when the whole truth was revealed at the end. This was very well-written and I enjoyed many aspects of the story, but it never quite sucked me in like I wanted.