2021 Book #38 – Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Title: Never Have I Ever
Author: Joshilyn Jackson
Date finished: 5/13/21
Genre: Thriller, suspense
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: July 30, 2019
Pages in book: 359
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In this game, even winning can be deadly…

Amy Whey is proud of her ordinary life and the simple pleasures that come with it—teaching diving lessons, baking cookies for new neighbors, helping her best friend, Charlotte, run their local book club. Her greatest joy is her family: her devoted professor husband, her spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, her adorable infant son. And, of course, the steadfast and supportive Charlotte. But Amy’s sweet, uncomplicated life begins to unravel when the mysterious and alluring Angelica Roux arrives on her doorstep one book club night.

Sultry and magnetic, Roux beguiles the group with her feral charm. She keeps the wine flowing and lures them into a game of spilling secrets. Everyone thinks it’s naughty, harmless fun. Only Amy knows better. Something wicked has come her way—a she-devil in a pricey red sports car who seems to know the terrible truth about who she is and what she once did.

When they’re alone, Roux tells her that if she doesn’t give her what she asks for, what she deserves, she’s going to make Amy pay for her sins. One way or another.

To protect herself and her family and save the life she’s built, Amy must beat the devil at her own clever game, matching wits with Roux in an escalating war of hidden pasts and unearthed secrets. Amy knows the consequences if she can’t beat Roux. What terrifies her is everything she could lose if she wins.

A diabolically entertaining tale of betrayal, deception, temptation, and love filled with dark twists leavened by Joshilyn Jackson’s trademark humor, Never Have I Ever explores what happens when the transgressions of our past come back with a vengeance.

My rating: 2.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I heard a lot of buzz about this book around when it was published, though I didn’t get a chance to read it when it originally came out a couple years ago. With as much as I heard about the book, I was surprised that I didn’t like it more. I think my issue was more of a personal problem with the story line. I found the book so frustrating – it was so tension filled and the author did a great job of really driving the readers emotions in the book. It just didn’t work for me personally because it so filled with negativity and hate and it really made me feel uncomfortable. Amy was a child when she made mistakes and I thought it was so awful that it was still being held against her. The ending made me even more mad because it was icky. It was definitely an unexpected twist but it made me feel just unclean. Overall this wasn’t my favorite book but there were a lot of unexpected plot twists – I can definitely see why this was a popular novel, it just wasn’t the right one for me.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #28 – The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

Title: The Invited
Author: Jennifer McMahon
Date finished: 4/12/21
Genre: Psychological thriller
Publisher: Anchor
Publication Date: April 30, 2019
Pages in book: 347
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A chilling ghost story with a twist: the New York Times bestselling author of The Winter People returns to the woods of Vermont to tell the story of a husband and wife who don’t simply move into a haunted house–they build one . . .

In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate have abandoned the comforts of suburbia to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this beautiful property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the local legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. With her passion for artifacts, Helen finds special materials to incorporate into the house–a beam from an old schoolroom, bricks from a mill, a mantel from a farmhouse–objects that draw her deeper into the story of Hattie and her descendants, three generations of Breckenridge women, each of whom died suspiciously. As the building project progresses, the house will become a place of menace and unfinished business: a new home, now haunted, that beckons its owners and their neighbors toward unimaginable danger.

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have heard a lot of buzz about this author in the past and having read another book of hers recently (The Drowning Kind) I wanted to catch up on some of her past releases. I really liked this one so much – more than The Drowning Kind even. There were some aspects of the two books that were similar even: both set in Vermont, both featured water as part of the plot, and both were about ghosts! But I ended up liking this one so much better  – I think it was because of the interwoven stories of Hattie’s family throughout and how each descendant’s untimely demise was revealed to the reader. It was gruesome but enthralling. As far as characters go, I thought Olive was a little annoying at first but she really grew on me. Nate stayed pretty annoying throughout. I liked that he came around at the end but he was self-important throughout the whole book. Helen’s character really interested me with her love of history and her drive to help Hattie. The plot in this one was very good – there were some great plot twists that I didn’t see coming and I loved how all the various plot areas came together in pieces that made complete sense at the end. I would definitely recommend it, was a great and spooky read!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #15 – The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda

Title: The Last House Guest
Author: Megan Miranda
Date finished: 3/23/21
Genre: Thriller, suspense
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: June 18, 2019
Pages in book: 353
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley & Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley & Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

The summer after a wealthy young summer guest dies under suspicious circumstances, her best friend lives under a cloud of grief and suspicion in this “clever, stylish mystery that will seize readers like a riptide” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) featuring “dizzying plot twists and multiple surprise endings” (The New York Times Book Review).

Littleport, Maine, has always felt like two separate towns: an ideal vacation enclave for the wealthy, whose summer homes line the coastline; and a simple harbor community for the year-round residents whose livelihoods rely on service to the visitors.

Typically, fierce friendships never develop between a local and a summer girl—but that’s just what happens with visitor Sadie Loman and Littleport resident Avery Greer. Each summer for almost a decade, the girls are inseparable—until Sadie is found dead. While the police rule the death a suicide, Avery can’t help but feel there are those in the community, including a local detective and Sadie’s brother, Parker, who blame her. Someone knows more than they’re saying, and Avery is intent on clearing her name, before the facts get twisted against her.

Another thrilling novel from the bestselling author of All the Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger, Megan Miranda’s The Last House Guest is a smart, twisty read with a strong female protagonist determined to make her own way in the world.

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have liked other books by this author in the past and while there were parts of this one that I did like, overall it wasn’t my favorite of hers. It was pretty slow and I had trouble staying interested in the story. The ending was definitely the best part of the book – I didn’t see it coming who the killer ended up being, and usually I’m pretty good at predicting it. So the surprise killers are always really exciting for me. But the rest of the book wasn’t especially exciting for me. I am not sure if it was just timing on a personal level – since I have been very busy with work so this spread out over almost a month – but it just wasn’t my favorite. I think it’s still worth a read, especially if you’re looking for an out of the blue killer.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #21 – The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

Title: The Night Olivia Fell
Author: Christina McDonald
Date finished: 3/18/21
Genre: Supsense, mystery
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Pages in book: 313
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Do No Harm and Behind Every Lie comes an emotionally charged domestic suspense novel about a mother unraveling the truth behind how her daughter became brain dead. And pregnant.

A search for the truth. A lifetime of lies.

In the small hours of the morning, Abi Knight is startled awake by the phone call no mother ever wants to get: her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the angry bruises circling Olivia’s wrists.

When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened that night. Heartbroken and grieving, she unravels the threads of her daughter’s life. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?

Christina McDonald weaves a suspenseful and heart-wrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love. With flashbacks of Olivia’s own resolve to uncover family secrets, this taut and emotional novel asks: how well do you know your children? And how well do they know you?

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had requested this book awhile ago (over two years ago at this point) because it sounded interested but I didn’t get the chance to read it until now. I thought this was a pretty good book, it kept me guessing throughout which is kind of the point! I just felt so bad through the whole book for Olivia and Abi – it was heartbreaking reading their story and knowing that Olivia would never wake up. It was a solid mystery though, and had a good cast of suspects. I kept flip flopping on who I thought the killer was. I really liked that the story was told through alternating points of view between Olivia leading up to the event and Abi after the event. This version of storytelling for this specific plot was perfect and created more tension while also giving important pieces of the plot to the reader. I thought this book was also a great portrayal of a mother’s love in different forms. Abi’s love from her mother and older sister, her love for Olivia, and Olivia’s brief experience also (**spoiler I think?**) – all of these came together to give an overwhelming depiction of a mother’s love for her child. Overall I enjoyed the book and I’d recommend it.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #10 – The Survivors by Jane Harper

Title: The Survivors
Author: Jane Harper
Date finished: 1/28/21
Genre: Fiction, mystery
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: February 2, 2021
Pages in book: 379
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse
NOTE: I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Kieran Elliott’s life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

Kieran’s parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away…

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I’ve read another of Jane Harpers books in the past and found it intriguing so I was interested in participating in BookBrowse’s book discussion for this book. I’m glad I did too, because the discussion around the book has been really very engaging and though-provoking. There was a lot of stuff happening all at once with the plot – at certain points it was almost hard to keep track – but the co-mingling pieces all seemed to make sense in the end. Even with all the different things going on, there were a few points that still felt a little slow to me. I think my favorite parts of the book were with Kiernan and his interactions with his mother and dealing with the emotional traumas from their past. That and his relationship with Mia and his daughter and how that changed his view of events from now and the past. I enjoyed the book, though I wouldn’t say it was one of my favorites just because of the slow pieces but I’ve been really enjoying the discussion. I think this is a great book club pick and overall a good book!

Link to author website

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2020 Book #94 – Truth, Lies and Second Dates by MaryJanice Davidson

Title: Truth, Lies and Second Dates
Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Date finished: 12/20/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: December 15, 2020
Pages in book: 288
Stand alone or series: #3 in the Danger, Sweetheart series 
Where I got the book from: NetGalley / Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley / the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Captain Ava Capp has been flying from her past for a decade. She’d much rather leave it, and her home state, behind forever. But when she finds herself back in Minnesota, against her better judgment, everything goes sideways in a way she never expected it to.

M.E. Dr. Tom Baker has never forgotten Ava and the cold case she ran away from. When she shows up unexpectedly in town, in spite of himself, sparks fly. Which is terrible because he can’t stop his growing attraction to her. Can these two Type-A’s let their guards down and work together to put Ava’s tragic past behind her for good? And keep their hands off each other at the same time?

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have historically always really enjoyed Davidson’s books (with a few exceptions) – they’re snarky and sassy and hilarious. I really enjoyed this book, the characters were all so funny. I especially loved Hannah, and having her be a genius level IQ made her precociousness make a lot more sense for a six year old. Ava and Tom were adorable together and I loved their banter. Their chemistry was good but I wouldn’t say it lit the page on fire or anything. Tom’s character was so endearing and interesting – I always love a romance hero who’s on the spectrum and takes everything literally. Honestly all of the characters in this book were very entertaining. There was a lot going on in the book but, as noted in the author’s note, this was kind of done on purpose to make this a trope filled, romance reader’s fun read. I definitely enjoyed it and I’d recommend it!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #80 – One by One by Ruth Ware

Title: One by One
Author: Ruth Ware
Date finished: 11/6/20
Genre: Thriller, suspense
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
Pages in book: 383
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Getting snowed in at a luxurious, rustic ski chalet high in the French Alps doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world. Especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a full-service chef and housekeeper, a cozy fire to keep you warm, and others to keep you company. Unless that company happens to be eight coworkers…each with something to gain, something to lose, and something to hide.

When the cofounder of Snoop, a trendy London-based tech startup, organizes a weeklong trip for the team in the French Alps, it starts out as a corporate retreat like any other: PowerPoint presentations and strategy sessions broken up by mandatory bonding on the slopes. But as soon as one shareholder upends the agenda by pushing a lucrative but contentious buyout offer, tensions simmer and loyalties are tested. The storm brewing inside the chalet is no match for the one outside, however, and a devastating avalanche leaves the group cut off from all access to the outside world. Even worse, one Snooper hadn’t made it back from the slopes when the avalanche hit.

As each hour passes without any sign of rescue, panic mounts, the chalet grows colder, and the group dwindles further…one by one.

My rating:  5.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I’ve read other books by this author before – she’s a very popular thriller author – and have enjoyed them so I was excited to read her new release. And wow was this one a good one! I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading this – I could barely put it down. The author did such an amazing job of disguising the killer right up until the moment of the reveal. And I loved the alternative viewpoints between Erin and Liz’s characters. The people in the book went through a terrible ordeal, my heart was pounding the whole time. And what Erin endured sounded unimaginable. I’m not sure I would have survived it. The build up of the tension and the overall plot line in this story were fantastic – I loved every minute of it! I would definitely recommend this one, go read it now!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #70 – Mirror Image by Sandra Brown

Title: Mirror Image
Author: Sandra Brown
Date finished: 10/5/20
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: January 7, 2020 (re-published; originally published in 1989)
Pages in book: 442
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

The crash of a Dallas-bound jet isn’t just a tragedy for TV reporter Avery Daniels; it’s an act of fate that hands her a golden opportunity to further her career. But it also makes her the crucial player in a drama of violent passions and deadly desires.

After plastic surgery transforms her face, Avery is mistaken for the glamorous, selfish wife of Tate Rutledge, the famous senatorial candidate and member of a powerful Texas dynasty.

As she lays helpless in the hospital, Avery makes a shattering discovery: someone close to Tate planned to assassinate him. Now, to save him, she must live another woman’s life — and risk her own.

My rating:  3.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I have been a big fan of Sandra Brown for awhile now. As many know, I loved her book Deadline (great plot twists!) and have enjoyed others too. I was excited to read one of her older backlog novels that was being republished. This one was a little outlandish. Plane crash, mistaken identity, reconstructive facial surgery to the wrong person’s face, political assassination, family secrets, etc. There’s just so much going on in this book it’s crazy. And there were some problematic things because it was an older novel, but honestly not as many problematic things as I expected there to be. Romance novels from older time periods sometimes can have some cringe-worthy items but this seemed to hold up pretty well considering it’s been 30 years since it was written. The ending also happened kind of fast for me, for how long it took us to get through the majority of the plot it felt a little disappointing to have it wrap up so quickly. I still enjoyed the novel but it wasn’t my favorite of this author’s (which will likely always be Deadline).

Author’s Website

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2020 Book #62 – Nowhere to Hide by Leslie A. Kelly

Title: Nowhere to Hide
Author: Leslie A. Kelly
Date finished: 9/7/20
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Pages in book: 382
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Hollywood Heat series
Where I got the book from: Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A cold case is suddenly too hot to handle in the second installment of the Winchester Brothers romantic suspense series from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Leslie A. Kelly.

Police officer Rowan Winchester wants nothing to do with his celebrity family’s legacy. Working with the LAPD is his way of atoning for the Winchesters’ dark and secretive past. And, right now, the last thing Rowan needs is true-crime novelist Evie Fleming nosing around the most notorious deaths in Los Angeles — including the ones that haunt his own family. To make things worse, he’s torn between wanting the wickedly smart writer out of his city . . . and just plain wanting her.
While researching her latest book, Evie suspects that a dangerous new killer is prowling the City of Angels. Now she just has to convince the devastatingly handsome cop that she’s right. Soon Evie and Rowan are working together to try to find the killer, even as their attraction ignites. But when the killer hones in on Evie, she and Rowan realize they’ll have to solve this case fast if they want to stay alive.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I haven’t read anything by this author before but the synopsis sounded really interesting. I ended up really liking it! The plot line of this book was very good – there were some great plot twists included that caught me by surprise! The characters didn’t quite come to life for me but I still really enjoyed the story. The pacing seemed good to me and I like the back-story plot about a previous murder. I’d be interested to find out the resolution with that (and I’m guessing hear Raine’s story) if it was available. Overall it was a good book and I think it’s worth a read.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #61 – Thick as Thieves by Sandra Brown

Title: Thick as Thieves
Author: Sandra Brown
Date finished: 9/4/20
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In this tantalizing thriller from a #1 New York Times bestselling author, a woman uncovers lifelong secrets as she searches for the truth behind her father’s involvement in a heist gone wrong.

Twenty years ago in the dead of night, four seemingly random individuals pulled the ultimate heist and almost walked away with half a million dollars. But by daybreak, their plan had been shot to hell. One of them was in the hospital. One was in jail. One was dead. And one got away with it.

Arden Maxwell, the daughter of the man who disappeared all those years ago — presumably with the money, after murdering his accomplice — has never reconciled with her father’s abandonment of her and her sister. After countless personal setbacks she decides to return to her family home near mysterious Caddo Lake, and finally get answers to the many questions that torment her. Little does she know, two of her father’s co-conspirators — a war hero and a corrupt district attorney — are watching her every move.

Ledge Burnet, a rebellious teen at the time of the heist, evaded his jail sentence by enlisting in the army. Now he’s back in town to care for his ailing father — and to keep his eye on the county’s corrupt district attorney, whom he suspects was the real murderer. Although the two are bound to silence because of the crime they committed together, each has spent years waiting and hoping that the other will make a fatal misstep. But the arrival of their elusive accomplice’s daughter, Arden, who may know more about the missing money than she’s telling, sets them both on red alert. She ignites Ledge’s determination to expose the D.A.’s treachery . . . and sparks a desire he wishes to deny.

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have read many Sandra Brown books in the past and have really enjoyed them (especially Deadline, which is my #1 recommendation to romantic suspense readers).  I’ve read many of her recent publications since Deadline and haven’t like any of them quite as much as my all time fave – but I have to say this one came close! The plot of this book was super – it was so well developed and consistently leads the reader in the wrong direction. I just loved the plot and thought it was so good. I can’t say I gasped out loud at the plot twist (like I did with Deadline) but I came damn close. I just felt so bad for Arden at the end, I can’t imagine how she would be unaffected by all of this. Ledge’s character was great too. He toed the line perfectly between edgy and honorable, romantic and surly. I loved his charge ahead attitude and how he was determined to face his problems head on while also protecting the people he loved. I especially loved how the author interspersed the flashbacks to fit in line with what the reader is learning about the story in the present time – it really was just so well done! I would definitely recommend this one, I thought it was great!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page