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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Category: Psychological Suspense (page 1 of 3)

Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond. But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.

In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder. But when a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.

But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This book was a conundrum. On one hand, the setting was full of promise: a Gothic prep school filled with overachieving rich girls. On the other hand, we have lots of internal dialogue and chapters that switch POV’s rapidly, causing confusion. There was also a slow start to the book, and it seemed to drag on towards the middle. This was almost a DNF for me, but I kept going.

The last 20% of the book is filled with rapid-fire twists and turns, and all the questions (and there are plenty!) are answered. There are some (more) deaths but I felt the conclusion was satisfactorily drawn. Ellison’s characters are typical boarding-school-with-money types, and there are a lot of familiar tropes (secret societies, girl drama, rich girls behaving badly) that will warm the heart of the reader that loves this type of thing.

I am unsure how to classify this book – is it YA or not? I feel it fits either category; the writing style is easy to read, if a little drawn out. I think each chapter would have benefitted from naming the narrator right at the beginning so the reader would immediately know who is speaking. However, this may have been done deliberately by the author to cause confusion and increase the intrigue.

My favorite character was Becca – she was an apt Head Girl, hiding her loneliness under a harsh and demanding exterior. I also felt sorry for the Dean, who was constantly under the thumb of the previous Dean (who just happened to be her manipulative mother).

All in all – an uneven but mildly pleasant read. Stick with it through the slow portions and you will be happy you did. You can pick up your copy here.

Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff

A mother’s worst nightmare, a chance at redemption, and a deadly secret that haunts a family across the generations.
There’s only room for one mother in this family.
Claire Abrams’s dreams became a nightmare when she passed on a genetic mutation that killed her little boy. Now she wants a second chance to be a mother and finds it in Robert Nash, a maverick fertility doctor who works under the radar with Jillian Hendricks, a cunning young scientist bent on making her mark—and seducing her boss.

Claire, Robert, and Jillian work together to create the world’s first baby with three genetic parents—an unprecedented feat that could eliminate inherited disease. But when word of their illegal experiment leaks to the wrong person, Robert escapes into hiding with the now-pregnant Claire, leaving Jillian to serve out a prison sentence that destroys her future.

Ten years later, a spunky girl named Abigail begins to understand that all is not right with the reclusive man and woman she knows as her parents. But the family’s problems are only beginning. Jillian, hardened by a decade of jealousy and loss, has returned—and nothing will stop her from reuniting with the man and daughter who should have been hers. Past, present—and future converge in a mesmerizing psychological thriller from acclaimed bestselling author Kira Peikoff.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

There is science. There is suspense. There is drama. There is also an important element that makes this fiction seem closer to non-fiction.

Claire wants another baby and is willing to go to great lengths to make, I mean to have, one. Against her husband’s wishes, she goes to see fertility specialist Robert Nash. Using a top-secret plausible-in-real-life-sort-of technique, Claire becomes pregnant with Abby, who is considered a “frankenbaby” after Claire’s secret is uncovered. The story jumps back and forth from the POV of Claire, Abby, Nash, and Nash’s assistant Jillian. This technique lets us see each character’s perspective and motivation (be aware, not all of them are altruistic).

The mix of science and family dynamics was done perfectly, and the bad guys are eminently hateable. As I mentioned before, the procedure to create a baby using multiple people’s sperm/eggs seems within reach. This made the book dramatic without focusing on obviously fake science.

As the author shares the character’s flaws and desires, she illustrates the desire to have and protect a child in a poignant and accurate manner. She is adept at creating psychological suspense that appears real, not overly histrionic. Except for the science and the “three-parent creation”, each character’s emotions add to the plot and support the action. Abby behaves exactly the way a kid her age would, exploiting her computer savvy and using the Internet to find answers.

There were a couple of twists in the book, one that seemed obvious and another that was a shocker. I feel there is enough going on to get the reader hooked and wanting to get to the end to see how things turn out. Things get tied up kind of quickly in the end but it was satisfying. If the author continues with her science-backed plots I’ll definitely pick up her next novel.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

YOU’VE NEVER READ A LOVE STORY AS TWISTED AS THIS.

Juliette loves Nate.
She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline so she can keep a closer eye on him. They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back.
She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

This book is so close to the diary of a stalker that you will be simultaneously appalled (jeez, that’s scary!), confused (why can’t she see that he doesn’t care for her?), and sympathetic (she really needs help, I hope she gets it). That combination of emotions didn’t work for me, as the feeling that overpowered everything was disgust. This woman just did not get it. The begging and pleading and duplicity were way too much for me to keep on going. That being said, I did finish the book despite my soul pleading for me to just DNF and move on. The author made a good showing, and I am sure there is a better second book in the works.

I will say the writing is good, the characters were mostly fleshed out and the twist at the end was something I didn’t see coming. The actual ending….meh. I felt that anyone who made it through the slog should have deserved better. The more I think about it, the more I call it a cop-out.

THE PERFECT GIRLFRIEND is one of the few books that I regretted spending time reading, even as I turned the pages. Perhaps if Juliette was less clingy (would that have diluted the story?) or if the book was shorter (there was a lot of plans and wailing and gnashing of teeth). At times it seemed as if the plot consisted of Juliette just breaking into places (some of which seemed nigh impossible) then vacillating between love and hatred for Nate. At least seven instances of that could have been removed to make the book go faster.

I think this book is one you will either love or hate – which one will you be? You can pick up your copy here.

Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker

Beware the Man of the Year. You may praise him, resent him, even want to be him: but beneath the elegant trappings that define him, danger looms. Caroline Louise Walker’s stunning debut novel, for fans of Herman Koch’s The Dinner and Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door, delves into the increasingly paranoid mind of a man whose life as the most upstanding of citizens hides a relentlessly dark heart.

Dr. Robert Hart, Sag Harbor’s just-named Man of the Year, is the envy of his friends and neighbors. His medical practice is thriving. He has a beautiful old house and a beautiful new wife and a beautiful boat docked in the village marina. Even his wayward son, Jonah, is back on track, doing well at school, finally worthy of his father’s attentions. So when Jonah’s troubled college roommate, Nick, needs a place to stay for the summer, Hart and his wife generously offer him their guest house. A win-win: Jonah will have someone to hang with, and his father can bask in the warm glow of his own generosity.

But when he begins to notice his new houseguest getting a little too close to his wife, the good doctor’s veneer begins to crack. All the little lies Robert tells—harmless falsehoods meant to protect everything he holds dear—begin to mount. Before long, he’s embroiled in a desperate downward spiral, destroying the lives that stand in his way. It’s only the women in his life—his devoted office manager, his friends, his wife—who can clearly see the truth.

Biting and timely, Man of the Year races along at an electric pace, with a wicked twist that you won’t see coming.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

Fans of unreliable narrators – get ready to love this book. Each character looks out for himself (some more than others), tells lies, and behaves oddly, and they all desperately want to avoid punishment for the tragedy that happens in the latter half of the book. The author is generous with tropes (narcissism, infidelity, money, desperation) and it mostly works to create this sometimes fast-paced story. I was not sure if I hated or felt sorry for the main character, the eponymous Man of the Year.

The author is skilled at creating circumstances that change with perception. Each chapter is told in the point of view from each character, so the disconnect between perception is magnified. Some characters get to speak only once, which is jarring. I had to think for a moment or two when a minor character took over the narration. Some of these narrators are never heard from again; they tell their story just for the reader to see things from yet another angle.

Dr. Hart is a tragic figure, cuckolded by his son’s friend, who is staying with the family over the summer. The stereotypical “guest staying in the pool house” provides a convenient location for some activities that muddy the plot and/or provide tension. His wife Elizabeth seems self-centered and vacuous – I am not sure if that was what the author intended, or if she was written that way on purpose. I disliked her almost from the start and did not change my feelings when the book was finished.  However, I did end up disliking the rest of the characters towards the end, regardless of how the plot twisted. At that point, I was heartily sick of everyone’s machinations and drama and self-servitude.

I would give the book four and a half stars, for while the plot was engaging there were a few draggy spots and as mentioned above, some characters faded in and out. This fading caused me to disengage a bit when they reappeared since I thought they were on the fringe, not actually moving the story along.

You can get your own copy here.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed. 

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

Just like most of the other reviewers, I absolutely loved this book and could not put it down. The plot was immediately interesting despite Jessica’s vacuous personality and poor decision making. Dr Shields was someone I loved to hate, with her internal monologues and her unemotional personality. At times she reminded me of a robot, until she started having feelings – and boy, were they unexpected!

The authors made each character an unreliable narrator, so you are thrown off balance towards the end, where the twists start to happen. The characters’ past affects their future in unexpected ways, and the authors do a great job of showing how tragedy affects people differently. The underlying tension of the morality study’s probing questions juxtaposed with Jessica’s difficulty with her own morals will make you think about your own actions, both past and present.

The psychological scars of each character shape their actions and decisions, giving the impression that we are no better than the sum of our past. As more light is shed on each character and their own past, things start to make sense – sort of. Once we learn Dr Shield’s motivation, the tension ramps up and you simply must devour each page in order to find out what happens next.

I found it quite interesting that the authors chose to have both women be strong characters, with Dr Shield’s husband somewhat of a weak link. He shows up in the book later on and is just as unreliable as the two women. Despite a strong beginning, he is no match for Jessica and Dr Shields as the story line comes to a head.  That being said, all three of these characters manipulate morality for their own benefit.

Dr Shields is a nearly perfect example of someone who needs control at all costs and will go to great lengths to gain it. At times she seemed too perfectly perspicacious, always seeming to be one or two steps ahead of Jessica’s machinations. However, each character has a flaw that can be exploited, and once those flaws are revealed the story starts to twist and turn as the characters unravel. I stayed up all night until I finished AN ANONYMOUS GIRL – it truly was that good. This is the book everyone will be talking about this year – don’t miss it!

You can get your copy here.

Autumn of Fear by Glede Kabongo

An ambitious girl with a promising future, a charming manipulator with a diabolical secret—the truth will destroy them both .
When college student Abbie Cooper wakes up in a hospital bed barely alive after a violent assault, her world comes crashing down. She has no memory of the attack or her assailant, and no idea how she ended up in the Emergency Room.
As she grapples with the horrific aftermath, Abbie is determined to uncover the truth about what happened that night. But to catch a monster, she must piece together the events in the weeks leading up to the assault. Why did charming senior Spencer Rossdale take a sudden interest in her, and why did her quiet study group partner Justin Tate want to meet with her alone?
The deeper Abbie digs into the events leading up to that fateful night, the more she unravels a stunning web of lies that stretch back decades. Revealing them will change everything but the truth is the least of Abbie’s problems. A vicious predator is watching her, and he’s willing to kill to protect his secret.

Thanks to the author for giving me this ARC in exchange for an honest review! Abbie Cooper is enveloped in intrigue again when she is the victim of an accident. Unfortunately, she cannot remember what happened. We follow her journey in flashbacks and present day as the author takes us into Abbie’s life.  Once you get used to switching  back and forth from the past to the present, the book flows smoothly. The tension mounts as we get closer to the day of the accident, and we learn about some difficult decisions she needs to make. Loyal friend Ty is at Abbie’s side, which frustrates his girlfriend (whom I love to hate!). Former acquaintances attempt to break Abbie’s tight control of her personal life, and it seems as though no one can be trusted.

Kabongo’s writing style is easy to read, and the suspense quietly builds until everything implodes. Abbie needs to make a life changing decision that will hit home with a lot of readers. I cannot say that I am happy with the way this part of the story turned out, but I know the author has her next book in mind and this twist will be a large part of that story.

The character of Abbie Cooper is growing and maturing. She is letting others get close to her and understands that sometime life throws a curve ball at you. The events taking place in Autumn of Fear are believable for the most part. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I look forward to see what adventures Abbie will experience in the next chapter of her life.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0692082611″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

FINAL GIRLS by Riley Sager

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished

 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

FINAL GIRLS is a book that reads a little differently from its description. It wasn’t much off – but off enough that I wished the blurb was more accurate.

Quincy starts out as a sort-of-sympathetic character, then becomes annoying and confusing. Understandably she is happy with her food blog and her ineffectual boyfriend, but somehow changes persona 180 degrees when fellow survivor Sam comes into the picture. Together they become a two person mini-mob, stealing things and causing trouble.

Sam is a character that is not only unreliable, but unhinged. Her motives seem to be clear one minute, then murky the next. I wasn’t very fond of her at all and wondered how mealy little Quincy could enjoy her company. I also wondered how some of the things they did escaped unnoticed. In any case, the plot advances until the house of lies they built comes crashing down. Then follows a plot twist that I hadn’t seen coming (always a good thing) and the story abruptly ends.

Despite all the activity and violence, I wasn’t truly engaged in the story or the characters. I read through it halfheartedly hoping it would get better. I felt that I had to suspend my belief a few times and I struggled to care about the outcome. Perhaps if the story was a bit shorter, or there was less instances of Quincy’s monologues, and baking, and flashbacks (which had no detail, really), and love-hate interactions between Quincy and Sam ……. I’m not sure. Is it possible to call a thriller “dull”? It was certainly true in this case. I’d say without a doubt FINAL GIRLS is an instance where the plot holds great promise but the writer doesn’t deliver. Maybe this would have been better as a movie, given that the backdrop was similar to those silly-but-not-really 80’s horror flicks. Some things just don’t transition well from screen to page.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1101985364″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

THE PARTY by Robyn Harding

In this stunning and provocative domestic drama about a sweet sixteen birthday party that goes horribly awry, a wealthy family in San Francisco finds their picture-perfect life unraveling, their darkest secrets revealed, and their friends turned to enemies.
One invitation. A lifetime of regrets.
Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming of age, a milestone, and a rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah—a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant, indulgent affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?
But things do go wrong, horrifically so. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s flawless life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb suddenly begins to come apart. In the ugly aftermath, friends become enemies, dark secrets are revealed in the Sanders’ marriage, and the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah, is exposed.
Harkening to Herman Koch’s The Dinner, Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, The Party takes us behind the façade of the picture-perfect family, exposing the lies, betrayals, and moral lapses that neighbors don’t see—and the secrets that children and parents keep from themselves and each other.

Many thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

 

THE PARTY is a roller coaster, unputdownable book where all the characters are despicable. It’s the story of a sweet 16 birthday party gone horribly wrong, with consequences that will last a lifetime. Hannah, the daughter, is just trying to be more popular. Kim and Jeff are her parents, with the trope of “strict goody two shoes mom” plus “emasculated father trying to be cool”. The events of the fateful night are told over flashbacks, over the course of the story; which kept me interested and hungry for more detail.

The complex and turbulent relationships between the characters are drawn well and evoke a great deal of emotion. Everyone is manipulating – or manipulated by- someone else. There are multi layered agendas. There are mean girls. There is isolation, greed, and shallowness.

I literally could not wait to get back to the book, and thought about it while I wasn’t able to read; I just had to see what was happening next. It’s the kind of book you read with incredulity, wondering if there is going to be a happily ever after despite knowing another crash is coming.

The author exposes the ugly side of relationships with adeptness, even glee (if you read between the lines). Just when you almost start feeling sorry for someone, they expose their seamy side and you go right back to sneering at them. Delicious!

Do people really behave this way now, or is it just something that takes place in fiction? I am glad I don’t have to navigate the treachery of high school, where Facebook posts are created to hurt, and cliques do a lot more than name calling.

No one escapes unscathed from THE PARTY – it’s the kind of story that you will think about for days after you finish the book, considering all the wrong choices every character made and how it affected their lives.

Want our own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1501161245″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

the marriage pact

In this relentlessly paced novel of psychological suspense, New York Times bestselling author Michelle Richmond crafts an intense and shocking tale that asks: How far would you go to protect your marriage?
Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.
The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .           
Never mention The Pact to anyone.
           
Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples.
And then one of them breaks the rules.
The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule.
For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

Many thanks to NetGalley for this ARC given in exchange for an honest review!

Unfortunately, this book was a DNF for me. I was not interested in the characters at all, and the pace was very slow. Great idea, poorly conceived. That’s pretty much all I have to say about the book; I gave it two separate tries before I finally gave up about 25% of the way through.

You can pick up your copy [easyazon_link identifier=”0385343299″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link], in case you want to try it for yourself.

The Child by Fiona Barton

the child

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell…

 

Many thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for a review!

The Child brings back journalist Kate Waters, first seen in Fiona Barton’s The Widow. When a baby’s skeleton is found at a construction site, the lives of three women are affected. Kate Waters seizes the story and tries to figure out where the tiny body came from.

 

Delightfully British with well written characters, The Child is another treasure. Kate’s interaction with her coworkers are dead on, as Barton illustrates how print journalists must cope with 24 hour online news media. The women’s family dynamics are integral to the story; giving the reader the backstory slowly and tantalizingly. Each woman gets to tell her story – there are changing points of view throughout and we see firsthand what Kate, Emma, and Angela are going through. Emma’s mother, Jude, is also part of the dynamic. I found Jude to be annoying and narcissistic; she was easy to loathe. Emma and Angela were both dealing with their own mental issues as well, and at times all of the angst became overwhelming. That didn’t deter me from continuing to read – but at times I wished there was a bit less whining and a little more action.

Kate is an expert reporter, adept at the art of manipulation to get her story. As a matter of fact, almost every character manipulates someone in some way. Barton is a master of keeping a dark story hovering just above the despair line, tempering the distress with hope.

Some reviews have noted that the plot twists were easy to spot- not for me! I had a feeling that these women were going to be intertwined somehow (for plot purposes, of course), but could not predict what was going to happen until Barton gave the Big Reveal. I was appropriately shocked and enthralled. Everything came together in a satisfying way and I felt that there was room for Kate’s character to grow, possibly to be featured in another book.

Barton’s insight into the female psyche is peerless, and knows how to illustrate the seamy side of the human condition perfectly. I’ll be eagerly awaiting her next work.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1101990481″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

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