A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: November 8th, 2022

Genre: Horror, Short Stories, Fiction, Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Short Story Collection, Fantasy, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound

Goodreads Synopsis:

The debut short story collection from the acclaimed author of The Chalk Man, featuring ten bone-chilling and mind-bending tales

Timeslips. Doomsday scenarios. Killer butterflies. C. J. Tudor’s novels are widely acclaimed for their dark, twisty suspense plots, but with A Sliver of Darkness, she pulls us even further into her dizzying imagination.

In Final Course, the world has descended into darkness, but a group of old friends make time for one last dinner party. In Runaway Blues, thwarted love, revenge, and something very nasty stowed in a hat box converge. In Gloria, a strange girl at a service station endears herself to a cold-hearted killer, but can a leopard really change its spots? And in I’m Not Ted, a case of mistaken identity has unforeseen, fatal consequences.

Riveting and explosively original, A Sliver of Darkness is C. J. Tudor at her most wicked and uninhibited.

First Line:

She often dreamed of drowning.

End of the Liner, A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor

I like reading anthologies. Sometimes my brain isn’t able to process longer books (my attention span can be shot at times). But I wouldn’t say I like reviewing them. I write long reviews because I want to cover each story and give it the attention I think it deserves. I am not going to do that with this review. I am a little crunched for time (I am writing this on Halloween and I have a bunch of things to do/get ready for on top of my usual Monday morning routine). So, this review is going to be short.

A Sliver of Darkness had an exciting mix of short stories. The author did keep my attention because these stories were not cookie-cutter. Also, the author did something that I wasn’t expecting. She wrote a little forward to each story to explain why she wrote it. I loved it!!

I had two favorite stories out of the eleven that were published. They are End of the Liner, and I’m not Ted. My least favorite one was Gloria, only because I hadn’t read her featured book.

This short story collection would have been perfect for reading in October. Each story was creepy in its way.

I would recommend A Sliver of Darkness to anyone over 21. There is language and violence but no sex.

If you enjoyed A Sliver of Darkness, you will enjoy these books:

Dark Circles by Caite Dolan-Leach

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: May 10th, 2022

Genre: Thriller, Fiction, Mystery, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | Google Play | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

An embattled actress turns to podcasting when she becomes entangled in a dark conspiracy at a spiritual retreat in this absorbing mystery about fame, violence, and our morbid fascination with murder–from the acclaimed author of Dead Letters.

Olivia Reed needs a break. She doesn’t want to think about her name plastered on tabloids or be reminded of her recent meltdown on a Manhattan street. Her micromanaging publicist has just the thing in mind: a remote retreat in Upstate New York–the House of Light. It’s not rehab; it’s a spiritual center, a site for seeking realignment and personal growth. There will be yoga and morning meditation, soft bamboo-blend fabrics and crystals to snuggle.

But Liv will soon find that the House of Light is filled with darkness. A prickly local, Ava, informs her that something twisted is lurking behind the Light’s veneer. There have been a series of mysterious suicides committed by women caught in the Light’s web, and no matter who Ava talks to, no one believes her. To get the truth out and put her celebrity to good use, Liv starts a podcast, seeking to connect the dots and expose the Light’s true intentions. Because beneath the glowing skin of the Light’s inhabitants lie rotten souls, and Liv starts to wonder if anything–even her own life–is how it appears.

Caite Dolan-Leach brings her tantalizing voice, gift for atmosphere, and a cast of delightfully devious and absorbing characters to this riveting novel of suspense.

First Line:

The thing my goddamn manager doesn’t understand is that I don’t need to go on a retreat.

Dark Circles by Cait Dolan-Leach

Dark Circles’ plotline was interesting. Olivia is an actress who has found herself in a bit of a pickle. After a very public, very drunken/drug-fueled temper tantrum, her manager/best friend has decided to send Olivia to a retreat to sober up and maybe come to terms with what set her off. The treat is in Western NY, called House of Light, and seems to be where Olivia can sober up. But, on the first day, two things happen. One: Olivia meets a local who insists that the HoL is behind several suicides/murders in the area. Two: A body washes up on the retreats beach, and it is a former retreat member. Becoming intrigued with the unsolved murders/suicides, Olivia starts a podcast. But, as she goes down the rabbit hole, Olivia becomes obsessed. When she finds a connection between her missing mother and HoL, Olivia starts questioning everything she has been told. But the truth is more terrifying than Olivia knows. What is the truth?

I was not too fond of Olivia at first. She was self-absorbed and couldn’t care less about her harm to other people. Her public meltdown in Manhattan showcased that. She was also reckless and didn’t think things through, which was shown repeatedly during her investigation into the HoL. But, I did start to like her after the first few chapters. She went from what I thought would be a 2-dimensional character to a fully fleshed-out character.

I also liked the secondary characters in Dark Circles. They were a perfect blend of creepy and quirky. They also added that extra oomph that rounded out the book.

I liked that the author chose to incorporate the podcast into the story. From the cheesy ads (don’t we all love listening to those, lol) to the comments after each episode. I loved how they tied into the main storyline. This, too, added an extra depth.

The storyline with the HoL and the murder/suicides was wonderfully written. I was kept on the edge of my bed (because I read Dark Circles in bed). I did not expect it to go the way that it did. The twist in that plotline made my mouth drop.

The secondary plotline with Olivia’s mother was sad. I had a feeling about what was going to be revealed. But the author did an excellent job at distracting me from figuring it out until the end of the book.

The end of Dark Circles was your typical mystery ending. Everything was wrapped up and explained.

I would recommend Dark Circles to anyone over 16. There is violence, language, non-graphic sexual situations, and drug/alcohol use.

The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: February 22nd 2022

Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery, Time Travel, Thriller, Fantasy, Speculative Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

An impossible crime. A detective on the edge of madness. The future of time travel is at stake.

January Cole’s job just got a whole lot harder.

Not that running security at the Paradox was ever really easy. Nothing’s simple at a hotel where the ultra-wealthy tourists arrive costumed for a dozen different time periods, all eagerly waiting to catch their “flights” to the past.

Or where proximity to the time port makes the clocks run backward on occasion—and, rumor has it, allows ghosts to stroll the halls.

None of that compares to the corpse in room 526. The one that seems to be both there and not there. The one that somehow only January can see.

On top of that, some very important new guests have just checked in. Because the U.S. government is about to privatize time-travel technology—and the world’s most powerful people are on hand to stake their claims.

January is sure the timing isn’t a coincidence. Neither are those “accidents” that start stalking their bidders.

There’s a reason January can glimpse what others can’t. A reason why she’s the only one who can catch a killer who’s operating invisibly and in plain sight, all at once.

But her ability is also destroying her grip on reality—and as her past, present, and future collide, she finds herself confronting not just the hotel’s dark secrets but her own.

First Line:

Droplets of blood pat the blue carpet, turning from red to black as they soak into the fibers.

the paradox hotel by rob hart

It has been a while since I have read any science fiction. It’s not that I don’t like the genre (I do); it’s just that I haven’t found any that has caught my eye. Then I started seeing reviews for The Paradox Hotel, which interested me. I figured that I would read it when it was published. So, imagine my surprise (and delight) when I got an invite to review from the publisher.

The Paradox Hotel had an exciting plotline. January Cole is the head of security at The Paradox Hotel, an exclusive hotel where the mega-rich can travel back in time. Her job is to make sure that the guests don’t do anything to disrupt the timeline and to take care of any security threats. The bidders meet at The Paradox when the government decides to privatize time travel. But, as January discovers, someone is willing to do anything to swing the vote in their favor. Can January figure out who is behind the attacks and their motive?

The Paradox Hotel had a fast-moving plotline. The entire book takes place within a couple of days of the bidders arriving at the hotel. There was a slight lag in the middle of the book, but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t get past.

January was an unlikeable character in The Paradox Hotel. She was unlikable, reckless, and had a potty mouth. But, I had some sympathy for her. She had suffered an unimaginable loss in the recent past and had a traumatic childhood. I did feel bad for her because of those events, and they did help me understand why she was so unlikable. I wish I could say that I grew to like her during the book, but if I would be lying. She was a hot mess.

The author very well wrote the mystery angle of The Paradox Hotel. I couldn’t figure out who was behind the attacks or the why until the end of the book. There were so many red herrings and diverting plotlines that it made it impossible for me to pin down the exact person.

The author just as well wrote the science fiction angle of The Paradox Hotel. I was fascinated by the premise that time travel could be normalized and used as a vacation (even if it was only for the super-rich). There were brief references to people traveling to Egypt (I will never be able to listen to Walk Like an Egyptian without remembering a specific scene in the book again). I also like that the author took a creative angle with people being Unstuck. In the book, Unstuck is someone who has traveled back in time one too many times. People who are Unstuck can see past, future, and current events. There are various levels of being Unstuck, with four being the highest. January is level 2 and takes medication to control it. If she doesn’t take the medication, she can see past, current, and future events. I was fascinated by that!!

I loved the representation that The Paradox Hotel had. There were gay and gender-neutral characters. I firmly believe that January’s girlfriend was trans (the scene where January sees Mena as a child).

The secondary characters were essential to The Paradox Hotel. Ruby, January’s AI assistant, was my favorite secondary character. It reminded me of Jiminy Cricket (being January’s conscience), and a big plus, it was as big of a wiseass as January.

I wouldn’t say I liked the end of The Paradox Hotel. It was the only part of the book that I didn’t like. The author did wrap up the storylines, but I was left feeling that there should have been more.

I would recommend The Paradox Hotel to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and sexual situations.

City of the Dead (Alex Delaware: Book 37) by Jonathan Kellerman

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of Publication: February 8th 2022

Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller, Suspense

Series: Alex Delaware

When the Bough Breaks—Book 1

Blood Test—Book 2

Over the Edge—Book 3

Silent Partner—Book 4

Time Bomb—Book 5

Private Eyes—Book 6

Devil’s Waltz—Book 7

Bad Love—Book 8

Self-Defense—Book 9

The Web—Book 10

The Clinic—Book 11

Survival of the Fittest—Book 12

Monster—Book 13

Dr. Death—Book 14

Flesh and Blood—Book 15

The Murder Book—Book 16

A Cold Heart—Book 17

Therapy—Book 18

Rage—Book 19

Gone—Book 20

Obsession—Book 21

Compulsion—Book 22

Bones—Book 23

Evidence—Book 24

Deception—Book 25

Mystery—Book 26

Victims—Book 27

Guilt—Book 28

Killer—Book 29

Motive—Book 30

Breakdown—Book 31

Heartbreak Hotel—Book 32

Night Moves—Book 33

The Wedding Guest—Book 34

The Museum of Desire—Book 35

Serpentine—Book 36

City of the Dead—Book 37

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

The past comes back to haunt psychologist Alex Delaware and Detective Milo Sturgis when they investigate a grisly double homicide and uncover an even more unspeakable motive in this riveting thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense.

Los Angeles is a city of sunlight, celebrity, and possibility. The L.A. often experienced by Homicide Lt. Detective Milo Sturgis and psychologist Alex Delaware, is a city of the dead.

Early one morning, the two of them find themselves in a neighborhood of pretty houses, pretty cars, and pretty people. The scene they encounter is anything but. A naked young man lies dead in the street, the apparent victim of a collision with a moving van hurtling through suburbia in the darkness. But any thoughts of accidental death vanish when a blood trail leads to a nearby home.

Inside, a young woman lies butchered. The identity of the male victim and his role in the horror remain elusive, but that of the woman creates additional questions. And adding to the shock, Alex has met her while working a convoluted child custody case. Cordelia Gannett was a self-styled internet influencer who’d gotten into legal troubles by palming herself off as a psychologist. Even after promising to desist, she’s found a loophole and has continued her online career, aiming to amass clicks and ads by cyber-coaching and cyber-counseling people plagued with relationship issues.

But upon closer examination, Alex and Milo discover that her own relationships are troublesome, including a tortured family history and a dubious personal past. Has that come back to haunt her in the worst way? Is the mystery man out in the street collateral damage or will he turn out to be the key to solving a grisly double homicide? As the psychologist and the detective explore L.A.’s meanest streets, they peel back layer after layer of secrets and encounter a savage, psychologically twisted, almost unthinkable motive for violence and bloodshed.

This is classic Delaware: Alex, a man Milo has come to see as irreplaceable, at his most insightful and brilliant.

First Line:

Four fifty-three in the morning was too early for anything.

city of the dead by jonathan kellerman

When I got the email to review City of the Dead from the publisher, I decided to wait on it for a little bit. I have heard of Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series, and I might have read a couple of books from it (my memory is very fuzzy on that). But that wasn’t why I was iffy about reading this book. My main reason was that this is book 37 of that series, and I don’t particularly appreciate reading books out of order. I ultimately decided to read City of the Dead because I like books that combine psychology with criminal investigations. I prefer (as most people do) to read a series in order. That way, I get a feel for the characters (main and supporting). I am glad that I read it because it was an excellent book.

City of the Dead had an engaging storyline. A pair of movers, eager to deliver their load, is driving down a side street when they are hit by something. Thinking it was a dog, they pull over and discover that they were hit by a naked man who is dead and very unrecognizable. Alex is called to the scene to assess it from a psychologist’s point of view, and while he is there, it is discovered that the man was killed by the moving truck. Instead, a trail of blood leads to a house, where a more gruesome crime is. A young woman is found dead in her bedroom. Alex is shocked to realize that he knows this woman. She is known to him as an expert called into a custody case and exposed as a fraud. As Alex and his friend, Detective Milo, dig deeper into her murder case (and try to figure out who her naked friend was), the more convoluted the case gets. Who murdered Cordy? What was the motive?

City of the Dead is book 37 in the Alex Delaware series. Thankfully, readers can read this book as a stand-alone. I suggest that the reader at least read the blurbs or reviews of the previous 36 books. That way, you can get a good feel for the characters and any secondary characters in the book.

City of the Dead did have a medium-paced plotline. I was a little surprised by the pacing. I did think it was going to be a bit faster than it was. Any books that I have read that mix this genre has been faster. But weirdly, it did work for me. I was able to take some time, digest what the author was throwing at me, and try to form who killed Cordy.

I liked Alex. I think he was pretty chill for being involved in a murder investigation. But, he is on call for the police department, and he does get called to do this type of work all the time, so he could afford to be chill. I also liked how he handled his clients and soon-to-be clients. That one scene with the slimy lawyer cracked me up mainly because he hit the nail on the head with his assessment of him. Talk about a steel backbone with the parents and gentleness with the kids.

The author very well wrote the mystery angle of City of the Dead. The author did a great job of drawing me in from the beginning and making me work on who killed Cordy and her friend. I had thought I had it figured out around the middle of the book. Then, a twist made me go “WHAT” and drop that person from my internal list like a hot potato.

The author did a great job of keeping the plotline on course with the book. The secondary characters that the author introduced didn’t take over the book. A couple of times, the book referenced events that happened in previous books that made me go “huh?” but they were few and far between.

I loved the twist in the plotline. It threw me for a loop when I realized I was wrong about who the killer was. After the twist, the author leaked the why and how very slowly and built up to a memorable end. He was able to tie everything that happened in the book (the killings) and add a few extras that surprised me.

The end of City of the Dead did make me a little sad. Mainly because I did wonder about the child involved and how everything was going to affect her. Alex did give some excellent advice, but still. I still wonder. But, reading this book has also made me want to read the previous 36 books. I do plan on reading them at some point in my life.

I would recommend City of the Dead to anyone over 21. There are language, violence, and graphic murder scenes.

The Maid by Nita Prose

Book Cover

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: January 4th, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | Kobo | Google Play

Goodreads Synopsis:

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

A Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.

First Line:

I am your maid.

the maid by nita prose

I have a terrible habit of wishing for books on NetGalley, forgetting that I wished for them, and then get completely surprised when I get the email saying, “Your wish has been granted.” That was precisely the case with The Maid. Then I got an email from SMP requesting me to review it. I took that as the universe saying, “You need to read this book.” This was my first 5-star review of 2022. I am glad I did.

Molly Gray is not your typical woman. She has difficulty reading social clues, social nuances, and skills. Molly is very blunt and outspoken but doesn’t understand that sometimes that can hurt people’s feelings. Her Gran would help her with that, but she died, and Molly didn’t have anyone to help her. But, Molly is doing well with her life. She works as a maid at a 5-star hotel, and she takes pride in her work. But, in one day, that changes. Molly finds the hotel’s biggest customer dead. She is then caught up in the police investigation, first as a witness and secondly as the main suspect. Molly is determined to clear her name. Will she be able to do it?

The Maid is a fast-paced book. It takes place over a few days, and it needs to be fast. There was some lag in the middle of the book, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of it. If The Maid had switched to a slower pace at any point in the book, it would have ruined the book.

I thought that Molly was sweet. As the parent of a neurodivergent child (my son has high functioning autism), I saw bits and pieces of him in her character. I liked that I got to see the world through her eyes. There were no shades of grey with Molly. It was either black or white.

The mystery angle of The Maid was well written. I have seen reviews that compared it to being Clue-like. I hands-down agree with those observations. The Maid also kept me guessing at who killed Mr. Black. I did have it narrowed down to a couple of people but was surprised at who it ended up being. I thought it was going to be a different person.

I thought the author did a good job covering different social issues throughout the book. The only thing that disturbed me was how Molly was treated by Detective Spark and the other maids at the hotel. That truly disgusted me. I can’t stand how people treat others that are different from them. Of course, they all got their comeuppance at the end of the book but still.

The end of The Maid was what I thought it would be. Once the police caught the bad guy and various things going on at the hotel were exposed, Molly was vilified. I loved how everything came together for her. Of course, a twist was revealed that made me go, “Really?” Mainly because it didn’t quite go with the rest of the book. But, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment or the star rating that I gave The Maid.

I would recommend The Maid to anyone over 16. There is mild language, no sex, and mild violence.

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: November 30th, 2021

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | Apple Books | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a deeply moving novel about the resilience of the human spirit in a moment of crisis.

Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galápagos—days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time.

But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.

Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. The whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders.

Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself—and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different.

First Line:

When I was six years old, I painted a corner of the sky.

wish you were here by jodi picoult

When I first read the blurb for Wish You Were Here, I was hesitant to read it. There is nothing against the author, but a book written about the pandemic’s beginning while we were still in it didn’t exactly gel with me and gave me anxiety. But, I decided to read it, and oh boy, am I glad I did. This book was excellent on all ends.

Wish You Were Here is the story about Diana and how her life is turned around when COVID 19 hit. Diana is an art specialist at Sotheby’s and living with her almost fiance (Finn), a surgical resident at Presbyterian Hospital. Diana is days away from not only closing a life-altering deal with a famous rock widow (based on Yoko Ono), but she is going on a bucket list vacation with Finn to the Galapagos Islands. Life is good for her, but there are talks of a pandemic making its way across the globe. Then things implode. COVID has hit New York City, and Finn is told that he cannot take his trip. Diana, thinking that COVID will blow over (didn’t we all), makes the trip alone. But her once-in-a-lifetime trip turns into something else when the borders close, and she is stuck on the island. Alone, with no cell service, no money, no luggage, and unable to speak the language, Diana thinks it can’t get any worse. But things start to turn around when a local woman takes Diana under her wing, and Diana connects with not only her 14-year-old granddaughter but her handsome but standoffish son. Diana realizes that the life she thought she wanted with Finn in New York City wasn’t what she wanted, and she wants a life with Gabriel. Will she have it? Or will it be ripped from her by COVID?

I wish I could say that I wasn’t triggered while reading Wish You Were Here. But I was. There was a whole section of the book where I cried continuously. Those scenes reminded me of how I felt during the pandemic’s beginning. I remembered the uncertainty and the fear. But, I also remember the small acts of kindness and how people pulled together for the most part. The author beautifully highlighted all of that in Wish You Were Here.

The pacing of Wish You Were Here was between medium and fast. There were parts of the book that were lightning fast. But there were also parts of the book that were medium-paced. The author did a fantastic job of slowing the book down and picking the pace back up. There was a slight lag, but that was right around the surprise of a plot twist, and I expected it.

Diana was my favorite character in Wish You Were Here. I liked her because she wasn’t likable (well, to begin with). She had a horrible relationship with her famous photographer mother, and she wasn’t apologetic about it. But, on the other hand, she loved her career and Finn (in that order). Her personality was set during the first two chapters, and, to be honest, I thought that she would be like that throughout the book. But then she got stranded, and a different Diana started to appear.

The romance angle was there, but it wasn’t a massive part of the book. I liked that Gabriel and Diana’s romance was a slow-burn romance. I liked that I wasn’t sure if they would end up falling in like (notice I said that instead of love) or if they would hook up. But, I also liked that Diana and Finn’s relationship was steady and predictable. Regardless of who she was with, Diana had a good guy.

Wish You Were Here is set in two places: The Galagapos Islands and New York City. I fell in love with The Galagapos Islands while reading the book. For some reason, I never thought of The Galagpos Islands as a vacation spot. But since reading this book, it has been put on my bucket list!! I have been to New York City and plan on going back.

As I mentioned above, a plot twist comes out of nowhere in the middle of the book. I was utterly taken by surprise. It was something I did not see coming at the time. But looking back, I could see the very subtle hints that the author dropped. So, be warned, it is a huge twist and what is revealed on the other side isn’t easy to read.

I want to get into the latter half of Wish You Were Here. But I can’t because of the darn twist. It would lead to spoilers, and I don’t want to ruin the book for anyone. I will say that Diana does go through that transformation I mentioned above, and I do like how she ended up.

I would recommend Wish You Were Here to anyone over 16. There is mild violence, mild sexual situations, and language.

The Last Guest by Tess Little

Book Cover

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: October 5th, 2021

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible |B&N |World Cat

Goodreads Synopsis:

A glamorous birthday dinner in the Hollywood Hills ends with the famous host dead and every guest under suspicion in this dark, cinematic suspense debut reminiscent of an Agatha Christie page-turner crossed with David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.

When actress Elspeth Bell attends the fiftieth birthday party of her ex-husband Richard Bryant, the Hollywood director who launched her career, all she wants is to pass unnoticed through the glamorous crowd in his sprawling Los Angeles mansion. Instead, there are just seven other guests–and Richard’s pet octopus, Persephone, watching over them from her tank as the intimate party grows more surreal (and rowdy) by the hour. Come morning, Richard is dead–and all of the guests are suspects.

In the weeks that follow, each of the guests come under suspicion: the school friend, the studio producer, the actress, the actor, the new partner, the manager, the cinematographer, and even Elspeth herself. What starts out as a locked-room mystery soon reveals itself to be much more complicated, as dark stories from Richard’s past surface, colliding with Elspeth’s memories of their marriage that she vowed never to revisit. Elspeth begins to wonder not just who killed Richard, but why these eight guests were invited, and what sort of man would desire to possess a creature as mysterious and unsettling as Persephone.

The Last Guest is a stylish exploration of power–the power of memory, the power of perception, the power of one person over another.

First Line:

We believed he had died from an overdose. There was no reason to suspect otherwise: limbs limp on the couch; pink vomit splattered across his shirt, dribbling from the corners of his mouth; the Gucci belt, the residue-stained needles – our own memories, in flashes and throbs and waves.

the last guest by tess little

When I read the blurb for The Last Guest, I was intrigued. I couldn’t wait to read a book where the mystery was laid out initially, and untangling what happened would take the whole book. Then, I read the book, and I wasn’t that thrilled with it.

The synopsis for The Last Guest was this: Elspeth was invited to her ex-husband’s, Richard, birthday party. She went only because their teenaged daughter, Lillie, was supposed to be there. But, Lillie was a no-show. Elspeth decided to make the best of it and woke up to her ex dead of an apparent heroin overdose the following day. But the police are not too sure that it was an accident and are interviewing everyone there. What happened the night of the party? Was Richard killed? Who would want him dead? Or was his death a tragic accident?

The plotline for The Last Guest was challenging to follow. The plotline went from the death to the past to the present and then back with zero lead-ins. I would be reading a paragraph that took place the night of Richard’s death, and then the next would be Elspeth sitting in her daughter’s house. It was confusing to read and frustrated me.

I couldn’t get a feel as to who killed Richard and why. Everyone at that party had an ax to grind with him. Richard was not a good or nice man. He made it to the top of the Hollywood hierarchy by being ruthless. Hell, even the octopus, Persephone, had reason to kill him. So, when the author finally revealed the details of his death, I wasn’t surprised at all.

I liked Elspeth, but her covering for Richard after he died left a bad taste in my mouth. She lied to everyone about him, including her daughter. But, as details came out about how badly she was abused, I did understand why she lied to Lillie. I didn’t know why she kept lying to everyone else. The end did little to soothe me. It seemed like it was too little too late.

The suspense angle of the book was good, but it was broken up when the book swung between present and past. A promising storyline with the housekeeper fizzled out (I wanted to know why she hated Elspeth so much).

The mystery angle was just as good but again, kept getting broken up with the book swinging between present and past.

The end of The Last Guest was a little “eh.” I understand why Elspeth decided to do what she did, but it was too little too late. I also got a little emotional with what happened to Persephone.

I would recommend The Last Guest to anyone over the age of 21. There is language, violence, and drug use.

The Dare by Lesley Kara

Book Cover

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: August 3rd 2021

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Purchase Link: Amazon | WorldCat

Format Read: Unedited ARC

Received From: Publisher

Goodreads Synopsis:

As a child, it was just a game. As an adult, it was a living nightmare.

‘This time it’s different. She’s gone too far now.
She really has.’

When teenage friends Lizzie and Alice decide to head off for a walk in the countryside, they are blissfully unaware that this will be their final day together – and that only Lizzie will come back alive.

Lizzie has no memory of what happened in the moments before Alice died, she only knows that it must have been a tragic accident. But as she tries to cope with her grief, she is shocked to find herself alienated from Alice’s friends and relatives. They are convinced she somehow had a part to play in her friend’s death.

Twelve years later, unpacking boxes in the new home she shares with her fiancé, Lizzie is horrified to find long-buried memories suddenly surfacing. Is the trauma of the accident finally catching up with her, or could someone be trying to threaten her new-found happiness?

Twelve years is a long time to wait, when you’re planning the perfect revenge . . .

First Line:

She’d created a little altar on the chest of drawers in her bedroom.

The Dare by Lesley Kara

I am a big fan of mystery/thriller books. They make up 80% of the books that I read and review. So, when I had gotten the review request for The Dare, it was an immediate acceptance.

The plotline for The Dare was interesting. Alice and Lizzie were best friends, and they did everything together. But, when Alice died, Alice’s family blamed Lizzie for her death. Why? She was found having a seizure by the train tracks and had no memory of the events before Alice’s death. Alice’s family blamed her, but Lizzie never forgave herself. Twelve years later, Lizzie still has no memories of Alice’s death, but she has moved on with her life. Her epilepsy is under control, and she is engaged to a wonderful man. But, as she’s unpacking, she comes across a box that stirs up memories. What happened the day Alice died? Was Lizzie at fault? And who is trying to get at the truth? Will it cost Lizzie everything that she has worked so hard for?

I am not overly familiar with epilepsy or how it affects the brain. So, I thought using it as part of the plotline was fascinating. Lizzie could not remember what happened after she left her house with Alice. All she knows is that she was with her, and then she was on the ground, being tended to by EMTs. A massive chunk of time was missing, and Lizzie could not tell people what happened to Alice because she didn’t know. Like I said earlier in this paragraph, it was fascinating.

Lizzie made for an interesting main character. She had lost her closest friend to a horrible accident, and Alice’s family blamed her for it. Lizzie had to live with a debilitating illness and hope that the medications she’s taking will curb the seizures. But she had done well with her life. She had a fiancee who cherished her and parents who loved her. Her outlook on life was good. But then, life starts to go sideways for her. It was how she dealt with everything that struck me (in a good way).

Parts of the book were written from the angle of an unknown person. It starts when this person was a child and goes to when they are an adult. I was surprised at who that person was (the author does reveal it halfway through the book). I was even more surprised at what that person was going to do.

The mystery angle of the book was well written. There were a couple of mystery angles. One is the obvious one (did Lizzie kill Alice). The other is what is Catherine’s plan (I did figure that out). And the third angle (which was introduced halfway through the book) deals with Lizzie, her mother, and secrets that her mother had been keeping. They were all wrapped up at the end of the book, and the author did it in such a way that you couldn’t help but pity everyone involved.

The suspense angle of the book was also well written. It was closely tied in with the mystery angle and complimented it. I was kept on the edge of my seat, trying to figure out what would happen next.

The end of The Dare was good. There was a twist in the storyline that made me go, “Whoa.” I didn’t see it coming, and it surprised me (in a good way). It was also bittersweet because of what was revealed.

I would recommend The Dare to anyone over the age of 21. There is mild language, violence, and sexual situations.

Just One Look by Lindsay Cameron

Book Cover

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: July 27th 2021

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Format Read: Unedited ARC

Received From: Publisher

Goodreads Synopsis:

A young woman’s escalating obsession with a seemingly perfect man leads her down a dangerous path in this novel of suspense brimming with envy, desire, and deception.

Eyes aren’t the windows to the soul. Emails are.

Cassie Woodson is adrift. After suffering an epic tumble down the corporate ladder, Cassie finds the only way she can pay her bills is to take a thankless temp job reviewing correspondence for a large-scale fraud suit. The daily drudgery amplifies all that her life is lacking–love, friends, stability–and leaves her with too much time on her hands, which she spends fixating on the mistakes that brought her to this point.

While sorting through a relentless deluge of emails, something catches her eye: the tender (and totally private) exchanges between a partner at the firm, Forest Watts, and his enchanting wife, Annabelle. Cassie knows she shouldn’t read them. But it’s just one look. And once that door opens, she finds she can’t look away.

Every day, twenty floors below Forest’s corner office, Cassie dissects their emails from her dingy workstation. A few clicks of her mouse and she can see every adoring word they write to each other. By peeking into their apparently perfect life, Cassie finds renewed purpose and happiness, reveling in their penchant for vintage wines, morning juice presses, and lavish dinner parties thrown in their stately Westchester home. There are no secrets from her. Or so she thinks.

Her admiration quickly escalates into all-out mimicry, because she wants this life more than anything. Maybe if she plays make-believe long enough, it will become real for her. But when Cassie orchestrates a “chance” meeting with Forest in the real world and sees something that throws the state of his marriage into question, the fantasy she’s been carefully cultivating shatters. Suddenly, she doesn’t simply admire Annabelle–she wants to take her place. And she’s armed with the tools to make that happen.

First Line:

As I stepped off the elevator on the second floor, I found myself silently begging for a calamity.

Just One Look by Lindsay Cameron

I was super excited to start reading Just One Look. The blurb did its job and hooked me. I needed to know what happened to Cassie and where her fixation was going with Forest/Annabelle.

Just One Look had an exciting plotline. Cassie is a disgraced lawyer who is now working as a temp in another law firm. Her job at the temp agency is to read through emails and see if they are relevant to the fraud suit. By accident, Cassie reads an email from a hotshot lawyer named Forest to his wife Annabelle and becomes obsessed. Her obsession takes her down a dangerous path, where she finds that not all is what it seems. That what is read in an email isn’t exactly the whole truth.

The plotline for Just One Look was medium-paced. There was a lot of time explaining the fraud case and the inner workings of firms (which I had zero interest in). That did slow down the plot at the beginning of the book. Cassie’s vague references to what happened to her months earlier also dragged down the pace for me. “The Incident” was not fully explained until halfway through the book. Until then, it was up to me to imagine what happened (and no, it was nothing like I imagined). There was also some lag in the middle of the book (right around when Dalton died). But that lag didn’t last long. The author was able to get the book back on track.

Cassie was a hot mess and she knew it. She drank too much and she obsessed over her ex-boyfriend. She also looked down on her coworkers (mainly because she was once a hotshot lawyer). I found her annoying and immature for most of the book. But, when her obsession with Forest/Annabelle started, I knew I was in for a ride. And man, what a ride it was.

The mystery angle of the book was well written. What happened and who killed Dalton took me by surprise. There were also two twists in the plotline that made my mouth drop. I called one of them but the other I didn’t.

The stalker angle of the book was very creepy to read. I understood why Cassie latched onto Forest/Annabelle. But as that storyline progressed, I was mentally telling her to stop. It didn’t surprise me when that storyline ended the way it did. It made for some great, tense reading, but no surprise on my end.

The end of the book was anti-climatic after the explosive ending to the stalker and mystery angles. I didn’t quite understand why the author chose to go the route she did, but in the end, I was happy she did it. I like seeing what happens after a character goes through what Cassie did. But it also showed that no matter how much someone tries to change, they are the same person deep down.

I would recommend Just One Look to anyone over the age of 21. There are sexual situations, mild violence, mild language, and alcohol use/abuse.

The Sinful Live of Trophy Wives by Kristin Miller

Book Cover
The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives by Kristin Miller

Publisher: Random House Publishing Books – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: July 20th, 2021

Genre: Thriller, Fiction, Mystery, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | World Cat

Format Read: Unedited ARC

Got Book From: Publisher

Trigger Warnings: Domestic Violence, Cheating

Goodreads Synopsis:

Mystery writer Brooke Davies is the new wife on the block. Her tech-billionaire husband, Jack, twenty-two years her senior, whisked her to the Bay Area via private jet and purchased a modest mansion on the same day. He demands perfection, and before now, Brooke has had no problem playing the role of a doting housewife. But as she befriends other wives on the street and spends considerable time away from Jack, he worries if he doesn’t control Brooke’s every move, she will reveal the truth behind their “perfect” marriage.

Erin King, famed news anchor and chair of the community board, is no stranger to maintaining an image–though being married to a plastic surgeon helps. But the skyrocketing success of her career has worn her love life thin, and her professional ambitions have pushed Mason away. Quitting her job is a Hail Mary attempt at keeping him interested, to steer him away from finding a young trophy wife. But is it enough, and is Mason truly the man she thought he was?

Georgia St. Claire allegedly cashed in on the deaths of her first two husbands, earning her the nickname “Black Widow”–and the stares and whispers of her curious neighbors. Rumored to have murdered both men for their fortunes, she claims to have found true love in her third marriage, yet her mysterious, captivating allure keeps everyone guessing. Then a tragic accident forces the residents of Presidio Terrace to ask: Has Georgia struck again? And what is she really capable of doing to protect her secrets?

First Line:

Pain is the first thing I remember.

The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives by Kristin Miller


I will be the first one to admit this: I judged The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives by the title of the book. Since Kristin Miller is a new author to me, I assumed that this book would be something like Joan Collins writes. So I wasn’t surprised when I started reading TSLOTW and realized that this book was nothing like Joan Collin’s books. Instead, this was a psychological thriller.

The Sinful Lives of Trophy Lives follows three women: Brooke, Erin, and Georgia. Brooke moves into the gated community with her husband, Jack. Erin is married to Mason and has just quit her job to focus on her marriage. Georgia, also known as “Black Widow” because of the deaths of her previous husbands, is engaged to be married. There are dark secrets that the three women keep. These secrets could destroy lives if revealed. What are they, and will they be revealed?

The plot for The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives is fast-paced. This book starts with a literal bang and doesn’t stop until the last page. The author was able to keep the pacing of the book up, even with the three separate POVs. I loved it!! I also loved that there was a slight lag too.

I loved Brooke, Erin, and Georgia, and I loved how the author kept me on edge with their characters. Just when I thought I knew those ladies, the author threw a tidbit or had them do something that made me go, “Really!!” It made for a good read because I didn’t know how these characters would end up.

The mystery/thriller angle of the book was well written. There were red herrings all over the place, and nothing was what it seemed. As soon as I thought I figured out what was going on, the author did a 180 and changed things. I loved it!!!

The secondary characters made the book too. Mason, Jack, and so many others. There were ones I loved and ones that I loathed.

There was a secondary storyline that involved Brooke and her past. I did predict what happened, but I didn’t expect what grew out of it. That took me by surprise!!

I wasn’t surprised at what was revealed about the deaths of Georgia’s husbands. I guessed that pretty early in the book. But I was surprised at who was involved and why that person got involved. So that made me look at that character differently.

I am going to warn that domestic violence is discussed at various points. For example, there are scenes where a woman gets beat by her husband in front of a child and another scene of a husband smacking his wife where the bruises couldn’t be seen and covered up with makeup.

The end of The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives was insane. I almost couldn’t keep up with everything that the book revealed. There was a huge twist that shocked me. I did not see it coming, and it blindsided me. But, once it was announced, it made perfect sense.

I enjoyed reading The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives. This book hooked me from page one, and I couldn’t put it down.

I would recommend The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives to anyone over the age of 21. There are trigger warnings, which I discussed above. They are domestic violence and cheating. There are also scenes of pill-popping, sexual harassment (Erin’s male boss told her to get on her knees and beg for her job), and lots of drinking.