Pray for the Girl by Joseph Souza

Pray for the Girl by [Souza, Joseph]

4 Stars

Publisher: Kensington Books, Kensington

Date of publication: April 30th, 2019

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Where you can find Pray for the Girl: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book synopsis:

Joseph Souza, acclaimed author of The Neighbor, brings readers into the dark heart of a small town in this riveting, relentlessly twisting new novel . . .

Lucy Abbott never pictured herself coming back to Fawn Grove, Maine. Yet after serving time in Afghanistan, then years spent as a sous chef in New York, she’s realized her only hope of moving on from the past involves facing it again. But Fawn Grove, like Lucy herself, has changed.

Lucy’s sister, Wendy, is eager to help her adapt, almost stifling her with concern. At the local diner, Lucy is an exotic curiosity–much like the refugees who’ve arrived in recent years. When a fifteen-year-old Muslim girl is found murdered along the banks of the river, difficult memories of Lucy’s time overseas come flooding back and she feels an automatic connection. At first glance, the tragedy looks like an honor killing. But the more Lucy learns about her old hometown, the less certain that seems.

There is menace and hostility here, clothed in neighborly smiles and a veneer of comfort. And when another teen is found dead in a cornfield, his throat slit, Lucy–who knows something about hiding secrets–must confront a truth more brutal than she could have imagined, in the last place she expected it . . .


My Review:

Mystery and thrillers have always had an enormous appeal for me. I love reading a book that makes my heart race. I also love reading a book where I have to figure out who the bad guy is. Of course, I have read duds, but it comes with the territory when you read as much as I do.

Pray for the Girl takes place in the fictional city of Fawn Grove, Maine. Lucy, a disabled veteran, has gone back to confront and make peace with her past. Soon after her arrival, Lucy gets caught up in the murder of a young Muslim girl. Investigating on her own, Lucy finds out that her hometown is not what she remembered. Secrets are many in Fawn Grove, and Lucy has her own. Who killed that girl? Why? The truth will be stunning.

I got caught up in Pray for the Girl’s main plotline. It was well written. I will say that the book is slow to start. But, it was laying the groundwork for the rest of the book. After the first couple of chapters, the book is on fire and doesn’t stop. I couldn’t put it down.

There was a massive twist in the middle of the book. I was not prepared for it. Not. At. All. After I got over my initial shock, I loved it. So much made sense when I looked back in the first half of the book. I do wish that it had been revealed a tad bit sooner. But then certain scenes wouldn’t have played out the way they did.

Lucy was one of my favorite characters, ever. She had my sympathy because of what happened to her. I liked that the author didn’t hold back when it came to her PTSD. Instead of glossing it over, he chose to go into detail about what Lucy went through daily. Being back in such a toxic town such as Fawn’s Grove didn’t help her either. I was a little surprised when she took it upon herself to look into the death of the Muslim girl. I didn’t understand why she took such an interest in that girl’s death. But, everything was explained around the same time the twist in the plot was revealed. Then it made perfect sense.

The end of the book was fast paced. There was a point where I had to stop and reread paragraphs to digest the information that was given. The very end of the book threw me for a loop. I am wondering if the author is setting up for another book involving Lucy? I hope so. That would be a book that I would love to read.


I would give Pray for the Girl and Adult rating. There is not sex (but there are mentions of sexual situations). There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Pray for the Girl. I would also recommend this book to family and friends

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**


Have you read Pray for the Girl?

What are your thoughts on it?

Let me know!!

The Neighbor by Joseph Souza

The Neighbor

3 Stars 

Publisher: Kensington Books, Kensington

Date of publication: April 24th, 2017

Genre: General Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Trigger Warning: sexual abuse, racism, and domestic violence

Where you can find The Neighbor: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Book synopsis (from Goodreads):

In a taut psychological thriller filled with breathtaking twists, Joseph Souza explores the tangle of betrayal and deception between two neighboring couples and asks how well we can really know others–or ourselves. 

It all seems so promising at the start . . .

When Leah and her husband, Clay, move from Seattle to Maine, she envisions a vibrant new neighborhood packed with families–playmates for her twins, new friends she can confide in and bond with. But while Clay works long hours to establish his brewery, Leah is left alone each day in a nearly deserted housing development where the only other occupants are aloof and standoffish.

Bored and adrift, Leah finds herself watching Clarissa and Russell Gaines next door, envying their stylishly decorated home and their university careers. But Leah’s obsession with the intriguing, elegant Clarissa grows until she’s not just spying from afar but sneaking into their house, taking small objects . . . reading Clarissa’s diary. It contains clues to a hidden turmoil Leah never guessed at–and a connection to a local college girl who’s disappeared.

The more Leah learns about Clarissa, the more questions emerge. Because behind every neighbor’s door there are secrets that could shatter lives forever . . .

My review:

The Neighbor left me with mixed emotions. It also left me with mixed feelings. I like reading mysteries/thrillers. I also like reading books that take current events and put a fresh spin on them. The Neighbor did that. That is not what gave me mixed feelings. I felt that part of the book was very well written. My mixed feelings were about the characters and their storylines.

The storyline of The Neighbor was promising. A bored housewife starts spying on her next door neighbor. She soon becomes obsessed with her. The secondary storyline was about a missing college girl and her disappearance. I would have been fine with those two storylines. With the secondary storyline of Leah’s secret, Clarissa’s secrets, Clay’s secret, I couldn’t keep focused on the book. I felt overwhelmed.

I like damaged characters. They make the books they are in more interesting to read. But Leah was just out there. She came across as creepy. Put it this way, if I had a feeling that my neighbor was spying on me, I would be uncomfortable. I would have distanced myself like Clarissa did. I do wish that her secret came out in full earlier in the book, instead of being dragged out. Speaking of that, I didn’t like the 180 her secret took. By the end of the book, my head was spinning. I couldn’t keep up with everything.

Clay drove me nuts. His trying to rationalize his relationship with Mycah was pathetic. As was his trying to drink his issues away. I also couldn’t believe that he didn’t put two and two together about part of Leah’s secret. I mean, her attitude towards sex was a huge clue for me. While I thought that he was a tool, he did stand by Leah when push came to shove. So, I didn’t completely dislike him.

I ran through a lot of emotions with Clarissa. At first, I felt bad for her. But when her character did a 180, I was surprised. Then I started to dislike her. She was manipulative and knew how to work things in her favor. So, I wasn’t surprised by what happened to her at the end of the book.

Russell was the only one that I truly felt bad for. He was manipulated by all the women in the book. I felt that he didn’t have a chance because no matter what he did, he was screwed.

I actually enjoyed Mycah’s character. She was a strong woman who didn’t stand down for anyone. She was passionate about her beliefs. I do think that she got in over her head with Russell and Clay. Even though I enjoyed her character, I won’t excuse her actions.

The thriller part of the book was well written. I do feel that it got lost with everything that was going on.

The end of the book confused me. While I understood what happened, I felt the book ended too suddenly. I was left wondering what will happen.

What I liked about The Neighbor:

A) Promising storyline

B) Strong characters

C) Engaging storyline

What I disliked about The Neighbor:

A) Felt overwhelmed with the storylines.

B) The characters drove me nuts

C) The ending confused me

I would give The Neighbor an Adult rating. There is sex. The sex scenes between Clay and Mycah were graphic and degrading. There is language. There is violence. I would not recommend anyone under the age of 21 reading this book.

There are triggers in this book. They are sexual abuse, racism, and domestic violence. If you are triggered by any of these, then do not read the book.

I am on the fence if I would recommend The Neighbor to friends and family. While I wouldn’t reread this book, I would be open to reading more books by the author.

I would like to thank Kensington, Kensington Books, and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review The Neighbor.

All opinions stated in this review of The Neighbor are mine.

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

Hot and Badgered (The Honey Badgers: Book 1) by Shelly Laurenston

Hot and Badgered (The Honey Badger Chronicles Book 1) by [Laurenston, Shelly]

4 Stars

Publisher: Kensington Books, Kensington

Date of publication: March 27, 2018

Genre: Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Number of pages: 400

POV: 3rd person

Series: The Honey Badgers

Hot and Badgered – Book 1

Where you can find Hot and Badgered: Barnes and Noble | Amazon

Book synopsis (from Goodreads):

It’s not every day that a beautiful naked woman falls out of the sky and lands face-first on grizzly shifter Berg Dunn’s hotel balcony. Definitely, they don’t usually hop up and demand his best gun. Berg gives the lady a grizzly-sized t-shirt and his cell phone, too, just on style points. And then she’s gone, taking his XXXL heart with her. By the time he figures out she’s a honey badger shifter, it’s too late.
 
Honey badgers are survivors. Brutal, vicious, ill-tempered survivors. Or maybe Charlie Taylor-MacKilligan is just pissed that her useless father is trying to get them all killed again, and won’t even tell her how. Protecting her little sisters has always been her job, and she’s not about to let some pesky giant grizzly protection specialist with a network of every shifter in Manhattan get in her way. Wait. He’s trying to help? Why would he want to do that? He’s cute enough that she just might let him tag along—that is if he can keep up . . .

Trigger Warning: None

Continue reading “Hot and Badgered (The Honey Badgers: Book 1) by Shelly Laurenston”

House of Silence by Sarah Barthel

House of Silence by [Barthel, Sarah]

4 Stars

Publisher: Kensington Books, Kensington

Date of publication: December 27th, 2016

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Where you can find this book: Amazon

Book synopsis:

Oak Park, Illinois, 1875. Isabelle Larkin’s future—like that of every young woman—hinges upon her choice of husband. She delights her mother by becoming engaged to Gregory Gallagher, who is charismatic, politically ambitious, and publicly devoted. But Isabelle’s visions of a happy, profitable match come to a halt when she witnesses her fiancé commit a horrific crime—and no one believes her.
 
Gregory denies all, and Isabelle’s mother insists she marries as planned rather than drag them into a scandal. Fearing for her life, Isabelle can think of only one escape: she feigns a mental breakdown that renders her mute and is brought to Bellevue sanitarium. There she finds a friend in fellow patient Mary Todd Lincoln, committed after her husband’s assassination.
 
In this unlikely refuge, the women become allies, even as Isabelle maintains a veneer of madness for her own protection. But sooner or later, she must reclaim her voice. And if she uses it to expose the truth, Isabelle risks far more than she could ever imagine.
 
Weaving together a thread of finely tuned suspense with a fascinating setting and real-life figures, Sarah Barthel’s debut is historical fiction at its most evocative and compelling.


My review:

Isabelle is the envy of all the girls in Oak Park. She has caught the eye of handsome Gregory Gallagher, and he proposed to her. In an age where marriages are usually treated as business contracts, she considers herself lucky that she loves Gregory, and he loves her.

The night of her engagement party, Isabelle is ecstatic but, at the same time, worried about her friend Lucy. Lucy was too supposed to elope with her true love, Patrick, against the wishes of her mother. Isabelle was surprised when she sees Lucy at her engagement party. As soon as she can, Isabelle speaks to Lucy and finds out that Patrick was called out-of-town to tend to his sick mother. Lucy is understandably upset and resigned to the fact that her mother will marry her off to the highest bidder.

Isabelle is half listening to Lucy when she sees Gregory heading out to the garden. She decides to follow him and finds him talking to a servant girl in the garden. When she asks who that was, he explains that she was a servant girl, and she wanted to speak to him in the garden about a misunderstanding. Isabelle (who is a smart cookie) doesn’t quite believe him and follows him back to the party.

The next day, Isabelle is on her way lunch with her mother after a morning full of appointments. Her maid tells her that someone wants to have a word with her and asks Isabelle to pretend to miss a glove. The person who wants to meet her, the girl from the night before.

What Isabelle hears from the girl throws doubt on her relationship with Gregory. The girl, Katerina, tells Isabelle that she knew Gregory when he was growing up in Joliet, and she wants Isabelle to give him a message. Isabelle tells her she must have the wrong Gregory, but she will be happy to deliver the message for her. The girl is upset but doesn’t say any more.

She does tell Gregory and he reconfirmed that he doesn’t know her, which puts Isabelle at ease. A few days later, Isabelle decides to visit her maid, Abigail, at her house to give her a basket full of fruit, muffins, and tea to thank her for helping her pick out the dress. When Abigail is bringing the basket into the house, Isabelle is left outside, kicking stones. One of the stones goes several houses down, and she follows it. Isabelle hears Gregory and Katerina yelling. She goes to look in the front window, and what she sees terrifies her. She watches as Gregory strangles Katerina to death.

Traumatized by what she has seen, Isabelle stays where she was until dusk. She goes to look at the body and almost gets caught by Gregory when he comes back to move Katerina. Isabelle leaves the house and heads towards Abigail’s house, where she promptly passes out after twisting her ankle. When she comes too, she tries to tell her mother and Dr what she has seen. But they don’t believe her. Her mother tells her that Isabelle must have made it up, that Gregory is a good boy, and that Isabelle is lucky to be marrying him.

After having several run-ins with her mother and Gregory, Isabelle decides that going to a sanitarium would be the best thing for her. So she goes voluntarily mute and starts throwing horrible fits. The next day she was on her way there.

The sanitarium that she goes to is called the Bellevue Sanitarium. While residing there, Isabelle meets some colorful people but none more unusual than Mary Todd Lincoln, the widow of Abraham Lincoln. She is admitted shortly after Isabelle, and soon the two of them are friends.

I liked Isabelle. She was so stubborn, and she stood by her story, even if it meant pretending to be insane to avoid marrying Gregory. I felt terrible for her because her mother should have believed her. During those scenes, I wanted to reach through the book and hug her.

Isabelle’s mother was one of the worse characters I have read in a book in a long time. I couldn’t stand her. She was very self-centered. I seriously wanted to smack her. She didn’t even pretend to care about Isabelle.

Historically, the book was on point. The author did a great job of adapting the time Mary Todd Lincoln spent in the Bellevue Sanitarium (and she did) into an excellent thriller.

There wasn’t a mystery to this book, though. You know everything upfront. But it was a mystery as to what Gregory would do when he finally got a hold of Isabelle.

The end of the book was great but somewhat predictable. I thought the girl power element was significant. I did feel bad for Gregory when everything was revealed, though.


I would give House of Silence an Adult rating. There is sex. There is language. There is mild violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread House of Silence. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

No Witness but the Moon (A Jimmy Vega Mystery) by Suzanne Chazin

No Witness but the Moon (A Jimmy Vega Mystery Book 3) by [Chazin, Suzanne]

Publisher: Kensington Books

Date of publication: October 25th, 2016

Series: Jimmy Vega Mystery

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Where can the book be found: Amazon 

Goodreads Synopsis:

On a clear, moonlit night in December, police detective Jimmy Vega races to the scene of a reported home invasion in an upscale New York community. As Vega arrives, he spots a Hispanic man who fits the description of the armed intruder, running from the victim’s estate. Vega chases him into the woods. When the suspect refuses to surrender—and reaches into his pocket—Vega has only seconds to make a life-or-death decision.

What begins as a tragic mistake takes an even darker turn when Vega uncovers disturbing links between the dead man and his own mother’s brutal, unsolved murder. Vega’s need for answers propels him back to his old Bronx neighborhood, where he is viewed as a disgraced cop, not a homegrown hero. It also puts him at odds with his girlfriend, Adele Figueroa, head of a local immigrant center, who must weigh her own doubts about his behavior. 

When a shocking piece of evidence surfaces, it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want Vega to put all the pieces together—and is willing to do whatever it takes to bury the truth. Only by risking everything will Vega be able to find justice, redemption, and the most elusive goal of all: the ability to forgive himself.

My review:

This is the first book I have ever read by Suzanne Chazin, and I loved it. Because of the world we live in, everyone lives under a microscope, including the police. So when a police officer shoots an unarmed man, it makes national news. This story is about a police shooting. It is also about illegal immigrants, which is another hot topic in America. So combine these two hot topics, and you get a story that keeps you riveted to the pages.

I liked Jimmy’s character. I do think that putting off seeing the psychologist and not taking his friends advice was stupid. Real stupid, and it made me shake my head. But, he did get some good solid leads about his mother’s murder and his impending court case.

Adele’s character was written great, and I loved how torn she was on Jimmy’s shooting case. When the going got hot, she didn’t buckle under pressure and kept her cool. Which meant distancing herself from Jimmy while investigating his case on her own.

The trio of storylines (Jimmy’s, his mother’s death and the other one) were tied together beautifully at the end. The twist that happened in the last chapters of the book kept me awake afterward going “No way, not this person.” I also loved how the author resolved each storyline in a way that no one else got hurt (well Jimmy did).

How many stars will I give No Witness But the Moon? 5

Why? Like I said in my first sentence, this book takes 2 hot topics (police shootings and illegal immigrants) and skillfully tells a tale that intertwines both.

Will I reread? Yes

Will I recommend to family and friends? Yes

Age range? Adult

Why? No sex. Violence, which includes a pretty vivid description of a head being blown off at below the chin.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells

The Beauty of the End by [Howells, Debbie]

Publisher: Kensington Books, Kensington

Date of Publication: July 26 2016

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, General Fiction

Where the book can be found: Amazon

Book synopsis:

From the acclaimed author of The Bones of You comes a haunting and heartbreaking new psychological thriller about a man thrust into the middle of a murder investigation, forced to confront the secrets of his ex-lover’s past. 

“I was fourteen when I fell in love with a goddess. . .”

So begins the testimony of Noah Calaway, an ex-lawyer with a sideline in armchair criminal psychology. Now living an aimless life in an inherited cottage in the English countryside, Noah is haunted by the memory of the beguiling young woman who left him at the altar sixteen years earlier. Then one day he receives a troubling phone call. April, the woman he once loved, lies in a coma, the victim of an apparent overdose–and the lead suspect in a brutal murder. Deep in his bones, Noah believes that April is innocent. Then again, he also believed they would spend the rest of their lives together. 

While Noah searches for evidence that will clear April’s name, a teenager named Ella begins to sift through the secrets of her own painful family history. The same age as April was when Noah first met her, Ella harbors a revelation that could be the key to solving the murder. As the two stories converge, there are shocking consequences when at last, the truth emerges. 

Or so everyone believes. . .

Set in a borderland where the past casts its shadow on the present, with a time-shifting narrative that will mesmerize and surprise, The Beauty of the End is both a masterpiece of suspense and a powerful rumination on lost love.

My review:

I tried to get into this book and like it. I couldn’t get past Noah’s obsession with April. It was creepy and at some points, smothering. Everyone around him could see that but him. When she ends their relationship, it breaks him and he is never in the same.

The book starts when Noah gets a call from his childhood friend about April. She overdosed but not before killing her stepfather. He rushes to her bedside and then begins to investigate the mystery about what happened.

This is when I met Ella, a troubled 15-year-old who is in therapy. She has a terrible secret that she found while snooping through her father’s desk.

This is also where the book started jumping around. It would go from present to when Noah first met April to present to when they were living together. Then add in Ella’s story (which was in italics), and it got very confusing.

The suspense part of the book was well written. The author threw red herrings but when it came down to revealing the truth, I was shocked. It wasn’t even close to what I thought or what the author led me to believe.

The ending did seem a little rushed and it left me feeling that there should have been something more. I didn’t like how April was portrayed at the end. It went against everything that we were told during the story. But, in a way, it made sense.

How many stars will I give The Beauty of the End? 3 stars

Why? It was well written but the book jumped around too much. Plus, there were too many twists at the end of the book and it left me going “Eh”.

Will I reread it? Yes

Will I recommend to family and friends? Yes

Age range? Teen on up

Why? Sex scenes (but the author doesn’t get really into them) and some minor violence.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

The Last Time She Saw Him (Julia Gooden Mystery: Book 1) by Jane Haseldine

The Last Time She Saw Him (A Julia Gooden Mystery Book 1) by [Haseldine, Jane]

Publisher: Kensington Books, Kensington

Date of Publication: June 28 2016

Part of a series? Yes

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Women’s Fiction

What series: Julia Gooden Mystery, Book 1

Where the book can be found: Amazon  | Barnes and Noble 

Book Synopsis:

In Jane Haseldine’s gripping and brilliantly crafted debut, a reporter searching for her kidnapped son must untangle the connection to her brother’s long-ago disappearance.

Julia Gooden remembers nothing about the worst night of her life. Thirty years ago, her nine-year-old brother Ben—the person who promised he would always protect her—was abducted from the room they shared. Try as she might to recall any clue or detail, there is a black hole where Julia’s memories of that terrible event should be.

Now a crime reporter at a Detroit newspaper, Julia tries to give others the closure she’s never found. But guilt and grief over Ben’s disappearance have left her fearful that whoever took her brother is going to come back. Nowhere seems safe—not the city, not the suburbs, not even the secluded lake town where she plans to raise her children. And then, on the anniversary of Ben’s disappearance, Julia’s worst fears are realized when her two-year-old son, Will, is snatched from his bed.

Convinced that the crimes are related, Julia tries to piece together memories from her final day with Ben. Are the sudden reminders of her brother clues that will lead her to her son’s abductor, or merely coincidence? Julia knows she has hours at best to find Will alive, but the deeper she digs, the more personal and terrifying the battle becomes, and an undying promise may be her only hope of saving herself and her son.

My review:

If you are looking for a book that showcases the best and worst of people and has a dash of the supernatural in it, read this book.

Julia was not a character that was likable and I love that the author wrote her that way. She suffers from survivor’s guilt after her older brother was kidnapped out of their room when she was 7. That one event shaped her entire life. Julia tortures herself over his disappearance. Because she didn’t get up to lock the door that led to the outside because she didn’t want him to think she was a baby. This has affected all areas of her life, from her job to her marriage to the way she parents her children.

The story got going when her 2-year-old is kidnapped out of his room. The author did a great job writing that part of the book too. She captured Julia’s terror and her fight to get her child away from the kidnappers.

The book then became a mishmash of present and past.  It was discovered that the same Indian head arrow was left under Will’s crib. Which was a connection to her brother’s disappearance.

But all is not what it seems. Clues were given by a pedophile pastor. A police detective was halfway in love with her. I didn’t know what direction the book is going in. And that was the best thing about it!!!

I didn’t know who the kidnappers are until the very end of the book. The author did a fantastic job of keeping that hidden. She threw out red herrings and created a couple of false leads that when it was revealed, I  went “Whaaaat??

How many stars will I give The Last Time She Saw Him? 5

Why? This was a very well written mystery that had a splash of supernatural in it. The author did a very good job at keeping me on my toes about who was Will’s kidnapper until the very end.

Will I reread it? Yes

Will I recommend it to family and friends? Yes

Age Range? Adult

Why? No sex but a lot of violence and some pretty graphic descriptions of sexually abused children.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**