A relatable and nerve-wracking, sympathetic and bone-chilling story — a fresh new twist on motherhood and murder in suburbia.
Isolated. Lonely. Tired. It’s hard being The New Mother. Sometimes it’s murder.
Nothing is simple about being a new mom alone in a new house, especially when your baby is collicky. Natalie Fanning loves her son unconditionally, but being a mother was not all she wanted to be.
Enter Paul, the neighbor.
Paul provides the lifeline she needs in what feels like the most desperate of times. When Paul is helping with Oliver, calmed by his reassuring, steady presence, Nat feels like she can finally rest.
But Paul wants something in return. It’s no coincidence that he has befriended Nat—she is the perfect pawn for his own plan. Will Nat wake up in time to see it?
It wasn’t the sort of neighborhood for murder. It was exactly th sort of neighborhood that is comprised the majority of Patuxent County.
The New Mother by Nora Murphy
Natalie is having a hard time adjusting to motherhood. She can’t sleep because Oliver, her son, only wants her and screams if anyone else touches him. Then she meets her next-door neighbor, Paul, and he seems to have the magic touch with Oliver. Soon, they have a close friendship. But things are different from what they seem with Paul. His befriending Natalie wasn’t a coincidence. Paul is setting Natalie up for a crime he committed. What crime did Paul commit? Will Natalie take the fall for it?
Reading this book took me back to my seventeen-year-old daughter’s birth and the months shortly after. I thought I was prepared for her birth and everything after. I wasn’t. I dealt with a horrible birth experience and a newborn/infant who screamed constantly. Unlike Natalie, I thankfully had my family and friends that watched out for PPD. But it was challenging and draining. And, like Natalie, it was a sense of relief when I got answers for why my daughter (Miss B) screamed all the time. She had colic and went nine months with an undiagnosed milk allergy. It took me switching doctors to get that diagnosis. So, yes, I related to this book.
The New Mother is a fast-paced book with dual points of view. The points of view went between the first person (Natalie) and 3rd person (Paul). I wasn’t a massive fan of that, I wouldn’t say I like it when it changes POV, but I did like that I got to see how Paul formulated his plan and how Natalie figured out what he was doing. The pacing for this book fits it perfectly.
The storyline for The New Mother was interesting. It centers around Natalie and her life after having Oliver. Natalie was one of those Facebook-perfect mothers at the beginning of The New Mother. She was going to do everything organic, exclusively breastfeeding and babywearing. I did get a good giggle at how the author initially wrote her. But Oliver wasn’t your typical baby. He had colic and screamed all the time. He hated the sling. And breastfeeding was an awful experience for Natalie. Plus, she started getting depressed and not allowing anyone to hold Oliver but her. In the middle of the book, Natalie is having a rough time. Then Paul swoops in like an angel and helps Natalie. She can sleep and feel like she is her old self around him. But Paul, well, his friendship with Natalie had sinister motives, and the author clarified those motives around the time their friendship deepened. I did call what happened next and everything else after.
As I said above, Natalie was a Facebook-perfect mother. She was one of those mothers who did everything perfectly. I was rolling my eyes whenever she yelled at her husband for bringing nonorganic food into the house. The scene where he bought the swing was a perfect example also. But at the same time, I did feel bad for her. She was struggling. Breastfeeding was hard for her, and she wasn’t expecting it to be painful. Oliver was a difficult baby, and she made it worse by holding him constantly. I called because she had PPD long before it was mentioned in the book. Natalie also wasn’t sleeping, and it was starting to mess with her. I was also a little irritated that no one, mainly her husband, caught on that she was depressed. It was so obvious (well, to me, it was). And it made it easy for Paul to prey on her.
I didn’t like Paul from the beginning. I have nothing against stay-at-home dads (actually, it’s excellent), but how he became one was awful. He had nothing nice to say about his wife, and that was a huge red flag to me when he started bad-mouthing her to Natalie. He just got skeevier and skeevier as the book went on. Poor Natalie didn’t know which end was up with him. The night of the Halloween party and the confrontation after were his doing. He was just a nasty man who did get what was coming to him.
I found the thriller/suspense angle of The New Mother interesting. I liked that the author kept the bad guy (Paul) first and foremost in the book. I loved that I got to see the planning that he did to frame Natalie. Some of it was genius. But, at the same time, I loved it when Natalie figured out what was happening and how she turned everything around on Paul.
The end of The New Mother didn’t quite gel with the rest of the book. The author fast-forwarded a few months and then explained what was happening. I wish that she hadn’t done that. I would have loved to see what she explained written out. I was left feeling meh about it. There was a humorous part of the ending where Natalie’s husband asked if they could have another baby, and she was like, “No, I’ll kill you.” I thought, “You’re having another one, lady.” I said the same thing after Miss B turned one, and then I went on to have two more children.
I would recommend The New Mother to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and nongraphic sexual situations.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books, NetGalley, and Nora Murphy for allowing me to read and review The New Mother. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of The New Mother, then you will enjoy reading these books:
When an anonymous neighborhood forum gets hacked, the darkest secrets of New York’s wealthiest residents come to light—including some worth killing for—in this gripping suspense novel from the author of Just One Look.
It was all confidential. Right up to the moment when it wasn’t.
UrbanMyth: It was lauded as an alternative to the performative, show-your-best-self platforms—an anonymous discussion board grouped by zip code. The residents of Manhattan’s exclusive Upper East Side disclosed it all, things they would never share with their friends or their spouses: secret bank accounts, steamy affairs, tidbits of juicy gossip. These are the same parents who would go to astonishing lengths to ensure their children gain admission to the most prestigious boarding schools and universities. So when a “hacktivist” group breaks into the forum and exposes the real identity behind each poster, the repercussions resound down Park Avenue with a force none could have anticipated.
And someone will end up dead.
Will it be Heather, the outsider who would do anything to get her daughter into the elite’s good graces and into even better schools? Norah, the high-powered suit failing to balance work and the emotional responsibilities of motherhood? Or Poppy, perfect on the outside but hiding more than her share of secrets?
Each of them has something to hide. Each of them will do anything to keep their secrets hidden. And each of them just might kill to protect their own.
Before it happened, I never noticed how many times a day an emergency vehicle drove past my apartment building. Their sirens blended in with the cacophony of New York City, an ambient noise that never roused my attention.
No One Needs to Know by Lindsay Cameron
When a hacktivist group hacks into the anonymous forum, UrbanMyth, it releases a firestorm of secrets for many people. But, in one affluent Upper East Side private school, it affects everyone. Some people will kill to keep those secrets under wraps, but who will it be? Is it Heather, the mother, who wants her daughter to become one of the elite? Or will it be Norah, the breadwinner in her family but failing to balance work and home life? Or will it be Poppy, the one everyone looks up to but who has the most to hide? Out of those three, who will kill to keep their secrets safe?
It is well known on this site that I have three children, two in high school and one in elementary school. I am well aware of the school’s social structure. I also find it silly that people compete for the title of PTA president. It is a huge popularity contest; honestly, I want nothing to do with it. I prefer to help the teachers out one-on-one (like volunteering in class) than to listen to a bunch of people argue over who will get what position. Anyway, when I saw that this book would be centered around three moms and their exposed secrets, I knew I wanted to read it. And I am glad that I did because this book was good.
No One Needs to Know initially captivated me, and I couldn’t put it down. The main storyline centers around Heather, Norah, and Poppy, with appearances by their husbands and children woven into the storyline. This storyline had so many twists and turns that I wondered when UrbanMyth would implode.
There is a secondary storyline that is intertwined with the main storyline. There are two parts to it. The first part is that Heather’s daughter has her picture taken with a vape at a school dance where no cameras are allowed. She is then painted as a drug dealer, and a few parents are on UrbanMyth spreading the lie. The second part is that Norah’s husband is sleeping with Poppy and blackmailing her. Those two parts are closely intertwined and linked to the main storyline.
As I stated in the previous paragraph, this book is twisty. If you aren’t paying attention, it can be easy to miss something. It didn’t bother me because I took notes (that you Kindle Scribe for that built-in feature), but it might be bothersome for some people.
I loved the characters in No One Needs to Know. I connected with the main ones (and the secondary ones) in a way that surprised even me. Those connections made the book so much better to read.
Heather reminded me of some moms I have encountered during my kids’ years at school. She wanted so badly to be accepted and would do anything to get into the inner circles. In the book, I wanted to shake her and say, “Lady, your kid is miserable.” By the end of the book, though, I was starting not to like her. She had lied to everyone, including her husband, about something significant. I understood why her husband freaked out. But Heather did surprise me. She threatened someone actively trying to get her daughter expelled (oh boy, that was a great scene) and secured her daughter’s future with another person.
Norah was an enigma to me. She wasn’t a huge presence in the book until about halfway through. I felt terrible for her and her poor daughter once I realized what was happening. She was a wreck when she told Norah what she captured on camera and how it tied into Poppy’s storyline. No child should have been put into that situation. I was glad that Norah took immediate action and got a little laugh (which then turned into a no way) when Norah’s mother offered to “help.” When Norah called to report her husband missing, she wasn’t expecting everything to blow up the way it did.
I didn’t like Poppy. She lived in her high tower, doing whatever she wanted without caring about who she hurt. She curried favors with people and treated them like they were dispensable. It didn’t surprise me with what she did to Norah. What did surprise me was that she almost felt guilty about it. I loved seeing her character decline mentally because of what she did. It was a perfect punishment!!
I loved that the author chose brief excerpts from UrbanMyth (before and after) and interactions with the police/faculty members (emails mainly) at the beginning of each chapter. It was like an adult burn book (remember those from high school!!) I almost want something like UrbanMyth to exist, but at the same time, I don’t.
The end of No One Needs to Know shook me up. I did not see anything coming, and it took me by surprise. Because of spoilers, I will not say anything else except that everyone got what they deserved.
I recommend No One Needs to Know to anyone over 21. There is violence, language, and nongraphic sexual situations.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam, NetGalley, and Lindsay Cameron for allowing me to read and review No One Needs to Know. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of No One Needs to Know, then you will enjoy these books:
From author of The Passage comes a standalone novel about a group of survivors on a hidden island utopia–where the truth isn’t what it seems.
Founded by the mysterious genius known as the Designer, the archipelago of Prospera lies hidden from the horrors of a deteriorating outside world. In this island paradise, Prospera’s lucky citizens enjoy long, fulfilling lives until the monitors embedded in their forearms, meant to measure their physical health and psychological well-being, fall below 10 percent. Then they retire themselves, embarking on a ferry ride to the island known as the Nursery, where their failing bodies are renewed, their memories are wiped clean, and they are readied to restart life afresh.
Proctor Bennett, of the Department of Social Contracts, has a satisfying career as a ferryman, gently shepherding people through the retirement process–and, when necessary, enforcing it. But all is not well with Proctor. For one thing, he’s been dreaming–which is supposed to be impossible in Prospera. For another, his monitor percentage has begun to drop alarmingly fast. And then comes the day he is summoned to retire his own father, who gives him a disturbing and cryptic message before being wrestled onto the ferry.
Meanwhile, something is stirring. The Support Staff, ordinary men and women who provide the labor to keep Prospera running, have begun to question their place in the social order. Unrest is building, and there are rumors spreading of a resistance group–known as “Arrivalists”–who may be fomenting revolution.
Soon Proctor finds himself questioning everything he once believed, entangled with a much bigger cause than he realized–and on a desperate mission to uncover the truth.
Dawn is breaking when she creeps from the house. The air is cool and fresh; birds are singing in the trees.
The Ferryman by Justin Cronin
Prospera is an island utopia that the mysterious Designer founded to shield people from climate change and the general chaos of the outside world. Death is not known in Prospera. All residents wear a monitor embedded in their arms, and those monitors measure their physical and mental health. Once the meter falls below 10percent, the citizens must retire to the Nursery. There, their memories are wiped, their bodies rejuvenated, and they are readied to start life again as a teenager. But things are beginning to change in Prospera. The support staff, who mainly live in the Annex, are beginning to question their place in the social order of the island, and a resistance group is formed. While that is happening, Proctor Bennett, the Director of Social Contracts, is having a crisis. He has been dreaming, something no one on the island should be able to do. Proctor also received a cryptic message from his father shortly before his father forcibly retired. Running into roadblocks, Proctor starts to realize that there is more going on in Prospera than he realized and that Prospera isn’t what he thinks it is. What will happen when Proctor uncovers the truth? Will he be able to handle it?
I first heard about The Ferryman when I read several reviews on blogs I follow. What I read got me very interested in reading it. But I figured I would have to wait for it to be published to read it. It so happens that I saw it was on Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine’s NetGalley page as a wish. So I figured I would wish for it and see if I got it. And as you can see, I did. I was very excited; this became the book I read this spring. I hyped it up in my mind, and I became a little wary about it. Usually, when I get so excited to read a book, I get let down. Not in this case. Nope, this book definitely delivered for me!!
The Ferryman centers its storyline around Proctor. Proctor is an Elite. From the age of 15/16, he grew up lacking nothing on Prospera. He eventually married an artist and became head the Director of Social Contracts (who oversaw the ferryman). Life was good until it wasn’t. The author briefly explains Proctor’s early life, including the death of his beloved mother. More focus was on Proctor’s dreams, his rapidly falling stats on his monitor, and his shaky mental health. Everything started to happen after Proctor was forced to retire his father, and his father kept repeating a word over and over. That starts Proctor’s digging into the truth, and what he uncovers is amazing and, frankly, a little scary (and I am applying what was revealed in the last part of the book to this statement)
The other main storyline in The Ferryman centers around Thea, The Annex, Mother, and the resistance. The author did a wonderful job of keeping me guessing how Thea was involved and why she sought out Proctor. And when he melded the storylines, it was gold. I loved it!!!
There was a major secondary storyline involving the heads of the society. I can’t get much into it, but everything they were doing made sense once it was explained. I can’t give any more detail than that. But I was a little surprised by what Proctor did at the end. I was left scratching my head at first, but then I thought of the old saying: Keep your friends close but your enemies closer. Then it made perfect sense.
The characters in The Ferryman were well-written and fleshed out. I wish I could go more into them because there is more to their characters than what is revealed at first. I loved the comparisons once the author dropped his bombshell. It made sense.
I liked Proctor. He was a natural leader, but he was so confused by what was happening to him. I liked that even his dreams kept telling him to do things. I also liked that his dreams hinted at something that could destroy him. When that was revealed, it did. But then he got back up and resolved to keep fighting.
I thought Thea was awesome. I had her pegged as someone totally different than what she was portrayed as. Her actions throughout the book showed that. She loved Proctor to the point where she was willing to let him go.
The end of The Ferryman was amazing. The author explained everything that was going on in the book. And when I say everything, I mean everything. All of my questions were answered, and then some. Did I agree with what Proctor did at the end of the book? Not really, but I got why he did it. There was also a big twist involving Thea that I maybe should have seen coming, but I didn’t.
I recommend The Ferryman to anyone over 21. There is language, mild sexual situations, and violence.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books, NetGalley, and Justin Cronin for allowing me to read and review The Ferryman. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of The Ferryman, then you will enjoy reading these books:
Trigger Warnings: Alcohol consumption by minors, Anxiety disorders (mentioned), Blood, Gore, Body Horror, Cannibalism, Captivity, Confinement, Dead bodies, body parts, Deadnaming, Death of a grandparent, Death of a sibling, drugging, drug use, fire, grief, loss, gun violence, intrusive thoughts, murder, needles, syringes, nightmares, parental neglect, pandemic, scars, sexism, suicidal ideation, transphobia
Four best friends, one music festival, and a cooler filled with human organs: this summer is about to get gory.
Jennifer’s Body fans will clamor for this new sapphic horror standalone from New York Times bestselling author Kayla Cottingham.
Three years ago, the melting of arctic permafrost released a pathogen of unknown origin into the atmosphere, causing a small percentage of people to undergo a transformation that became known as the Hollowing. Those impacted slowly became intolerant to normal food and were only able to gain sustenance by consuming the flesh of other human beings. Those who went without flesh quickly became feral, turning on their friends and family. However, scientists were able to create a synthetic version of human meat that would satisfy the hunger of those impacted by the Hollowing. As a result, humanity slowly began to return to normal, albeit with lasting fear and distrust for the people they’d pejoratively dubbed ghouls.
Zoey, Celeste, Valeria, and Jasmine are all ghouls living in Southern California. As a last hurrah before their graduation they decided to attend a musical festival in the desert. They have a cooler filled with hard seltzers and SynFlesh and are ready to party.
But on the first night of the festival Val goes feral, and ends up killing and eating a boy. As other festival guests start disappearing around them the girls soon discover someone is drugging ghouls and making them feral. And if they can’t figure out how to stop it, and soon, no one at the festival is safe.
When my parents asked if I wanted a Mini Cooper for graduation, I didn’t think ahead to whether or not it would have enough trunk space to accommodate my cooler full of organs.
This Delicious Death by Kayla Cottingham
Zoey, Celeste, Valeria, and Jasmine are preparing to attend a desert music festival. This event is a big deal for them because they were infected with a pathogen three years earlier, which turned them into ghouls. They all rely on synthetic meat to satisfy their hunger, which keeps them from going feral (and turning back into ghouls). But ghouls are feared, and the girls are monitored constantly. So, taking this trip is a big deal to them. But, on the first night, Valeria goes feral, killing and eating a boy. After investigating why Valeria went feral, the girls make a surprising discovery: someone is drugging ghouls and causing them to go feral. With other guests going missing and the National Guard on their way to round up the ghouls, the girls must find out who is behind it and why. But, what they discover is just the tip of something much bigger than what they realized. Can they stop the people behind it? Can they retain their humanity?
I had initially seen This Delicious Death floating around the blogosphere. I liked the blurb for the book and made it a point to put it on my short list of books I want to read. Then I got an email from NetGalley saying they had the book on a limited Read Now for the first 500 people. I made sure that I immediately downloaded it. I can’t even begin to express how excited I was about this. The funny thing about this is that I am terrified of any zombie movie/tv show/book—I legit freak out. So I was curious how I would react when reading This Delicious Death. I didn’t have the reaction I thought, and I loved it!!
This Delicious Death has numerous trigger/content warnings. The author kindly lists everything at the beginning of the book. They are:
Alcohol Consumption by Minors:Zoey, Celeste, Valeria, and Jasmine drink constantly throughout the book. They are served at bars set up at the festival also.
Anxiety Disorders: It is mentioned throughout the book that Celeste and Zoey have anxiety. Also, Jessica and Valeria have anxiety because of what they went through during the Hollowing.
Blood: There is a lot of blood in this book. Seeing that it is a zombie book, I would have been surprised if there wasn’t blood.
Gore: There is a lot of gore throughout This Delicious Death. The explicit scenes happen during each girl’s flashback to the Hollowing, Cole’s flashback, Valeria’s feral scenes, and the scenes in Facility B.
Body Horror: There are quite a few scenes where the author graphically describes the girls eating synthetic organs and meat. There are also scenes where the author details the girls (in their flashbacks) killing and eating people. There are scenes towards the end of the book where the girls watch a ghoul (called the anthropophagi) kill and eat a boy in front of them.
Cannibalism: The girls need to eat human flesh so they don’t become ghouls. It is graphically detailed throughout the book.
Captivity:Celeste and Zoey are captured and held at two different facilities while they are ghouls. The anthropophagi are held captive in Facility B. While at the festival, Celeste, Jasmine, and Zoey are in their cabin.
Confinement:Zoey was confined to a facility for months longer than Celeste. Valeria was confined to her house and then her room during the onset of the pandemic. The four girls are confined to their cabin before going to Facility B and after the events at Facility B.
Dead Bodies: There are dead bodies throughout the book. Some, the girls caused (in their flashbacks and present day), and others, they stumbled upon.
Body Parts: The girls must eat organs and body parts to satisfy their ghouls. Different body parts appear once ghouls start getting drugged and the anthropophagi are removed from Facility B.
Deadnaming: Celeste (who is trans) is almost deadnamed at a party after the Hollowing. The author stopped short of having that person say what her male name was.
Death of a grandparent: Jasmine’s grandmother was killed after she turned. Jasmine and her younger brother left when her grandmother started tearing up her bedroom.
Death of a sibling:Cole killed and ate his older sister while she was on Facebook Live with her boyfriend (who was also Cole’s bandmate). Cole never recovered from doing that.
Drugging:Celeste and Zoey were drugged during their capture. Zoey was drugged constantly during her captivity. Valeria was drugged at a bar, turned feral, and killed the boy she was with. His bandmates drugged Cole towards the end of the book, and he went feral.
Drug Use: I think that drugs were used recreationally by other festival-goers. I don’t believe that the girls (or Cole) used drugs.
Fire: A fire was deliberately set in Facility B at the end of the book.
Grief: Both Celeste and Zoey grieve the deaths of the hunter and camp counselor they killed and ate. Jasmine grieves that she has scarred her brother for life. Valeria grieves what she did to survive. Cole grieves what he did to his sister.
Loss: Each of the main characters experienced loss. There is too much to go into, but the author covers each person individually in their flashbacks and thepresent day.
Gun Violence: In flashbacks, a hunter holds Celeste and Zoey at rifle point, and Zoey is shot. Present day, Celeste is shot by a National Guardsman while distracting them from seeing Zoey and Jasmine going after Valeria.
Intrusive Thoughts:Zoey is tortured by what she did while a ghoul and thinks about suicide. Cole is also tormented by what he did.
Murder:Zoey and Celeste murder their camp counselor and the hunter. Jasmine murders the white supremacist couple that was threatening her brother. Valeria murders the star football player in a scuffle over a corpse. Valeria murders the boy she was with at the bar. Cole murders his sister.
Needles:Zoey is given medication through her neck with a needle while confined. Celeste takes her hormones with needles. Jasmine gives Valeria the antidote with a needle to the neck.
Syringes: See above.
Nightmares: All four girls suffer from nightmares from what they did while they were ghouls. The same goes for Cole.
Parental Neglect:Zoey’s parents refuse to have anything to do with her after she returns home. Her parents are terrified of her. She is painfully aware of that.
Pandemic:The Hollowing is caused by a pathogen released by melting polar ice caps. That sets off a worldwide pandemic of ghouls.
Scars: The girls and Cole have mental scars from their Hollowing.
Sexism: The lead singer of the band that Cole is in is sexist. He makes several remarks during the book that set me on edge.
Suicidal Ideation:Zoey and Cole have thoughts about suicide during the book. This is directly related to what they went through during the Hollowing.
Transphobia:Celeste is trans (male to female). She is afraid to tell her followers (she is an influencer) because of the transphobic backlash. There is a small moment of transphobia at a party she is at with Valeria and Zoey, but Jasmine stops it.
This is a lengthy list. If any of these triggers you, I suggest not reading the book.
The main storyline of This Delicious Death centers around the four girls (Zoey, Celeste, Jasmine, and Valeria), their trip to the festival, the mystery of who is behind drugging the ghouls and why, and the girls’ backstories. Let’s start with the backstories first. The author gave each girl a smallish chapter explaining how they became ghouls. It was heartbreaking in all cases because of how young they were. They were all around 15 years old, and they were all in different parts of California. The author details what they did to survive and sometimes did it explicitly. But those chapters were sprinkled throughout the book. The main focus was on Valeria going feral and why. I loved how the girls went about their investigations. They were resourceful with their limitations. Because they were ghouls, they were not allowed to go beyond certain boundaries. Once they discovered the drug, it was a search for who and why. It was a very twisty investigation, and I was surprised at what the girls turned up. I wasn’t surprised at who was behind it (because I had an idea it was those people).
The main characters (Celeste, Zoey, Jasmine, and Valeria) were well-written and multifaceted. I liked that they were diverse, but at the same time, they weren’t (if that makes sense). I liked that each girl brought their personality to the story. Even when they were fighting, which they did quite a bit of in the middle of the book, they were still respectful of each other and watched out for each other. It was watching out for each other that eventually paved the way to the ending events of the book.
The romance angle of the book was well played out. You knew what Zoey’s feelings were for Celeste since page one. She was in love with her. But she wasn’t sure how Celeste felt about Zoey, and the author kept it that way until the end of the book. I wasn’t sure if I liked the almost romance between Zoey and Cole, mainly because it didn’t feel right.
The mystery angle of This Delicious Death was wonderfully written. The author had me guessing who drugged Valeria and the other ghouls. I liked how the girls did their investigations and ended up at Facility B. But how they tied everything together (with Cole’s help) and decided to get the antidote to the drug and rescue Valeria made the book!!
I was almost unreasonably angry with Zoey’s parents. Finding out your kid had been changed into a flesh-eating monster was soul-shattering. But to let her languish in that detention center and treat her like dirt when she got out was awful. For three years, she raised herself while her parents made themselves scarce. At least she had a parent in Celeste’s mom. Speaking of Celeste’s mom, she was the MVP of the entire book. She was one of the most accepting, down-to-earth, loving people ever!! I was jealous of Celeste.
An interesting secondary storyline involved Cole’s stepfather, the drug he tested out, and ghouls that went crazy. There was a point in the book where I wondered if the author would explain the background of the anthropophagi. I wasn’t expecting the horrible backstory to that, though. I also didn’t expect Cole’s stepfather to develop a conscience about his actions and create an antidote.
The end of This Delicious Death was gripping and heartbreaking. I expected everything to go down differently than it did. I’m not going to go much more into it other than that.
I would recommend This Delicious Death to anyone over 21. There is violence, language, and nongraphic sexual situations. Also, see the very long list of triggers above.
Many thanks to Sourcebooks Fire, NetGalley, and Kayla Cottingham for allowing me to read and review ThisDelicious Death. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of This Delicious Death, then you will enjoy reading these books:
he next gut-punching, compulsively readable Kate McLaughlin novel, about a girl finding strength in not being alone.
When eighteen-year-old Dylan wakes up, she’s in an apartment she doesn’t recognize. The other people there seem to know her, but she doesn’t know them – not even the pretty, chiseled boy who tells her his name is Connor. A voice inside her head keeps saying that everything is okay, but Dylan can’t help but freak out. Especially when she borrows Connor’s phone to call home and realizes she’s been missing for three days.
Dylan has lost time before, but never like this.
Soon after, Dylan is diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, and must grapple not only with the many people currently crammed inside her head, but that a secret from her past so terrible she’s blocked it out has put them there. Her only distraction is a budding new relationship with Connor. But as she gets closer to finding out the truth, Dylan wonders: will it heal her or fracture her further?
Wake up. I snuggle deeper into the blankets, trying to puysh away the voice in my head.
Pieces of Me by Kate McLaughlin
When Dylan wakes up in an unknown apartment, she is freaked out. She has no idea where she is or how she got there. She is doubly freaked out when she calls home and realizes she has been missing for three days. Things go from bad to worse when Dylan attempts suicide and is hospitalized. She is soon diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. As she begins to accept her diagnosis, she realizes there is a reason why her alters were created. With the help of Connor, the man whose apartment she woke up in, Dylan begins to unravel the secrets to why her alters were created. Will she uncover the truth, and if she does, will she be able to start to heal? Or will the truth destroy her?
Usually, I would have left the trigger warnings where they are at the beginning of the review. But, in this case, I am going to list them. Listing the triggers with how raw this book is will help you decide on reading it. The triggers are:
Attempted Suicide: One of Dylan’s alters, Scratch, a protector alter, decided that the only way to help Dylan was to kill herself. Dylan woke up (for lack of a better word) right after Scratch’s attempt.
Childhood Sexual Abuse:Dylan created her alters to protect herself from years of sexual abuse from someone she knew.
Sexual Assualt: See above
Alcohol Abuse:Dylan abused alcohol regularly in high school.
Mental Illness:Dylan suffers from many mental illnesses, including anxiety and borderline personality disorder. She is diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder after her suicide attempt.
If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book.
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, this is a raw book. I was unprepared for how raw it was and how it affected me. The emotions of Dylan, her family, and her friends came off the page and affected me to the point where I needed to put the book down. I couldn’t breathe because I was so upset with everything in the book.
Pieces of Me main storyline follows Dylan, her eventual diagnosis, her numerous alters, the treatment, her remembering of what happened, and what happens when she breaks her silence. I found the entire storyline heartbreaking. I was glad that the author chose to show Dylan’s memories of her childhood sexual abuse selectively. I don’t know if I could have dealt with reading what a grown man did to a 5-year-old. Some parts of the storyline felt unreal, like Dylan initially coming to her DiD diagnosis through a questionnaire her best friend found. But that aside, this storyline did keep me glued to the book.
I wasn’t too sure about how I felt about Dylan or her alters. I felt terrible because she was dealing with severe mental health issues. She came across as very immature during the book’s first half. But, I did see her character grow with her when she officially got her DiD diagnosis. The rules she set down for her alters were funny and sad at the same time. But I liked that her internal house (where her alters lived) also changed. The author spent time introducing the main alters and explaining their roles.
There were several secondary characters in Pieces of Me. I thought Dylan’s best friend was an alter until her brother started hooking up with her best friend. Speaking of her brother, I couldn’t stand him, but I got that he was so skeptical of Dylan’s diagnosis. Still, it didn’t excuse his behavior.
I wasn’t a fan of Dylan’s romance angle with Connor. I thought it was too fast, too soon. But he was good for her and did his homework when it came to being with someone with DiD.
Pieces of Me had a happyish ending. I say happyish because Dylan’s abuser was finally being brought to justice. But it caused a massive schism in her family. But the author did leave room for healing, and Dylan understood why a specific person in her life wanted to stand by her abuser. I liked how the alters was becoming accepting of integrating with Dylan. I almost wished there was an epilogue showing Dylan 5 years down the road and where she was in her journey.
I want to add that the author did post an author’s note at the end of the book. It explained the amount of research the author did on DiD.
I recommend Pieces of Me to anyone over 18. There is language, sexual situations (nongraphic), and violence. Also, see my trigger warning list above.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books, NetGalley, and Kate McLaughlin for allowing me to read and review Pieces of Me. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of Pieces of Me, then you will enjoy reading these books:
Widowed sounded better than divorced. Or at least it did the first time.
Despite having survived the trials and tribulations of The Diseased – Paige finds herself in a situation that seems even more impossible.
The President is dying.
Those four words set Paige’s life on a course she could never have predicted.
The President is dying, only Paige can save him.
Those eight words are the only ones keeping her friends Georgia and Violet alive.
The President is dying, only Paige can save him. She won’t.
It is those ten words that keep Paige motivated, that keep her sane.
The President is sick. Those four words are the tiny gap between life and death for me.
Body Count by S.M. Thomas
Starting shortly after the events of The Diseased, Body Count follows Paige, Georgia, and Violet as they try to keep one step ahead of Paul, the President’s advisor. The President is dying, and Paige knows how to cure him. But she won’t tell. The lives of her son, Georgia, and Violet depend on her silence. Paige is also starting to remember the night of the car accident that killed her husband and caused her amnesia. What she remembers could be the thing that breaks her. What happened that night? Who can’t she trust? Will she be able to save her son and friends?
I don’t even know where to begin with Body Count. I was super excited when I got the heads-up email from the author and immediately downloaded it. I devoured this book. It took me over 3 hours to read. I read it in the car pick-up line (the best place for uninterrupted reading), at dinner, and in bed.
Body Count is the 2nd book in the Paige Hanson series. This book is not standalone. You need to read book 1 to understand what is happening in book 2. If you do read book two first, you will be confused.
Body Count is a fast-paced book that is set on the planet of Earth 2. Most of the book takes place in apartments where Paige, Georgia, and Violet are held captive or in the lab where Paige has done much of her work. This environment, along with the intense pressure that Paige is under for more than 90% of the book, is perfect for the book.
I liked Paige. There were times when I wanted to take her and hug her. Her mental state was shaky during the first half of the book. Not that I blamed her for feeling the way that she did. She thought she couldn’t trust anyone, including her best friend, Violet. She also was dealing with her memory coming back. It wasn’t like a waterfall, and everything came back at once. Nope, it was disjointed and confusing. There were things she remembered that didn’t make sense. But still, she was one of the strongest people in the book.
The secondary characters of Violet, Georgia, Ryle, and Paul were well-written. I liked that the author made it a point to make me not trust Violet, Georgia, or Ryle. Paul, on the other hand, was despicable. He was a faithful sycophant. Like Paige’s, my trust in Violet, Georgia, and Ryle wasn’t strong. I kept wondering what ulterior motives they had.
The main storyline was fantastic. As I said, Paige’s mental health was shaky for the book’s first half. It was understandable with everything that she had been through. She didn’t trust anyone and told her friends half-truths about things. It was understandable. But the book’s second half is where everything starts to pick up. Paige’s memory started returning, and she planned to get her, her friends, and her son out. There are a few big twists in the storyline that I did not see coming. It was sad when her memory returned, and she understood what her husband was trying to say. The author also didn’t hesitate to kill off the main characters. I was shocked at who was killed off. I didn’t see it coming and felt blindsided.
The end of Body Count annoyed me. Mainly because it ended with a To Be Continued. While I am glad that there will be another book, and I hope that Paige gets her revenge, I also wanted a resolution now (stamping my foot like Veruca Salt). I guess I’ll have to wait….sigh.
I would recommend Body Count to anyone over 21. There is language and violence but no sexual situations. Also, see my list of trigger warnings at the beginning of the post.
Many thanks to S.M. Thomas for allowing me to read and review Body Count. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
A twisty, domestic suspense debut about a clique of mothers that shatters when one of their own is murdered, bringing chaos to their curated lives.
She was the perfect wife, with the perfect life. You would kill to have it…
Ciara Dunphy has it all–a loving husband, well-behaved children, and a beautiful home. Her circle of friends in their small Irish village go to her for tips about mothering, style, and influencer success–a picture-perfect life is easy money on Instagram. But behind the filters, reality is less polished.
Enter Mishti Guha: Ciara’s best friend. Ciara welcomed Mishti into her inner circle for being… unlike the other mothers in the group. But, discontent in a marriage arranged for her through her parents back in Calcutta, Mishti now raises her young daughter in a country that is too cold, among the children of her new friends who look nothing like her. She just wants what Ciara has–the ease with which she moves through the world–and in that sense, Mishti might be exactly like the other mothers.
And there’s earth mother Lauren Doyle, born, bred, and the butt of jokes in their village. With her disheveled partner and children who run naked in the yard, they’re mostly a happy lot, though unsurprisingly ostracized for being the singular dysfunction in Ciara’s immaculate world. When Lauren finds an unlikely ally in Mishti, she decides that her days of ridicule are over.
Then Ciara is found murdered in her own pristine home, and the house of cards she’d worked so hard to build comes crumbling down. Everyone seems to have something to gain from Ciara’s death, so if they don’t want the blame, it may be the perfect time to air their enemies’ dirty laundry.
In this dazzling debut novel, Disha Bose revolutionizes age-old ideas of love and deceit. What ensues is the delicious unspooling of a group of women desperate to preserve themselves.
The house smelled of porridge, detergent, and soiled nappies. A few years ago, it smelled of patchouli, filered coffee, and Black Opium by Yves Saint Laurent.
Diry Laundry by Disha Bose
Online, Ciara has a perfect life with perfect children and a perfect husband. In real life, though, Ciara is nothing like the image she has carefully cultivated. Her life would be perfect if her neighbor, Lauren, would take her disorganized, messy life and leave the village. Lauren will not go, so Ciara begins to make Lauren an outcast in their small village. Not that Lauren isn’t used to it. She grew up in this village and was bullied mercilessly by the same women she desperately wanted to connect with. She finds a friend and ally in Mishti. Mishti, originally from Calcutta, finds Ireland cold and wants to return to her family. Friends with Ciara, Mishti begins to see what type of person she is and starts to distance herself from Ciara. Then, one morning, Ciara is found dead in her house. Who wanted Ciara dead, and why? The answer to that question might shock you because nothing is what it seems about Ciara’s death.
Dirty Laundry was different from what I thought it would be, and you know what? I enjoyed it. As I read it, I did compare it to soap operas (mostly Days of Our Lives). The author did a great job of portraying the downfall of the Queen Bee of the local mom group in that village. I couldn’t get enough of it.
Before I get into the review, I want to inform you about this book’s trigger warnings. They would be:
Cheating (Ciara, Parth (Mishti’s husband), and Sean (Lauren’s partner) cheated on their SOs constantly. For the most part, it wasn’t graphic.)
Adult Bullying (Ciara led a group of women in bullying Lauren, and this did extend to Lauren’s children. Ciara was vicious with her attacks against Lauren, online and in person)
Childhood Bullying (Lauren was bullied by the other children in her village her whole life. The author showcased a few examples in the book. Also, Lauren’s children were bullied by the children of Lauren’s bullies. It was never shown, but Freya, her oldest daughter, did mention it a couple of times in the book)
Stalking (Before Sean and Lauren had children, Lauren stalked an ex-girlfriend of his and attacked her)
Arranged Marriage (Mishti and Parth had an arranged marriage, which Mishti didn’t want)
Marital Rape (There was one scene where Parth forced Mishti into having sex with him)
Neglect (Ciara neglected her children, Bella and Finn. The baby was only picked up or comforted if it was for online pictures. Mishti did pick up Finn at one point in the book to comfort him, and Ciara blew up at her)
Drug Use (Ciara was addicted to pills and used Parth to write her a prescription. Sean and Lauren used pot recreationally)
Depression (Mishti was depressed since she got married and had her daughter. She had let herself go and could barely make herself do things)
Mental Illness (Ciara was a narcissist. I do believe that Lauren had a mental illness. She revealed that she would have missing periods, and there was one point where she blacked out after Sean started hooking up with his ex-girlfriend).
Domestic Violence (Parth pushed Mishti around at least once during the book. Sean and Lauren had a very volatile relationship, which consisted of verbal and mental abuse of each other)
If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading the book.
I rarely flat-out disliked a character right from the beginning of a book. Ciara falls into that category. I don’t know how to describe her other than evil and narcissistic. She doesn’t care who she hurts and how they get hurt as long as she gets her way. And if you were in her crosshairs, forget about it. She would hurt you any way she could. But, I was surprised that she was willing to do what she did to Mishti. I figured that Mishti was exempt from Ciara’s shenanigans. But I was wrong. And I was doubly surprised at who she was sleeping with. Never, in a million years, would I have picked that person. My sympathy lay with her husband. And guess what? I didn’t blame him at all for his actions at the end of the book.
I couldn’t quite get a good handle on Mishti until her scenes in Calcutta. I felt terrible for her because she was trapped in a lonely marriage. But, as her storyline went on, I started to like her. Yes, she made mistakes, and yes, she was punishing herself for them. But, she resolved some of her regret and guilt when talking to her ex-boyfriend. I also liked how she wasn’t surprised when discovering Parth’s secret. I loved how her mind said, “How can I use this to take a trip back to Calcutta?” I was also not surprised at what she did at the end of the book.
Out of the three main characters, I liked Lauren the best. She got off on the wrong foot with Ciara, but she was a new mother with zero support from her partner and was operating on zero sleep. I didn’t blame her for being snippy. I also understood why she wanted to fit in with the other moms in her village. She tried to patch things up with Ciara until certain things were revealed. And you know what, I would have done the same thing, confronting Ciara. Unlike Ciara, her children’s happiness came first, and it showed. Freya, Harry, and Willow were happy, well-adjusted children. I was surprised by what she did at the beginning and her actions at the end of the book. I couldn’t help but feel that everything would be pinned on her.
The main storyline centers on Ciara, her murder, and the events leading up to it. The plotline does jump around quite a bit, but I didn’t care. As I said above, it was like I was reading a script for a soap opera. The author clearly states who the chapter is about and how far before Ciara’s murder, the events in the chapter took place. There was so much to unpack in each chapter, and the author did it wonderfully.
There were several sub-storylines with Parth, Sean, and Gerry (Ciara’s husband). Each storyline adds additional insight into how and why Ciara died. I loved reading them because of the extra understanding I got.
The end of Dirty Laundry was a free for all. The author told Ciara’s death from four perspectives (Sean, Gerry,Parth, and Mishti). Each view had an element that threw Ciara’s death into a new light. I am not going to go much more into the end. But, as I said above, Lauren will get the raw end of the deal because of her history with Ciara (and notice how she wasn’t on my list of people at the beginning of the paragraph).
I would recommend Dirty Laundry for anyone over 21. There are violence, language, and non-graphic sexual scenes. Also, see my list of trigger warnings.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books, NetGalley, and Disha Bose for allowing me to read and review Dirty Laundry. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of Dirty Laundry, then you will enjoy these books:
A con artist can make you feel like the luckiest person on earth just to be in their presence. But when the jig is up, they ghost, and you’re left wondering if you ever mattered
After the death of her wife, Shelby feels more alone than ever—until she meets Cammie, a charismatic woman unafraid of what anyone else thinks and whose own history of trauma draws Shelby close. When Cammie is fired from her job and admits she is in treatment for kidney cancer, Shelby devotes all her time to helping Cammie thrive. But Shelby’s intuition tells her there are things about Cammie’s past that don’t add up. Could the realest thing about Cammie be that she’s actually a scammer?
Gibson is almost forty, fresh from a divorce and deeply depressed. Then he meets and falls in love with Cammie. Suddenly, he’s having the best sex of his life with a woman so attractive he’s stunned she even glanced his way, and for the first time ever he feels truly known. This is the kind of desire and passion that musicians have been writing love songs about for centuries. But Gibson’s friends are wary of Cammie, and eventually he too has to admit that Cammie’s dramatic life can feel a bit over the top.
When Shelby and Gibson find out Cammie is a pathological liar, they struggle to understand what they really want from her—sometimes they want to help her heal from whatever causes her to invent reality, and sometimes they want revenge. But the biggest question of all is: how honest can Shelby and Gibson be about their own characters?
I was kidnapped when I was eight years old. I was sitting in the Oldsmobile, the one we called Carla Number 3, with the broken passenger-side door that was held together with bailer twine and bungee cords.
The Fake by Zoe Whittall
Gibson is still reeling from a divorce he didn’t see coming when he meets Cammie. Immediately taken by her, Gibson doesn’t at first notice the inconsistencies in her stories. He is just happy to find someone who loves him. Shelby is devastated by the sudden death of her wife. She suffers from hypochondria and severe anxiety and is floundering until she attends a grief counseling session. There, Shelby meets Cammie, who is grieving the death of her best friend. Connecting with her on a level that she only had associated with her deceased wife, Shelby opens her house to Cammie. But Shelby and Gibson soon discover that Cammie’s stories aren’t adding up. What happens when Gibson and Shelby meet up and compare notes? How will Cammie react? Will they be able to confront her?
This book is told from 3 different points of view: Cammie (in the beginning and end), Gibson, and Shelby. Cammie gave the start and ending notes (and her explanation for what happened). But, the main focus of the book was on Gibson and Shelby. Everything that happened was seen from their POVs (well, it was 3rd person), with Cammie being featured heavily. Usually, I’m not too fond of books with multiple POVs, but it worked in this case.
Cammie was a freaking trip. From her opening note, I knew her version of the truth wouldn’t align with Gibson or Shelby. Cammie is a scam artist and a psychological liar. She went out of her way to find people who were hurting/damaged. Cammie gaslighted her way through the book, and when Gibson and Shelby backed her into a corner, Cammie freaked out. But her ending did make me pause and wonder about some of the things she told Shelby and Gibson were true.
I felt terrible for Gibson. He was genuinely struggling after his divorce, and Cammie saw that. All he wanted was someone who made him feel attractive and who appreciated him for him. Cammie’s lies started on day one with him. Thankfully, he had a good group of supportive friends that refused to allow Cammie to bring her drama and lies into their lives. He was such a nice guy that he even went to help Shelby when Cammie started getting too much for her. I liked how his experience shaped him and how he turned out.
Shelby, on the other hand, was a hot mess. I don’t even know where to begin with her. She suffered from extreme medical anxiety and extreme general anxiety. Coupled with her devastation over her wife’s death, she was a freaking mess. I was not faulting her there because I would have been too. But, the one time she decides to go to a grief counseling group, she meets Cammie. And, of course, Cammie latches on to her. In a way, Shelby got the sharper end of the stick with Cammie than Gibson. But Shelby became obsessed with helping Cammie, which drove her to a mental breakdown. Her story resonated with me the most because of her ending.
The Fake didn’t have a happy ending; in a way, for all three, it did. It was more bittersweet and reflective. It was also more Shelby and Gibson coming to terms with themselves and why/how they let someone like Cammie into their lives.
Cammie did get the last note in. She wrapped everything up perfectly and tried to spin the story her way (I lovedhow the author did that). As I said above, I also wondered if some of her stories were genuine. You know that there is always a kernel of truth in a lie. That may be the case here, which is why I liked this book so much.
There are trigger warnings in The Fake. They are cancer, toxic relationships, gaslighting, death, mental illness, physical abuse, addiction, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book.
I would recommend The Fake to anyone over 21. There are language, violence, and sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning paragraph.
Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books, NetGalley, and Zoe Whittall for allowing me to read and review The Fake. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of The Fake, you will enjoy reading these books:
A stay-at-home mom with a past. A has-been rock star with a habit. A reality TV producer with a debt. Three disparate lives. One deadly secret.
Twenty five years ago, Jenna, Donnie, and Nico were the best of friends, a bond forged as residents of Savior House, an abusive group home for parentless teens. When the home was shut down—after the disappearance of several kids—the three were split up.
Though the trauma of their childhood has never left them, each went on to live successful, if troubled, lives. They haven’t seen one another since they were teens but now are reunited for a single haunting reason: someone is trying to kill them.
To save their lives, the group will have to revisit the nightmares of their childhoods and confront their past—a past that holds the secret to why someone wants them dead.
It’s a reunion none of them asked for… or wanted. But it may be the only way to save all their lives.
At the top of a knoll through a break in the trees, five teenagers stand at the edge of a shallow grave.
What Have We Done by Alex Finlay
Twenty-five years ago, five teenagers did something terrible but necessary (in their eyes). After their group home was dissolved, the five were separated and went to successful but troubled lives. Jenna is a stay-at-home mom, Nico is a reality TV producer with a massive gambling debt, Donnie is a rock star, Ben is a respected judge, and Artemis is a billionaire. Their lives are good until suddenly, one day, Ben is killed. Shortly after, Donnie and Nico are injured in accidents that turn out to be hits on their lives.
On the other hand, Jenna is set up for an attempted assassination. With the assassins hot on their trail, the three must go back to where it all began-the group home that they lived in. There, they must face the past and what they did that night. Because all is not what it seems, and the enemy might be closer than they think.
I accepted the publisher’s invitation to read this book because it was a thriller and a mystery. Since I enjoy both, I figured I would like What Have We Done. And I did. But I was captivated by how the author spun Jenna, Nico, Donnie, Ben, and Artemis’s stories. I couldn’t get enough of their backstories.
What Have We Done is told from several different points of view. The main ones are Jenna, Nico, Donnie, and the psychotic twins. This book also goes between past and present but does it fluidly. There were only a couple of times when I couldn’t immediately figure out what was happening and who the chapter was focused on.
The characters in What Have We Done were well-written and well-fleshed out. But I couldn’t connect with Donnie or Nico. They were just too damaged and a little self-centered (ok, a lot self-centered). Jenna was the one I connected with, and I couldn’t wait to read her chapters. I loved seeing her rely on her former assassin skills to outwit the twins. Plus, when her family was threatened, she didn’t run. Nope, she made her husband run with their daughters while she laid a trail away from them.
I do want to mention the psychopathic twins. I shouldn’t have laughed at them, but they bungled everything. They couldn’t kill their objectives (but had no issues killing other people). They were almost cartoonish in their mannerisms. The scene at the very end of the book with Jenna, her ex-handlers, and the remaining twin was pretty awesome!
Of course, I liked seeing them get their just deserts.
The main plotline with Nico, Donnie, and Jenna investigating Ben’s death and trying to figure out if someone found out about what they did twenty-five years earlier was exciting and action-packed. Donnie was a little useless in this storyline (he was busy telling his story to a ghostwriter). Nico and Jenna were the ones who pieced together everything that was happening. I saw a twist in this storyline coming, but it still surprised me.
The alternating storyline at the group home (with Ben, Nico, Donnie, Jenna, and Artemis) was alarming. I was horrified at what those kids were going through and the rate at which the girls in the home disappeared. Some were explained (like Jenna), but the others weren’t until the end of the book. It wasn’t until a crucial scene towards the end of the book that things were revealed. And let’s say that it made me sick. But, this plotline has a huge twist revealed during the showdown as adults. My mouth dropped when that confession was made. I did not see it coming, which both saddened and disgusted me.
The end of What Have We Done was exciting and a little bloody. I will not get into it, but Donnie, Nico, and Jenna figured everything out. The book’s climax was pretty good, and I liked the confession.
I would recommend What Have We Done to anyone over 21. There is violence, language, and sexual situations. Also, see the trigger warnings at the top of the review.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books, NetGalley, and Alex Finlay for allowing me to read and review What Have We Done. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of What Have We Done, then you will enjoy these books:
In a gripping novel perfect for fans of Sadie and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, two best friends start a true crime podcast—only to realize they may have helped a killer in the process.
In August of 1999, dazzlingly popular cheerleader Clarissa Campbell disappears from a party in the woods outside the rural town of Oreville, Washington and is never seen again. The police question her friends, teachers, and the adults who knew her—who all have something to hide. And thanks to Clarissa’s beauty, the mystery captures the attention of the nation. But with no leads and no body, the case soon grows cold. Despite the efforts of internet sleuths and true-crime aficionados, Clarissa is never found—dead or alive.
Over twenty years later, Oreville high-school juniors and best friends Blair and Cameron start a true crime podcast, determined to unravel the story of what—or who—happened to this rural urban legend. In the process they uncover a nest of dirty small-town secrets, the sordid truth of Clarissa’s relationship with her charismatic boyfriend, and a high school art teacher turned small-town figurehead who had a very good reason for wanting Clarissa dead. Such a good reason, in fact, that they might have to make him the highlight of their next episode…
But does an ugly history with a missing girl make him guilty of murder? Or are two teenage girls about to destroy the life of an innocent man—and help the true killer walk free?
Imagine this: A fairy-tale summer, blue and wild. Skinny-dipping in the Salish Sea with a trail of phosphorescence in your wake, sunburnt sholders, salt-sticky hair drying in the twilight as the stars come out.
Missing Clarissa by Ripley Jones
The disappearance of Clarissa Campbell shook the town of Oreville, Washington to its core. Her disappearance also intrigued the nation. A beautiful cheerleader with her life ahead of her disappears after a bonfire captivates the nation. Twenty years later, there are conspiracy theories and finger-pointing, but the case has gone cold. That is when Blair and Cameron (or Cami) come in. As part of a project for their journalism class, they decide to start a true crime podcast exploring her disappearance. As they start digging, they discover more about the case than what was reported. And what they ultimately uncover might kill them.
When I read the blurb for Missing Clarissa, I wasn’t impressed with it. I should have known not to judge the book by the blurb (or the cover if I am going to go there). This book was a great read. It kept me up late reading it. I was concerned about Cami and Blair (and their investigation), and I wanted to know what happened to Clarissa.
Usually, I would write the trigger warning at the end of the review, but I felt that these trigger warnings might be triggering more people. The trigger warnings are:
Adult/minor sexual relationships (off page-Clarissa plus other girls with her art teacher).
Sexual assault (off-page).
Gun violence (Cami and Blair).
Homophobia (off page, told by Clarissa’s boyfriend about what he did to a gay classmate).
If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book.
What I liked the most about this book was how real it felt. The girls weren’t natural-born sleuths; they bumbled through the investigation with almost no tact (well, Cami did, Blair tried). They made enormous (and sometimes nearly catastrophic) mistakes. It made the book so much more enjoyable to read.
The main characters, Cami and Blair, were as opposite as they could get. Cami was brilliant, had no filter or tact, and tended to bulldoze her way through life. On the other hand, Blair was brilliant in her way, was cautious when approaching things, and moved along her lifepath cautiously. Their dynamic was perfect for the book. Together and separately, they clarified their investigation that made the book for me. Brilliant Cami made that final connection, and Blair figured out where Cami had gone and who she was with when Cami went missing.
I loved that the author made podcasts the book’s central focus (along with Clarissa’s disappearance). Again, Cami and Blair were not tech geniuses who knew how to set up their podcast. It was the opposite. Their podcast sounded like it was recorded in the bathroom, and they had zero editing skills. But even with that, they still got a decent following. I liked that the author included excerpts from the podcast at the end of the chapters. It tied everything together for me.
The main storyline of Missing Clarissa is the story of Clarissa’s disappearance. What I liked most was that it wasn’t cut and dry. It also showed that the investigation into her disappearance was bungled. I enjoyed watching it unravel as the girls tracked down witnesses, friends, and family. Each little bit of information gleaned was exciting. Of course, it did take a dark turn when the girls uncovered things about the sheriff, the former art teacher (who wasn’t as loved as he thought he was), and how that tied into the investigation. I wasn’t surprised at what was revealed (with the sheriff). To mess up an investigation that badly, there had to be outside forces in play. But I was surprised by what was revealed when they looked into the art teacher. I shouldn’t have been, considering the clues dropped and the sweep-it-under-the-rug mentality at schools in the 90s. What I was surprised about was the outcome of the investigation. I did not expect it to end as it did or the multiple investigations it spawned.
Several secondary storylines revolved around Blair, Cami, and their various relationships. I loved the one between Cami and her crush/soon-to-be girlfriend. Her coming out to her mom was hilarious. I was laughing my butt off that entire scene. Blair’s relationship with her boyfriend annoyed me. He was a jerk the whole book, and that scene towards the end gave me such satisfaction.
The end of Missing Clarissa was impressive. The twist on Clarissa’s missing person case and its fallout were well written. I did not see any of it coming. Several big revelations made me go, “No way.” It wasn’t a happy ending per se, but there was closure for many people and vindication for a man wrongly accused.
I would recommend Missing Clarissa to anyone over 21. There is violence, language, and nongraphic sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning paragraph.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books, NetGalley, and Ripley Jones for allowing me to read and review Missing Clarissa. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of Missing Clarissa, then you will enjoy reading these books: