Even If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp #bookreview #YA #thriller

Before we get into the book review, I just wanted to let you know I’ll be doing a virtual book signing tonight from 5:45 pm to 6pm CST on the Penned Con Fan Page on Facebook HERE  Authors are scheduled every fifteen minutes throughout the day, so if you’re looking for new books or enjoy games and giveaways, drop by.  Hope to see you there!

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp comes a shocking new thriller about a group of friends tied together by a game and the deadly weekend that tears them apart.

FIVE friends go to a cabin.
FOUR of them are hiding secrets.
THREE years of history bind them.
TWO are doomed from the start.
ONE person wants to end this.
NO ONE IS SAFE.

Are you ready to play?

The description for this book immediately grabbed me.  Another book I read by this author was extremely compelling, so requesting this one was a no-brainer.

LGBTQ representation in this novel is magnificent, along with autism and disability representation.  These characters are brought together by a RPG (role playing game) and spend three years together playing the game.  Throughout that time, their relationships with each other have their ups and downs, and with college on the horizon for some, this will be the last time they’re able to play together.  Soon after reaching the cabin, the craziness begins.

One of my favorite things about this novel is the strong friendships between some of the characters and the unconditional support they offer each other – especially since some don’t have the best home life or have experienced traumatic events.  When they find themselves in the middle of some seriously creepy happenings, none of them abandon each other to save themselves.  Five alternating POVs also allows the reader to learn more about each character.

This will be difficult to say without spoilers, but what I struggled with was the reveal of the person behind everything.  It came as a suprise, but just didn’t ring true for me – it seemed unrealistic, and I felt let down after such a suspenseful buildup.  During tense scenes where I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, occasionally heavy internal monologue took over and went on for several paragraphs, which took me out of the story.

Even If We Break is a thriller, but it’s also very much a coming of age story with some beautiful passages containing thought-provoking concepts.  It’s not my favorite novel by this author, but I wouldn’t hesitate to read her future books.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Calling #Horror, #Thriller, and #Paranormal #IndieAuthors for #BadMoonRising

It’s that time again – Bad Moon Rising is coming!  Thirty-one authors for thirty-one days in October.  If you’re an indie author of horror, thriller, or paranormal/supernatural books and would like to be featured, send me an email.  FREE publicity, book sales (hopefully!), new authors to follow, and more books added to the TBR – what’s not to like?

Each post will feature one of your releases, a blurb, author bio, social media links, buy links, and a short interview.  If you’d like to include a giveaway or have alternative ideas for your post, I’m always open to suggestions.

This is the sixth year of Bad Moon Rising and spots tend to fill up fast, so if you’d like to be included, email me at tpolen6@gmail.com.

I’ll be traveling today, so I probably won’t be able to get to emails until tomorrow.

LV48 (Cassie Tam Files #3) by Matt Doyle #bookreview #scifi #LGBT

New Hopeland City may be the birthplace of Tech Shifter gear, but it isn’t the only place that likes to blend technology with folklore. Now, a new nightmare is stalking the streets…

When PI Cassie Tam is attacked on the way home one night, she expects the police to get involved. What she doesn’t expect is to be forced into acting as bait to lure out a lunatic in a tech-suit that’s literally out for blood. But past actions have consequences, and doing so may be the only way she can get a clean slate from the city’s law makers.

If only that didn’t mean having to face down a wannabe vampire.

This is my third Cassie Tam book, and the author’s imagination continues to amaze me.

Although each novel introduces new futuristic technology, the descriptions are detailed and so well done that it’s easy to visualize.  The drawings near the end of the book help explain the tech even more.  This time around Cassie faces a “light vampire” – which explains the title.  I love me some vamps, but these aren’t the traditional vampires seen in most novels and and movies – no spoilers here.  Cassie is wrangled into working with the police department on the case and, although not crazy about the idea, she makes the best of it and and dives in head first – which is a trait I admire.  That and her snark – I always appreciate witty snark.

Bert, her gargoyle familiar, has to be one of my favorite characters.  He’s protective and kind of moody, but you gotta love him.  Cassie and Lori also have some nice scenes together in their new-ish relationship, but I wouldn’t have minded more.  Some new characters are also introduced, and I hope to see more of them in future books.

While there are action-filled scenes, the pacing waned a bit for me in the middle.  I guessed who the villain was early on, but it took longer for it to click with Cassie and friends than expected.  Still, I’m a fan of this thrilling sci-fi series, and it didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the novel.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick #bookreview #YA #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

This gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.

What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected–and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

If you’re looking for a compelling beach read, I got you covered.  I Killed Zoe Spanos will keep you in that beach chair for hours.

This is my first time reading this author, but it absolutely won’t be my last.  I was glued to this book from the beginning and conjured up tons of theories about what was happening during the course of the story.  Even then, only part of one of them turned out to be correct by the end.

Martina’s podcast is a clever way to introduce backstory – what happened with Zoe, who the suspects were, what the police did or didn’t do, etc., and it gives the reader a peek into her head since her POV is shared along with Anna’s.  The alternating chapters between past and present made me even more curious to learn how the characters got from point A to point B, and it’s one of my favorite storytelling techniques.  With such an intricate plot, I can just imagine the story boards the author must have created.

Although it works well with the story, I had to suspend my disbelief a tad with the way the investigators handled Zoe’s case.  Still, I devoured this book in two days.  Pay close attention near the end – things move fast and a lot of questions are answered.

With a heavy dose of red herrings and twists to keep you guessing, I Killed Zoe Spanos is a must read for mystery/thriller fans.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Take Me With You by Tara Altebrando #bookreview #YA #scifi #TuesdayBookBlog

Eden, Eli, Marwan, and Ilanka barely know each other beyond having a class or two together. But when they are all summoned via messaging app to an empty classroom after school, they find a small cube sitting on a desk. Its sides light up with rules for them:

Do not tell anyone about the device. Never leave the device unattended.
And then, Take me with you . . . or else.

At first they think it’s some kind of prank or a social experiment orchestrated by the school administration. Still, they follow its instructions until the newly-formed group starts to splinter. Nobody has time for these games–their lives are complicated enough. But the device seems increasingly invested in the private details of their lives. And disobeying its rules has scary–even life-threatening–consequences . . . 

This is my third book by this author, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them.

Several reviewers mentioned they were under the impression this was more of a mystery/thriller, but it’s absolutely a sci-fi/thriller – totally my kind of book.  I flew through it in two days.  These four, very relatable teen characters have distinctive personalities, and each is coping with their own complicated problems.  They come from diverse backgrounds and situations, so why they’re thrown together is a mystery to them.  The way they learn in such a short time to depend on each other and offer support was a strong point for me.

And the device!  It’s multi-faceted, and over the course of the story is mysterious, helpful, intrusive, and insidious.  I can’t say much more without giving away spoilers, but my need to know what was going on made it a struggle to close this book.  Although the reveal is satisfying and even jarring, I did feel as if the problems the characters faced in their personal lives were wrapped up with a pretty large bow at the end, but I seem to be in the minority on that opinion.

This is a completely engaging read with unnerving sci-fi aspects and one I recommend.  I’ll be looking for more books by this author in the future.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

Hunting November (Killing November #2) by Adriana Mather #bookreview #YA #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

Surviving a few weeks at the world’s most lethal boarding school was one thing. But now comes the real test: Can November Adley find her missing father before her enemies find her? Subterfuge is the name of the game in this thrilling sequel to Killing November, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Hang a Witch.

After surviving a crash course in espionage at the mysterious Academy Absconditi, November has only one purpose: finding her missing father. Along with fellow student (and heartthrob) Ash, November follows the clues that her father left, embarking on the deadliest treasure hunt of her life. The first clue is in her hometown, where old friends beckon and unexpected enemies lurk around every corner. The second clue is in Europe, where revelations about her family’s history will plunge her into an international web of deception, lies, and intrigue. The third clue is deep in enemy territory, surrounded by the most skilled assassins and master strategists, and where everyone wants her and her father dead. Can one girl with limited training infiltrate a centuries-old organization that is powerful enough to topple empires? November only knows that she’ll do whatever it takes to save her father . . . or die trying. 

Killing November was one of my best reads last year – high stakes, untrustworthy characters, a school for assassins.  The year waiting for this sequel was a long one.

This book picks up right where the other left off.  November and Ash leave the school in search of her father, who’s left complex clues for her in different locations across the country.  Talk about tense situations – death could literally be waiting for them around every corner, and some of the people they come across would just as soon slit their throats rather than speak to them.

Pacing may leave you breathless, and the action is almost nonstop.  But not everything is serious – some lighter, humorous moments are sprinkled throughout the story along with romantic elements.  Twists and surprises abound, and the big reveal near the end left me gaping.  I absolutely didn’t see it coming.

This series is incredibly addictive with ultra-high stakes, a complex plot, and untrustworthy characters that worm their way into your heart.  I get the feeling this is a duology, but I’d sure love another book.  Highly recommended!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

Fractured Tide by Leslie Lutz #bookreview #YA #thriller #scifi #TuesdayBookBlog

Lost meets Stranger Things in this eerie, immersive YA thriller, thrusting seventeen-year-old Sia into a reality where the waters in front of her and the jungle behind her are as dangerous as the survivors alongside her.

Sia practically grew up in the water scuba diving, and wreck dives are run of the mill. Take the tourists out. Explore the reef. Uncover the secrets locked in the sunken craft. But this time … the dive goes terribly wrong.

Attacked by a mysterious creature, Sia’s boat is sunk, her customers are killed, and she washes up on a deserted island with no sign of rescue in sight. Waiting in the water is a seemingly unstoppable monster that is still hungry. In the jungle just off the beach are dangers best left untested. When Sia reunites with a handful of survivors, she sees it as the first sign of light.

Sia is wrong.

Between the gulf of deadly seawater in front of her and suffocating depth of the jungle behind her, even the island isn’t what it seems.

Haunted by her own mistakes and an inescapable dread, Sia’s best hope for finding answers may rest in the center of the island, at the bottom of a flooded sinkhole that only she has the skills to navigate. But even if the creature lurking in the depths doesn’t swallow her and the other survivors, the secrets of their fractured reality on the island might.

With Lost and Stranger Things being the comp titles (and two of my fav shows) for this book, I was soooo hoping to not be disappointed – and I absolutely wasn’t.  The comps are perfect descriptions.

Creepy, bizarre, mind-bending – all are apt descriptions of the island Sia finds herself stranded on.  Honestly, I’d be afraid to close my eyes at night.  This book held my attention from page one, and I probably could have finished it in one sitting.  Pacing is brisk and tense – I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

Characterization is another strong point, from the MC to supporting characters – flawed, layered, and relatable.  I loved that Sia was a diver, and it’s obvious the author did her research on the subject.  I tried diving several years ago, but I was too claustrophobic – so I really felt the tension when Sia was caught up in dangerous underwater situations.

Although completely riveted by this book, I dreaded the ending because I was sure to be disappointed by some weak excuse for what was happening.  But I wasn’t at all, and that made my sci-fi loving heart so happy.

Fractured Tide is a fantastic blend of thriller, sci-fi, and horror and fans of any of those genres are in for a treat.  With such an amazing debut novel, this is an author to watch.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

Last Girls by Demetra Brodsky #bookreview #YA #thriller

No one knows how the world will end.

On a secret compound in the Washington wilderness, Honey Juniper and her sisters are training to hunt, homestead, and protect their own.

Prepare for every situation.

But when danger strikes from within, putting her sisters at risk, training becomes real life, and only one thing is certain:

Nowhere is safe.

This book wasn’t exactly what I expected.  Yes, the girls live in a doomsday prepper compound, but there are several other plot lines that aren’t even hinted at in the description.

These sisters stick together no matter what – it’s like their mantra – and share an extraordinarily strong bond.  Each also has a distinct personality – Honey, the protector, Birdie, occasionally headstrong to a fault, and Blue, proud to be the weirdest one (and my favorite).  They’re creative in different ways with art, drawing, and sewing.  In their world, they’re taught to trust no one outside the compound and forbidden to make friends at school, play sports, or join clubs.  Their whole lives revolve around being prepared for doomsday.

The chapters alternate between Honey’s POV and Toby’s, whose identity remains a mystery for the first part of the book.  When all is revealed, that plot line is intriguing and strong enough to be a book on its own, although the reason why it occurs was a little on the weak side for me.

Remy is a sweetheart who is determined to learn more about Honey and hopefully move out of the friend zone – if he’s even allowed to be her friend.  She’s revealed little about herself and maintained her distance from him, as she’s been taught by the preppers nearly her whole life, so their sudden romance and her level of trust in him seemed out of character.

A lot is going on in this book – possible domestic terrorism, murders, undercover feds – along with what I’ve already mentioned, but it takes several pages before the action really starts.  Once it does, the plot moves along at a good pace.  If you’re a fan of YA thrillers and characters with strong survival instincts, this is a book you may enjoy.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Jury Master (David Sloane #1) by Robert Dugoni #bookreview #thriller

In a courtroom, David Sloane can grab a jury and make it dance. He can read jurors’ expressions, feel their emotions, know their thoughts. With this remarkable ability, Sloane gets juries to believe the unbelievable, excuse the inexcusable, and return the most astonishing verdicts.

The only barrier to Sloane’s professional success is his conscience — until he gets a call from a man later found dead, and his life rockets out of control. 

If you’re a regular at my blog, a book review of a legal thriller probably isn’t what you expected to find.  This was a book club read.

I was a John Grisham fan years ago, so I’ve read my share of legal thrillers.  The Jury Master is billed as a legal thriller – and with that title, it’s exactly what you’d expect.  But make no mistake – it’s a thriller, but falls squarely in the political arena.  The MC is in a courtroom for roughly ten pages, if that much.  I listened to the audio book, so it was difficult to tell.

David Sloane is an easy character to like.  After losing his parents at an early age, he grows up in foster homes, enlists in the military, and then puts himself through law school.  He also possesses a genius level IQ, takes in a stray cat, and returns an elderly tenant’s rent at the end of every year in the guise of a stock dividend.  A super nice guy.

This book held my interest, but be warned – with an extensive character list, it’s easy to get confused.  At 496 pages, it’s also a very long read, and the plot could easily have been tightened in some places.  I noticed the next book in this series totals around 380 pages – a more reasonable length.

My book club was split as far as continuing with the series, but it spawned some interesting discussions.  Overall, a nice selection.

End of Day (Hode’s Hill #2) by Mae Clair #bookreview #supernatural #suspense

The past is never truly buried…  

Generations of Jillian Cley’s family have been tasked with a strange duty—tending the burial plot of Gabriel Vane, whose body was the first to be interred in the Hode’s Hill cemetery. Jillian faithfully continues the long-standing tradition—until one October night, Vane’s body is stolen from its resting place. Is it a Halloween prank? Or something more sinister?  

As the descendants of those buried in the church yard begin to experience bizarre “accidents,” Jillian tries to uncover the cause. Deeply empathic, she does not make friends easily, or lightly. But to fend off the terror taking over her town, she must join forces with artist Dante DeLuca, whose sensitivity to the spirit world has been both a blessing and a curse. The two soon realize Jillian’s murky family history is entwined with a tragic legacy tracing back to the founding of Hode’s Hill. To set matters right, an ancient wrong must be avenged…or Jillian, Dante, and everyone in town will forever be at the mercy of a vengeful spirit.

This review was meant to be posted months ago, so I have no idea why it was still in my review draft folder.  Maybe it’s fortuitous, because the first book in this series, Cusp of Night, is free, and this book and the last, Eventide, are $0.99 through February 25th.  Take advantage of this deal now – you won’t regret it!

I loved the first book in this series and was so excited to read End of Day, I made it my choice for book club.

This is the perfect book to curl up with on a cold, dreary night.  Some scenes will send chills up your spine and have you glancing over your shoulder to make sure no one’s there.  With book club members, it spawned spirited conversations ranging from genetics (an odd choice, I know) to our beliefs in ghosts and mediums.  For this horror fan, it was a highly enjoyable meeting.

As with the first book in the series, I especially enjoyed the alternating timelines and how Gabriel’s fate was gradually explained.  I remembered Dante from the previous book and looked forward to learning more about him.  He’s now one of my favorite characters in the series, and his scenes with Elliott in the role of a substitute father figure warmed my heart.  Jillian’s tragic circumstances immediately pulled me in, and I count her therapy dog, Blizzard, as one of the best bookish furry friends I’ve read.

End of Day is a compelling blend of paranormal, thriller, and mystery, and although part of a series, can easily be read as a standalone.  I  highly recommend this well-written, atmospheric read.