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.

Scammed (Vale Hall #2) by Kristen Simmons #bookreview #YA #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

Brynn Hilder is living a life she never dreamed possible: She lives in a mansion, getting a top-rate education at Vale Hall. She has friends and an almost-boyfriend. Anything she wants, she can have.

The only catch? To stay in this life, she has to help the director of Vale Hall take down the bad guys of Sikawa City by collecting secrets and running cons.

Getting everything she wants and fighting evil doesn’t seem like such a bad deal. The thing is, she’s not so convinced anymore that Dr. Odin is really going after bad people after all. And the friends and almost-boyfriend that have made her life so different are all liars and con artists—so can she trust that any of it is real?

The stakes are higher. The cons are riskier. And nothing is what you think it is.

The first book in this series, The Deceivers, was a five star read for me last year, and I couldn’t wait to get to the sequel.  And it’s another five stars.

What happens when you throw a bunch of con artists together?  Trained liars, people who insert themselves into the lives of others and fool them completely?  You can’t trust anyone – and that’s the whole premise of this second book in the Vale Hall series.  Brynn doubts her boyfriend, her friends and acquaintances, and even herself.  She’s always prided herself on being a good judge of character – but is she really?  With several plot twists and blind sides, you won’t know who or what to believe.

With the situations these characters find themselves in, parts of this story gutted me, and I wanted to jump into the book and help them.  As in The Deceivers, all of them are so well-developed, and the focus isn’t entirely on Brynn – each supporting character has their own story to tell.

This book is absolutely riveting, and I read more than half of it in one sitting.  The description nails it – higher stakes, riskier cons, and nothing is at it seems.  The third book will be at the top of my list for must reads next year.

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

If Darkness Takes Us by Brenda Marie Smith #postapocalyptic #thriller #bookreview

IN SUBURBAN AUSTIN, TEXAS, BEA CRENSHAW SECRETLY PREPARES FOR THE APOCALYPSE. But when a solar pulse destroys modern life, she’s left alone with four grandkids whose parents do not return home. She must teach these kids to survive without power, cars, phones, running water, or doctors in a world fraught with increasing danger.

If Darkness Takes Us is realistic post-apocalyptic fiction with a focus on a family in peril, led by a no-nonsense grandmother who is at once funny, controlling, and heroic in her struggle to hold her family together with civility and heart. 

I’ve read several post-apocalyptic novels.  Sure, many of them are sad and cautionary, but I’m a sucker for them.  And this one takes a fresh direction.

When’s the last time you read a novel which features an over 70-year-old grandma as the protagonist?  After a devastating EMP changes life as they know it, Bea, who has health issues, is thrust into the role of primary caretaker of her four grandchildren.  She’s a take charge, no-nonsense kind of woman who comes off as a little controlling at times, but her heart is in the right place.  I think she surprises herself with her inner strength.

It’s obvious the author did her research into the ramifications of EMPs and necessities of survival.  The characters find themselves in situations that are perilous, heartbreaking, life-altering, and even hopeful, but all are easily plausible.  You may even find yourself thinking about creating a stash of supplies – maybe not to the same extent as Bea, but it will cross your mind.

If you’re looking for a post-apocalyptic story with a determined, relatable protagonist and a new spin, If Darkness Takes Us will satisfy that craving.

 

Hope by Terry Tyler #bookreview #dystopian #thriller

‘We haven’t elected a Prime Minister, we’ve elected a lifestyle’.

As the fourth decade of the 21st century looms, new PM Guy Morrissey and his fitness guru wife Mona (hashtag MoMo) are hailed as the motivational couple to get the UK #FitForWork, with Mona promising to ‘change the BMI of the nation’.

Lita Stone is an influential blogger and social media addict, who watches as Guy and Mona’s policies become increasingly ruthless. Unemployment and homelessness are out of control. The solution? Vast new compounds all over the country, to house those who can no longer afford to keep a roof over their heads.

These are the Hope Villages, financed by US corporation Nutricorp.

Lita and her flatmates Nick and Kendall feel safe in their cosy cyberspace world. Unaware of how swiftly bad luck can snowball, they suspect little of the danger that awaits the unfortunate, behind the carefully constructed mirage of Hope.

Terry Tyler’s nineteenth published work is a psychological thriller that weaves through the darker side of online life, as the gap between the haves and the have-nots grows ever wider. Whether or not it will mirror a dystopian future that awaits us, we will have to wait and see. 

This novel is classified as a dystopian thriller, but make no mistake, it’s also a horror story simply because it isn’t outside the realm of possibility something like this could happen in the not too distant future.  And that should scare the crap out of anyone.

The new PM, his wife, and family are perfect examples of how social media can be used to manipulate followers/viewers and distort the truth.  As in real life, much of the population buy into what they’re selling, but others are put off by the hype and determined not to drink the Kool-Aid.  Soon, disturbing ramifications of these new policies and laws come to light, and the number of jobless jumps significantly.  Lita and her friends are employed and feeling secure in a shared comfortable flat, believing homelessness and unemployment can’t happen to them.  Until it does.  And it’s terrifying to see how easily it can happen.

Tyler does an outstanding job at portraying the different reactions of three people in identical circumstances – yet, Lita, Nick, and Kendall’s emotions and actions are entirely believable and valid.  I felt their frustration and outrage at the system and the sense of helplessness and lack of control over their own situations.

This was an easy five star read for me, and days after finishing, I was still thinking about it.  With shades of Big Brother and current events, Hope is guaranteed to leave you feeling unnerved.

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