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The Wife Upstairs

Title: The Wife Upstairs

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Genre: thriller

Ugh, this book. It’s supposed to be a modern re-telling of Jane Eyre, which is a book I love. But every single character in this book was awful. Not one redeeming quality between them. And the fact that the title is a spoiler, what in the world? You know there’s a wife upstairs from the very beginning, which is ridiculous. Finding that out as a plot twist would have been so much better.

From Goodreads: Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates—a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie—not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past—or his—catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

I disliked every character: Jane, Eddie, the wife upstairs, all the minor characters, etc. Every one of them was vapid and useless. The fact that Jane desperately wants into their wealthy world tells you what kind of person she is. She is escaping her past, but when you find out what it is, it’s quite a disappointment. This book was a Book of the Month club selection back in Dec 2020. And it’s not one I’ll be recommending. What a disappointment.

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Chasing the Boogeyman

Title: Chasing the Boogeyman

Author: Richard Chizmar

Genre: thriller, mystery

Thank you Netgalley for this book!

I was introduced to Richard Chizmar because of his collaboration with Stephen King on Gwendy’s Button Box, which was great. I’ve also read his sequel, Gwendy’s Magic Feather, and am really excited for the next Gwendy book. I follow him on Twitter, but haven’t read much else of his. But when I saw that Netgalley was offering this one, I jumped at the chance to read more of his work. And, my gosh, did I love this one.

From Goodreads: In the summer of 1988, the mutilated bodies of several missing girls begin to turn up in a small Maryland town. The grisly evidence leads police to the terrifying assumption that a serial killer is on the loose in the quiet suburb. But soon a rumor begins to spread that the evil stalking local teens is not entirely human. Law enforcement, as well as members of the FBI are certain that the killer is a living, breathing madman—and he’s playing games with them. For a once peaceful community trapped in the depths of paranoia and suspicion, it feels like a nightmare that will never end.

Recent college graduate Richard Chizmar returns to his hometown just as a curfew is enacted and a neighborhood watch is formed. In the midst of preparing for his wedding and embarking on a writing career, he soon finds himself thrust into the real-life horror story. Inspired by the terrifying events, Richard writes a personal account of the serial killer’s reign of terror, unaware that these events will continue to haunt him for years to come.

This book is amazing. One of the best I’ve read this year, honestly. Even though it’s a work of fiction, Chizmar’s family, parents, siblings, wife, kids, etc that he mentions in the book are all real. The town eh grew up in and the streets, locations, etc are real. But the events are not. He says at the end (no spoilers here) that as he was thinking about this book, he knew that his younger self just had to be the narrator. And it works. Who better to tell a story of your hometown? The plot is great, with Richard and his journalist pal, Carly, trying to solve the murders of these girls. The story isn’t true, but it reads exactly like a true crime book. There are even photos of the “victims” and other people involved. Chizmar, I think, writes horror, but this one isn’t horror at all. It’s just a good old-fashioned mystery. Sure, girls being killed is pretty awful, but this book is not graphic at all. I’ll definitely be recommending it to my true crime/thriller fellow readers.

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Survive the Night

Title: Survive the Night

Author: Riley Sager

Genre: thriller

I’ve read all of Riley Sager’s books. Lock Every Door was my favorite. It was just so bonkers. But the rest have been really good and compelling. This book, though. Ugh. From the get-go, it was preposterous. I was so disappointed. The plot was fine, a girl trying to get through the night with this “mystery” guy, but the details were so ridiculous and unbelievable. Bummer because I was really looking forward to this.

From Goodreads: Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father. Or so he says. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there’s nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing–survive the night.

First of all, there is NO WAY Charlie would have gotten a ride from a stranger after what she’s been through. It was wholly unbelievable. The reason she couldn’t have waited two days for her boyfriend to give her a ride was absurd. Charlie also sees movies in her mind. Like she blacks out to the real world and goes into a sort of hallucination and sees a movie, based on real events, playing out. W. T. F. Just ridiculous and unbelievable. It’s like Sager said, how can I make this movie-loving girl more vulnerable… oh I know, let’s give her some mental instability that will play right in to my plot. If you want to read a good road trip thriller, check out No Exit or I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Both do this fabulously and have their own interesting take on the situation. I gave this one three stars because I did finish it and want to see what became of Charlie, but it was just too stupid to give it anything more.

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Beneath Devil’s Bridge

Title: Beneath Devil’s Bridge

Author: Loreth Anne White

Genre: thriller

I gasped out loud at one point in this book. And in a good way. Anytime that happens, you know it’s a good book. I’ve been a fan of Loreth Anne White’s for awhile now. So far, I’ve read A Dark Lure, The Dark Bones, and In the Dark. I have a few others on my Kindle that I’m look forward to. She’s one of my new favorite authors. When I saw my library had this one on order, I knew I had to request it, and boy, was I pleased with this one!

From Goodreads: True crime podcaster Trinity Scott is chasing breakout success, and her brand-new serial may get her there. Her subject is Clayton Jay Pelley. More than two decades ago, the respected family man and guidance counselor confessed to the brutal murder of teenage student Leena Rai. But why he killed her has always been a mystery.

In a series of exclusive interviews from prison, Clayton discloses to Trinity the truth about what happened that night beneath Devil’s Bridge. It’s not what anyone in the Pacific Northwest town of Twin Falls expects. Clayton says he didn’t do it. Was he lying then? Or now?

As her listeners increase and ratings skyrocket, Trinity is missing a key player in the story: Rachel Walczak, the retired detective who exposed Pelley’s twisted urges and put him behind bars. She’s not interested in playing Clayton’s game – until Trinity digs deeper and the podcast’s reverb widens. Then Rachel begins to question everything she thinks she knows about the past. With each of Clayton’s teasing reveals, one thing is clear: he’s not the only one in Twin Falls with a secret.

I am a true crime podcast junkie, so this plot was right up my alley. And even though Pelley confessed to the crime, some things just didn’t add up back then, leaving Rachel always to wonder what really happened. But with a confession…..how do the police ignore that? I really loved how all this came together. The story is told in past and present timelines. The ones of the past are from Rachel’s perspective, and the present ones are from both Rachel and Trinity’s perspectives. You follow the case as it unfolded back then, but those reveals are unraveled in the present day. Alternating timelines is a hard way to write, but this book handled it perfectly. And yes, the gasp was from a plot twist/reveal that I didn’t see coming. What a great book. I’ll definitely be recommending it to fellow thriller fans.

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Far Gone

Title: Far Gone

Author: Danielle Girard

Genre: thriller

Thank you Netgalley for this book!

I requested this one because I had the first book, White Out, on my kindle to read. So, I read that one a few weeks ago and thought it was okay. The plot was a bit over-the-top for my liking. But I thought the characters were great and was excited to revisit them in this one. And again, this plot was a bit preposterous for my liking but seeing the characters was a lot of fun. Some time has passed since the previous one, so we got to see the characters mature a bit. But these books are solid and even though the plots are bit too much for me, I think most people will really enjoy these.

From Goodreads: When a North Dakota couple is shot down in their home in cold blood, the sleepy town of Hagen wakes with a jolt. After all, it’s usually such a peaceful place. But Detective Kylie Milliard knows better.

Despite not handling a homicide investigation in years, Kylie is on the case. A drop of blood found at the scene at first blush promises to be her best evidence. But it ultimately only proves that someone else witnessed the murder—and the results are shocking: the DNA reveals a familial match to a crime involving local nurse Lily Baker from over a decade ago. This unveiling stirs new nightmares for Lily as she’s forced to reckon with the most traumatic time in her life.

Haunted by their pasts and hunting the killer, Kylie and Lily uncover hellish secrets and impossible truths, finding answers that put both their lives in jeopardy.

Seeing Kylie and Lily again was a lot of fun. Both are strong, dynamic, real characters who you cheer for. And while Lily isn’t in danger this time around (unlike White Out), she is still very important to the plot. But it’s nice to see her doing better, happier, more stable. Because I like these two ladies so much, I will definitely be revisiting this series, assuming more are published at some point.

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White Out

Title: White Out

Author: Danielle Girard

Genre: thriller

I got this book from Kindle First Reads quite some time ago. I put it in my “to read” folder to get to at some point. But I got the sequel from Netgalley awhile back, so I made a point to read this one first, so I wouldn’t be thoroughly confused. I really only knew this book was a thriller, but that was about it. I like going into books blind, so I don’t really read reviews or blurbs. I prefer making my own judgements as much as possible. And I’ve had some success with Kindle First Reads, but this one was just okay for me.

From Goodreads: After surviving a car accident on an icy road in Hagen, North Dakota, Lily Baker regains consciousness with no idea where or who she is. Scattered Bible verses and the image of a man lying in a pool of blood haunt her memory.

The same night of the accident, a young woman is murdered and tossed in a dumpster. Kylie Milliard, Hagen’s only detective, doesn’t immediately recognize the victim, but Kylie soon discovers that Lily and the dead woman share a dark past…if only Lily could remember what it was.

Lily and Kylie both want answers. But Kylie has to play by the book. Lily has to play it safe. And the more Lily learns about her identity, the more she fears the truth.

I liked the characters of Kylie and Lily, but the plot was a bit too convoluted for me. It also relied on more “telling” than “showing,” which isn’t the best type of writing. Information was just dumped on the reader without any one actually coming to those conclusions. It was a very odd choice of how to present the big reveals to the audience. I say reveals because there is more than one mystery in this book (not a spoiler). This book also relies on the “I’ve lost my memory” trope that I despise. It’s just cheap storytelling. I’m going to read the second one, but if it’s not a lot better, I don’t expect to continue on with the series, if more are published.

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People Like Her

Title: People Like Her

Author: Ellery Lloyd

Genre: parenting, social media thriller

I’m so far behind on my Book of the Month club readings. I just finished this one, which was sent to me in December. I just have so many library books and PopSugar Reading Challenge books to get through, so these keep getting pushed aside. However, I’m making them a priority and putting them on the top of my TBR pile, so I’m doing my best to read them. I’m trying, at least…. So many books!! I usually get the thriller/mystery book, if there isn’t anything else I recognize to pick from, such as previous authors I’ve read, or ones that just sound outstanding. And sometimes I read really great ones like, A Good Marriage, Winter Counts, or The Night Swim. But then you have bummer ones like These Violent Delights, which was so boring, and The Girl in the Mirror, which I hated so much that I didn’t review it. I’m putting this one right in the middle. It was just okay.

From Goodreads: To her adoring fans, Emmy Jackson, aka @the_mamabare, is the honest “Instamum” who always tells it like it is. To her skeptical husband, Dan, a washed-up novelist who knows just how creative Emmy can be with the truth, she is a breadwinning powerhouse chillingly brilliant at monetizing the intimate details of their family life.To one of Emmy’s dangerously obsessive followers, she’s the woman that has everything—but deserves none of it.  

As Emmy’s marriage begins to crack under the strain of her growing success and her moral compass veers wildly off course, the more vulnerable she becomes to a very real danger circling ever closer to her family.

In this deeply addictive tale of psychological suspense, Ellery Lloyd raises important questions about technology, social media celebrity, and the way we live today. Probing the dark side of influencer culture and the perils of parenting online, People Like Her explores our desperate need to be seen and the lengths we’ll go to be liked by strangers. It asks what—and who—we sacrifice when make our private lives public, and ultimately lose control of who we let in. . . .

Both Emmy and Dan are obnoxious. I just hated them. I felt bad for their kids, being put through the Instagram nonsense. Sorry if you are an influencer, but I don’t get it. And as this book illustrates, it’s entirely fake. Emmy preys upon her followers’ weaknesses to make money. It’s truly disgusting. What kept me reading was the one follower business. But it needed to be a much bigger part of the story. Too much vapidity from Emmy and too little actual mystery. I gave this one three stars because I did want to see what happened, but I just had no sympathy for the adults in the book.

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The Chalk Man

Title: The Chalk Man

Author: CJ Tudor

Genre: thriller, murder mystery

When I read and loved The Burning Girls, I made a point to get Tudor’s other book from my library. You guys, I burned through this book in two days. I absolutely couldn’t put it down. Not only was it a great story, tightly written, interesting characters, etc, it has a ton of Stephen King Easter eggs. He actually tweeted his recommendation of this book, and I imagine him giggling at the eggs as he’s reading. Even without the eggs, the book was excellent.

From Goodreads: In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.

That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

The story is told from Eddie’s perspective in both past and present, but the chapters are labeled as such, so it’s really easy to follow. Eddie is a great character, flawed but likable, so you still cheer for him. He has a dark side, though, too, probably due to various incidents as a child. Finding out the truth behind the dismembered body was a fun journey. So far, Tudor is two for two in my book. I can’t wait for her next book!

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Forget Me Not

Title: Forget Me Not

Author: Alexandra Oliva

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Thank you NetGalley for this book!

I can’t remember what it was about this book that made select it, but I’m really glad I did. This book started out really strange because I never read the blurbs ahead of time. I like to go in cold. So getting a feel for the book took a few chapters. But once the pieces fell into place, the book was smooth sailing for me, and I finished it in just a couple of days.

From Goodreads: What if your past wasn’t what you thought?

As a child, Linda Russell was left to raise herself in a 20-acre walled-off property in rural Washington. The woods were her home, and for twelve years she lived oblivious to a stark and terrible truth: Her mother had birthed her only to replace another daughter who died in a tragic accident years before.

And then one day Linda witnesses something she wasn’t meant to see. Terrified and alone, she climbs the wall and abandons her home, but her escape becomes a different kind of trap when she is thrust into the modern world—a world for which she is not only entirely unprepared, but which is unprepared to accept her.

And you couldn’t see a future for yourself?

Years later, Linda is living in Seattle and immersed in technology intended to connect, but she has never felt more alone. Social media continually brings her past back to haunt her, and she is hounded by the society she is now forced to inhabit. But when Linda meets a fascinating new neighbor who introduces her to the potential and escapism of virtual reality, she begins to allow herself to hope for more.

What would it take to reclaim your life?

Then an unexplained fire at her infamous childhood home prompts Linda to return to the property for the first time since she was a girl, unleashing a chain of events that will not only endanger her life but challenge her understanding of family, memory, and the world itself.

Because this book mentions the pandemic in the past, I knew it was set in the near future. Social media is now controlled by one tech, SocialHub, and people wear their phones are arm sleeves. See why I was confused at first? My own fault! But once I dug into Linda’s story, I couldn’t wait to see how her story, both past and present, would develop. I really enjoyed the fact that this book wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill thrillers, but rather, it has a fair amount of science fiction added to it. I found the story super creative and enjoyed the book quite a bit. Will for sure be recommending this one!

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The Burning Girls

Title: The Burning Girls

Author: CJ Tudor

Genre: mystery/thriller/horror

Thank you Netgalley for this book!

Holy smokes! (pun intended) What a crazy, great book. Let me make it clear that before I even finished this one, I requested The Chalk Man from my library. I was just so impressed with this book and its multiple plots that wove together so well. The book has so many layers of mystery all were so well-written and cohesive. I’m so glad I got to read this one. Oh, and Tudor makes a reference to my favorite band, The Killers, so I immediately tweeted my thanks to her, and she replied. So cool! Hi again, if you are reading this, Ms. Tudor! =)

From Goodreads: Welcome to Chapel Croft. Five hundred years ago, eight protestant martyrs were burned at the stake here. Thirty years ago, two teenage girls disappeared without a trace. And two months ago, the vicar of the local parish killed himself.

Reverend Jack Brooks, a single parent with a fourteen-year-old daughter and a heavy conscience, arrives in the village hoping to make a fresh start and find some peace. Instead, Jack finds a town mired in secrecy and a strange welcome package: an old exorcism kit and a note quoting scripture. “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known.”

The more Jack and daughter Flo get acquainted with the town and its strange denizens, the deeper they are drawn into their rifts, mysteries, and suspicions. And when Flo is troubled by strange sightings in the old chapel, it becomes apparent that there are ghosts here that refuse to be laid to rest.

But uncovering the truth can be deadly in a village where everyone has something to protect, everyone has links with the village’s bloody past, and no one trusts an outsider.

What I loved most about this book was that the story is really about the vicar’s past, the town’s past, and the town’s present, all at the same time. You learn more about Jack and why she left her previous post. You learn more about the martyrs from centuries ago and the girls who disappeared decades ago. And you learn about the townspeople and just what they have to hide. What I found interesting was that the story is told in first person from Jack’s perspective, but some chapters are told third person about Flo. I can’t say I’ve read a book that switches between first and third narrator like that. It didn’t confuse me at all, and I really appreciated the uniqueness of that. This book was great, plain and simple. I can’t wait to dive into The Chalk Man soon!