REVIEW: ROCK PAPER SCISSORS, BY ALICE FEENEY

Things have been wrong with Mr. and Mrs. Wright for a long time. When Adam and Amelia win a weekend away to Scotland, it might be just what their marriage needs. Self-confessed workaholic and screenwriter Adam Wright has lived with face blindness his whole life. He can’t recognize friends or family, or even his own wife.

Every anniversary the couple exchange traditional gifts—paper, cotton, pottery, tin—and each year Adam’s wife writes him a letter that she never lets him read. Until now. They both know this weekend will make or break their marriage, but they didn’t randomly win this trip. One of them is lying, and someone doesn’t want them to live happily ever after.

Ten years of marriage. Ten years of secrets. And an anniversary they will never forget.

 

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Adam and Amelia alternately narrate their stories, interspersed with letters from someone signed “wife.” The “Rock Paper Scissors” game was a familiar theme, and while it seemed playful, there was a darkness surrounding it. As we learn more and more about them and their secrets, we “meet” other characters, like Robin, who seems to live near the vacation cottage. But that cottage has so many weird aspects that we just know that nothing will end well.

As the end approaches and more is revealed, I realized that I didn’t like any of the characters! There might not be a happily ever after for some of them, so the ending seemed inevitable. I was still stunned by what eventually happened. And then, even more was revealed in a final chapter. 5 stars

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REVIEW: THE GUILT TRIP, BY SANDIE JONES

Rachel and Jack. Paige and Noah. And Will. Five friends who’ve known one another for years. Then along came Ali, Will’s new fiancée.

The three couples travel to Portugal for Ali and Will’s destination wedding. The weekend away at the gorgeous cliff-top villa is a chance to relax and get to know Ali a little better. She seems perfectly nice—and Will seems happy after years of bad choices.

But when Rachel discovers a shocking secret about Ali, everything changes. As the wedding weekend unfolds, the secrets each of them holds begin to spill, and friendships and marriages threaten to unravel.

In Sandie Jones’s explosive new suspense novel, jumping to conclusions can become the difference between life and death.
 
 
 
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Almost immediately, The Guilt Trip reveals a group of old friendships beginning to unravel with the addition of one person: Will’s fiancé. Rachel and Paige are especially put off by the attention-grabbing Ali, and behind everything she says, they see untruths and secrets that are unacceptable.

But when they begin to doubt each other and their spouses, they are plunged into a devastating cycle that has no good end in sight.

I felt most connected to Rachel and hoped that whatever she discovers about the others will not cause her life to implode. But unfortunately, there is no happy ending here. A 5 star read.
 
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REVIEW: THE HOUSE GUESTS, BY EMILIE RICHARDS

 

In the wake of her husband’s sudden death, Cassie Costas finds her relationship with her teenage stepdaughter unraveling. After their move to historic Tarpon Springs, Florida, Savannah hates her new town, her school and most of all her stepmom, whom she blames for her father’s death. Cassie has enough to contend with as she searches for answers about the man she shared a life with, including why all their savings have disappeared.

When Savannah’s rebellion culminates in an act that leaves single mother Amber Blair and her sixteen-year-old son homeless, Cassie empathizes with the woman’s predicament and invites the strangers to move in. As their lives intertwine, Cassie realizes that Amber is hiding something. She’s evasive about her past, but the fear in her eyes tells a darker story. Cassie wonders what the woman living under her roof is running from…and what will happen if it finally catches up to her.
 
 
 
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The House Guests is a layered and fascinating tale of family dynamics, secrets, and the dangers that wait around every corner.

I loved how Cassie has reached out to Amber and Will, even though her own family issues are complicated with Savannah’s moodiness and the mysteries behind her husband’s financial losses.

The story moved between the characters, spotlighting the adults and the teenagers, drawing us into their lives and caring about what the secrets and losses might reveal.

The intensity mounted as the characters drew closer to unraveling the mysteries from the past.

By the end, we are rooting for them all, which made this one a 5 star read for me.
 
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REVIEW: SIX WEEKS TO LIVE, BY CATHERINE MCKENZIE

A gripping psychological suspense novel about a woman diagnosed with cancer who sets out to discover if someone poisoned her before her time is up, from the bestselling author of the “addictive and fast-paced” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author) thriller You Can’t Catch Me.

Jennifer Barnes never expected the shocking news she received at a routine doctor’s appointment: she has a terminal brain tumor—and only six weeks left to live.

While stunned by the diagnosis, the forty-eight-year-old mother decides to spend what little time she has left with her family—her adult triplets and twin grandsons—close by her side. But when she realizes she was possibly poisoned a year earlier, she’s determined to discover who might have tried to get rid of her before she’s gone for good.

Separated from her husband and with a contentious divorce in progress, Jennifer focuses her suspicions on her soon-to-be ex. Meanwhile, her daughters are each processing the news differently. Calm medical student Emily is there for whatever Jennifer needs. Moody scientist Aline, who keeps her mother at arm’s length, nonetheless agrees to help with the investigation. Even imprudent Miranda, who has recently had to move back home, is being unusually solicitous.

But with her daughters doubting her campaign against their father, Jennifer can’t help but wonder if the poisoning is all in her head—or if there’s someone else who wanted her dead.

 

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From the very first page of Six Weeks to Live, I was hooked. I have loved every book by this author, and this one did not disappoint.

The book is full of family drama with characters you love to hate, including our first-person narrator Jennifer. Is she guilty, too? Or are others in her family circle to blame?

In the beginning, we all want to point our fingers at the horrible ex-husband Jake, but as more is revealed about each daughter, we can’t stop peeling back the layers to find the truth.

By the very last page, we have our answers, but I was still stunned by what we had learned. But then again, sometimes the least likely person becomes the villain.

A brilliant read that earned 5 stars.

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REVIEW: A MILLION REASONS WHY, BY JESSICA STRAWSER

 
When two strangers are linked by a mail-in DNA test, it’s an answered prayer—that is, for one half sister. For the other, it will dismantle everything she knows to be true.

But as they step into the unfamiliar realm of sisterhood, the roles will reverse in ways no one could have foreseen.

Caroline lives a full, happy life—thriving career, three feisty children, enviable marriage, and a close-knit extended family. She couldn’t have scripted it better. Except for one thing:

She’s about to discover her fundamental beliefs about them all are wrong.

Sela lives a life in shades of gray, suffering from irreversible kidney failure. Her marriage crumbled in the wake of her illness. Her beloved mother, always her closest friend, unexpectedly passed away. She refuses to be defined by her grief, but still, she worries what will happen to her two-year-old son if she doesn’t find a donor match in time.

She’s the only one who knows Caroline is her half sister and may also be her best hope for a future. But Sela’s world isn’t as clear-cut as it appears—and one misstep could destroy it all.

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Alternating narrators tell us the story of two sisters who discover each other via a DNA test.

They carefully maneuver around each other via emails for a while, and then they meet. Finally. What will happen next?

As time passes, we learn more of their individual stories, including the love affair that created Sela. Additionally, we come to realize the secrets held by each of the parents and how they were able to hide everything for many years.

Soon there are unexpected twists that stir up all the emotions as we ride along with the characters. I thought I had it all figured out until the last-minute reveals stunned me. A Million Reasons Why was an unforgettable novel that earned 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE WRONG FAMILY, BY TARRYN FISHER

 

 

Another twisted psychological thriller guaranteed to turn your world upside down. Have you ever been wrong about someone? Juno was wrong about Winnie Crouch. Before moving in with the Crouch family, Juno thought Winnie and her husband, Nigel, had the perfect marriage, the perfect son—the perfect life. Only now that she’s living in their beautiful house, she sees the cracks in the crumbling facade are too deep to ignore. Still, she isn’t one to judge. After her grim diagnosis, the retired therapist simply wants a place to live out the rest of her days in peace. But that peace is shattered the day Juno overhears a chilling conversation between Winnie and Nigel… She shouldn’t get involved. She really shouldn’t. But this could be her chance to make a few things right. Because if you thought Juno didn’t have a secret of her own, then you were wrong about her, too. From the wickedly dark mind of bestselling author Tarryn Fisher, The Wrong Family is a taut new thriller that’s riddled with twists in all the right places.
 
 
 
 

As we enter the world of Winnie and Nigel Crouch from the perspective of Juno, we are not sure what is going on. How is Juno able to insert herself into the deepest secrets of their lives without ever actually interacting with them? I was confused for a while, and then we slowly come to realize what is happening.

The Wrong Family is definitely not what it appears to be, and neither is the story. By the end, I was holding my breath, waiting to see what would happen next. An unforgettable story. 4.5 stars.

 
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REVIEW: WHEN SHE WAS GOOD, BY MICHAEL ROBOTHAM

 

Criminal psychologist Cyrus Haven and Evie Cormac return in this mesmerizing new thriller from internationally bestselling author Michael Robotham, a writer Stephen King calls “an absolute master…with heart and soul.”

Who is Evie, the girl with no past, running from? She was discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Her ability to tell when someone is lying helped Cyrus crack an impenetrable case in Good Girl, Bad Girl. Now, the closer Cyrus gets to uncovering answers about Evie’s dark history, the more he exposes Evie to danger, giving her no choice but to run. Ultimately, both will have to decide if some secrets are better left buried and some monsters should never be named…


Alternating narrators tell the story in When She Was Good. From Cyrus, to Evie, the story unfolds. Another player shows herself along the way in the form of Sacha, the young woman who had found Evie hiding out in a closet.

A child with a dark past and no current connections to those who could fill in the blanks, little Evie is almost grown and still hiding from the truth about her past.

Who is still searching for her and trying to do her harm? Can Cyrus protect her by helping her hide the truth, or must he finally discover the answers?

A fascinating tale that was slow in revealing itself, the intensity builds toward the end. 4.0 stars.

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REVIEW: UNFOLLOW ME, BY CHARLOTTE DUCKWORTH

You can’t stop watching her.

Violet Young is a hugely popular journalist-turned-mummy-influencer, with three children, a successful husband and a million subscribers on YouTube who tune in daily to watch her everyday life unfold.

Until the day she’s no longer there.

But one day she disappears from the online world—her entire social media presence deleted overnight, with no explanation. Has she simply decided that baring her life to all online is no longer a good idea, or has something more sinister happened to Violet?

But do you really know who Violet is?

Her fans are obsessed with finding out the truth, but their search quickly reveals a web of lies, betrayal, and shocking consequences…


What is the pull that online fans have to Violet, a mummy influencer who is someone to envy? Do they really adore her, or are they just hoping she will fall on her face?

Initially, we meet a couple of fans: Yvonne and Lily. They each have their individual stories. One seems to be a true fan, but the other could be out to get Violet.

Alternating narratives lead us through the story and the pitfalls they each have stumbled over. Who has the most to gain by Violet’s destruction?

Something dark has happened to explain why Violet has disappeared, and as we peek into the world of fans Yvonne and Lily, we finally understand their motivations.

As Unfollow Me finally concludes, with many secrets revealed, each of the women we have followed along the way has faced major changes that scare them away from the world of online stalking. Will they redeem themselves,or just turn the page to a slightly different venue? 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE GUEST LIST, BY LUCY FOLEY

 

The bride – The plus one – The best man – The wedding planner – The bridesmaid – The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

As we follow along, getting acquainted with the characters in The Guest List, we are on tenterhooks, wondering what will go wrong. The sense of foreboding hovers overhead as the alternating narrators tell the story. Who will end up in a dark place…or dead?

Jules, the bride, was annoyingly determined for perfection, critical of anything or anyone that might interfere with that goal.

Olivia, the bridesmaid and sister to the bride, is in a mood from the beginning. Something has gone awry for her, but she is trying to hide whatever that might be.

Hannah, the “Plus One,” is married to one of the bride’s male friends, and the two of them seem to be too close for comfort. Why are they often huddled together, whispering, and will their behavior trigger something in Hannah?

What mysterious drinking games amongst the groomsmen are setting off sparks among the other guests?

As the days pass, we know that dark and mysterious events will soon be coming…and we hold our breaths, waiting.

Just when we have imagined the scenario that will play out, we realize that there are complex puzzle pieces coming together to make up the eventual tragedy, and nothing can be sorted out easily.

By the time I turned the last page, I felt something for each and every character. Some of it was sadness. There was some empathy, too, but also a dark aura of disgust and contempt for the entitlement that had threaded itself through their lives. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE SEA OF LOST GIRLS, BY CAROL GOODMAN

Tess has worked hard to keep her past buried, where it belongs. Now she’s the wife to a respected professor at an elite boarding school, where she also teaches. Her seventeen-year-old son, Rudy, whose dark moods and complicated behavior she’s long worried about, seems to be thriving: he has a lead role in the school play and a smart and ambitious girlfriend. Tess tries not to think about the mistakes she made eighteen years ago, and mostly, she succeeds.

And then one more morning she gets a text at 2:50 AM: it’s Rudy, asking for help. When Tess picks him up she finds him drenched and shivering, with a dark stain on his sweatshirt. Four hours later, Tess gets a phone call from the Haywood school headmistress: Lila Zeller, Rudy’s girlfriend, has been found dead on the beach, not far from where Tess found Rudy just hours before.

As the investigation into Lila’s death escalates, Tess finds her family attacked on all sides. What first seemed like a tragic accidental death is turning into something far more sinister, and not only is Tess’s son a suspect but her husband is a person of interest too. But Lila’s death isn’t the first blemish on Haywood’s record, and the more Tess learns about Haywood’s fabled history, the more she realizes that not all skeletons will stay safely locked in the closet.

For most of Tess’s life, she has been trying to bury the past and her dark secrets. Throughout The Sea of Lost Girls, our narrator Tess has many fears and reasons to try to hide everything she has lived through. Some might point out that she could have prevented a lot of her own pain if she had come forward to share about how she had been abused and assaulted by someone who should have been a protector, but old habits die hard. And when women fear that others will not believe them, they often hunker down and hide everything even more.

The story takes us to the distant past and how the school where Tess and her husband teach has its own reasons to bury the past, but once Tess realizes how deep the secrets go and how much danger is coming at her, she begins to come forward with the truth.

Will she be able to protect her son? Can her husband be protected? Or will she find out that she is covering for the wrong people?

An intense tale that kept me guessing, not sure who had killed Lila or what had happened to all the lost girls. Just when I thought I knew the answers, another surprise would come around the bend. 4.5 stars.

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