Posted in ARC, Audio, Mystery, Psychological Suspense, Thrillers

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

Liv Reese wakes up to discover that strangers live in her apartment and there’s a bloody knife in her pocket. Her hands and arms are covered with strange messages like “stay awake”, “don’t sleep”, “don’t trust anyone”.

Each time Liv wakes up she’s living in a nightmare. She can’t remember the last two years of her life and each day is like starting all over. She writes messages on herself to try to prompt memories. Over and over, she discovers a large scar on her torso. She can’t remember how she got it.

When a man is found murdered in his bed, the clues lead the police to consider Liv the prime suspect. But how do you get enough evidence to prosecute a woman who can’t remember what she did yesterday?

Stay Awake is an anxiety inducing mystery-thriller. If you’ve ever woken up and briefly panicked, not knowing where you are, you’ll get an inkling of what Liv feels each and every waking moment of her life. In the beginning of the book, I was working right along with Liv to try to work through the murky mess that is her life. Eventually, other voices gave me clues as to what is going on, which greatly helped my agitation.

I listened to the audio version and have to confess it kept ME awake! But there were two reasons for that and I am going to rate the book accordingly. The author, Megan Goldin, gets five stars for a first-rate thriller.

The narration was much more jarring. The narrator created a voice for Liv that was extremely distracting. It was halting, and alternated between peevish, puzzled and angry. Puzzled, I can understand, but there was no “normal” base voice, just this constant barrage of over-the-top moods. About halfway through the book, this leveled out quite a bit, and the listening experience was a lot more enjoyable. The narrator for Liv’s voice also mispronounced several words.

Stay Awake is recommended for readers of Psychological Suspense and Thrillers, but I suggest reading the text version.

book cover, Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

My Ratings: Book — 5 Stars, Grade A
Narration — 3 Stars, Grade C

Posted in Psychological Suspense, Thrillers

The Housemaid by Freida McFadden

Nina Winchester needs a maid to help clean her house, run errands and look after her daughter. She also has a problem to solve, so she needs just the right person.

Millie has a problem and desperately needs a job. She’s an ex-con, out on parole with few job options. The jobs she’s had haven’t paid enough to get a roof over her head other than the one on her car. When Millie is offered a job as a live-in maid in the Winchester’s opulent home, she thinks all of her problems will soon be solved. She couldn’t be more wrong.

Take a roller coaster ride with this clever, twisty thriller. I couldn’t put it down and read it in a single afternoon. I definitely did not see a few things coming, despite having figured out that all could not possibly be as depicted. The ending was awesomely jaw dropping!

The Housemaid is the first book I’ve read by this author. I’ve already put another on my wish list. (I struggle to keep my wish list under a rather unwieldy 500 titles).

I read this book for FREE with my Kindle Unlimited subscription. I consider this month’s subscription fee money well spent!

My Rating 5 Stars, A+

Posted in Beach Read, Psychological Suspense, suspense

The Safe Place by Anna Downes

Publication Info: Expected publication date July 14, 2020 by St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books. I read the pre-pub Kindle edition courtesy of NetGalley.

Summary: Emily Proudman’s life is a mess. She wants to be an actress, but struggles to get jobs. She’s klutzy. Her roommate is a slob. She fights with her adoptive parents. She suddenly gets fired from her temp job as a receptionist and gets an eviction notice from her landlord. As if all that weren’t bad enough, her agent informs her that she’s moving and Emily will no longer have any contacts for acting jobs.

While wandering in a daze trying to figure out what she’s going to do with her horrible life, she doesn’t see the bus that almost hits her. In shock, she realizes that the man who pushed her out of danger is the CEO of her former place of employment, Scott Denny.

Scott Denny is handsome, rich and very successful. When he offers her an unusual lifeline, Emily jumps at the chance. The job details are rather vague, something about assisting Scott’s wife and small daughter, but the job includes a salary, car and relocation to a villa in France. It sounds ideal. Daydreaming about Scott is also a perk for Emily.

Little does Emily know that Scott is trying to find a solution to a huge problem of his own. As she spends time with Scott’s family and works doing odd jobs at the estate, she realizes that there is something very peculiar going on. When she figures out the mystery, she tries to run for her life.

Comments: I figured out the mystery long before clueless Emily did, but I found The Safe Place to be captivating anyway. There was just the right amount of weirdness without resorting to too many cheap plot twists. The characters were overdrawn and overly anguished, but had quirks that made them interesting. Overall, this was a fun read and I found I didn’t want to put the book down.

Recommended for readers of Psychological Suspense. This would also make a great beach or travel book!

My Rating: 4 STARS

Posted in Fiction, Psychological Suspense

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Publication Info: I listened to the Audible Audio edition, published April 21, 2020 by MacMillan Audio. Other editions available, including hardcover and ebooks. Check with your favorite seller.

Summary: Marin Machado’s life shattered the day her four year old son was stolen. He was right by her side at a busy market just before Christmas — and then he vanished. The security cameras showed him walking away with a man in a Santa Claus suit. No other traces were found.

A year later, she is still trying to cope. She is in a support group, attends therapy sessions, and has hired a private investigator to find her son, Sebastian. Her husband has become increasingly distant and their marriage is falling apart. The investigator hasn’t found any trace of Sebastian, but she informs Marin that her husband is having an affair. Marin becomes obsessed with the woman, searching for her on social media and even stalking her at work.

Marin’s closest friend is Sal, a man who has a bit of a shady past. When Sal offers Marin a permanent solution for her problem with her husband, she is certain it is the only thing to do. But that leads to an even worse secret.

Comments: I probably shouldn’t have been listening to this one in bed. It definitely kept me awake a few nights! Just when you think you have it all figured out, the twists keep coming.

Many years ago, at a very crowded event, I briefly lost my son, who was close to Sebastian’s age. I still remember the terror of realizing he was not by my side. It all ended well (and he hasn’t forgotten this either!), but this incident in my own past definitely ratcheted up the emotional anguish I felt along with Marin. This one was a nail biter!

Highly recommended for readers of Psychological Suspense.

My Rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Psychological Suspense

Follow Me by Kathleen Barber

Publication Info: Expected publication date February 25, 2020 by Gallery Books. Kindle Pre-Pub edition courtesy of NetGalley. Other editions will be available at the time of publication.

Summary: Audrey Miller has over a million followers on various social media accounts. She photographs and posts her every action — her choice of clothing, her furnishings, her job, her meals, her activities. Being a social media influencer is hard work. She has to post very frequently in order to maintain her following.

Despite the lack of a post-graduate degree, Audrey’s social media experience lands her a job with the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. She is also reunited with some old friends, including a sorority friend from college, Cat, and a former boyfriend, Nick.

Audrey rents an apartment sight unseen. When she arrives, she finds several things wrong with it, but she’s determined to make it work. Besides being in the basement, the landlady’s grandson is a creepy drug addict who likes to break into her place and harass her.

Meanwhile, in separate chapters labeled HIM, we meet Audrey’s stalker. He follows her every move on social media and starts following her in real life. He spins tales in his head that she will fall in love with him. He ratchets up his desperate acts. Audrey begins to notice disturbing and frightening things — like someone peeping through her window and leaving orange roses at her door.

She’s not safe at work either. One of her annoying coworkers keeps trying to impress her by wearing her favorite color, orange, and some weird guy keeps sneaking into the off-limits, under construction, exhibit that Audrey is promoting.

As Audrey’s life gets increasingly strange and stressful, she spins further and further out of control. She barely keeps up with her job and personal social media accounts. She is on the verge of a meltdown when suddenly life gets better. But then…it isn’t.

Comments: Follow Me kept me guessing until nearly the very end. It was a real nail-biting, page turner! Everyone Audrey knows is a suspect at some point. The creepy HIM chapters keep the reader in the loop even though Audrey is clueless most of the time.

I personally enjoyed the setting, Washington D.C., as I was born there and spent a lot of time in that city throughout most of my life.

If you like psychological suspense, put Follow Me at the top of your reading list! And keep the lights on.

Very highly recommended for readers of Psychological Suspense.

My Rating 5 AWESOME STARS

Posted in Fiction, Psychological Suspense, suspense

The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

Publication Info: Expected publication date January 14, 2020 by Ballentine. Kindle pre-pub edition courtesy of NetGalley. Various editions will be available at the time of publication.

Summary: Leslie Voigt desperately wants her inheritance. Her father recently died and left her his house full of junk and fifty thousand dollars. The problem is that she can’t collect the inheritance without her sister, Robin, whom she hasn’t seen since she ran away as a teen.

Leslie finds her sister living under an assumed name in Las Vegas. The problem is that when she finds her, she’s dead of a drug overdose. Her sister was always getting into trouble and using drugs, so her death is not surprising, but it is inconvenient. Now how is Leslie supposed to collect the inheritance? She needs the money immediately and can’t afford to wait until everything goes through the courts.

Despondent, Leslie stops at a local cafe to ponder her options. When she leaves she sees a young woman, who introduces herself as Mary, perched on her car. The two women start talking and after a few more meetings, hatch a plan that will benefit both of them. It becomes clear that both women have secrets. Which of them is the better liar?

Comments: I’ll start with what I liked about The Better Liar. It was definitely a page turner and I finished it in just a couple sittings. I could easily picture the settings because I lived in Henderson/Las Vegas for three years and I’ve visited Albuquerque on several occasions. There were twists and turns along the way and the ending was definitely a surprise.

Now on to what I didn’t like and why my overall score isn’t higher. The ending of the book and the author’s afterward muddied the waters. The author wanted to get a message across–one that definitely deserves attention–and chose this book as a way to do it. In the end, it didn’t do either the book or the message full justice. It made the suspense fall a bit flat at the end and I felt that the message would have been better served in a different genre.

Now that I have you completely puzzled, go read the book!

Genre: Suspense, Psychological Suspense

My rating: 3.5 STARS

Posted in Psychological Suspense, suspense, Thrillers

Exhume by Danielle Girard (Dr. Schwartzman #1)

Publication Info: Published October 1, 2016 by Thomas & Mercer. I read the Kindle Unlimited edition. Other editions available.

Summary: A woman is found dead in a San Francisco apartment. The victim is arranged on the bed in a yellow dress with a bouquet of yellow flowers. Her brown, wavy hair is fanned out on the pillow. As medical examiner Dr. Annabelle Schwartzman examines the body, she finds a pendant necklace and nearly faints. The necklace is an exact match for the one she wears daily. The cross with Star of David design was a one of a kind item…and yet, here is another. Between the necklace and the yellow flowers, Anna knows her controlling, abusive husband has found her again.

Comments: I’m not going to say much more lest I give away too much of the plot in this thoroughly creepy thriller. Exhume grabbed me from the start because I also hate the color yellow. I’m not sure why–maybe I was frightened by something yellow as a child, but the use of this color definitely added an additional layer of terror to this novel.

The detailed descriptions of the autopsies reminded me of very early Patricia Cornwell books — just a bit of warning if anyone is squeamish about that sort of thing.

I got this book free from Kindle Unlimited. The other three books in the Dr. Schwartzman series are also available.

Recommended for readers of Thrillers and Suspense novels.

My Rating: 4 STARS

Posted in Psychological Suspense, Thrillers

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Publication Info: Published July 30, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press. I read the hardcover edition from my local library. Other editions available.

Summary: Nobody likes team building exercises, but when four high-flying Stanhope financial executives get an order to attend an escape room they go. After a series of expensive mishaps and mistakes, they know their jobs are on the line. Each is determined to rise to the top while seeing their co-workers fail.

Vincent, Sam, Sylvie and Jules are told meet up at a high-rise building after hours. They are used to working late and unusual hours, so while this causes mental grumbling, it is no cause for alarm. But after they step into the elevator, they soon realize that something odd is going on. They were informed that the elevator was an escape room exercise. But as the elevator shoots up to a higher floor, it suddenly stops and goes dark. Armed with lights from laptops and cell phones, they search for clues while sniping at each other.

As the hours pass locked in a dark, hot box of a room, the situation becomes more dire. One of the group is badly injured. Food and water are in short supply. And one of them has a gun.

Eventually, they realize that someone has done this to them for revenge. The real answer to the escape room riddle is, who?

Comments: This book is sure to give the heebie-jeebies to anyone even slightly claustrophobic. The tension in the elevator is relieved by the alternating chapters narrated by Sara Hall, another Stanhope employee who is not in the inner circle. Through Sarah’s narration, the reader gets an insider’s view of the cutthroat, grasping, money-loving corporate culture that feeds the egos and greed of Vincent, Sam, Sylvie and Jules.

The Escape Room is a solid psychological thriller that creeps out and nibbles at some of our basic fears. I know I will be looking at the elevators in my building with some trepidation for some time to come!

Recommended for readers of Thrillers, Psychological Thrillers and Financial Fiction.

My Rating: 4 STARS

Posted in Beach Read, Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Police Procedural, Psychological Suspense, suspense, Thrillers

Lying Next to Me by Gregg Olsen

Publication Info: Published May 21st 2019 by Thomas & Mercer. I read the Kindle edition through Amazon’s Prime Reading

Summary: Adam Warner is out on the lake with his three year old daughter, Aubrey, when they witness a shocking scene on shore. Adam’s wife, Sophie, is suddenly attacked and hauled off by a strange man. Panicked, Adam rows to shore as quickly as he can but by the time he gets there, the man is gone–and so is his wife. The only witness to the crime is a nearsighted old man. Sophie is soon found dead on the beach.

Besides the cottage Adam is in, there are two others rented out. In one is a grandmother, watching her two very active grandsons. She was busy inside at the time of the incident. The other is rented out by a married couple, Kristen and Connor. The woman says she didn’t hear anything and the man was sleeping off an alcoholic binge.

The police investigate and, of course, the suspicion falls on the husband, Adam. But, Lee, one of the officers knew him from childhood. Adam found her after a she was abducted as a young girl and she just knew he couldn’t have done it. Adam was one of the good guys.

As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that more than one person may have had a motive for killing Sophie Warner, and that the motive for the murder is far more complex than it first appears.

Comments: Lying Next to Me is an engrossing, rapid-fire tale of murder and deceit. The reader is led to a conclusion about the murderer and then just knows there is more to come. And there is — in a stunning conclusion.

There was one part at the end that didn’t quite ring true, but it was about a secondary character and not important to the overall plot.

Recommended for readers of Mysteries, Psychological Suspense, Thrillers, Suspense and those looking for something for a long flight or the beach.

My Goodreads rating: 4 STARS

Posted in Beach Read, Best Sellers, British, Contemporary Fiction, Psychological Suspense, suspense, Thrillers, Women's Fiction

Twenty-Nine Seconds by T.M. Logan

Publication Info: Expected publication date Sept 10, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press. Pre-pub Kindle edition courtesy of NetGalley. Previously published in the U.K.: other editions available.

Summary: Dr. Sarah Haywood works hard at her job at the University. She really needs a promotion to a permanent position, as she is currently single mother. Her husband ran off with another woman to “find himself”, leaving her with two young children. Sarah works hard, keeps on top of her busy teaching schedule and even comes up with an idea for additional funding.

But all of this is threatened by one man, Professor Alan Hawthorne. Alan won’t let her — or any woman — get ahead unless they agree to his terms. At the university, Alan is untouchable. He has an impeccable public reputation on his BBC show. If a woman complains about his sexual harassment, she is disgraced and dismissed. When he steals Sarah’s ideas, she feels completely overwhelmed.

One fateful day, Sarah inadvertently does a good deed for a stranger. That stranger offers to make one person, any person, in her life disappear forever. Sarah must decide if the risks outweigh the consequences.

Comments: I couldn’t put this book down. I read until late in the evening, fell asleep, woke up and finished it. It absolutely had me gripping my Kindle until the very last few pages.

This is a very timely story of one man’s abuse of power and the fear he instills in others to keep his secrets. I know there are women out there who will relate to the situation, if not the solution.

Highly recommended for readers of Psychological Suspense and Thrillers. It would also make a terrific Beach Read and I’d love to see it on the best seller lists.

My Goodreads rating is 5 stars.