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 ARC, Book Preview, suspense, Thrillers

The Lost Boy by Jane Renshaw

Rod Clark is an avid birdwatcher. Another bird enthusiast, Anna, from his online birding group, offers him a free one-week vacation on her island/nature preserve off the Scottish coast. Rod is over the moon with excitement. His wife, Penny, not so much. Her concern is saving their failing transportation business. A week away is the last thing she wants.

Penny reluctantly packs up their two boys and heads off with Rod. While he treks off into the woods and along the rocky shoreline, Penny struggles to keep their two hyperactive boys in line while working remotely. Anna appears to be a very understanding hostess. She puts up with the boys’ rather destructive antics while harboring unstable thoughts. But after the older boy goes missing, it becomes obvious that someone besides Anna is keeping dangerous secrets.

The Lost Boy is a captivating thriller of revenge and suspense. I pretty much figured out the twist about a third of the way through the book, but I didn’t lose interest. I love the remote island setting and the way the characters are portrayed. The narration is omniscient, so you get to hear the inner thoughts of several people. This makes the book quite effective despite a fairly transparent plot line.

If you like the suspense and thriller genres, you may enjoy The Lost Boy. But I’d recommend not reading it on vacation in a remote area!

The Lost Boy, Jane Renshaw, Book Cover

My Rating 4 stars, Grade B

Thank you, NetGalley and Inkubator Books, for my Advanced Reader Copy.

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 Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, Thrillers

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Imagine a world where humanity as we know it is gone. A fungal parasite has taken over the brains and bodies of people of all ages and no-one is immune. This invasive species turns people into zombie-like creatures who must eat flesh to survive. They are basically incapable of thought, with all of their actions driven by the need to feed.

There are a few exception to this, particularly in the young. The military and a female scientist are trying to figure out what makes these children different. The most outstanding is a girl who not only demonstrates high intelligence, but also emotion, compassion and love.

When a group of rogue, violent humans break into the military camp, the people most interested in the exceptional mutant girl take her and go on the run. Most of them want her to survive, but not all of them.

I am not generally a fan of shuffling, drooling, brain eating zombie books and movies. But The Girl With All The Gifts transforms the typical zombie theme into an exploration of what makes us human.

Recommended for readers of Thrillers and Post-Apocalyptic fiction.

My Rating 5 Stars, A

Posted in Fiction, Mystery, Private Investigator, Thrillers

Still Here by Amy Stuart

Publication Info: Expected Publication date Aug 11, 2020 by Gallery Books. I read the pre-pub Kindle edition courtesy of NetGalley. Other editions will be available at the time of publication.

Summary: Clare is on the run from her abusive ex-husband, while investigating the disappearance of her boss, Malcolm. Malcolm was working on several cases of women who vanished, including his own wife, when he stopped contacting Clare. Clare is also working with a policewoman who has an interest in one of the women whose whereabouts is unknown.

The book’s action takes place in a small, seaside town. Claire’s first action is to illegally enter her boss’s house and then have a tousle over a gun with the female occupant, who turns out to be Malcolm’s sister in law. The women hug and make up, after realizing they both want to find Malcolm and his missing wife, Zoe.

As Clare continues to seek information on Malcolm, Zoe and two other missing women, she stumbles about from one dangerous situation to another, all the while congratulating herself on how good she is at being a P.I. She doesn’t even have a license. Lots more gun waving ensues.

Comments: I signed up to read and review Still Here through NetGalley. I finished it only due to this obligation. I didn’t realize it was the third and final book in a series and I have a personal quirk about reading series books in order. But I didn’t enjoy this book enough to want to go read the first two.

Maybe I’m just too old for this one. I thought the characters were completely unlikable, inconsistent and flat. There was plenty of action, but it was repetitive with way too much gun waving. The level of writing skill was decent — and indeed showed some promise — but the plot needed tightening in several places.

This is one book I just can’t recommend to my readers. Genre: Mystery, Private Investigator, Thriller

My Rating 2.5, C-

Posted in Beach Read, Best Sellers, suspense, Thrillers

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Publication Info: I read the Book of the Month Club edition published in 2020 by HarperFiction. Other editions available.

Summary: Jules Keegan wants the perfect wedding. As a style and home magazine publisher, she has a few connections. When one wedding planner offered a deep discount in exchange for a magazine promotion, Jules snatched up the opportunity.

Jules is marrying Will Slater, a gorgeous, hunky TV reality show star. The couple haven’t known each other long, but on the surface they seem as well matched as a wedding cake topper. Family and friends are invited to gather on a small, remote island off the coast of Ireland for a night of celebration.

But when the alcohol flows and the guests mingle, they start sharing some dark secrets. Jules’ fantasy wedding becomes the most memorable night of her life, for all the wrong reasons.

Comments: The Guest List has a whiz-bang finale, parts of which I definitely did not see coming! I loved the format the author used. The book is composed of mini chapters that use foreshadowing as a very effective suspense-building technique.

Reading this book was like riding a roller coaster. It starts out interesting, slows down a bit in the middle, then takes off like a rocket, whipping you along screaming every second of the thrilling ride. Bravo, Lucy Foley!

The Guest List was just chosen to be one of two books on Reece Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club this month.

Highly recommended for readers of Suspense and Thrillers, although maybe not if you’re in the middle of planning a wedding!

My Rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Thrillers

Deadly Medicine by Leonard Goldberg

Publication Info: Published November 3, 1992 by Signet. Paperback edition.

Summary: Psychotic egomaniac uses an experimental drug to get his jollies while killing women. The police investigator in charge of the case leans heavily on the experience of an intelligent, female physician named Joanna Blalock to help him solve the crime. Ridiculous scenarios ensue.

Comments: I was in a ginormous used book store recently and came across this book. It appealed to me because I was in the mood for a good old fashioned medical thriller. This definitely fit that category, but it was also over the top and ridiculous. It was so obviously cranked out just to make a buck that I considered not even putting it on my review page. But a few thoughts occurred to me…

This book was written twenty-seven years ago. Tastes have changed and popular pulp fiction these days isn’t usually quite so racist, misogynistic and completely unresearched. The police and the doctor get into completely unrealistic situations while working on the case. The characters are black and white stereotypes that sometimes change their views within a few sentences.

I found myself grinding my teeth at all of the verbal and physical actions against the professional females by the so-called professional male characters. You don’t see as much of that in books anymore unless it is to highlight the piggish actions of a particular character.

But unfortunately, misogyny is still alive and well in the world. In restaurants, I observe the comments men make to their female wait staff. My daughter is in the construction business and deals with men who ignore her completely or make demeaning remarks, pretending they are joking. And don’t get me started on some of the men who get elected to office, run corporations or are sports figures and movie stars!

So, I decided to review Deadly Medicine to get on my soap box and make a statement. Yes, some changes have been made in this country and others. But there is still a very long way to go until women and minorities are treated with the respect and dignity due all of humanity. I’m glad that most of the books I read are much better than this one.

Would I read another one in this series? No.

Not recommended unless you are trying for a blast from the past experience and want to go kick an effigy afterward.

My Rating 2 STARS: (It gets more than one because at least the writing quality was decent).

Posted in Fiction, Thrillers

Redemption by David Baldacci (Amos Decker #5)

Publication Info: Published April 16, 2015 by Grand Central Publishing. I read the Kindle edition from my local library. Other editions available.

Summary: Amos Decker is back in his hometown of Burlington, Ohio for his daughter’s birthday. He travels there every year to put flowers on her grave and recall the details of the deaths of his wife and daughter four years ago.

Due to a football injury many years ago, Decker has two unusual talents — perfect recall and an ability to see auras. While his perfect memory has its uses for solving murders, it causes him much grief and pain as he cannot forget the details of the murders of his own family.

While at the grave site, Decker is approached by an emaciated man named Hawkins. The man tells him that he was released from prison because he is dying. He wants Decker to help him prove his innocence. This is an unusual request because it was Decker who found the evidence to get him convicted.

As Decker digs into the case, more bodies pile up. Decker finds himself at a personal crossroads and must come to terms with some facts about his own involvement in Hawkins’ conviction.

Comments: I’ve enjoyed reading this series and watching Decker’s character grow. I hope there will be at least one more. In Redemption, Decker’s hard-shell exterior cracks open a bit more as he comes to terms with changes in his condition. He opens himself up to some feelings and realizes that he doesn’t have to do everything alone–and that he would benefit from giving to others.

Recommended for readers of Thrillers.

My Rating: 4 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 Science Fiction, Thrillers

The Dark Above by Jeremy Finley (William Chance & Lynn Roseworth #2)

Publication Info: Published July 23, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press. Hardcover edition courtesy of my local library. Other editions available.

Summary: William Chance is in hiding. Once the focus of a media frenzy after his mysterious disappearance and recovery fifteen years ago, he hasn’t been forgotten. William fears that if he is found, the danger to his family and the world-wide disasters will get even worse.

William makes one mistake and suddenly the media and some mysterious government operatives swarm around his rented trailer in Arkansas. Only his own prior planning, a mysterious little girl with the power to kill and an ardent, wealthy fan save him from capture. As this unlikely trio goes on the run together, Chance’s nightmares increase and the worldwide storms and fires escalate.

Lynn Roseworth, Chance’s grandmother, rescued her grandson from captivity when he was a child. She fully understands the danger to herself and the entire planet if William is held captive again. She and her friend, Roxy, embark on a mission to help William Chance save the world from alien forces.

Comments: I really liked the first book in this series, The Darkest Time of Night. I expected a continuation of the story of Lynn, William and their families. While technically that’s what is in this novel, it lacks the humanity that captivated me in the first book. The Dark Above is non-stop action without character development. Reading it felt like watching a Sci-Fi Thriller film that was so intent on special effects, it lacked depth.

Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller, Alien Invasion.

My rating: 3.5 STARS