A Good Man

4.5  out of  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

US Publication – January 14, 2020

Description

A dark and gripping novel of psychological suspense about a family man driven to unspeakable acts, in the vein of The Perfect Nanny and We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Thomas Martin was a devoted family man who had all the trappings of an enviable life: a beautiful wife and daughter, a well-appointed home on Long Island’s north shore, a job at a prestigious Manhattan advertising firm. He was also a devoted son and brother, shielding the women in his orbit from the everyday brutalities of the world.
But what happens when Thomas’s fragile ego is rocked? After committing a horrific deed — that he can never undo — Thomas grapples with his sense of self. Sometimes he casts himself as a victim and, at other times, a monster. All he ever did was try to be a good man, but maybe if he tells his version of the story, he might uncover how and why things unraveled so horribly.

My Thoughts

 Good Man is told from the perspective of Thomas Martin. He is by all outward appearances, a good man who works diligently to provide his family with everything they need. He is a husband, father, son, and brother, who has a solid career and a nice house on Long Island. Why then is he telling a story about what went wrong in his perfect life? Is Thomas a reliable narrator, or is his version of the truth flawed?


Seeing everything that happened through his eyes, provides a unique window into the tragedy about to unfold. It is almost impossible to say much more without entering spoiler territory, but I will say that when I read the final page, I was simply stunned. I can’t say that I ever empathized with Thomas, but I found his descent into darkness compelling, like a train wreck that you just can’t take your eyes off. I could not put A Good Man down until I knew how it would end. A dark, twisted, tragic tale of a man and the havoc he creates.


I know that this book won’t be for everyone, but for fans of psychological suspense, this one would be hard to beat.

I received a DRC from Penguin Books through Edelweiss +.

 

The Poison Garden

⭐⭐⭐⭐

US Publication – January 14,2020

Description

A new novel of insidious secrets and chilling revelations surrounding a mysterious cult–the latest gripping psychological thriller from Alex Marwood

When nearly one hundred members of The Ark, a sinister apocalypse cult are found dead by poison at their isolated community in North Wales, those left alive are scattered to the winds with few coping skills and fewer answers. For twenty-three-year-old Romy, who has never known life outside the compound, learning how to live in a world she has been taught to fear is terrifying.

Now Romy must start a new life for herself–and the child growing inside her. She is determined to find the rest of her family and keep her baby safe, no matter the cost. But as the horrors of her past start to resurface, she realizes that leaving her old life behind won’t be easy. Outside the walls of The Ark, the real evil has only just begun.

A brilliantly plotted, page-turning novel from “one of psychological suspense’s best writers” (The Boston Globe), The Poison Garden will leave you stunned.

 

My Thoughts

The Poison Garden is the first book I have read by Alex Marwood. Lucien is the leader of a cult known as the Ark. He believes that everyone who lives outside is dead, not literally at the moment perhaps, but their world is certain to end sooner or later. Years go by and children grow up, knowing no other way than the ways of the Ark. Girls chosen to bear Lucien’s children are honored and revered within the community and know no other way of life.
But something happens within the walls of the Ark and three siblings, Romy, Ilo, and Eden wind up in the world of the dead. Ilo and Eden now live with their aunt, while Romy pregnant with Lucien’s child searches for them. If living within the walls of the Ark was tough, life on the outside is even worse.
There is much more to this story than I can say without heading into spoiler territory. Romy’s decisions stunned me, and I loved how the author turned my expectations for The Poison Garden upside down! Dark and disturbing but a thoroughly engaging read.A wonderfully written book that I won’t soon forget.
I received a DRC from Penguin Books through Edelweiss +.

Big Lies in a Small Town

4.5 stars

US Publication – January 14,2020

Description

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small-town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?

My Thoughts

Morgan Cristopher’s life is about to change for the better. An offer to restore a mural will mean an early release from prison. She was an art school student when her boyfriend’s betrayal and a tragic accident changed the direction of her life. She has no experience restoring art, but a chance for freedom means she will do whatever it takes to learn.

Anna Dale painted the mural many years ago. Why it was never hung at the Edenton post office and how it wound up in Jesse Jameson’s possession are only two of the mysteries that will consume Morgan and make her desperate to discover what happened to Anna. As Morgan removes layers of dirt and grime, the picture that unfolds is deeply disturbing, seeming to suggest that Anna was mentally ill. But what happened to Anna will unfold throughout Big Lies in a Small Town, and the truth will break your heart.

Anna and Morgan’s stories are told in alternating chapters and without giving any plot points away, I can say that both of them are strong women who deal with some truly horrific circumstances. The story was beautifully written and made me feel like I came to know these two women. I just couldn’t help getting immersed in their stories and cringed to learn what they had both endured. Not a fast-paced read, but a slow burn of a story that was hard to put down. 4.5 stars.

I received a DRC from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.

A Beginning at the End

US Publication – January 14,2020

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Description

How do you start over after the end of the world?

“Not just an apocalyptic thriller, but also a timely reminder of what is most important in life—family, love, and hope.” —Peng Shepherd, author of The Book of M

Six years after a global pandemic wiped out most of the planet’s population, the survivors are rebuilding the country, split between self-governing cities, hippie communes and wasteland gangs. In post-apocalyptic San Francisco, former pop star Moira has created a new identity to finally escape her past—until her domineering father launches a sweeping public search to track her down. Desperate for a fresh start herself, jaded event planner Krista navigates the world on behalf of those too traumatized to go outside, determined to help everyone move on—even if they don’t want to. Rob survived the catastrophe with his daughter, Sunny, but lost his wife. When strict government rules threaten to separate parent and child, Rob needs to prove himself worthy in the city’s eyes by connecting with people again. Krista, Moira, Rob, and Sunny are brought together by circumstance, and their lives begin to twine together. But when reports of another outbreak throw the fragile society into a panic, the friends are forced to finally face everything that came before—and everything they still stand to lose. Because sometimes having one person is enough to keep the world going.

 

My Thoughts

The world has been devastated by the flu that has wiped out much of the population. Six years have passed and people are half-heartedly trying to rebuild, reconnect, and live, all with varying degrees of success. Some people have chosen to live in Metro areas, which are government-controlled, some off the grid in Reclaimed Territories, and gangs roam unclaimed areas. Most of the story takes place in San Francisco, except for flashbacks to the lives of the main characters.


Moira, Krista, and Rob become connected by chance. Rob is struggling to move on after the death of his wife and raise his young daughter, Sunny. Krista is indifferent to everyone except her cat, but an encounter with Rob, makes her rethink her lonely life. Moira was a pop star, now she is just trying to live a life free from her father. They each have secrets, and it is only when they share the truth of who they were and what happened to bring them to this place, that they have a chance to heal and live again.


This is much more of a character-driven story that a tale of what caused the apocalypse. You do however get a sense of the overwhelming panic when the characters share pieces of their individual stories. The main theme though, is how do Rob, Moira, and Krista accept what has happened and risk becoming connected, not knowing what tomorrow may bring.


I flew through this book wanting to know if the past would win, or if these characters had hope for the present and the future. My first read by Mike Chen and I will be looking for his work again.

I received a DRC from Harlequin-Mira through NetGalley.

The Perfect Mother

theperfectmother

🌟🌟🌟🌟

US Publication – January 14,2020

Description

She thought they wanted her baby. But they won’t stop there.

Roz is young, penniless and pregnant. All she wants is to be the perfect mother to her child, but the more she thinks about her own chaotic upbringing, the more certain she is that the best life for her baby is as far away as possible from her hometown in Ireland.

Determined to do the right thing, Roz joins an elite adoption service and can’t believe her luck. Within days she is jetting to New York to meet a celebrity power couple desperate for a child of their own. Sheridan and Daniel are wealthy and glamorous—everything Roz isn’t. Her baby will never go hungry and will have every opportunity for the perfect life. But soon after Roz moves into their plush basement suite, she starts to suspect that something darker lurks beneath the glossy surface of their home.

When Roz discovers she isn’t the first person to move in with the couple, and that the previous woman has never been seen since alarm bells start ringing. As the clock ticks down to her due date, Roz realises her unborn baby may be the only thing keeping her alive, and that despite her best intentions, she has walked them both into the perfect nightmare…

 

My Thoughts

Roz only wants what is best for her unborn baby. She didn’t plan this pregnancy, and knowing how difficult her childhood was, she isn’t prepared financially or emotionally to be a mother. Roz applies to an elite adoption service, one where her baby will grow up with every advantage. It’s the best she can do, so she puts on her game face and is stunned when a wealthy and glamorous NY couple is interested in her and her baby.
Roz heads to NY to meet the potential parents and while everything seems okay, things change quickly. If Roz felt alone before, now she has no one to turn to, no friends, no family, no one except for Sheridan and Daniel, and their picture-perfect life. But just like posts on Instagram, a picture only captures what you want people to see and not necessarily the whole story.
Roz unwittingly has walked into a situation that is not as it appears. I was flipping pages to see how this would end. A surprising number of twists and turns and I was so wrong about some of the characters. Lots of tension throughout and a fast-paced plot.
I enjoy Caroline Mitchell’s DI Amy Winter series and though I can’t wait for the next book, it was nice to read something else she has written.

I received a DRC from Amazon Publishing UK through NetGalley.

The Better Liar

thebetterliar

Book Description

When a woman conceals her sister’s death to claim their joint inheritance, her deception exposes a web of dangerous secrets in this addictive new thriller for fans of Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, and Paula Hawkins.

Like most of the dead, I want to be remembered.”

Robin Voigt is dead. If Leslie had arrived at her sister’s cramped Las Vegas apartment just hours earlier, this would have been their first reunion in a decade. In the years since Robin ran away from home as a teenager, Leslie has stayed in New Mexico, taking care of their dying father even as she began building a family of her own. But when their father passed away, Leslie received a rude awakening: She and Robin would receive the inheritance he left them together—or not at all. Now her half of the money may be beyond her grasp. And unbeknownst to anyone, even her husband, Leslie needs it desperately.

When she meets a charismatic young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Robin—and has every reason to leave her past behind—the two make a reckless bargain: Mary will impersonate Robin for a week in exchange for Robin’s half of the cash. But neither realizes how high the stakes will become when Mary takes a dead woman’s name. Even as Mary begins to suspect Leslie is hiding something, and Leslie realizes the stranger living in her house, babysitting her newborn son, and charming her husband has secrets of her own, Robin’s wild, troubled legacy threatens to eclipse them both.

An electric, twisted portrait of sisterhood and the ties that bind, The Better Liar is a stunning debut with a heart-stopping, twist-after-twist finale that will beg the question: How far would you go to get what’s yours?

My Thoughts

Leslie has come to Las Vegas to track down her estranged sister, Robin. Their father has died and for Leslie to receive her badly needed inheritance, both sisters must be present according to the will. Leslie is just a little bit too late though, as Robin is dead. When Leslie meets a waitress named Mary who kinda, sorta reminds her of Robin, an idea is born. If Mary will impersonate Robin, Leslie will get her money and Mary can have Robin’s share of the inheritance.
Sounds like a win/win right? What could go wrong? After all, Robin hasn’t been home since she was a teenager, so the chance of the lawyer recognizing her are slim to none. The only thing missing from this picture is trust. Leslie and Mary each have their own agenda, and oh, “Ghost Robin” chimes in too. Told through these 3 distinct and possibly unreliable POVs, all the pieces come together in some unexpected ways.
I figured out one of the twists early on but was still perplexed regarding where this story was headed. Ultimately, I enjoyed the read and I think you’ll be surprised to discover who is The Better Liar.
Another debut and another reason I am going to have to live forever(I will never get through my TBR pile if I don’t)!
I received a DRC from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine through NetGalley.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

My Review System:
5 stars – Absolutely loved everything about the book! It was unique or presented something differently, and I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended.
4 stars – A really solid read that made me glad I read the book. Didn’t keep me up all night or make me abandon my plans, but I would recommend it without hesitation.
3 stars – An ok read and I might try another book by the same author to see if their writing style is a good fit for me.
2 stars – The book just didn’t work for me.
1 star – I have never read a 1-star book( yet, fingers crossed), but I would have to hate it to give it this rating.

Unspeakable Things

😱😱😱😱

US Publication – January 1,2020

Description

Inspired by a terrifying true story, a heart-pounding novel of suspense about a small Minnesota town where nothing is as quiet—or as safe—as it seems.

Cassie McDowell’s life in 1980s Minnesota seems perfectly wholesome. She lives on a farm, loves school, and has a crush on the nicest boy in class. Yes, there are her parents’ strange parties and their parade of deviant guests, but she’s grown accustomed to them.

All that changes when someone comes hunting in Lilydale.

One by one, local boys go missing. One by one, they return changed—violent, moody, and withdrawn. What happened to them becomes the stuff of shocking rumors. The accusations of who’s responsible grow just as wild and dangerous town secrets start to surface. Then Cassie’s own sister undergoes the dark change. If she is to survive, Cassie must find her way in an adult world where every sin is justified, and only the truth is unforgivable.

My Thoughts

Cassie is not your average twelve year old. She lives with her parents and older sister in a ramshackle house on the outskirts of town. She is smart and has an inquisitive mind, but few friends since her home life is anything but normal. When young boys suddenly go missing, then come back, changed, Cassie is on high alert. She knows what bad men can do, after all, her father Don wrote the book.


Cassie never describes what happens at home in great detail. Rather, we get glimpses of her life; the way Cassie behaves when she goes to bed, the way she never discusses her home life with anyone, the way people act when her parents throw a party, and the ominous changes in her sister. Not knowing why Cassie reacted in certain ways, sent my imagination into overdrive.


Cassie is the kind of character that I immediately cared about and I just wanted her to find a way out. The ending, like the story, doesn’t wrap everything up into a neat little package. Unspeakable Things was a well-paced chilling tale that kept me on the edge of my seat. The tension was unbearable at times and as the story progressed, it only got worse. My first read by Jess Lourey and not my last.

I received a DRC from Thomas & Mercer through NetGalley.