Book Review: Mothered by Zoje Stage

Intense, dark, and claustrophobic!

Zoje Stage is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of BABY TEETH, WONDERLAND, GETAWAY, and MOTHERED. A former filmmaker with a penchant for the dark and suspenseful, she lives in Pittsburgh. Zoje Stage’s debut novel, BABY TEETH was a USA Today and international bestseller. It was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award and named one of the best books of the year by Forbes MagazineLibrary JournalPopSugar, Barnes & Noble, Bloody Disgusting, and BookBub. Her follow-up novel, WONDERLAND, was described in a starred review from Booklist as a “beautifully choreographed and astonishing second novel.” And with her third book, GETAWAY, the New York Times declared her “a writer with a gift for the lyrical and the frightening.”

Grace agrees to let her newly-widowed mother stay with her as Covid cripples the world, but past wounds come back to haunt her nightmares, raising questions about the past and causing tensions to rise.

The prologue blew me away. As the story developed, the line between Grace’s dream state and her childhood memories blurred, and it was unclear what was actually going on. I found those scenes the most disturbing, and could relate to having nightmares early on in the pandemic, which made the book all the more dark for me. Grace’s relationship with Jackie, her mother, was very uncomfortable and I often found myself jumping back and forth between feeling sorry for them while also suspecting each of them of the younger sibling’s murder. The flashbacks of psychological abuse and emotional neglect Grace endured at the hands of her mother were awful however, the fact that Grace was so unreliable threw her recollection of the past into question, right up to the last chapter. The pace of the story was steady, the suspense slower than I usually read, but the characters were fleshed out and flawed making it interesting to delve into. I particularly enjoyed the friendship between Grace and her friend, Miguel. The action in the prologue kept me turning the pages until the end, determined to find out how it all played out.

There are a few scenes that stick out to me but one of the worst was of Grace’s dream/flashback (I still don’t know) in which she returns home with her sister, Hope, after being injured playing on the street with the neighborhood kids. Jackie comes out to greet them, sees Grace bleeding, and completely ignores her needs focusing on Hope instead. After which she leads Hope inside, closing the door on Grace in her time of need. This is one of the more subtle examples of abuse that really got under my skin and I felt terrible for the main character.

3/5⭐️⭐️⭐️

I recommend to readers who enjoy slow-burning suspense, family secrets, and dark psychological vibes.

Published March 1st, 2023.

Synopsis:

Grace isn’t exactly thrilled when her newly widowed mother, Jackie, asks to move in with her. They’ve never had a great relationship, and Grace likes her space—especially now that she’s stuck at home during a pandemic. Then again, she needs help with the mortgage after losing her job. And maybe it’ll be a chance for them to bond—or at least give each other a hand.

But living with Mother isn’t for everyone. Good intentions turn bad soon after Jackie moves in. Old wounds fester; new ones open. Grace starts having nightmares about her disabled twin sister, who died when they were kids. And Jackie discovers that Grace secretly catfishes people online—a hobby Jackie thinks is unforgivable.

When Jackie makes an earth-shattering accusation against her, Grace sees it as an act of revenge, and it sends her spiraling into a sleep-deprived madness. As the walls close in, the ghosts of Grace’s past collide with a new but familiar threat: Mom.

Book Review: Scorched Grace by Margot Douaihy

A fun mystery with a flawed protagonist!

Margot Douaihy (b. Scranton, PA) lives and works in Northampton, MA. She earned a BA in Writing from the University of Pittsburgh, an MA in Creative & Life Writing from Goldsmiths, University of London, and a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Lancaster University.

Douaihy is the author of the lyrical crime novel SCORCHED GRACE (Gillian Flynn Books, 2023), named one of the “most anticipated crime books” by Crime Reads and LGBTQ Reads. She is also the author of the poetry collections Bandit/Queen: The Runaway Story of Belle Starr, Scranton Lace, Girls Like You (Clemson University Press) and I Would Ruby If I Could (Factory Hollow Press).

I haven’t read a good mystery in a long time so I was excited to jump right into Margot Douaihy’s debut novel, Scorched Grace. I loved the amateur-sleuth, chain-smoking, tattooed, queer nun protagonist, Sister Holiday. This is a character who drew me in immediately, kept me hooked, and was curious about her own background and the reason behind joining the orderThe Sisters of the Sublime Blood. The more I learned about her past, the more interested I was in the story. My favorite scenes in the book were flashbacks of her life before joining the order. These are the types of characters I want to read more about. The pace was steady, the plot propulsive, and the clues were expertly placed. I loved the setting of New Orleans and could feel the sticky air in Douaihy’s vivid descriptions. The scene that sticks with me the most is the traumatic flashback image of the burning car left parked outside the bar, and who is revealed sleeping inside it. Such a shocking reveal!

4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I recommend to readers who enjoy fun mysteries with a morally grey protagonist, interesting settings, and a diverse cast of characters.

Published February 21st, 2023

Synopsis:

When Saint Sebastian’s School becomes the target of a shocking arson spree, the Sisters of the Sublime Blood and their surrounding New Orleans community are thrust into chaos.

Patience is a virtue, but punk rocker turned nun Sister Holiday isn’t satisfied to just wait around for officials to return her home and sanctuary to its former peace, instead deciding to unveil the mysterious attacker herself. Her investigation leads her down a twisty path of suspicion and secrets, turning her against colleagues, students, and even fellow Sisters along the way. And to piece together the clues of this high-stakes mystery, she must at last reckon with the sins of her own past.

Book Review: All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

Slow-burning suspense with dark twists!

Stacy Willingham is the New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author of A Flicker in the Dark and All The Dangerous Things. She earned her BA in magazine journalism from the University of Georgia and her MFA in writing from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Before turning to fiction, she was a copywriter and brand strategist for various marketing agencies. Her books are being translated into over 30 languages. She lives in Charleston, South Carolina, with her husband, Britt, and Labradoodle, Mako, where she is always working on her next book.

Told in a dual narrative, when we first meet Isabelle Drake, she’s a mother on the edge of sanity. It’s been one full year of insomnia since her son, Mason, was taken from his bed in the middle of the night, and police have no leads. But Isabelle’s childhood is shaded by a similar tragic event—the ‘accidental’ death of her little sister—and no matter how hard she tries, she can’t shake her past or the secret her parents’ made her promise to keep. The past timeline adds a nice layer of complex detail to her character adding the possibility of mental illness as a hereditary condition.

This book tapped into one of my worst fears, hooking me on page one and slowly leading tying up every single loose end. I felt like there were so many layers to this story, and as each piece unraveled, I was pulled deeper into the mysterious world of motherhood and mental health—two topics that fascinate me. I enjoyed the author’s ability to immerse the reader into the dark southern vibes and eerie setting of Savannah, Georgia. The memory flashbacks were vivid and dreamlike, leading me to believe that Isabelle might be capable of something very dark, making the twist at the end even more satisfying. Her characters were fleshed out and real—all messy and conflicted—and I had no issues distinguishing between them. This novel is definitely slower-paced than I’m used to, but there was enough tension to keep me turning pages. However, there were so many details to unravel, that if the pace had been faster then the story probably would have been harder to follow.

3.5/5⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

I recommend to readers who enjoy domestic thrillers with unreliable narrators, and slow-burning suspense.

PUBLISHED JANUARY 10TH, 2023

Synopsis:

One year ago, Isabelle Drake’s life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her―literally.

Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.

Isabelle’s entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster―but his interest in Isabelle’s past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guessing who she can trust… including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth, no matter where it leads.

Book Review: The Girls by Emma Cline

Captivating and original. An interesting reimagining of an infamous crime.

Emma Cline is an American writer and novelist, originally from California. She published her first novel, The Girls, in 2016, to positive reviews. The book was shortlisted for the John Leonard Award from the National Book Critics Circle and the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize.

Emma Cline tapped deep into my psyche and kept me hooked right up until the last page. The raw honesty of the protagonist, Evie Boyd, was addictive to read as she navigated puberty, close friendships, her parent’s recent divorce, and the growing awareness of her own sexuality. Evie is a bored, aimless teenager who joins a Manson-like cult in the summer of 1969 before being shipped off to boarding school. Anchored in the present day and reflecting on past memories, Cline’s scintillating prose transported me into Evie’s world of naive, yet incredibly candid observations, portraying an unsure girl whose self-esteem is measured directly through the lens of society and her immediate relationships. How girls feel pressured to prove their worth while boys are given free rein to discover themselves is a theme I found interesting and was echoed throughout the novel.

“I waited to be told what was good about me. I wondered later if this was why there were so many more women than men at the ranch. All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you – the boys had spent that time becoming themselves.”

Evie

The idea that women are expected to mask rather than reveal their true emotions in order to be accepted and approved of is evident in Evie’s musings—past and present—something she also clearly recognizes as a middle-aged woman. It’s also the driving force behind her teenage motivations after witnessing a group of carefree hippie girls in Petaluma Park dumpster diving for food. Their reckless, carefree attitudes appeal to her insecure, isolated existence. The leader of the group, Suzanne, quickly becomes the primary focus of a curious young Evie, who soon embarks on a slippery spiral to impress—stealing money from her mother to give to the cult; breaking into a childhood friend’s home—on her intense quest for a sense of belonging.

“If you got mad, you were crazy, and if you didn’t react, you were a bitch. The only thing you could do was smile from the corner they’d backed you into. Implicated yourself in the joke even if the joke was always on you”.

Evie

I enjoyed Cline’s detail-focused writing style, although described as “overwritten, flashing rather than lighting” (The New Yorker), I strongly disagree. I found her voice unique, her descriptions vivid, and I couldn’t tear myself away from Evie, curious as to how central a role she’d play in one of the most brutal murders in recent history. Overall, I loved the book from the cast of morally ambiguous characters and romantic descriptions of late-60s California to the curious coming-of-age story and manipulability of human nature. I cannot wait to read Cline’s next novel—The Guest—soon to be published in June 2023.

5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I recommend to readers who enjoy books about cults, coming-of-age stories, compelling female protagonists, electrifying prose, and dark psychological themes.

Published June 14th, 2016

Synopsis:

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, and their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence.

Book Review: One of Those Faces by Elle Grawl

Vivid, suspenseful, with surprising twists!

Elle Grawl is a lawyer by day and writer by night. After obtaining her B.A. in English Literature, she took a detour into law before returning to her love of writing. Her lifelong interest in true crime and experiences as an attorney have provided her with plenty of writing material. Elle enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and their two dogs. 

Her debut psychological thriller, ONE OF THOSE FACES, is coming December 1st, 2022 with Thomas & Mercer.

An insomniac artist discovers a shocking truth about a recent spate of murders in her city: the victims all look just like her.

I love psychological thrillers and this one definitely kept me guessing right up until the very end. Harper, a fragile survivor, and the book’s protagonist tries to uncover the killer behind a series of gruesome murders after one of the victims is found in the alleyway across the street from her apartment. The worst part is, they all look like her. Grawl did an awesome job at keeping the stakes and tension high throughout. There were so many scenes that forced me to keep turning the pages and reading into the late hours of the night. All I wanted was for Harper to succeed. But after a brutal upbringing, it was clear her unhealthy patterns were carried from childhood into her present relationships. There was so much going on in this book between each character and yet, it was easy to keep up with every single twist and turn Grawl introduced. The world she built was immersive, her characters realistic. The pace was quick and the subject matter dark, perfect for a fall read.

One of the most disturbing scenes for me saw Harper enter Jenny’s apartment only to be caught by a man who mistook her for Jenny. He proceeded to kiss her inside the closet, pinning her against the wall. The only option she had to escape was to play along until she could figure out a way to leave without alerting him of her true identity.

I would have liked more clarity around some of the deaths in the book. More specifically, Jenny’s, and if Harper had anything to do with it. That always had me on edge given her history and problematic memory.

3.5/5⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

For readers who enjoy unreliable narrators, psychological suspense, and compelling female characters.

Published December 1st, 2022

Synopsis:

Years after escaping her abusive childhood, Harper Mallen has only ever known sleepless nights—or terrifying nightmares. She’s struggling to survive as an artist in a trendy Chicago neighborhood, getting by on freelance gigs, when she’s suddenly confronted with the worst fears from her past.

A young woman is killed outside Harper’s apartment—a woman who chillingly resembles her. As Harper searches for information about the victim, she discovers unsettling links to two other murders. Upon discovering another doppelgänger, Harper realizes her life is not the only one hanging in the balance.

As her obsession and paranoia deepen, everyone is a suspect: the handsome stranger in the café, customers at the painting studio, and even the ghosts from her past. The closer she comes to unraveling the truth behind the murders, the more Harper realizes there is no one she can trust—not even herself.

Book Review: Dark Things I Adore by Katie Lattari

Dark academia at its best, with a truly disturbing ending.

Katie Lattari is the author of two novels, DARK THINGS I ADORE (September 2021), her thriller debut, and AMERICAN VAUDEVILLE (2016), a small press work. Her short stories have appeared in such places as NOO Journal, The Bend, Cabildo Quarterly, and more. She lives in Maine with her husband Kevin.

A clever revenge tale with a twist you won't see coming!

I waited to read this book in the fall for the full effect and it didn’t disappoint. With a hot drink and a warm blanket, I settled in to read this dark psychological thriller. Dark Things I adore is split between two timelines, thirty years apart, three narratives (Audra, Max, and Juniper), while also using an art thesis as a structural device (something I’ve never seen before). The story follows Audra, a naturally gifted art student who extends an invitation to Max, her highly respected art professor, to view her thesis work at her private home in Maine. Max is quick to say yes, having somewhat of an obsessive attraction to her, and the two embark on a flirtatious journey to a remote location where Audra has prepared the perfect trap.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was definitely rooting for Audra, the protagonist, drawn to her fiery, vengeful personality. For having a large cast of supporting characters, the author made it easy and interesting to follow along, creating a rich history that was deeply satisfying when all the details fell into place. It was a slow burn with a deeply immersive world, one that was essential in order to fully understand the motives behind Audra’s actions. The scenes between her and Max were particularly tense, and I was gripped from beginning to end as the reasoning behind her plans was revealed, proving to be of a much darker and more personal nature.

The scene that sticks with me is the climax between Audra and Max. After realizing what her thesis work represented, and how it tied into the past timeline, it was especially disturbing to picture as everything unfolded. I was definitely gripped throughout, and even though the book is on the longer side, it was necessary in order to understand the full impact of each timeline and carefully reveal how the characters related to each other.

4/5⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

For readers who love revenge, dark academia, and slow-burning suspense.

Published SEPTember 14th, 2021

Synopsis:

Three campfire secrets. Two witnesses. One dead in the trees. And the woman, thirty years later, bent on making the guilty finally pay.

1988. A group of outcasts gather at a small, prestigious arts camp nestled in the Maine woods. They’re the painters: bright, hopeful, teeming with potential. But secrets and dark ambitions rise like smoke from a campfire, and the truths they tell will come back to haunt them in ways more deadly than they dreamed.

2018. Esteemed art professor Max Durant arrives at his protégé’s remote home to view her graduate thesis collection. He knows Audra is beautiful and brilliant. He knows being invited into her private world is a rare gift. But he doesn’t know that Audra has engineered every aspect of their weekend together. Every detail, every conversation. Audra has woven the perfect web.

Only Audra knows what happened that summer in 1988. Max’s secret, and the dark things that followed. And even though it won’t be easy, Audra knows someone must pay.

Book Review: Real Bad Things by Kelly J. Ford

Slow burning suspense and dark reveals

Kelly J. Ford is the author of Real Bad Things (summer 2022) and the award-winning Cottonmouths, a novel of “impressive depths of character and setting” according to the Los Angeles Review, which named it one of their Best Books of 2017. An Arkansas native, Kelly writes about the power and pitfalls of friendship, the danger of long-held secrets, and the transcendent grittiness of the Ozarks and their surroundings. She lives in Vermont with her wife and cat.

All that was left to do was wait for someone to find the body. Or, if they got lucky, wait until everyone forgot about Warren and turned their attention to the next man who went missing.

Real Bad Things by Kelly J. Ford

I’m always drawn to stories set in the small southern towns in the US. There’s something curious about the culture and history; from the Missouri River to the Ozarks that stretch across five states. It’s an area of the country I’d love to spend time exploring someday. This novel does an amazing job setting the scene, and I often found myself completely absorbed in the story, turning pages into the early morning hours. The use of dual narrative and timelines provided in-depth characters with intriguing histories I enjoyed learning about, especially the relationship between Georgia Lee and Jane. The small town vibes felt claustrophobic when Jane returned to Maud, and was faced with the same gossip and judgment she’d escaped years ago. The family dynamics and history kept my attention, and Ford did an amazing job interweaving slow character reveals throughout the present timeline. The structure was clear to follow and I thoroughly enjoyed the slow-burn mystery at the heart of this novel. Although I found the relationship between Jane and her mother difficult to read at times, it was incredibly addictive. I’m always drawn to novels with dark family secrets set in small southern towns and this one definitely delivered. I’m so glad I discovered this author and can’t wait to read more of her work.

4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I recommend to readers who love slow-burning mysteries set in small towns, and families with dark secrets.

PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 1ST, 2022

Synopsis:

Beneath the roiling waters of the Arkansas River lie dead men and buried secrets.

When Jane Mooney’s violent stepfather, Warren, disappeared, most folks in Maud Bottoms, Arkansas, assumed he got drunk and drowned. After all, the river had claimed its share over the years.

When Jane confessed to his murder, she should have gone to jail. That’s what she wanted. But without a body, the police didn’t charge her with the crime. So Jane left for Boston—and took her secrets with her.

Twenty-five years later, the river floods and a body surfaces. Talk of Warren’s murder grips the town. Now in her forties, Jane returns to Maud Bottoms to reckon with her past: to do jail time, to face her revenge-bent mother, to make things right.

But though Jane’s homecoming may enlighten some, it could threaten others. Because in this desolate river valley, some secrets are better left undisturbed.

Book Review: Blood Will Tell by Heather Chavez

Gripping, with multiple layers of mystery.

How far would you go to protect someone you love? Even if you suspected them of murder…

From the author of the searing debut, No Bad Deed, comes a story about family bonds, and the secrets sisters keep in order to protect each other. Blood Will Tell is original, captivating, and layered with mystery. The backgrounds of the characters are unique and believable, their relationships complex and intriguing, revealing a number of possible antagonists, which kept me guessing until the very end. The past and present timelines are weaved together perfectly, allowing time to digest and reveal possible psychological motives for the crime. I loved how different Frankie and Izzy are and felt that it brought so much life to the story. The scene descriptions are vivid, and the plot steady, giving a real sense of mystery as Frankie leads us through the puzzle of what actually happened that dreaded night, five years ago. One scene that sticks in my head involves the night Frankie drove to her sister’s aid only to find her passed out in the driver’s seat of their parent’s car, a streak of blood, and a clump of human hair on the hood. So chilling!

4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy compelling female characters, family secrets, and edge-of-your-seat suspense.

Synopsis:

Schoolteacher and single mom Frankie Barrera has always been fiercely protective of her younger sister Izzy—whether Izzy wants her to be or not. But over the years, Izzy’s risky choices have tested Frankie’s loyalty. Never so much as on a night five years ago, when a frantic phone call led Frankie to the scene of a car accident—and a drunk and disoriented Izzy who couldn’t remember a thing.

Though six friends partied on the outskirts of town that night, one girl was never seen again . . . 

Now, an AMBER alert puts Frankie in the sights of the local police. Her truck has been described as the one used in the abduction of a girl from a neighboring town. And the only other person with access to Frankie’s truck is Izzy.

This time around, Frankie will have to decide what lengths she’s willing to go to in order to protect Izzy—what lies she’s willing to tell, and what secrets she’s willing to keep—because of the dangerous game that six friends once played on a warm summer night isn’t over yet . . .

Book Review: Animal by Lisa Taddeo

Witty, fierce, and unapoligetic. My favorite book of 2021!

Lisa Taddeo is the author of three books: Three Women, a compelling nonfiction account of women and sex, Animal, a fictional depiction of female rage and visceral exploration of the fallout from a male-dominated society, and her newest book, Ghost Lover, a collection of fearless and ferocious short stories (available June 14th, 2022 in the US).

“I drove myself out of New York City where a man shot himself in front of me.”

Joan

Joan leads us on a journey across the country filled with abrasive revelations as she searches for a woman called Alice, who is connected to the traumas of her past. Having left New York City for Los Angeles, she rents a small apartment on a shared compound located in Topanga Canyon. While there, she becomes romantically involved with two men. A handsome young man named River who lives in a yurt, and a senile landlord called Leonard. Both men have a profound effect on her future. Slipping in and out of traumatic flashbacks, Joan describes various atrocities committed against her in great detail. We know these are the catalysists driving her, even if the details are somewhat concealed in the beginning. What we do know, by her own words, is that Joan is “depraved.” Her trauma defines her and she moves through the world seeking just that.

What I love most about this book is Taddeo’s natural ability to tackle taboo subjects with such literary boldness and grit. The focus on the link between trauma and sexual violence both shocked and intrigued me, and the way Joan lived inside her pain felt relatable and reasurring. I couldn’t pull myself away as her twisted psyche led her down a dark path of exploration, where she describes being victimized while also using her beauty and sexuality as an exploitive tool. And as the story unfolded I found myself concerned and anxious as she walked the fine line between prey and predator.

Certain statements ring true in Taddeo’s novel, highlighting feelings of anxiety, shame, and deep-rooted fears women endure daily. Experiences we encounter but don’t always find the support or opportunity to voice: “I had the fear of angering a man. Of not being an amenable woman. I had the fear of being murdered.” Another scene: “He was picking a pimple on his chin and staring at me. There are a hundred small rapes every day.” Women relate to each other’s pain in a different way than men do, Taddeo mentioned in an interview, stating that it’s something we, as women, are drawn to in one another. Whereas, for men, it’s the sort of pain that makes them feel very uncomfortable. Taddeo explains, “‘Bad women’ aren’t allowed to tell their stories.”

A woman has to be a victim in the right kind of way.

Lisa Taddeo – 2021 – Salon Talks

The vivid and at times, dreamlike, descriptions Joan speaks of are particularly disturbing. A scene that sticks in my mind recounts a night she suffers a painful loss while living in the canyon, and the vivid portrayal of death as the howling coyotes circle outside, drawn by the smell of blood.

I didn’t know what to expect from the story going in, which is my favorite way to read. I’d read Taddeo’s nonfiction book, Three Women, right before this one and loved it, so I could see certain themes repeated in Animal. I’ve read a lot of conflicting reviews about this book and I’m here to say, read it and decide for yourself. I read Taddeo’s nonfiction book first and connected to it immediately. So much time and effort was put in, gathering those women’s stories, and in the end it definitely paid off. When I started reading Animal it felt very different, and I was able to separate the books from each other and enjoy the fact that the world of fiction is a place where one can write more freely with more control over the content.

5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I recommend this book to those who enjoy complex female anti-heroes, unreliable narrators, slow-burning suspense, and uncomfortable topics. Described as “American Psycho” for the #MeToo era. This is my favorite book of 2021!

published June 8th, 2021

Synopsis:

Joan has spent a lifetime enduring the cruelties of men. But when one of them commits a shocking act of violence in front of her, she flees New York City in search of Alice, the only person alive who can help her make sense of her past. In the sweltering hills above Los Angeles, Joan unravels the horrific event she witnessed as a child—that has haunted her every waking moment—while forging the power to finally strike back.

Book Review: Don’t Look For Me by Wendy Walker

Sharp, suspenseful, fast-paced, and satisfying. One of my favorite books of 2020!

Regardless of whether or not you’re familiar with Wendy Walker, this book will make you an instant fan. With a background in law and psychology, Walker crafts compelling female protagonists and eerie settings into twisted mysteries. Two of my favorite books are The Night Before published in 2019 and Emma in the Night published in 2017 by St. Martin’s Press, both of which I tore through. More recent notable works of hers include American Girl, an audiobook released in 2021 which received rave reviews. The atmosphere and suspense Walker creates in Don’t Look For Me is palpable as the story immediately takes a sharp turn, unfolding through a carefully structured dual narrative and timeline.

It’s the five-year anniversary of her youngest daughter, Annie’s death. Since then, Molly Clarke has watched her family drift apart as she blames herself and struggles to cope; she was, after all, the one responsible. She’s often wondered if they’d be happier without her, toying with the idea of disappearing altogether. So when she goes missing the night of a severe hurricane it raises the question, did she plan it?

Walker is a true master of the genre, her descriptions vivid, and plot twists believable. Her use of structure to create suspense is clever and creative. Themes of trauma, motherhood, and child psychology are expertly intertwined throughout, the scenes between characters very real and complex. I found both main characters, Molly and Nicole, relatable and likable, and I was desperate for them to reunite and heal their relationship. I enjoyed the slow reveals of each supporting character and their connection to Molly which kept the story alive in my mind. One of the big twists was so surprising it left my jaw on the floor. I was instantly hooked from beginning to end, desperate to learn what happened to Molly, revealing an ending I honestly, did not see coming. Walker is such a huge inspiration to me, not only as a fan but as a fellow writer, and I can’t wait to see what she’s working on next.

5/5⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I recommend this book to all fans of the thriller genre and urge them to read it immediately. If you enjoy palpable suspense, compelling female protagonists, dual narrative/timeline, and psychological twists, this is for you!

published September 15th, 2020

Synopsis:

Molly Clarke is driving home on a stormy night in Connecticut when her car breaks down less than a mile from the nearest gas station. For the last five years, she has been living in a state of torment and self-blame after accidentally killing her youngest child. Often toying with the idea of leaving everything behind, she thinks her family would be happier if she just disappeared. But when she accepts a ride to town from a man with a little girl passing by in a truck, Molly doesn’t make it home.