Book Review: The Things We Do to Our Friends by Heather Darwent

Dark and clever, this book will leave you feeling creeped out…👀

Heather Darwent is an author based just outside of Edinburgh near the sea. Her debut novel, The Things We Do to Our Friends, will be published by Penguin in January 2023.

Since I was born and grew up in Edinburgh, this story personally appealed to me. The author’s descriptions were accurate and immersive. I loved reading about the places I frequent often when I’m home and thought it was clever how the setting was used to create an eerie suspense throughout. The Things We Do to Our Friends follows Clare who, after moving to Edinburgh for school (and to reinvent herself), juggles student life, a part-time job, a boyfriend, and most importantly, finding a new group of friends. An unusual bunch from the University befriends her, quickly inviting her into their inner circle where they enjoy lavish dinner parties and trips to the French countryside. She wants nothing more than to be accepted, to finally belong. But at what cost? When Tabitha, the leader of the group, invites Clare to be part of a secret business venture called, ‘Perfect Pieces’—a honeytrap service for cheating spouses—she accepts, no questions asked. But things quickly take a sinister turn, and Clare is left with no choice but to distance herself from the group.

The cast of supporting characters is unique, and I enjoyed trying to figure out who the real enemy was. It was obvious to me that Clare had an inner strength that was unshakable, I just didn’t expect it to be so dark. I found the scenarios in which the girls found themselves very tense, especially one particular scene set in a remote house in the highlands. A risk they took and one Clare unknowingly agreed to take part in. Afterward, the confrontation between the girls left me shocked and ultimately left the book on a very dark note—something I loved. This book is definitely more of a slow burn but I enjoyed it and was gripped throughout.

4/5⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Published January 10th, 2023

Synopsis:

Edinburgh, Scotland: a moody city of labyrinthine alleyways, oppressive fog, and buried history; the ultimate destination for someone with something to hide. Perfect for Clare, then, who arrives utterly alone and yearning to reinvent herself. And what better place to conceal the secrets of her past than at the university in the heart of the fabled, cobblestoned Old Town?

When Clare meets Tabitha, a charismatic, beautiful, and intimidatingly rich girl from her art history class, she knows she’s destined to become friends with her and her exclusive circle: raffish Samuel, shrewd Ava, and pragmatic Imogen. Clare is immediately drawn into their libertine world of sophisticated dinner parties and summers in France. The new life she always envisioned for herself has seemingly begun.

Then Tabitha reveals a little project she’s been working on, one that she needs Clare’s help with. Even though it goes against everything Clare has tried to repent for. Even though their intimacy begins to darken into codependence. But as Clare starts to realize just what her friends are capable of, it’s already too late. Because they’ve taken the plunge. They’re so close to attaining everything they want. And there’s no going back.

Reimagining the classic themes of obsession and ambition with an original and sinister edge, The Things We Do to Our Friends is a seductive thriller about the toxic battle between those who have and those who covet—between the desire to truly belong and the danger of being truly known.

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: A Fig For All the Devils by C.S. Fritz

Terrifying, hilarious, and totally addictive! One of my favorite books this year.

As a young child, Casey’s family moved to Arizona. It was there beneath the fiery gaze of the Southwestern sun, that he spent most of his life. Graduating school, marrying the love of his life, and having two wild kids. It was also there that C.S. Fritz’s work began to take traction with local galleries and art publications. Most currently, Casey has worked with several publishing houses and editorials such as…Christianity Today, David C. Cook, Tyndale, and Navpress. A Fig For All the Devils is his debut novel.

A dark and original story about a thirteen year old boy with nothing to lose, who decides to trade places with the Grim Reaper.

There are so many things I love about this book. The nod to Stephen King when Sonny pulled on his favorite Pet Semetary t-shirt, the haphazard chapter headings, immersive world, and contrast of characters.

My favorite character, without a doubt, is the Grim Reaper. Through the eyes of the thirteen-year-old protagonist, the description of the entity is terrifying. Specifically, during their very first encounter in the woods while Sonny is mushroom picking. However, once the reaper makes a proper introduction, the tone shifts from horror to humor as his individual traits reveal the quirky personality under the dark hooded cloak. With an addiction to junk food, cigarettes, and poetry, he is far from the traditional ‘bringer of death’ depicted in modern folklore. The story kept me guessing right from the first page, and the prologue was especially disturbing and perfectly placed to set up the rest of the book a thousand years later.

There usually are one, maybe two scenes in a book I’ll remember long after finishing. But I loved so many in this one that it’s difficult to choose. My favorite scene by far is the first time the reaper is introduced and the book’s tone completely shifts once he appears to possess more human qualities. He is the most likable character in the book (in my opinion). All of the scenes in which Sonny must perform a ‘task’ to become the reaper are incredibly original and descriptive, but of the three he must face, it’s the last one I find the most satisfying. He must inhale the death rattle… Another clever scene near the beginning of the book introduces the pastor, whom Sonny befriends and eventually helps to process his own grieving process. It sees him deliver a speech to his congregation, the first time Sonny attends, mentioning that our life paths are not always what we expect them to be.

Art by C.S. Fritz
5/5⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

For readers who enjoy dark humor, immersive worlds, and disturbing subject matter. Those who liked Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica and/or This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno will enjoy this book.

Published October 31st, 2021

Synopsis:

An abused, grief-stricken, and impoverished Sonny has all but given up on life. That is, until he meets death, by way of the Grim Reaper. The Reaper, a junk food-loving, poetry-reading, cigarette-addicted entity, has no time to waste as he searches for a suitable successor who would become “Death” for the next millennium. By training the boy in the ways of death and dying, Reaper grooms his young apprentice and through suspenseful and horror-laced events, he unknowingly gives Sonny something he never intended: Something to live for.

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: The Call of Cassandra Rose by Sophia Spiers

Slow burn with a twisted ending!

A Londoner of proud Italian and Greek heritage, Sophia Spiers grew up on the Lisson Green Council Estate, which informed the depiction of her protagonist’s childhood. She studied Film at university, and in her twenties and early thirties worked in TV and post-production before turning her attention to her true passion: writing. The Call of Cassandra Rose is her debut novel.

I enjoyed this domestic thriller and its steady build of suspense throughout. It was easy to follow and the characters felt very real. It definitely kept me guessing, but more than anything, I wanted Annabelle, the protagonist, to get over her issues and function better in her life. Her back story was very sad, and I couldn’t help but also feel awful for her mother. The scenes were written well, and what shone through the hardest was Annabelle’s anxiety-something I could personally resonate with. I also liked the setting in London and could easily picture the high rise flats where she grew up.

One particular scene that pulled me in was the hypnotherapy session with Cassandra during the two week intensive. Annabelle is regressed back to her childhood when she witnessed a brutal crime against her mother by three men inside her flat. It was so shocking and I raced through it to the end, wanting to find out what happened. Cassandra’s character was a mystery to me, and something felt off from the start. Especially since she was so invested in treating Annabelle, while not really knowing her, and inviting her to stay in her home. It all felt very isolating to me. After the midpoint, I found the story gripping me more and picking up pace.

Annabelle was the only character I was rooting for, but it was also difficult to like her at times. Uncle Jack’s supportive character was a nice break to read since everyone else seemed to have an agenda of their own. The ending, being a bit of a cliffhanger, actually worked for this novel. After everything that happened to the protagonist, by the end it was very clear what she wanted, and how she was going to get there. I felt myself breathe a huge sigh of relief after turning that last page.

3/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️

For readers who enjoy slow-burning suspense, and domestic thrillers with twisty endings and dark secrets.

PUBLISHED OCTOBER 13TH, 2022

Synopsis:

Annabelle seems to have it all. The perfect house, a successful husband, a darling son. But Annabelle is troubled.

Trapped in an unhappy marriage, failing at motherhood, and at odds with her new privileged lifestyle, Annabelle begins to self-harm, a habit resurrected from her traumatic past.

When she meets the alluring and charismatic hypnotherapist Cassandra Rose, she is offered a way out.

Through hypnosis, Annabelle is encouraged to unearth her painful repressed memories and face her childhood demons. But as the boundaries between her hypnotic trance and reality begin to dissolve, Annabelle becomes increasingly vulnerable to much darker forces.

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: All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers

Suspenseful, twisted, and incredibly dark.

Ashley is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of audiochuck, the award-winning, independent media and podcast production company known for its standout content and storytelling across different genres, including true crime, fiction, comedy, and more. As CEO, she works with her team to create an overarching content strategy and vision for the network of shows and company growth. She also hosts several audiochuck shows, including top-rated podcasts like Crime Junkie, Red Ball, Full Body Chills, and The Deck. Ashley was born and raised in Indiana, where she continues to live with her husband, daughter, and their beloved dog, Chuck. She received a Bachelor of Science in Biological Services from Arizona State University. All Good People Here is her debut novel

Once I learned Ashley Flowers was the founder of true crime podcast, Crime Junkie, I was even more compelled to read her debut novel, All Good People Here, and curious as to how her professional background would influence her writing. I’m pleased to report I was very impressed with this novel! Not only are the characters relatable and well fleshed out, but the use of dual timelines is extremely effective at creating suspense and revealing their backgrounds and relationships. I enjoyed the steady pace, multiple twists, and shifting narratives, but the second to last scene was definitely the most exciting. Flowers has a natural gift for storytelling and I can’t wait to read what she publishes next.

My favorite scene was when Margot notices a photograph revealing a subtle clue she recalls from a previous conversation. The intensity immediately ramps up to an unexpected climax leaving me stunned and partly satisfied after learning who the true killer was. A shocking cliffhanger that left me wanting more.

4/5 ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy dual timelines and small-town suspense.

PUBLISHED AUGUST 16TH, 2022

Synopsis:

You can’t ever know for sure what happens behind closed doors.

Everyone from Wakarusa, Indiana, remembers the infamous case of January Jacobs, who was discovered in a ditch hours after her family awoke to find her gone. Margot Davies was six at the time, the same age as January—and they were next-door neighbors. In the twenty years since, Margot has grown up, moved away, and become a big-city journalist. But she’s always been haunted by the feeling that it could’ve been her. And the worst part is, January’s killer has never been brought to justice.

When Margot returns home to help care for her uncle after he is diagnosed with early-onset dementia, she feels like she’s walked into a time capsule. Wakarusa is exactly how she remembers—genial, stifled, secretive. Then news breaks about five-year-old Natalie Clark from the next town over, who’s gone missing under circumstances eerily similar to January’s. With all the old feelings rushing back, Margot vows to find Natalie and to solve January’s murder once and for all.

But the police, Natalie’s family, the townspeople—they all seem to be hiding something. And the deeper Margot digs into Natalie’s disappearance, the more resistance she encounters, and the colder January’s case feels. Could January’s killer still be out there? Is it the same person who took Natalie? And what will it cost to finally discover what truly happened that night twenty years ago?

Twisty, chilling, and intense, All Good People Here is a searing tale that asks: What are your neighbors capable of when they think no one is watching?

Book Review: Deep Water by Emma Bamford

Slow-burning suspense, and a cautionary tale of trouble in paradise.

Emma Bamford is an author and journalist who has worked for The Independent, the Daily Express, the Daily MirrorSailing Today, and Boat International. She spent several years sailing among some of the world’s most beautiful islands and wrote two travel memoirs about her experiences, Casting Off and Untie the Lines. A graduate of the University of East Anglia’s Prose Fiction MA, she lives in the United Kingdom. Deep Water is her first novel.

When I started reading Deep Water earlier this year I had not long returned from my first sailing experience, so I was excited to dive into a thriller set in such a remote, tropical location. Having said that, you don’t have to have spent time on a boat in order to follow along and enjoy Bamford’s novel. I found the cast of characters unique, and their descriptions realistic. She did an amazing job getting into the mind of the protagonist, and I felt myself getting pulled into the dynamics of the central relationship between Virginie and Jake-which was quickly put to the test. I’ve always been curious about the types of people who quit their jobs and leave everything behind to set off on an adventure in the wild. The setting projected its own sense of isolation and inherent danger, which I loved, especially in one particular scene where Virginie stumbles across the ruins of a settlement set on shore Amarante. The pace of the novel is definitely on the slower side, not for readers who seek pulse-pounding action, or edge-of-your-seat suspense.

The scene I keep going back to is the opening which reveals Jake, Virginie’s boyfriend, unconscious from a head trauma, while Virginie is too shocked to explain what happened. That initial incident kept me turning the pages, curious to find out what happened and why. When it was finally revealed, the change in POV made an interesting twist. Overall this was a successful debut and I’m excited to see what she publishes next.

3/5 ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy a slow-burn, tropical setting and have an interest in sailing/boat life. It’s the perfect beach read!

Published May 31st, 2022

Synopsis:

When a Navy vessel comes across a yacht in distress in the middle of the vast Indian Ocean, Captain Danial Tengku orders his ship to rush to its aid. On board the yacht is a British couple: a horribly injured man, Jake, and his traumatized wife, Virginie, who breathlessly confesses, “It’s all my fault. I killed them.”

Trembling with fear, she reveals their shocking story to Danial. Months earlier, the couple had spent all their savings on a yacht, full of excitement for exploring the high seas and exotic lands together. They start at the busy harbors of Malaysia and, through word of mouth, Jake and Virginie learn about a tiny, isolated island full of unspoiled beaches. When they arrive, they discover they are not the only visitors and quickly become entangled with a motley crew of expat sailors. Soon, Jake and Virginie’s adventurous dream turns into a terrifying nightmare.

Now, it’s up to Danial to determine just how much truth there is in Virginie’s alarming tale. But when his crew makes a shocking discovery, he realizes that if he doesn’t act soon, they could all fall under the dark spell of the island.

Book Review: NSFW: a novel by Isabel Kaplan

Gut-wrenching, clever, and undeniably 😉 honest.

Isabel Kaplan graduated from Harvard and holds an MFA in creative writing from NYU. She is the author of the national bestselling young adult novel Hancock Park and a co-founder of Project 100, an organization launched after the 2016 election to support progressive women running for Congress. She previously worked in TV drama development at Fox Broadcasting Company. Isabel was born and raised in Los Angeles.

I love how real this book, NSFW (Not Safe For Work) felt. Having personally experienced a somewhat similar environment as the book’s anonymous protagonist, it was easy for me to picture the day-to-day rat race—bullshit bureaucracy, toxicity, and harassment—in the office setting, which is so effortlessly described throughout. If you’ve worked in corporate America, you’ve probably experienced or at least witnessed some level of coercion and/or complicity. And for such a serious subject matter, Kaplan lifted the tension with moments of dark humor, allowing the reader to take a much-needed breath. One of the most disturbing relationships in the book was between the protagonist and her mother. A toxic bond filled with emotional manipulation, invalidation, and gaslighting—something that affected the core of the MC. Keeping her mother happy is a full-time job, one that at times, overshadows her own sense of self-awareness, and fogs her ability to advocate for what she truly wants.

I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve personally connected to over the last two years, and NSFW is now one of them. I rank it alongside two of my favorites: Luster by Raven Leilani and Animal by Lisa Taddeo—two of my auto-buy authors.

So many scenes stick out but one that touched my heart describes the MC searching through boxes in her father’s garage when she comes across old home videos. She watches one of herself as a child in which her mother teaches her how to mount a plastic blue rocking horse to show her Nana “what a great rider” she is. She stumbles around the toy, timid at first until her mother successfully coaxes her on. After which she’s rocking back and forth saying, “See! I didn’t break anything! I’m not breaking anything!” I found this scene so symbolic and indicative of a child raised in the clutches of a narcissistic parent. A child who walks on eggshells and quickly learns to sacrifice her own needs in order to keep the peace. (A theme echoed in every chapter of NSFW.) But in order to retain a sense of her own moral principles, she must decide if silence is worth success, or if speaking the truth will break recurring toxic patterns and finally set her free.

5/5 ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I recommend to readers who enjoy dark subjects in a corporate setting, compelling female protagonists, electrifying prose, and psychological themes.

Published July 5th, 2022

Synopsis:

From the outside, the unnamed protagonist in NSFW appears to be the vision of success. She has landed an entry-level position at a leading TV network that thousands of college grads would kill for. And sure, she has much to learn. The daughter of a prominent feminist attorney, she grew up outside the industry. But she’s resourceful and hardworking. What could go wrong?

At first, the high adrenaline work environment motivates her. Yet as she climbs the ranks, she confronts the reality of creating change from the inside. Her points only get attention when echoed by male colleagues; she hears whispers of abuse and sexual misconduct. Her mother says to keep her head down until she’s the one in charge―a scenario that seems idealistic at best, morally questionable at worst. When her personal and professional lives collide, threatening both the network and her future, she must decide what to protect: the career she’s given everything for or the empowered woman she claims to be.

Fusing page-turning prose with dark humor and riveting commentary on the truths of starting out professionally, Isabel Kaplan’s NSFW is an unflinching exploration of the gray area between empowerment and complicity. The result is a stunning portrait of what success costs in today’s patriarchal world, asking us: Is it ever worth it?

Book Review: The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda

Suspenseful, eerie, and full of twists.

Megan Miranda is the New York Times bestselling author of ALL THE MISSING GIRLS, THE PERFECT STRANGER, and THE LAST HOUSE GUEST, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick. She has also written several books for young adults, including COME FIND ME, FRAGMENTS OF THE LOST, and THE SAFEST LIES. She grew up in New Jersey, graduated from MIT, and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children.

I loved the atmospheric setting in this novel. It was so isolated and creepy. But when coupled with the mysterious history—labeled by the national press as “the most dangerous town in North Carolina”—it definitely gave it a darker edge. The descriptions were rich throughout and I could clearly picture the Passage Inn and the mountains surrounding Cutter’s Pass. The same detail applied to the cast of characters who were easy to read and tell apart. Although I enjoy a faster pace, given the amount of detail in this novel, it definitely needed time to build. The misdirection and plot twists were well executed, including the end reveal which I did not see coming.

This was the first Megan Miranda book I’ve read and I loved it! I’m always excited to discover new authors and in this case, I can’t wait to read everything else she’s published so far, including her YA novels. She’s definitely on my radar and I’m so excited to see what she publishes next!

4/5 ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️⭐️

I recommend to readers who enjoy a deeply atmospheric setting with a creepy history, twisty plots, and a fearless female protagonist.

Published July 26th, 2022

Synopsis:

Ten years ago, Abigail Lovett fell into a job she loves, managing The Passage Inn, a cozy, upscale resort nestled in the North Carolina mountain town of Cutter’s Pass. Cutter’s Pass is best known for its outdoor offerings—rafting and hiking, with access to the Appalachian trail by way of a gorgeous waterfall—and its mysterious history. As the book begins, the string of unsolved disappearances that has haunted the town is once again thrust into the spotlight when journalist Landon West, who was staying at the inn to investigate the story of the vanishing trail, then disappears himself.

Abby has sometimes felt like an outsider within the community, but she’s come to view Cutter’s Pass as her home. When Landon’s brother Trey shows up looking for answers, Abby can’t help but feel the town closing ranks. And she’s still on the outside. When she finds incriminating evidence that may bring them closer to the truth, Abby soon discovers how little she knows about her coworkers, neighbors, and even those closest to her.