Mystery, Thriller

I’ll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie

I'll Never TellI’ll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Out June 1st! Pre-order from Amazon here!

Oh how I adore Catherine McKenzie. Last year when I read her novel, The Good Liar, I fell in love with her writing style. She writes captivating thrillers that keep you on the edge of your seat with lots of twists and turns. So when I saw her next book, I’ll Never Tell, was coming out I jumped at the chance to review it.

Twenty years ago at Camp Macaw, teenage Amanda was brutally attacked on the camp’s “Back Beach” and was left for dead. Fast forward to present day and the five adult children of the camp owners (the McAllisters) descend upon the camp to memorialize their parents who tragically passed away. But they will be in for a surprise when their parent’s will is read, forcing them to revisit that awful night of Amanda’s attack and come to terms with their own pasts.

This one reminded me a ton of Riley Sager’s fabulous The Last Time I Lied with the sinister summer camp feel. It also had an Agatha Christie-esque whodunnit style; one mystery, multiple suspects.

There were two things I really appreciated in this book:
1. The family dynamics were expertly crafted. There were a ton of layers to each of the relationships in this story (and there were a lot of relationships to unpack). It ended up giving the book more of a “slow burn” feel for me than your typical thriller/mystery but I was never bored. I was always waiting to see what happened next.
2. The way the story unfolded was perfect. Catherine McKenzie released the right amount of information at just the right times, peppering teasers throughout for the reader while not giving away all the secrets at once.

This is definitely a solid summer mystery for all you mystery lovers out there. It would make for a fantastic fireside, marshmallow-roasting, lake-swimming, trail-hiking summer camp read!

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Lake Union Publishing and Catherine McKenzie for the opportunity to review.-

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Mystery, Thriller

The Last Thing She Remembers by J.S. Monroe

The Last Thing She RemembersThe Last Thing She Remembers by J.S. Monroe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Out May 28th! Pre-order from Amazon here!

This is a book that I fear is going to be grossly underestimated. I have to admit that I haven’t seen this book all over social media and hadn’t heard of it before the publisher sent me a copy to review. But, I always find that when publishers send me books that I haven’t requested, I discover some of my favorite authors so I thank them for that.

The Last Thing She Remembers was such a pleasant surprise. A fast paced, mysterious, twisty thriller that kept me on my toes from start to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed J.S. Monroe’s work.

The story begins when a young woman shows up on Tony and Laura’s doorstep with no recollection of who she is, where she came from, or why she is there. Tony and Laura take her in and try to help her regain her memory. What follows is a crazy roller coaster ride of stuff that had me guessing all the way until the end. There are quite a few surprises along the way that any thriller-lover would enjoy.

I will say that you kind of have to suspend reality in a few parts of the book because there were a few things that happened that were a tad too coincidental for me to believe. This is definitely not a story that could actually take place, but not many thrillers are.

Bravo to J.S. Monroe on a successful novel. I hope this one gets more publicity and chatter on social media as publication date gets nearer because it is worth the book-reviewing community’s attention.

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, J.S. Monroe, and Harlequin Trade Publishing for the opportunity to review.

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Thriller

Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik

Into the JungleInto the Jungle by Erica Ferencik

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was so excited to win this book in a Goodreads giveaway! It is set in the Bolivian Amazon and I have strong personal ties to the Peruvian Amazon. I spent 4 weeks in Peru as a pharmacy student, living in the jungle on a nature preserve learning about healing properties of plants in the rainforest.

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We slept on mats atop wooden floors, bathed in the Amazon River, were woken by the roosters, and rowed ourselves in small canoes to the city of Iquitos for class. The jungle is an incredible but also very dangerous place as Erica Ferencik describes in her book Into the Jungle. Her descriptions of person, place, sound, smell, feeling are all spot on. Her writing transported me back to my time in Peru and I thank her for that.

The book is about a young girl named Lily who is kind of lost in life. In and out of the foster system from a young age, she finds herself taking a job as a teacher at a school in Bolivia. But when she arrives and the job falls through she ends up working at a local hostel, unable to afford a trip back to the United States. As luck would have it, she finds herself in love with a young man named Omar. But when Omar has to return to his local village of Ayachero, Lily will make a decision that will change her life forever: to go into the jungle.

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First thing is first. This book is categorized as a thriller and while I think there are elements that might fall into the thriller category, I would actually categorize this more as “action” or “adventure.” It wasn’t your typical on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller with a lot of mystery and cliffhangers. It focused more on Lily’s shell shock as she adjusted to living off the land and tried to acclimate to the Amazonian culture. That being said, there was a fast paced and exciting climax that did have me on the edge of my seat and tipped the book over into the thriller genre by the end. There were also some elements of magical realism along the way.

I loved Erica Ferencik’s descriptions of the villagers and the shaman. I was lucky enough to meet with some of the local tribes in the Amazon while I was there, and I felt like her depiction of the native people was completely accurate.

I also spent some time with a shaman while in Peru who taught me about ayahuasca, a substance that is illegal in the US but is used extensively in the Amazon for its ability to induce spiritual awakening and cure the terminally ill. In fact, many people (often those with terminal disease) travel from all over the world to visit shamans in the jungle for their healing properties. There is a shaman in the story that is integral to the narrative and the descriptions of her were extremely authentic. I could envision her living off in the jungle alone and the local villagers having some unease in her presence.

The one thing that was a bit hard for me to stomach was all the death of animals described in the book. I think they were appropriately placed and created a layer of authenticity. People who live in the jungle struggle to hunt for their own food. Sometimes things are brutal. Sometimes we have to remember that in nature there is this little thing called the food chain. I think at times I forget that for some people, that’s their reality, and life is hard. Sitting in my house in Tennessee, its easy to forget that nature is unforgiving. And although difficult to read at times, the author portrayed a reality for the indigenous people.

Overall, this book was written extremely well. There is adventure. There is a love story. There are elements of a thriller and magical realism. It’s kind of got it all. I would highly recommend giving this one a read, particularly if you are looking for something unique and different, or something that will completely transport you to another place.

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Audiobook Review, Mystery, Thriller

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

Watch Me DisappearWatch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Watch Me Disappear is my book club’s May pick. And I sure hope I can remember all the details by the time we meet up on May 29th because I read this one so far in advance of our gathering!

I really loved the concept of this book. Wife and mom, Billie Flanagan, goes hiking in the woods alone and disappears. A year later, her husband Jonathan and daughter Olive are coming to terms with the fact that she’s probably dead. But suddenly Olive starts having visions of her mother and she starts to question if her mom could still be alive. As they dig deeper into Billie’s past, they will discover a web of deception and trail of lies.

Janelle Brown did such a good job keeping me guessing for the duration of this book. I never knew what was coming next and loved the ride. There was maybe a small portion in the middle that lulled a bit, but it quickly picked back up until the end.

The relationship dynamics were really strong between the characters, and I enjoyed the twists toward the end. The epilogue was particularly well written and tied together all of the loose ends and questions that were outstanding.

Overall, I was a fan of Watch Me Disappear and can’t wait to read other works by Brown in the future.

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Mystery, Thriller

The Night Before by Wendy Walker

The Night BeforeThe Night Before by Wendy Walker

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Out May 14th! Pre-order from Amazon here!

Wendy Walker, you have a new fan in me! This is the first I’ve read from this author and it won’t be the last.

The Night Before is about a woman who struggles with relationships. We’ve all been there, right? After a devastating break up, she moves back to her childhood town to live with her sister as she mentally recovers. She decides to give online dating a try. Again, we’ve all been there, right? I met my husband on match.com seven years ago so I can totally relate. But when she doesn’t come home from her first online date, her sister will panic and desperately search to find out what happened the night before.

The thing that really struck me about this book is how well the story unfolded. Wendy Walker did a fabulous job of releasing information to the reader at just the right times and places along the way so as not to reveal too much information but also to keep the story moving and exciting. While I found it a tad unbelievable that the main character would have revealed so much personal information on a first date with a stranger, I decided to look past it for the sake of entertainment. Who knows, maybe people are more open that I am with their personal information on first dates?!

I really enjoyed the story being told from different perspectives. It’s somewhat common in the thriller genre, but it worked really well here. And I appreciated the timeline changing from past to present and back. It added a lot of mystery to the story line and kept me guessing. There were plenty of twists in this book and I would say about 50% of them surprised me and 50% of them I saw coming. But the ones that surprised me were really shocking and unexpected.

I can’t say much more without giving away key plot elements, so I’ll just leave it at that. This is a really solid thriller that I think a lot of people would enjoy. It is exciting, shocking, twisted, and clever. I look forward to reading future works by Wendy Walker.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Wendy Walker, and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to review.-

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