The Family Upstairs

Be careful who you let in. The Family Upstairs

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Atria Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Lisa Jewell

(4.14 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: November 5, 2019, by Atria Books

Pages: 352 (Hardcover), 464 (Kindle version)


It’s only now, with decades of hindsight, that I can see how odd it was.

II really want to move closer to my job and my daughter’s school, so I’m currently house-hunting online and by word-of-mouth. Someone recently asked me if I would mind living in a condo. My answer was a hard and fast “no”. Why? Because people are weird.

And after I sat down and swallowed this suspenseful story about the perils of cohabitation, I feel incredibly justified in my answer! Told from multiple perspectives and different timelines, with fatally flawed characters, this is a story that will grab you and pull you into the depths of family for which dysfunctional is an aspiration. Here’s the blurb…

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am. She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them. Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

The weakness of men lay at the root of every bad thing that had ever happened.

OK, what drew me in immediately: (1) an unexpected inheritance, (2) an abandoned mansion, (3) London – all the creepiest strangeties happen in London (and if “strangeties” isn’t a word, it should be, and (4) a baby alone in the midst of chaos. Everything about that summary says you-must-read-this-book. And I am so glad that I did.

When you begin to read a book and you immediately know that you don’t have a clue what is going on or how it’s all going to turn out, that’s when you have the most fun. What begins as the story of a woman learning about her birth parents and possibly getting a much-needed new start in life, quickly becomes something much, much more.

I knew what I had to do and it does not cast me in a good light. But I was a child. I was desperate. I was trying to save us all.

Living with people is tricky whether they be family, friends, or strangers. Can anyone you live with be completely trusted to lock the doors if they’re the last ones in, or to not leave their flat iron on while everyone’s at work? My guess is no. But if the worst you have to ever deal with is having a roommate who plays his music a bit too loud on a work night, then you have it a million times better than the Lamb family living in the mansion on Cheyne Walk.

Lisa Jewell has given us a book (another one!) with great pacing, captivating characters with varying degrees of drastic difficulties and believability, and the meat and bones of a story so dark that its small victories feel like supernovas. Five stars to this new release that I couldn’t hardly put down. If you don’t have it already, this book needs to be on your TBR and on your bookshelf. And after you read it, I think you’ll agree with me – single-family living is the way to go!

The Family Upstairs is available now at any of the following retail stores:

Read an excerpt here: The Family Upstairs Excerpt

Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is the internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including the New York Times bestseller Then She Was Gone, as well as I Found YouThe Girls in the Garden, and The House We Grew Up In. In total, her novels have sold more than two million copies across the English-speaking world and her work has also been translated into sixteen languages so far. Lisa lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. Connect with her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK and on Facebook @LisaJewellOfficial.



Spooky Reads TBR

⇒So many books, so little time! I know it has 31 days, but October still feels like it’s too short to fit in all the #SpookyReads I want to read this month. In today’s post, I’m highlighting the thrilling titles I only have a week left to read!⇐

Avid readers often have the same problem: more books on their shelves than hours in the week to read them. And then writers keep writing, so it’s a never-ending cycle. If you’re anything like me, you have a TBR list that is constantly growing – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

October is a really fun month to fill up your reading list with the most thrilling, spookiest, and most horrifying stories on your bookshelf (or on audiobook, Kindle, or from the library – anywhere you can get your hands on a good book, really).

When witches go riding, and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers, ’tis near Halloween.

unknown author

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

I have been wanting to read this book from the moment it hit my hands. Instead it has been haunting the back of my bookshelf, patiently waiting its turn to surface and tromp through my dreams. Having just recently finished The Heart-Shaped Box, I know that Joe Hill can write a mean horror story that manages to give you shivers and stays with you long after you reach the back cover. Hopefully that will be true, too, of NOS4A2.

“Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls ‘Christmasland.'”

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

This gem has been on my TBR shelf for way too long. It’s cover drew me in initially and then the cover blurb made me know that I had to come home with it. It has what seems like a perfect combination of thrills, chills, and an off-the-rails crime featuring a monstrous serial killer.

“If you’re desperate freelance journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to get the exclusive on a horrific story. If you’re Thomas Keen, known on the street as TK, you’ll do what you can to keep your homeless family safe–and find the monster who is possessed by the dream of violently remaking the world.”

There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.

George Carlin

Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

Dolores was hanging out in a Little Free Library waiting for me to come by and trade a few romance paperbacks for her. I don’t know what I’m in for with this popular horror novel, but it won’t be my first King book, so I can just about imagine!

“Forced by overwhelming evidence to confess her life of crime, Dolores Claiborne, a foul-tempered New Englander, describes how her disintegrating marriage years before caused her heart to turn murderous.”

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

I have seen this book on so many lists, especially around the Halloween season. It promises a creepy combo of horror and historical fiction that will add all the atmospheric thrills any reader needs for their #spookyreads.

“[Hundreds Hall], home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. Its owners—mother, son, and daughter—are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his.”

I love Halloween, and I love that feeling: the cold air, the spooky dangers lurking around the corner.

Evan Peters

Petals on the Wind by V. C. Andrews

This sequel to Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic shows us all that sometimes family is the scariest thing we’ll ever have to experience in our lives!

“She knew it was time to put what she knew to the test. To show her mother and grandmother that the pain and terror of the attic could not be forgotten… Show them.”

Lost Souls (Frankenstein series) by Dean Koontz

The first book of Koontz’s Frankenstein series instantly made me a fan. And this time I have a good reason that this book, #4 in the series, is still waiting on the shelf – I have to get books 2 and 3 first!

Before the sun rises, the town will be under full assault, the opening objective in the new Victor Frankenstein’s trajectory of ultimate destruction. Deucalion—Victor’s first, haunted creation—saw his maker die in New Orleans two years earlier. Yet an unshakable intuition tells him that Victor lives—and is at work again.

*All summary blurbs courtesy of Goodreads.com

The Furies

⇒”Once summoned, the Furies cannot be sent back, only leave of their own accord.” –The Furies by Katie Lowe ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Katie Lowe

(3.25 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / YA / Thriller

Format: Kindle

U.S. Publication Date: October 8, 2019, by St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 352 (Kindle version)


‘They will be your conduit, your intention made flesh; they will destroy the corrupt and murder the wicked, oh goddesses, if you will give to them your gifts.’

If you’ve been to school – almost any kind – you know about cliques. You seem them clustered in groups in the cafeteria or in the quad, or huddled together in the hallways or the library. The jocks, the cheerleaders, the science geeks, and, yes, even the mean girls. And if you were ever “the new kid” you had to quickly figure out where you fit in the grand scheme of the social hierarchy.

This was the dilemma Violet faced as she entered Elm Hollow Academy looking for a fresh start. Here’s the blurb:

In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on her boarding school’s property, dressed in white and posed on a swing, with no known cause of death. What happened to her? And what do her friends know? To find out, it is necessary to go back to the beginning. The school is Elm Hollow Academy, an all-girl’s boarding school located in a sleepy coastal town, with a long-buried grim history of 17th century witch trials. A new student, Violet, joins the school, and soon finds herself invited to become the fourth member of an advanced study group, led by the alluring and mysterious art teacher Annabel. Violet quickly finds herself wrapped up in this addictive new world. But when she comes to learn about the disappearance of a former member of the society, one with whom Violet shares an uncanny resemblance, she begins to wonder who she can trust, all the while becoming more deeply entangled in her newfound friendships. Was it suicide, or a foul play more sinister? How far will these young girls go to protect one another…or to destroy one another?

Women are not to be left alone, together, or tragedy will surely follow.

If the thing that draws you in is gorgeous, poetic prose, then this debut novel will give you what you need. Lowe’s poetic prose touches all of your senses at once. You’ll not only “see” the action, but you’ll smell it, hear it, and taste it too. She leaves very little out of her scenic descriptions, which really draw you into the action in every chapter.

However, if you’re more interested in a witchy thriller, you might find The Furies a little lacking. Sure there are spells and what passes as a conjuring, but most of the dark stuff is entirely man-made. I would call it a coming-of-age story; however, instead of character development, the main character experiences more of a moral deterioration and decay. We are witnesses to a clever, intelligent, studious girl being transformed into something much less than that.

…that crush of love and hate, the cruel and rotten bliss of friendship.

Throughout the book, every really interesting thing happens just outside of our field of vision. We’re present for the buildup and then again for the hazy, hungover aftermath. Even when our main character is in the midst of the action, we aren’t privy to the exact details and she is utterly clueless to most of what is going on. Yes, this is a technique to draw readers deeper into the story and preserve some of the mystery, but I also feel alienated by it, as if I can’t be trusted with the truth.

And that just gives me another reason to feel distrustful of the MC, whose point of view is the only side of the story we receive. She comes off as naive, gullible, and just desperate enough to do anything to be accepted. While her tragic history may excuse some of her neediness, she is clearly aware that her associations aren’t healthy – yet, she persists. Can we chalk that up merely to teenage angst and rebellion? Or has her own will become the plaything of the girls she calls her friends?

Let’s just say that a book club could have a field day with this one!

She is the specter that haunts the very image of masculinity, the one who took a bloody blade to the patriarchy itself.

Although I was intrigued through the first half of the book, I soon became disappointed at the direction of the action and the MC’s lack of backbone. And while I should have been focused on enjoying the roller coaster ride through some pretty dark corners of college life, I found myself feeling like I was watching a train wreck that I couldn’t turn away from.

Katie Lowe

Katie is a writer living in Worcester, UK. A graduate of the University of Birmingham, Katie has a BA(Hons) in English and an MPhil in Literature & Modernity. She returned to Birmingham in 2019 to complete a PhD in English Literature, with her thesis on female rage in literary modernism and the #MeToo era.

Cottage By the Sea

=> My next book for Shelf-Discipline month! I’m clearing my bookshelves one book at a time, and this perfect romance fit nicely into my September reading list. <=

Author: Debbie Macomber

(3.97 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Romance / Women’s Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Publication Date: July 17, 2018, Ballantine Books

Pages: 352 (Hardcover)


Annie was certain her parents had sent her to Oceanside, knowing that this was the one place where her wounded heart would heal.

I guess since this is my blog, it’s OK to admit that romance isn’t exactly my go-to genre. It’s nothing personal, I just find myself eye-rolling too many times while reading about “love at first sight” and “happily ever after”. It’s not that I don’t believe in love, it’s just the cheesy stuff that makes me want to wretch. But occasionally, a little gem comes along with the ability to melt even my icy heart.

Here’s the blurb: “Annie Marlow has been through the worst. Rocked by tragedy, she heads to the one place that makes her happy: Oceanside in the Pacific Northwest, the destination of many family vacations when Annie was a teenager. Once there, Annie begins to restore her broken spirit, thanks in part to the folks she meets: a local painter, Keaton whose large frame is equal to his big heart – and who helps Annie fix up her rental cottage by the sea; Mellie, the reclusive, prickly landlord Annie is determined to befriend; and Britt, a teenager with a terrible secret. But it is Keaton to whom Annie feels most drawn. His quiet, peaceful nature offers her both comfort and reprieve from her grief, and the two begin to grow closer. Then events threaten to undo the idyll Annie has come to enjoy. And when the opportunity of a lifetime lands in her lap, she is torn between the excitement of a new journey toward success and the safe and secure arms of the haven – and the man – she’s come to call home.

This was where she wanted to live, where she hoped to recapture the memories of those carefree days of her youth, the happy times with her parents and brother.

What do you look for in a great romance? Credibility? Attractive couples? Hot sex scenes? (Come on, you know you were thinking it!) Most of the things I love about a good romance novel are right here in Cottage by the Sea, and it’s not a hot sex scene, believe it or not.

Macomber doesn’t give us a dark haired musclebound he-hulk with rippling abs and smoldering eyes. She also doesn’t give us a satin-haired sex goddess with the perfect wardrobe. Her characters are, instead, a little flawed and a lot lovable. Keaton is abnormally tall and unusually quiet. Annie has tragic baggage that is forcing her to start her life over again. These aren’t cookie-cutter characters; the perfect kind for a more credible romance.

And I love the idea of a love building over time through care, nurturing, and a mutual need for the other person. Macomber’s story delivers all the feels that romance fans clamor for. And if they are disappointed by the lack of steamy bedroom scenes, then maybe it’s not romance they’re actually looking for…

Debbie Macomber

Debbie Macomber is a leading voice in women’s fiction. Thirteen of her novels have reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller lists. She has more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. –adapted from author bio

Caraval (Caraval, #1)

=> Shelf-Discipline September continues! I’m clearing my bookshelves one book at a time, and this extremely popular YA novel got drawn next out of my title jar. It appears I got an invitation to Caraval! <=

Author: Stephanie Garber

(3.95 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Mystery / YA

Format: Hardcover

Publication Date: January 31, 2017, Flatiron Books

Pages: 407 (Hardcover)


Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world.

Annalise – Caraval

I’m OK with admitting it when I make mistakes. I wish I could say that it doesn’t happen often, so I don’t have to bother with many admissions; however, that is not the case! Early on in my reading “career”, I made a vow not to compare books with other books, but to judge them on their own merit. So, you’ll rarely see me stating, “Oh, I liked this book, ABC, but it wasn’t nearly as good as XYZ.” I don’t think that’s fair and if I wrote books, it would annoy me immensely. So I try my hardest not to do it.

So before I admit to my transgression, let’s talk about what Caraval was all about. Here’s the blurb:

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over. But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic.

Some things are worth pursuit regardless of the cost.

Aiko, Caraval

So there’s an exclusive performance, a pretty young woman who’s wishing on a star, and some pretty devious guys pulling more than a few magical strings to manipulate one totally unsuspecting person. The secrets have secrets in this one, folks.

Caraval started off with a promise of some pretty scandalous acts taking place in order to rescue a helpless young woman. Which one? Pick one, because they both needed saving in more than one way. Their dad is a nightmare, they live on a conquered island (doesn’t sound like white beaches and mojitos to me), and their only escape is to be bartered off like cattle to men from other lands. Not my idea of a good time.

Enter Caraval. The ladies get invited, they go (one more willingly than the other), and they embark on an adventure that proves to be mysterious… and deadly. So, what doesn’t sound intriguing and exciting about all that. Nothing! So, why did I rate it only 3 stars? Here’s where we circle back around to my confession…

Once people leave this isle, the things they’ve done here don’t just unhappen, no matter how much they might wish them undone.

Legend, Caraval

I compared this book with another. <Gasp!> I know, I know. I shouldn’t do it, I told myself I wouldn’t do it, but the stars aligned such that I drew Caraval’s title out of my title jar for Shelf-Discipline month right after I read The Night Circus. What can I say? Fate is sloppy.

If you follow me, then you may have already read last week’s blog where I gushed about how much I loved The Night Circus and how captivating it is, yada yada. And, now, reading another book with a similar setting – a magical carnival-like performance for the public – well, a comparison between the two just can’t be denied. And The Night Circus came out on top; it’s as simple as that.

Now let me clean this up a bit: Caraval is the first book of a trilogy and it has its die-hard fans. Not adding me to that list will not hurt sales for this book one little bit. Is it a bad book? No, it is not. It has a very strong YA feel (well, duh) and readers who aren’t put off by a few classic tropes (insta-love, hate-becomes-love, and conservative spirit vs free-spirit) may enjoy the character dynamics and the valiant attempts at plot-twistery. (It’s a word!)

So, if you love the idea of trying to solve a mystery in the setting of a color-changing carnival where literally everyone is lying and there’s a god-awful lot of tunnels and top hats, then this just might be the best book you’ve read all year. Just do yourself a favor and don’t compare it to other better books as you read!

Stephanie Garber

When she’s not writing, she teaches creative writing at a private college in Northern California, where she’s been known to turn assignments into games and take students on field trips that involve book signings. Now that her dream of becoming a published author has come true, her new dream is to visit Club 33 at Disneyland. –http://stephaniegarberauthor.com

The Night Circus

“Your curiosity got the better of you, as curiosity is want to do.” –The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

(4.04 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Romance

Format: Paperback

Publication Date: September 13, 2011, Doubleday Books

Pages: 516 (Paperback)

#TheNightCircus #NightCircus

… I sometimes suspect the entirety of the circus is itself a complex illusion of illumination.

One of my fondest (and clearest) childhood memories is of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. My Uncle Syl would take me into the gigantic tent and I was simply amazed by all the spectacles. He would always buy me a caramel apple or some cotton candy – neither of which I could finish on my own (I think he counted on that!) – and we would stare, slack-jawed, at the animals and people doing amazing things all around us. So much was happening all at the same time that I could barely take it all in. It was… magical.

The magic of certain books is that they can pull you into a certain time and place that you only regrettably leave as you turn the final page. The Night Circus did that for me; first, by bringing back the memory of those nights at the circus with my Uncle Syl, and also by settling me into a world of wonder that I was not ready to leave, even after the acknowledgements.

Here’s the blurb: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway – a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love – a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. 

People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.

Of course I am extremely late to the party on this book. It’s been out since 2011 and I’ve had it on my shelf for several years. But since this is September Shelf-Discipline month and Read-What-You-Own month, AND because Morgenstern’s second book, A Starless Sea, is going to be released in November of this year, it seemed only appropriate that I would randomly (magically) pick this title from my title jar this month.

The Night Circus feels like a book that I was meant to read. It is atmospheric and seductive, with an air of mystery in every chapter. This book has cryptic hints and it doesn’t want you to figure out everything at once. So, just like one of the Night Circus’ visitors, readers are at the mercy of the author to reveal her secrets in her own time.

I prefer to remain unenlightened, to better appreciate the dark.

I’ve read many reviews of The Night Circus in the years prior to me actually reading it, so I knew that it is a book that you’re either a fan of, or that leaves you disappointed. I am gladly in the former group. It’s a book that has to be experienced rather than explained. And my experience was worthy of the five stars I gave it.

I find the characters equally familiar and enigmatic – so layered and complex, even as the author has tried to shield us from knowing much about them at all. The timeline is a mystery as well, bouncing between the reader’s present to the late 1800s with the inception of the circus and back to only a slightly later time in that future where every mysterious action is coming to a head.

And, finally, at the end when I felt the pages getting lighter in my hand and the action ramped up to its finale, I felt like I did as a child when the action in the middle of the three-ring circus reached its climax and the ringmaster said his final parting words and Uncle Syl would take my hand and lead me away from the tent, and the noise, and the smells of popcorn and caramel apples. It only left me wanting more.

Read more about Morgenstern’s sophomore novel, The Starless Sea, coming in November, 2019!

Erin Morgenstern

Erin Morgenstern is a writer and a multimedia artist who describes all her work as “fairy tales in one way or another.” She lives in Massachusetts. –bio taken from book cover.

29 Seconds

⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW! “What if a single 29 second phone call could change your life forever?” -29 Seconds ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: T.M. Logan

(4.04 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Suspense / Thriller

Format: Kindle

U.S. Publication Date: September 10, 2019, by St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 356 (Kindle version)


If she said no, the offer disappeared. Forever. And if she said yes, there was no going back. No changing her mind.

Bullies. You may have dealt with them in school or you may be dealing with them now at work. Maybe there’s one in your gym or – gasp! – in your book club! If you’ve managed to live your whole life up to this point and not be affected by some of the most heinous, manipulative, bossy, dangerous people on planet Earth, then I salute you (and I want to know what cave you’re living in because you must be quite the introvert!).

In this book, Sarah is vexed by a bully. But oh, my friends, that is a very dumbed-down and simplified version of what is taking place in her life and the lives of others around her. And we don’t have to look too far away from our own phones and TVs to see glaring real-life examples (and one in particular) of the type of man our main character is being harassed by. But Sarah’s story is about so much more than harassment. Let’s check out the blurb:

Sarah is a young professor struggling to prove herself in a workplace controlled by the charming and manipulative Alan Hawthorne, a renowned scholar and television host. The beloved professor rakes in million-dollar grants for the university where Sarah works—so his inappropriate treatment of female colleagues behind closed doors has gone unchallenged for years. And Sarah is his newest target. When Hawthorne’s advances become threatening, she’s left with nowhere to turn. Until the night she witnesses an attempted kidnapping of a young child on her drive home, and impulsively jumps in to intervene. The child’s father turns out to be a successful businessman with dangerous connections—and her act of bravery has put this powerful man in her debt. He lives by his own brutal code, and all debts must be repaid. In the only way he knows how. The man gives Sarah a burner phone and an unbelievable offer. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that can make all her problems disappear. No consequences. No traces. No chance of being found out. All it takes is a 29-second phone call. Because everyone has a name to give. Don’t they?

Perhaps sometimes in life, an impossible situation required an unthinkable solution.

Let’s be honest with each other, OK? When you read the blurb, did you come up with a name? That one person that just grates your last nerve, or the one that sets your teeth on edge – is that the name you thought of? I couldn’t think of one. I’m not trying to be Miss Goody-two-shoes; I just honestly couldn’t think of anyone that I despise enough to wish that they’d “disappear”. Did I just get kudos points in Heaven? One can dream…

OK, so Sarah pulls off a good deed by being an upstanding citizen (or very nosy neighbor – you decide), and her reward seems more like a punishment. But like Sarah, you never know what you would do irl with your back pushed against the wall. Did I agree with all of her decisions? Not by a long shot. But was I committed to watching this train wreck that Sarah was conducting? ‘Til the very last wheel came off the track.

You don’t have to go into the lion’s den.

First, Alan Hawthorne is an absolute monster. It says a lot about an author when he or she can make you absolutely hate one of their characters, and Logan clearly has that gift. Hawthorne is despicable, the worst imitation of a human being, and I wanted to rip his head off and spit down his neck! Too much? Maybe so, but maybe not after you read this book. 29 Seconds is about the seemingly mighty preying on the vulnerable weak, but it’s also about finding strength of will in impossible situations. Gotta say it… where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Suspense, suspense, suspense! 29 Seconds has plenty of it. These are characters in 3D that you will sympathize with, angrily criticize, fear, wish dead, and want to go give a comforting hug. This book made me run the gamut of emotions – and that, readers, is all we ever ask any author to do for us. Logan delivers an important message wrapped in thrills and tense action that will leave your mouth hanging open on more than one occasion. No really, you could have flown the Goodyear Blimp down my throat at the end of Part II.

If you love a great, fast-paced thriller where the stakes are high and virtue is cloudy, this is gonna be your jam! I only knocked off half a star because I had a few lingering questions at the end that weren’t fully resolved by the “epilogue”. But those aren’t deal-breakers, and 29 Seconds is definitely worth the read. My only remaining question is… When is the movie release?

29 Seconds is available in the US today, September 10, 2019 at any of the following retail stores:

And be on the lookout for his next U.S. release, The Vacation, in July 2020!

T.M. Logan

Bestselling author TM Logan was a national newspaper journalist before turning to novel-writing full time. His debut thriller Lies was one of Amazon UK’s biggest ebooks of 2017, winning a Silver Award at the Nielsen Bestseller Awards. -Bio adapted from TMLogan.com

Mother Knows Best

⇒”Human life is sacred, not fodder for irresponsible experimentation with unknown consequences…” –Mother Knows Best

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Crooked Lane Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Kira Peikoff

(4.06 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Suspense

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: September 10, 2019, by Crooked Lane Books

Pages: 288 (Kindle version)


…blood matters.

Are you doing it right now too? It’s OK, you can admit it. I have been doing it since the day I started reading this book. It even made it onto one of my Instagram stories. I know you did it as soon as you read the title of the book for today’s review. You started singing “Mother Knows Best” from the movie, Tangled. Admit it! I know you did!

I cannot get that song out of my head since the very moment I saw this book title and started swiping through its pages (on my Kindle, relax). I used to like that song, but know that its playing on a loop in my head, I really don’t ever have to hear it again. Thank goodness my next book doesn’t have a song that matches its title or else this would be a very long week. But I digress, Since it’s definitely not about Rapunzel (I promise), let’s see what Mother Knows Best is actually about. Here’s the blurb…

Claire, Robert, and Jillian work together to create the world’s first baby with three genetic parents—an unprecedented feat that could eliminate inherited disease. But when word of their illegal experiment leaks to the wrong person, Robert escapes into hiding with the now-pregnant Claire, leaving Jillian to serve out a prison sentence that destroys her future. Ten years later, a spunky girl named Abigail begins to understand that all is not right with the reclusive man and woman she knows as her parents. But the family’s problems are only beginning. Jillian, hardened by a decade of jealousy and loss, has returned—and nothing will stop her from reuniting with the man and daughter who should have been hers.

It’s impossible to tell that my beautiful girl is the first of her kind.

OK, let’s get into it. Points for including an original physical infirmity that is NOT cancer! Thank you, Kira Peikoff, for being original with that. I have complained about that so long and finally someone has heard me. While equally devastating and heartbreaking, Claire and Ethan’s son suffering from a mitochondrial abnormality is key to the story and infinitely more unique.

Also, points for the multiple POVs that help the reader navigate between particular motives and actions in the present and past. Instead of being left with a lot of “why?” at the end of the book, Peikoff finds a way to explain why everyone did what they did when they did it – a task that isn’t easy to pull off.

My eyes have rebelled against my mind. It’s not the first time.

OK, so we’ve got a compelling problem, multiple points of view, and an overwhelming sense of suspense that nothing about what is going to happen to any of these characters is going to be good. And that’s kind of where it gets hung up. It’s never a good sign when I find myself screaming at the people on the page/screen. Trust me. But that’s what happens when they start doing inexplicable things and willingly heading towards imminent disaster. These are touted as highly intelligent people, so why does every single one of them refuse to think things through? Those are the gripes that distracted me from truly enjoying this book.

Other than that, the book is a great length, has an unusual, unique premise, and even includes a not-totally-expected little twist. I would recommend it to readers who love suspenseful novels that include a focus on reproductive science and mental health after the loss of child. Too specific? Hmm, OK, maybe also those that appreciate a great “awkward family dinner” scene!

Mother Knows Best will be available September 10, 2019 at any of the following retail stores:

Kira Peikoff

Kira Peikoff is a graduate of New York University with a degree in journalism. She also holds a Master of Science degree in bioethics from Columbia University. Her articles have been published in a variety of major media outlets, including The New York Times.

The Sixth Wicked Child (4MK Thriller, #3)

⇒”You can’t play God without being acquainted with the devil.” -The Sixth Wicked Child ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Hampton Creek Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: J.D. Barker

(4.73 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Crime Fiction / Thriller / Suspense

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: August 27, 2019, by Hampton Creek Press

Pages: 626 (Kindle version)

#TheSixthWickedChild #SixthWickedChild

Mother will not be happy with that.

For a while now I have realized that I have a weird obsession with serial killers. I’ll readily admit that it’s morbid and depressing and not the most normal thing in the world. But I am not alone. Among avid readers and podcasters alike, I have found my people!

The thing that draws me in is the utter senselessness of serial killing. I want to understand why – the motive, the drive, the extreme discontent or obsession that prompts someone to become that kind of monster. And, oh yes, I have learned that there are no easy answers, and often no reasons at all. Which makes these killers even scarier.

If you’ve been keeping up with the 4MK thrillers up ’til now, you’re familiar with Anson Bishop, his devious mind, and his heinous acts. At least you think you are. But Barker’s third book of the series may just turn all that you know into an even bigger mystery than before. Let’s check out the blurb:

Hear No Evil. For Detective Sam Porter, the words “Father, forgive me” conjure memories long forgotten; a past intentionally buried. For Anson Bishop, these three words connect a childhood to the present as he unleashes a truth concealed for decades. See No Evil. Found written on cardboard near each body, these words link multiple victims to a single killer—discovered within minutes of each other in both Chicago and South Carolina—clearly connected yet separated by impossible miles. Speak No Evil. Chicago Metro and the FBI find themselves caught in chaos—a hospital on lockdown, a rogue officer, and corruption at the highest levels. When Anson Bishop, the prime suspect in the notorious 4MK serial murders turns himself in, he reveals a story completely unexpected, one that not only upends the current investigation, but one that will change the lives of all involved. Do No Evil. With unrelenting tension and pulse-pounding suspense, the past unravels at breakneck speed as the truth behind the Four Monkey Killer’s motive is finally revealed in this masterfully crafted finale.

Only the dead know true freedom.

As with so many complicated stories, the truth can only be found in the past. So it’s to the past we go through Anson Bishop’s diaries written while he was in foster care at The Finicky House for Wayward Children. (That has such a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Sounds like such a nice, safe, cozy place.) Bishop’s memories are interspersed between the present day action told from multiple POVs. There’s a lot of ground to cover in this trilogy finale, hence the 626 pages of action!

I’m gonna be honest here, this is a hard review to write while trying not to spoil anything. There are things that I was pretty sure I understood about these characters and about the crimes perpetrated by this heinous criminal that got completely reversed while reading this book. There are SO MANY “wait… whuh?” moments in here, I started to second-guess my own sanity.

So, in order to avoid all spoilers, but still supply an idea of what to expect from The Sixth Wicked Child – I will say… expect the unexpected. Cliché? Yes. Apropos? Yes, again. Many, many dark things happen, and just when you think some light is about to dawn, providing reason and understand, boom! There’s a giant twist and you’re plunged back into darkness again. Seriously, there’s so many twists and turns with so many moving parts in this one, you might need a Venn diagram to keep it all straight. (Good luck with that!)

Sometimes the easy or obvious wasn’t the best, and sometimes the best wasn’t obvious or easy.

OK, so my recommendation is to definitely read this book. But, like any good series, you have to read this trilogy in order. If you begin with this one, you’ll be in the weeds by the second chapter with no hope of rescue. And my second piece of advice, read them close to each other. Lots of references are made to previous events that become more significant in this finale. It helps to keep everything fresh in your mind. And finally, I would advise you to take your time with this book. At 626 pages (Kindle), it covers a lot of ground and has a large cast of characters. This is not one you can rush through, nor would you want to. If we’re saying goodbye to Anson Bishop and Detective Sam Porter with this book, let’s make it memorable.

So, I’m sad to see that this is the end of a clever, meaty thriller series with evolving characters and unpredictable action. But I am glad that I picked up The Fourth Monkey back in 2017 and started on this journey with good guys/girls, bad guys/girls, and the ones that got mixed up in between. And if, at the start of this adventure you could have predicted this particular ending, then you’re a much more clever person than I. Bravo, Mr. Barker. Bravo.

Also read my reviews of The Fourth Monkey and The Fifth to Die.

Buy The Sixth Wicked Child here:

J.D. Barker

Barker’s initial indie success drew the attention of traditional agents and publishers and in early 2016 his debut thriller, The Fourth Monkey, sold in a series of pre-empts and auctions worldwide with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt set to publish in the U.S. and HarperCollins in the UK. The book has also sold for both film and television. –JDBarker.com

The Missing Ones (Hester Thursby Mystery, #2)

⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW! “…you’ll learn that parents have all sorts of evil thoughts. Sometimes saying them out loud is the only way to survive.” -The Missing Ones ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Kensington Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Edwin Hill

(4.30 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: August 27, 2019, by Kensington Books

Pages: 304 (Kindle version)

#TheMissingOnes #MissingOnes

The world was a scary, frightening place, where terrible, terrible things happened. Anywhere. And everywhere.

Having a child is one of the scariest things a person can do. But what’s even more frightening is raising that child. Oh, you think I’m exaggerating? A parent is responsible for making sure that another little person survives every single day. And considering what this world is like these days, that is a terrifying assignment!

In Edwin Hill’s followup to Little Comfort, our heroine, Hester Thursby’s fears about becoming an insta-parent have crippled her daily life and forced all her phobias to the surface. She’s not completely to blame, she did survive a rather harrowing experience, but how long can she go on living with all of her lies? Let’s check out the blurb for The Missing Ones

Hester Thursby has given up using her research skills to trace people who don’t want to be found. A traumatic case a few months ago unearthed a string of violent crimes, and left Hester riddled with self-doubt and guilt. Caring for a four-year-old is responsibility enough in a world filled with terrors Hester never could have imagined before. Finisterre Island, off the coast of Maine, is ruggedly beautiful and remote—the kind of place tourists love to visit, though rarely for long. But not everyone who comes to the island is welcome. A dilapidated Victorian house has become home to a group of squatters and junkies, and strangers have a habit of bringing trouble with them. A young boy disappeared during the summer, and though he was found safely, the incident stirred suspicion among locals. Now another child is missing. Summoned to the island by a cryptic text, Hester discovers a community cleaning up from a devastating storm—and uncovers a murder. Soon Hester begins to connect the crime and the missing children. And as she untangles the secrets at the center of the small community, she finds grudges and loyalties that run deep, poised to converge with a force that will once again shake her convictions about the very nature of right and wrong.

Children didn’t disappear, not in this world. Neither did problems.

Let’s start off by saying that Hester Thursby is definitely an unconventional leading lady. She’s diminutive, extremely phobic, and mostly unwilling to participate in any kind of social activities that take place outside of her own four walls. However, there is that innate part of Hester that overcomes all that when it comes to duty and family. And it is that part that drags her out to Finisterre Island, Maine – which literally means The End of the Earth – at the call of a loved one. Plus, she’s pretty adept at asking all the right questions.

OK, can I be honest here? Hester annoys me more than a little bit in this book. Let’s just say that her phobias are understandably irrational, but they force her to make decisions that place her in extreme danger – which seems to be the exact opposite of where she is fighting vehemently to be! But, yes, this is where the thrills come in, so I digress.

My favorite parts of this book by far are actually the parts that didn’t include Hester. Shocker!!! Hill introduces us to a little island full of big personalities and two handfuls of potential suspects for some missing children cases that hit really close to home. The Missing Ones features the bad guys that you see coming from a mile away, the ones you suspect, and the ones that sneak up on you from behind – the Villain Trifecta!

So it’s safe to say that Hester is clearly not my most favorite MC of all time; however, as long as Edwin Hill continues to surround her with an intriguing supporting cast and a superbly layered mysterious plot, I’ll keep reading. *The next Hester Thursby mystery is expected in 2020.

Buy The Missing Ones today here:

Edwin Hill

After attending Wesleyan University and graduating with a B.A. in American Studies, he headed west to San Francisco for the dotcom boom. Later, he returned to Boston, earned an MFA from Emerson College, and switched gears to work in educational publishing. He served as the vice president and editorial director for Bedford/St. Martin’s, a division of Macmillan Learning for many years before turning to writing full time. –EdwinHill.com