One Last Secret by Adele Parks

One Last Secret is a compelling thriller with a great main character.

Synopsis

As an escort, Dora has rules in place to keep her safe. However, after one traumatizing encounter, Dora agrees to marry her best friend and leave escorting behind. That is until a client offers her double the going rate to pretend to be his girlfriend in the south of France. Even though she’s looking at a future of financial security, Dora is not quite ready to lose her independence, so she accepts this as her last job.

What could go wrong? Well, a lot, it seems. Almost as soon as she arrives.

One Last Secret

Review of One Last Secret

This page-turner mainly follows Dora’s pov and alternates timelines.

This was my first time reading an Adele Parks book, and it did not disappoint. Dora’s character was so well done and had me rooting for her the entire time.

I saw the big reveal coming a mile away, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment. It is slightly OTT, which I know some readers don’t like, but it worked fine for me.

Usually, when I’m reading a book, I am very conscious of what page I’m on and how many pages are left to go in the chapter or the book. But this one captured my complete attention.

I will definitely try this author again in the future.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 27 December 2022

Thank you to MIRA for providing an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

Bad Cree by Jessica Johns

I am so happy I had the chance to read an advance copy of Bad Cree by Jessica Johns. It is a beautifully written horror novel that focuses on family and grief.

Synopsis

It opens with Mackenzie, a young Cree woman, waking from a dream in which she was fighting off crows. When Mackenzie wakes, she is shocked to realize she holds a severed crow’s head in her hands. She blinks, and it is gone. But the crows that have been following her during her waking hours remain. This nightmare is the beginning of a series of bad dreams that sets Mackenzie on a path of figuring out the cause of these nightmares that feel like memories.

After her kokum died, Mackenzie moved from High Prairie to Vancouver to escape her grief. Mackenzie also lost her sister a year ago. Now, she returns home to try to remember what happened on one of her family’s trips to the lake and to investigate why crows are still following her.

Review of Bad Cree

This supernatural horror is character-driven and is a bit of a slow burn. It focuses on Cree family dynamics. The slow parts might be a drawback for some readers, but as an Indigenous woman, I lapped it up. It reminded me of growing up and hanging out with extended family.

The author provides context for the handful of Cree words throughout the text. I know a scant amount of Cree, but fortunately, I understood nearly all of the terms and messaged a family member for the one word I didn’t. But as I said, context is there, and Google could be handy.

The tension ebbs and flows in this novel. It starts with a nightmarish quality (literally) and becomes more strained and eerie as it progresses.

It is exciting to see more Indigenous writers having a chance to share stories. I might be biased, but Indigenous people are great storytellers.

I highly recommend picking this up as soon as you can.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 10 January 2023

Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for providing an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

Someone Had to Do It by Amber Brown and Danielle Brown

Someone Had to Do It is a fast-paced and compelling debut thriller from author duo Amber Brown and Danielle Brown.

Synopsis

Brandi Maxwell, a young Black woman, did not grow up with wealth. So when she lands an internship at Van Doren, a high-fashion company, she thinks it will be a stepping stone for the rest of her career. Although Brandi mainly does grunt work, like cleaning vomit from dresses, Brandi believes it is going well. That is until HR informs her she needs to start fitting in with the “culture” of the company.

Then there’s Taylor Van Doren, a spoiled, drug-addled style influencer and daughter of Simon Van Doren. Taylor’s father has threatened to donate her trust fund to charity if she doesn’t clean up her act within six months.

When Brandi and her NFL boyfriend Nate attend a party at Simon’s house, Brandi is excited to meet Taylor. And she hopes she can convince Simon to choose her for the company’s upcoming trip to Milan. But Brandi accidentally overhears something she wishes she could forget. Not long after that, her life starts to fall apart.

Review of Someone Had to Do It

This wild thriller follows Brandi and Taylor’s POVs. It is a popcorn read, replete with plenty of chaotic scenes that sometimes border on absurdity. It has been a while since any characters have frustrated me as much as these characters did. Although, the story is entertaining if you go along with it.

It also discusses white privilege, entitlement, racism, and microaggressions.

I think there could have been more character development, especially with Nate. He felt like a shell, a shell that was too easy to sway.

If books had movie ratings, this one would be rated “R” for nudity and sexual themes. It is extra heavy on the spice.

I will definitely keep an eye out for more books from this author duo.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Expected Publication: 27 December 2022

Thank you to Graydon House for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins is an absorbing and suspenseful gothic novel set in Italy.

Synopsis

Emily, the author of a long-running book series, feels like her life is in a rut. Not only has her husband left her, but she’s also suffering from writer’s block. When her lifelong best friend and self-help guru, Chess, invites her to Italy for the summer, Emily joins her, thinking it will be the reset she needs to write her next book.

The villa in Orvieto happens to be where a brutal murder occurred in 1974. Back then, a famous rockstar invited an aspiring musician and his muses to stay at the villa while they produced a new album. After the murder, some of their careers took off, with one of the guests penning a novel that became a classic feminist horror novel. Another, composed a platinum-selling album.

Emily becomes super invested in this tragedy and begins to think there’s more to the story than previously supposed. Meanwhile, tensions between Emily and Chess thicken.

Review of The Villa

This suspenseful drama has dual timelines and dual perspectives. I would not classify this as a thriller. There are several good twists and the pacing is consistent, if a tad on the slower side, which might not be for every reader but worked for this reader here.

It touches on grown men going after minors and the competitive streak that can sometimes surface between friends.

I enjoyed the author’s last book Reckless Girls, but I liked this one even more. The plot is a bit more complex, and the writing is engaging. Usually, I don’t enjoy rockstar themes, but as this took a different approach, it worked for me. And Emily’s POV became more interesting with every chapter. The tidbits on being a published author and the writing process were insightful.

So, I think it’s safe to say Rachel Hawkins is now one of my go-to authors. I can’t wait to see what else she has in store.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 03 January 2022

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

A History of Fear by Luke Dumas

A History of Fear reveals one man’s descent into madness.

Synopsis

Scotland, 2017: Grayson Hale, an American grad student, callously murdered his classmate, blaming the devil for his actions.

Following his sentence, that should have been that. However, nineteen months after his conviction, guards find Hale’s lifeless body in solitary confinement at Her Majesty’s Prison Edinburgh, a high-security prison.

Authorities dismiss his death as self-inflicted. But, a few days later, a 200-page manuscript surfaces written by Hale.

It’s up to the reader to decide if Hale was telling the truth or if his childhood fear of the devil sent him on this downward spiral.

Review of A History of Fear

In addition to Hale’s manuscript, the story’s structure is a mix of notes, transcripts, interviews, and news clippings.

I enjoyed this story, but unfortunately, I didn’t love it as much as I had hoped. The pacing was slightly inconsistent. However, things picked up in the final third, and I could not put it down. But then again, one of the big reveals could have been handled better. The breadcrumbs were there, but I never thought it would go in that direction, especially since the book is set in contemporary times. It was more depressing than anything else. I now know what Pink was getting at in her review.

On another note, the writing was excellent and engaging. Although, I was marginally less interested in Hale’s past and more so in his time in Scotland.

This book wasn’t terribly scary, but it has some graphic content that may disturb some readers.

I would definitely consider reading more from the author in the future. I see there’s already another one releasing sometime next year.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Expected Publication: 06 December 2022

Thank you to Atria Books for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

A Small Affair by Flora Collins

A Small Affair has colossal consequences for one high-powered woman in fashion.

Synopsis

Vera is not afraid to go after what she wants, not particular about who she might have to walk over to get there. Vera loves her job, which she’s had a large part in raising from the ground up. When Vera starts seeing Tom, a wealthy tech founder, ten years her senior and soon to divorce his wife, she’s not sure what she thinks of him, but in the right light finds him attractive.

Vera’s life falls apart when she learns Tom and his wife are found dead. The media catches wind of Vera’s affair with the married man and blames her for their deaths. In short order, Vera loses everything and moves in with her mother.

A year later, Vera is ready to return to her old life but knows that people have not yet forgotten the scandal. However, Vera starts to uncover information about the married man that might restore her life and career.

Review of A Small Affair

This is a well-written, slow-burn, character-driven thriller. It never felt boring. I correctly guessed one of the twists, but it was satisfying watching everything come together.

Vera is a complex character, not always likeable but wholly believable. This novel clearly shows how quick people are to condemn strong-willed women, to put them in their “place” at the earliest opportunity. It also touches on how social media can harm one’s mental health.

The ending before the epilogue really had me shaking my head at one of the characters.

This is honestly one of the better thrillers I’ve read in a while. If you like slower, intricately plotted thrillers, you’ll surely enjoy this.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 27 December 2022

Thank you to MIRA for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

Aesthetica by Allie Rowbottom

Aesthetica by Allie Rowbottom takes a sharp look at the dark side of social media.

Synopsis

While Anna waits to go under the knife to reverse all of her past cosmetic procedures, she reflects on her short stint as a social media influencer. Anna is 35 and works at a cosmetics store, but when she was 19, she moved to LA to try to make a name for herself. She didn’t expect the industry to use her and throw her out just as quickly.

The surgery Anna’s waiting to receive is called Aesthetica. In a single procedure, her surgeon will reverse all her Botox, fillers, nose jobs, everything. However, the surgery is high-risk, and there are no guarantees she will survive it.

Disillusioned with the beauty world, Anna wants to revert to her true self and believes this procedure will set her on that path.

Review of Aesthetica by Allie Rowbottom

This literary fiction book has beautiful and evocative writing. The author discusses the compulsion to chase more likes, followers, and brand deals when Instagram was at its peak. It also explores societal beauty standards, feminine rage, and power imbalances.

It would have been easy for the author to have a critical view of Anna. Fortunately, she approached her with sensitivity and nuance, which indicates to me that the author has a thorough understanding of social media.

Overall, this book is an incredible debut, and I cannot wait to see what else she has in store. Indeed, I highly recommend adding this to your tbr piles.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 22 November 2022

Thank you to Soho Press for providing an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

Blackwater Falls by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Blackwater Falls introduces Detective Inaya Rahman in the first book of a new crime series.

Synopsis

Inaya Rahman is part of the Community Response Unit of the Denver Police. When the body of a bright, young Syrian refugee is found strung over the door of a mosque, Detective Rahman and her team investigate who might be behind this murder. She quickly learns that two other Muslim girls have recently gone missing and that the sheriff did not thoroughly investigate their disappearances.

Inaya looks at the major players in this community. Particularly those who are hostile to people of colour and those close to the victim.

Aside from the investigation, Inaya grapples with pleasing her mother, who desperately wants her to get married. She feels like an outsider to her community who views her job as a betrayal. And she receives harassment from the police department and church, which are predominantly white.

Review of Blackwater Falls

This police procedural follows a few POVs, but Inaya’s is the main character arc. As Inaya is the main character, her story is the most fleshed out. I would have liked more chapters from her team members, but maybe we’ll see that in future books.

I didn’t mind the burgeoning romance. It was a bit cringe at times but not totally awkward.

The book’s blurb, and hopefully my synopsis, are very clear that this is a book steeped in racial tensions and politics. It might seem like the author is going overboard to some readers, but this is not a novel experience for many BIPOC, especially women of colour. If it makes you uncomfortable, it should.

I cannot wait to read more from this author. I highly recommend this book.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 01 November 2022

Thank you to Minotaur Books for providing me with an arc in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

The Prisoner by B. A. Paris

The Prisoner begins with all the fraught tension you’d want in a thriller but quickly unravelled the longer it went on.

Synopsis

The Prisoner opens with vicious men snatching Amelie and her wealthy husband in the middle of the night. She tries and fails to identify her captors.

The story alternates between Amelie’s recent past and her present time in captivity.

As a teenager, Amelie moved to London on her own after both of her parents passed away. Not long after her move, she met Carolyn Blakely, who took her under her wing, giving her a housekeeping job and a place to live.

Now, a few years later, Amelie is the wife of the wealthy Ned Hawthorpe.

Review of The Prisoner

The first half of this book was super compelling, but it went on longer than it probably needed to. It felt like some parts were spoon-fed to the reader.

Much of the story is OTT, but I was still eagerly flipping the pages, keen to see how everything tied together.

I liked Amelie’s initiative to try to gain some control of the situation when she was in captivity.

This book was my first time reading B. A. Paris, and I will definitely check out more of her books in the future.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 01 November 2022

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

Forget Me Not by Miranda Rijks

Forget Me Not has a slow start but gets progressively more gripping and twisty.

Synopsis

Helen has pulled her life together since her husband Paul went missing, presumed dead, five years ago from the Swiss Alps while they were on holiday.

Now Helen is an interior designer with a young daughter and a fiancé. When she receives a call asking if she wants to work on a large project with an even larger budget, Helen thinks it’s too good to be true. It turns out it is because the project is at a Swiss chalet in the same area where Paul disappeared.

But it’s too good of an opportunity to pass up, so Helen makes her way to the chalet. Of course, things do not go to plan, and Helen has to remain professional while everything goes sideways.

Review of Forget Me Not

This compulsive thriller is a quick read and has dual timelines.

Initially, I wasn’t all that interested in the story because it felt like a ho-hum domestic thriller. But after the first twist, I was hooked. However, the twist hinges on a plot device that I could do without.

Most of the characters were unlikeable, which is fine, but they were also a bit flat. I read it solely to find out how Helen and her daughter would fare.

Another thing that started to grate was Helen’s constant assessment of everyone’s English proficiency. Literally everyone. It’s Europe; it’s not uncommon for people to speak more than one language and for one of those languages to be English. Yes, do not go into a foreign country expecting everyone to speak it, but also, maybe don’t comment on how impressed you are with their fluency right when you first meet them. Wow! You speak English so well! It rings just a bit condescending. Okay, rant over.

On another note, the setting was the shining star of this book. I could practically feel the cold seeping in and could easily envision this idyllic mountainscape.

This was my first time reading a Miranda Rijks book, and I might try another by her in the future.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Expected Publication: 26 October 2022

Thank you to Inkubator Books for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.