Things We Do in the Dark by Jennifer Hillier

Things We Do in the Dark is a slow-burn, but overall gripping thriller.

Synopsis

It opens with Paris Peralta, dazed and confused, in the back of a police car, trying to recall the events of the night before. The police found her in the bathroom covered in blood, holding a straight razor with her famous husband dead in the tub behind her.

Though alarming, a murder charge is not the only concern on Paris’ mind. Paris married Jimmy with the understanding that they would live a quiet life. Now with her face splashed across the media, Paris fears her past may catch up with her.

Review of Things We Do in the Dark

This gripping thriller has dual perspectives and alternates between the past and present timeline.

I think most thriller readers will guess the first big reveal. For the most part, I enjoyed the journey of figuring everything out, but the plot did start to drag in Part Two. It spends a lot of time building up to the big reveal, but it was kind of unnecessary since the twist was fairly obvious by the end of Part One. The sections that focused on Paris held my attention; the other POV, not so much.

I did enjoy the conclusion. It ended on the perfect note. It didn’t feel rushed or like it was trying to do too much.

Note: There is a lot of abuse and graphic content that may be triggering for some.

This was my first time reading Jennifer Hillier. I’m not sure why I haven’t read her books until now, but I’ll definitely try more in the future.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Expected Publication: 19 July 2022

Thank you to Minotaur 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.

Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott

Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott is a beautifully written historical fiction novel with a dash of mythology and folklore.

Synopsis

Isla and Blue live with their father, the Great Smith, on a small island in exile. The area was once a Roman settlement known as Londinium. Hundreds of years later, it lays as abandoned ruins called the Ghost City.

Five years ago, Lord Osric exiled the Great Smith after accusations that he was using dark magic to craft his firetongue swords. Now, the Great Smith makes the swords solely for the Lord and, in exchange, receives supplies and protection.

The girls have adjusted to their life in exile. Blue loves the outdoors and has a pet crow to keep her company. Meanwhile, Isla’s father trained her in secret to assist him in making the firetongue swords.

When their father suddenly dies, Isla and Blue scramble to devise a plan to keep themselves safe in a world that doesn’t care about unprotected young women.

Review of Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott

This lyrically written novel weaves together history with myth and folklore. The author uses an archeological artifact dating from A.D. 450 – 550 as an element of this story.

There’s a certain distance in the writing style that made me feel slightly removed from the story. Although, the beautiful writing and high stakes kept me glued to the pages.

I’m more familiar with the Roman Empire than I am with post-Roman rule, so it was interesting reading about this time.

So, I recommend this book if you enjoy character-driven historical fiction with a light touch of fantasy. I’ll definitely read future books by the author.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 19 July 2022

Thank you to Random House 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.

The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda

The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda is an intriguing slow-burn thriller.

Synopsis

Abigail Lovett has lived in Cutter’s Pass for the last ten years. It’s a close-knit community, but Abby finally feels like she belongs, except when she doesn’t.

Although the town is popular among tourists for its great outdoors, it is also notorious for the number of visitors that have disappeared, either in the town proper or on its hiking trails. The last person to vanish was an investigative journalist looking into these numerous disappearances over the last twenty-odd years.

Some months later, the journalist’s brother, Trey West, checks into the inn that Abby works at and is determined to uncover the truth behind his brother’s disappearance. Meanwhile, Abby finds herself simultaneously drawn into the missing persons’ cases and feeling that the locals are slowly shutting her out.

Review of The Last to Vanish

This thriller has lots of descriptive writing about the setting, mountains, hiking trails, and isolation. It was supposed to be atmospheric and bristling with tension, but it didn’t feel that way to me. Some parts did, especially the scenes at night, but for the most part, it felt slightly underwhelming.

Abby’s character grated on the nerves a bit too. It’s no secret that her imagination runs away with her, but it did induce some eye-rolling from this reader. Her tendency to accuse people without evidence and beg for the truth was a bit irksome. When she wasn’t doing that, I did like her character.

Even with those gripes, I did enjoy this novel on the whole. I felt compelled to keep reading. I guessed one twist correctly, but not the final one.

Although I didn’t completely love this one, there are many favourable early reviews already, so you may want to check those out. I recommend it if you enjoy slower-paced small-town thrillers.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

Expected Publication: 26 July 2022

Thank you to Scribner / Marysue Rucci 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.

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

This might be controversial, but I enjoyed T. Kingfisher’s What Moves the Dead more than Poe’s original The Fall of the House of Usher.

Synopsis

Alex Easton, a non-binary retired soldier, receives a letter from Madeline Usher stating that she is dying and wants Alex to visit her before she passes. Alex immediately hastens to the Usher estate. Along the way, they notice funky-looking mushrooms, a lake with an unnatural quality, and certain animals moving and behaving strangely.

When they finally reach the property, Alex is surprised to learn their visit is unexpected. It turns out that Madeline’s twin, Roderick, had no idea that she had written to Alex.

Despite both Ushers looking worse for wear in their crumbling mansion, the first few days of Alex’s visit occur without incident. But as time passes, things begin to take a frightening turn.

Review of What Moves the Dead

This fun and creepy novella entirely follows Alex’s perspective. It’s categorized as horror, but it’s not as scary as I was expecting, which is good since I scare easily. It is highly atmospheric with palpable tension – I almost felt like I was right beside Alex the entire time. The writing style embodies the gothic time period but doesn’t feel dry.

There are some gory descriptions, as one might expect from the genre. I also appreciated the humour, which helped balance out the tenser sections. And the queer representation was a nice inclusion as well.

I thoroughly enjoyed this and only wish it was a smidge longer. This was my first time reading T. Kingfisher, and I think I’ll seek out The Twisted Ones next.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 12 July 2022

Thank you to Tor Nightfire for providing me with a widget via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

The Cabin in the Woods by Sarah Alderson

The Cabin in the Woods by Sarah Alderson is a tense and unputdownable psychological thriller.

Synopsis

This thriller unfolds the mystery of how Rose Reid went from an impoverished upbringing to being a wealthy socialite to now hiding in an abandoned cabin in the woods.

Review of The Cabin in the Woods

Since each chapter reveals a little more of Rose’s life in the past and present, it’s probably best not to know much more than that going in. The chapters are super short, making this a quick, suspenseful, and edge-of-your-seat kind of read.

Some may find it a little over-the-top, but it does make for a highly compelling story. Initially, I was slightly disappointed with one of the big reveals because it’s fairly common in thrillers these days. But the author did an incredible job of keeping the momentum going.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 07 July 2022

Thank you to Avon 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 Martyr by Anthony Ryan

The Martyr by Anthony Ryan, Book Two of The Covenant of Steel, picks up where Book One ended.

Synopsis

Alwyn Scribe is still at Lady Evadine’s side as protector and adviser. Aside from her cult-like following, most, including the Crown, believe Lady Evadine and her prophetical visions of the coming of the Second Scourge to be a fraud. So, in a bid to get rid of her, King Tomas sends her on what he believes is a hopeless mission of putting down a rebellion in the Duchy of Alundia. As war threatens to erupt, Alwyn will have to harness his skills as a soldier and, once again, don his outlaw hat.

Review of The Martyr by Anthony Ryan

There’s a handy summary of the events from the first book, plus a character list to help refresh the reader’s memory.

This second instalment solely follows Alwyn’s perspective. I enjoyed the second half much more than the first half.

Anthony Ryan excels at crafting fully fleshed characters, whether they are likeable or villainous, or somewhere in between. I missed one particular character from the first book, but maybe she’ll make a reappearance in the final instalment. Besides Alwyn, Lilat might be my second favourite character. Evadine is not a likeable character per se, but it is intriguing to read how different people react to her.

The Martyr by Anthony Ryan

Although this is a fantasy series, magic does not take centre stage. In the first book, there was a mere glimpse of magic, but it begins to play a slightly larger part in this second book.

I am very curious to know what the next book has in store for these characters.

I’d recommend this series if you enjoy complex historical fantasy full of gritty battle scenes and religious and political maneuverings.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 28 June 2022

Thank you to Orbit Books for providing me with a copy to review.

Read my review of The Pariah, Book One of The Covenant of Steel on Goodreads.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

First Born by Will Dean

First Born by Will Dean shells out uno reverse card after uno reverse card.

Synopsis

Twenty-two-year-old Molly Raven has an obsession with analyzing and maintaining her safety and security at all times. She’ll never leave her phone charging unattended, nor will she fail to check daily that her fire alarm is functioning.

Molly’s safe bubble threatens to burst when her parents call, informing her that her twin sister Katie has passed away in a probable homicide in New York City. Although identical twins, Katie was the polar opposite of Molly – she was the outgoing and adventurous one.

Molly flies to NYC to meet up with her parents. Sure she can help the police with their investigation, Molly probes into Katie’s life and begins to realize she didn’t know her twin as well as she thought.

Review of First Born by Will Dean

This slowly-plotted psychological thriller strictly follows Molly’s pov, and what an exhausting perspective it is. At least, it was at first. Her habit of overanalyzing every situation and expecting and preparing for the worst was tiring just reading about it. However, she eventually grew on me.

Just when I thought I had it all figured out, the author slammed down another uno reverse card to shake things up. The plot became slightly dramatic, but it fits with the story and setting.

If you are an anxious traveller, maybe don’t read this immediately before commencing your trip. It’ll have you considering things you probably wouldn’t have given a single thought until Molly put the bee in your bonnet. I’ll be going on my own trip to NYC soon, and now thanks to Molly, I’m a wee bit paranoid. I kid. I think.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 05 July 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.

Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

Reputation by Sarah Vaughan shows that it takes time to build a good reputation, but only a moment to tear it asunder.

Synopsis

Emma, a relatively new politician, is no stranger to facing judgement from the public. However, everything intensifies after a photo shoot meant to make Emma appear powerful and fierce has the opposite effect. Instead of building confidence and trust among her constituents, the trolls threaten violence against Emma.

The situation escalates as Emma’s daughter Flora gets bullied, and Emma finds a body in her home. Soon, Emma will have to face more than just the court of public opinion.

Review of Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

This multi-pov thriller is exceedingly well-written. The reader experiences the story from every angle, with each voice distinct. The beginning was a touch slow, but the rest was gripping.

This novel shines a light on the changeable nature of the media. It reminds me of a very recent courtroom trial that seemingly had the whole world watching.

This was my first time reading Sarah Vaughan, but I’m sure it won’t be my last.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 05 July 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.

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin reminds me of old-school Atwood.

Synopsis

Vera has spent her entire life in a small mountainous cloud-covered community cut off from the rest of the world, or elsewhere as they call it. She and the other girls eagerly anticipate their futures as wives and mothers.

Although motherhood isn’t a straightforward thing in this town. Mothers regularly and mysteriously disappear, leaving no trace behind. Those that remain are never entirely sure what caused a mother to vanish, but they speculate on this “affliction.” Perhaps that mother coddled her child too heavily, that one, not enough.

Newcomers are not a regular occurrence in this small town, so when a stranger like Ruth shows up, it sets everyone into an excited tizzy.

I think it’s best not to know much more than that.

Review of Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin

This short, speculative, character-driven novel solely follows Vera’s POV. The writing is sparse but impactful. It captured my attention right away. When I was reading it, I was savouring every word, but oddly, when I had to put it down, I had to force myself to pick it back up. Maybe I didn’t want it to end. It is definitely one I’ll be thinking of for years to come.

There are themes on motherhood, identity, and community.

Fortunately, I have zero critiques about this novel, except that I wish the author explained the affliction in more detail.

I haven’t read the author’s debut yet, which I need to correct ASAP.

So, I’d recommend this if you enjoy slowish, character-driven books with Margaret Atwood vibes.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Expected Publication: 28 June 2022

Thank you to Celadon Books for providing me with a physical arc in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

I thought I had The House Across the Lake figured out, but alas, I did not.

Synopsis

Casey Fletcher, a widow and notable actress, has retreated to her family’s lakeside cottage to escape some recent bad press. She spends her days drinking and using her binoculars to spy casually on her neighbours.

Casey spends her time spying on Katherine and Tom Royce, her beautiful and wealthy neighbours. Their newly developed house sits directly across the lake from her cottage.

When Katherine vanishes, Casey is determined to uncover the truth behind her disappearance.

Review of The House Across the Lake

Casey is the typical unreliable female narrator that readers see a lot of these days. Namely the main character with a drinking problem that noses her way into everyone else’s business. Usually, this type of narrator would be irksome to me, but in this case, it wasn’t. I think it’s because the reader knows at the outset that Casey’s husband recently passed away, so she’s just processing her grief. Sure, it’s not the healthiest way, but still.

I’ve read a few of Riley Sager’s books, and this one is slightly different from those. It started off as what you’d expect, but then it completely veered off course. If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you’ll know that I don’t mind OTT – give me all the drama and theatrics. But this one was just a bit too weird. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but it was an interesting way to go.

I will continue to read whatever Riley Sager publishes. His books are compulsively readable and always keep me entertained.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Expected Publication: 21 June 2022

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

For regular reading updates, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.