Review: The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

When a woman conceals her sister’s death to claim their joint inheritance, her deception exposes a web of dangerous secrets in this addictive new thriller for fans of Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, and Paula Hawkins.

“Like most of the dead, I want to be remembered.”

Robin Voigt is dead. If Leslie had arrived at her sister’s cramped Las Vegas apartment just hours earlier, this would have been their first reunion in a decade. In the years since Robin ran away from home as a teenager, Leslie has stayed in New Mexico, taking care of their dying father even as she began building a family of her own. But when their father passed away, Leslie received a rude awakening: She and Robin would receive the inheritance he left them together—or not at all. Now her half of the money may be beyond her grasp. And unbeknownst to anyone, even her husband, Leslie needs it desperately.

When she meets a charismatic young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Robin—and has every reason to leave her past behind—the two make a reckless bargain: Mary will impersonate Robin for a week in exchange for Robin’s half of the cash. But neither realizes how high the stakes will become when Mary takes a dead woman’s name. Even as Mary begins to suspect Leslie is hiding something, and Leslie realizes the stranger living in her house, babysitting her newborn son, and charming her husband has secrets of her own, Robin’s wild, troubled legacy threatens to eclipse them both.

An electric, twisted portrait of sisterhood and the ties that bind, The Better Liar is a stunning debut with a heart-stopping, twist-after-twist finale that will beg the question: How far would you go to get what’s yours?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Better Liar will be available January 14, 2020. 

I had really high hopes for The Better Liar. It sounded intriguing and suspenseful and multiple twists are promised in the synopsis. Unfortunately, none of those things ended up being true for me. Instead of the psychological suspense I was expecting, this book read much more like a Women’s Fiction story, focusing on two sisters with a dysfunctional childhood who turned into two dysfunctional adults. It’s also supposed to shine a light on postpartum depression, but I don’t think that was done all that effectively, even with the condescending Author’s Note about it at the end of the book.

The story is told from three points of view: Leslie, Robin, and Mary. I liked the multiple perspectives, even if they all sounded basically the same. The premise definitely had promise, but I found myself pretty bored for most of the book. I disliked all of the characters and found a lot of their actions a little unrealistic. I kept waiting for the multiple twists and when they finally happened I thought they were kind lackluster. I expected a really explosive, twisted ending and was left pretty disappointed.

Overall, The Better Liar was just not for me. While it had promise, it failed to live up to it. I think if this had been packaged as Women’s Fiction rather than Mystery/Thriller, I could have adjusted my expectations and enjoyed it more. However, I have seen many more favorable reviews on this than mine, so it may still be worth picking up for some.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Imagine that your husband has two other wives.

You’ve never met the other wives. None of you know each other, and because of this unconventional arrangement, you can see your husband only one day a week. But you love him so much you don’t care. Or at least that’s what you’ve told yourself.

But one day, while you’re doing laundry, you find a scrap of paper in his pocket—an appointment reminder for a woman named Hannah, and you just know it’s another of the wives.

You thought you were fine with your arrangement, but you can’t help yourself: you track her down, and, under false pretenses, you strike up a friendship. Hannah has no idea who you really are. Then, Hannah starts showing up to your coffee dates with telltale bruises, and you realize she’s being abused by her husband. Who, of course, is also your husband. But you’ve never known him to be violent, ever.

Who exactly is your husband, and how far would you go to find the truth? Would you risk your own life?

And who is his mysterious third wife?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Wives will be available December 30, 2019. 

Tarryn Fisher is a very popular author with many of the bloggers I follow. Despite the overwhelming hype, this is only the second book I’ve read by her. While I can’t dispute that she is a good writer, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that her books just aren’t for me.

I find the idea of voluntary polygamy kind of fascinating. I would sometimes watch shows like Sister Wives and Big Love and never be able to understand why these women would agree to such an arrangement. I was hoping for some more insight into the whole thing, but the only answer the main character, Thursday, really gives is that she loves Seth and polygamy is the only way to be with him. I suppose worse things have been done in the name of love. We also don’t really get to see any of the sister wives dynamic I was hoping for since they are not supposed to interact.

The story mostly focuses on how Thursday has become unhappy with her one day a week arrangement. She decides to investigate the other wives behind Seth’s back. For about the first half of the book we just see Thursday being lonely and paranoid and obsessively investigating. I thought this part of the story drug out for way too long and it felt like just another domestic suspense story of a crazy woman and a lying man. It did start to shift into something else, though, and became more of a psychological suspense. Fisher did do a good job of making me question what was real and what was delusion, but at the end of the day, it left me pretty underwhelmed.

Overall, The Wives was just ok for me. Other than the plural marriage angle, there wasn’t much to set it apart from the same type of story I’ve read countless times before. While the book wasn’t really for me, I have seen many other favorable reviews for it and I’m sure Fisher’s fans will enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Honeymoon by Rona Halsall

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

‘I’m your husband, Chloe. We’re a partnership now and we do what’s best for us as a couple. Staying here is going to be the best option.’ He picked up his drink and took a sip. ‘It’s not open for discussion. We’re not going home.’ 

Chloe had the dream wedding. Dan is her perfect man. They haven’t known each other for long, but as she walked down the aisle and saw him standing by the altar, tears glistening in his eyes, she knew this was forever.

Later, as they relax on a beautiful island, settling in to their new married life together, they congratulate themselves on their lovely wedding day, and Dan jokes that he’d like them to stay there forever.

But as the honeymoon goes on, he becomes increasingly adamant. They shouldn’t leave. In fact, he won’t let her…

An utterly gripping psychological thriller for fans of Gillian Flynn, Clare Mackintosh, and The Wife Between Us.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Honeymoon will be available June 7, 2019. 

I wanted to read The Honeymoon because of that beautiful cover. After reading it, the cover is still my favorite part.

I thought the concept for the book was really interesting. It sounded like great, soapy drama and I was crossing my fingers for some crazy twists. Unfortunately, it left my pretty disappointed. There were some things that I *think* were supposed to be twists, but they all seemed pretty cliched and obvious to me.

I thought the pace was far too slow for about the first 75% of the story. There were several chapters where pretty much nothing happened but Chloe wondering what Dan is lying about and how dare he lie to her and how she’s trapped. Just around and around with absolutely zero happening to move the plot forward. I also kept waiting for Chloe to be revealed as a real psycho. From the very beginning she comes across as a pretty unstable person and I thought it was all building up for her to do something crazy, but it never really went where I wanted it to.

Overall, The Honeymoon just wasn’t for me. It had a gorgeous cover and a promising concept, but the story was pretty underwhelming. However, I have seen some good reviews on it, so it might still be worth the read for some.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The next novel of psychological suspense and obsession from the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us

Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed. 

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

From the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us comes an electrifying new novel about doubt, passion, and just how much you can trust someone.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review

An Anonymous Girl will be available January 8, 2019. 

After loving The Wife Between Us by this author duo, I have had sky high expectations for their follow up novel, An Anonymous Girl. Unfortunately, those expectations were not met.

It took me quite a long time to get into this book. I found the first third or so of it incredibly boring. I didn’t really care about either of the main characters. For awhile everything Jess did got on my nerves. I just didn’t think her behavior made sense. I did eventually start to enjoy it a little more, but it kind of came in waves. I was hooked for sections here and there, but mostly the pacing was just far too slow for me. In the previous book by these authors I also had a problem with the pacing, but the multiple big twists made up for it. Unfortunately here, there are no big, shocking twists to save it. There are several things that I guess are supposed to be surprises or small twists, but nothing happened that I didn’t already guess.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot because of spoilers. I will say that I thought the whole thing was a little far fetched. Whenever Jess “figured something out” I always felt like it kind of came out of nowhere and was a little too convenient. One positive thing I will say, is that I thought the writing was pretty seamless between the two authors. Their writing styles complement each other very well and despite my  disappointment with this book, I’ll still read more from them in the future.

Overall, An Anonymous Girl failed to live up to my high expectations. I never connected with the characters and didn’t really care what happened to them and found the overall mystery itself a little lackluster. I am upping my rating from a 2 to a 3 due to the seamless writing of the two authors and because there were a few moments here and there that I enjoyed myself. From the other reviews I’ve seen of this book so far I am clearly in the minority, so this still may be worth your time to give it a try.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

A deliciously disturbing, compulsively readable debut domestic suspense–prepare to meet The Other Woman: there’s nothing she won’t do to keep you away from her son …

Emily thinks Adam’s perfect; the man she thought she’d never meet.

But lurking in the shadows is a rival; a woman who shares a deep bond with the man she loves.

Emily chose Adam, but she didn’t choose his mother Pammie. There’s nothing a mother wouldn’t do for her son, and now Emily is about to find out just how far Pammie will go to get what she wants: Emily gone forever.

The Other Woman is an addictive, fast-paced psychological thriller about the destructive relationship between Emily, her boyfriend Adam, and his manipulative mother Pammie.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Other Woman will be available August 21, 2018. 

I thought the synopsis of The Other Woman sounded kind of like a Lifetime movie and I was expecting a really fun, guilty-pleasure type of read. Unfortunately, it fell short of my expectations.

I was really looking forward to seeing what a psycho Pammie would be. Even her name is perfect for the frustrating, overbearing mother-in-law. While she definitely did some underhanded things, she just never got as over-the-top as I wanted her to be. I think for this type of book you really have to go big and it never really got there for me.

I also found Emily, the main character, to be exasperating. She was one of those characters that just always made the wrong choice. She was also pretty spineless. She rarely stood up for herself and when she did she went about it in the wrong way. There were so many times I just wanted to slap her and tell her just to be HONEST and maybe she wouldn’t have all these problems. In addition to not liking Emily, I really didn’t like Adam. I expected him to be a sweet, yet clueless mama’s boy, however he was actually just not a very nice person. I thought he could be abusive and controlling and there were definite red flags – besides Pammie – that Emily just ignored. Their relationship was far more frustrating to me than Emily’s relationship with Pammie.

There was a bit of a twist at the ending, but I wasn’t really a fan of it. It was something I had begun to suspect, so it wasn’t very surprising. I also thought the epilogue left a lot to be desired. I didn’t really see the point in it.

Overall, I found The Other Woman to be underwhelming. I really liked the idea of it, but it just never lived up to my expectations. I thought it was pretty slow-paced and drawn out and Pammie never got as crazy as I wanted her to be. My biggest complaint, though, is with Emily’s character. If she could have been just a little less annoying I think I would’ve enjoyed the book a lot more. However, almost every other review I’ve read of this has been very positive, so it might be worth checking out.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Date by Louise Jensen

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Something bad has happened to Alison Taylor.

Her Saturday night started normally. Recently separated from her husband, Ali has been persuaded by her friends to go on a date with a new man. She is ready, she is nervous, she is excited. She is about to take a step into her new future.

By Sunday morning, Ali’s life is unrecognisable. She wakes, and she knows that something is wrong. She is home, she is alone, she is hurt and she has no memory of what happened to her.

Worse still, when she looks in the mirror, Ali doesn’t recognise the face staring back at her. She can’t recognise her friends and family. And she can’t recognise the person who is trying to destroy her…

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Date will be available June 21, 2018.

I am so disappointed! I have seen nothing but praise for Louise Jensen books and I was very excited to finally try one. The beautiful cover, intriguing synopsis, and all the glowing reviews had me convinced The Date would be one of my favorite books of the year. Unfortunately, the hype going into this set my expectations way too high.

The whole temporary amnesia angle is never one of my favorite tropes, but I thought the Prosopagnosia (Face Blindness) set this one apart a bit. I have only read one other book that had a character afflicted with this so it still felt fresh. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live with this disability and I felt the book did a pretty good job describing how debilitating it could be, but also how you can learn to live with it.

That is pretty much the end of what I liked about this book, though. I really had to push myself to finish this one. It might just be my current mood, but I just had a hard time getting into this. I found Ali kind of annoying, to be honest. I also never felt like we really got to know any of the other characters very well. Jensen did do a good job of keeping me guessing for awhile, making everyone in Ali’s life a bit suspicious, but as the book went on I started to really narrow down the villain to one character and I ended up being right. There was one red herring that made me right away guess the truth. I’m guessing that when that truth was revealed it was supposed to be the big shocking twist? It felt cliched to me and I can’t believe that many Mystery fans would be surprised by it.

Overall, The Date was disappointing to me. Maybe if my expectations weren’t quite so high I would have enjoyed it a bit more. But other than the Face Blindness plotline, the story was kind of cliched and I was completely underwhelmed by what was supposed to be the big twist. However, I seem to really be in the minority with this opinion, so it still may be worth trying.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review and Giveaway: Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

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Synopsis from Good Read:

For fans of Laura Lippman and Gillian Flynn comes an electrifying novel of stunning psychological suspense.


I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.
I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.
The lucky one.

As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.

Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—a summertime bloom—just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution. But the flowers alone are not proof enough, and the forensic investigation of the still-unidentified bones is progressing too slowly. An innocent life hangs in the balance. The legal team appeals to Tessa to undergo hypnosis to retrieve lost memories—and to share the drawings she produced as part of an experimental therapy shortly after her rescue.

What they don’t know is that Tessa and the scared, fragile girl she was have built a  fortress of secrets. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.

Shocking, intense, and utterly original, Black-Eyed Susans is a dazzling psychological thriller, seamlessly weaving past and present in a searing tale of a young woman whose harrowing memories remain in a field of flowers—as a killer makes a chilling return to his garden.

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I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Black-Eyed Susans will be available August 11, 2015

Heaberlin effortlessly weaves together past and present into one suspenseful tale of a woman trying to outrun her monster. Ignore the Gillian Flynn comparison. Julia Heaberlin’s Black-Eyed Susans is so good it doesn’t need it.

Black-Eyed Susans is not your usual serial killer story. Details to what exactly happened to Tessa when she was taken at sixteen are kept vague. The horrors the other girls in the grave may have faced are also not expounded upon. There is no grand speech from the killer explaining what made him/her the way he/she is. The story is really more about Tessa’s journey to recovery, which after almost twenty years, is still not quite finished.

Tessa is the lone survivor of the Black-Eyed Susan killer. She testified against the man who is now on death row with very little time left. When Tessa finds the out of season black-eyed susans planted outside her bedroom window she believes it’s the work of the killer, her monster. And it isn’t the first time it’s happened. She joins the team working to free the man she helped convict before it’s too late. In doing so she is forced to confront secrets she’s kept and memories she’s repressed.

Tessa was a likable heroine. Other than being super protective of her teenage daughter and that the other “Susans” talk to her in her head, she’s not as crazy as you might think she would be. She’s paranoid (maybe even rightfully so), but she’s functioning and has made a good life for herself and Charlie, her daughter. Adding to the paranoia brought on by the flowers she finds outside her window, she starts receiving gifts from her childhood friend Lydia, who she hasn’t seen since the trial ended about twenty years ago. Lydia and her family disappeared into the night and no one had heard from them since.

The story is told in alternating chapters of Past and Present. I’m a big fan of multiple timelines and it’s done excellently here. There were several chapters that ended in cliffhanger moments and the next chapter you were in a different timeline. It definitely kept me turning the pages, feeling unable to stop because the story was continually suspenseful in at least one timeline at any given time. After the first two parts of the story, the third is told in Tessa’s Present and Lydia’s Past, and one chapter from The Monster which was also very effective story telling.

This is a very character-driven novel, which I loved. I feel like we really got to know Tessa, even though she was not always the most reliable narrator. I liked all of the side characters, her daughter Charlie, their neighbor (and comic relief) Effie, the lawyer and love interest Bill, Charlie’s father Lucas, and the forensic scientist Jo. I also felt the side characters from the Past, Lydia and the therapist that is helping prepare Tessa for trial, are very well done.

There’s not much more I can say that wouldn’t involve spoilers. Overall, I really enjoyed Black-Eyed Susans. It was a well paced, character-driven, suspenseful novel that I couldn’t stop reading. And during the few times I wasn’t reading – for silly things like work – I was thinking about reading it. I would definitely recommend it to fans of Suspense and character-driven novels.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Now for a Giveaway!

Enter the rafflecopter below for a chance to win a copy of Black-Eyed Susans! Please note that if you win, your information will be forwarded on to the publisher so they can mail out the copy. US only (sorry international friends)!

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*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS

I can’t help myself and have to mention one more thing. THIS DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the book, please don’t read any further.

While we find out who the killer is, we never get his/her name at any time throughout the book (I went looking for it while writing my review because I couldn’t recall it and realized only pronouns or his title was used). I think this is a brilliant, subtle narrative device which reinforces the theme of the story being about Tessa and not the serial killer.

That said, I still wish there would have been a little more info on the killer as to the how’s and why’s. But, as I mentioned earlier, this story isn’t really about him and it doesn’t really detract from the story not knowing those things.

Review: Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

Unbecoming: A Novel

Synopsis from Good Reads:

A major debut novel of psychological suspense about a daring art heist, a cat-and-mouse waiting game, and a small-town girl’s mesmerizing transformation.

On the grubby outskirts of Paris, Grace restores bric-a-brac, mends teapots, re-sets gems. She calls herself Julie, says she’s from California, and slips back to a rented room at night. Regularly, furtively, she checks the hometown paper on the Internet. Home is Garland, Tennessee, and there, two young men have just been paroled. One, she married; the other, she’s in love with. Both were jailed for a crime that Grace herself planned in exacting detail. The heist went bad—but not before she was on a plane to Prague with a stolen canvas rolled in her bag. And so, in Paris, begins a cat-and-mouse waiting game as Grace’s web of deception and lies unravels—and she becomes another young woman entirely.

Unbecoming is an intricately plotted and psychologically nuanced heist novel that turns on suspense and slippery identity. With echoes of Alfred Hitchcock and Patricia Highsmith, Rebecca Scherm’s mesmerizing debut is sure to entrance fans of Gillian Flynn, Marisha Pessl, and Donna Tartt.

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

I’ve read some good book so far this year, but nothing that has really stood out. Unbecoming, while not what I was expecting, is easily my favorite book of the year so far.

I love a good character-driven novel and this definitely fits the bill. I didn’t find this quite as suspenseful as the synopsis makes it sound, nor is it an exciting heist story. If you’re looking for those elements, Unbecoming may be lacking for you, but for me the character study completely made up for it. Grace is a young woman hiding from her old life. She is the root of the reason that her secret husband and his best friend has been in jail for three years and lives in fear of them coming back for revenge. This is the overall plot, but the real story is just Grace herself.

It is not an easy thing for such an unlikable character to be compelling, even sympathetic, but Scherm really pulls it off. While there were a few times in the book where I completely loathed Grace, overall I really did like disliking her. She is not the psychopath you might find in a Gillian Flynn novel, but a quieter kind of pathological. She’s selfish, a liar, and a thief, but you would never know it until you really get to know her. And she’s smart enough to never let that happen. Told in alternate timelines, we meet Grace as Julie the amateur art-restorer in Paris. Interwoven with her present life in Paris, we travel back to Grace growing up in Tennessee, to her college semester in New York, and to her return to Tennessee as she tries to desperately live the life she’s always wanted.

While the synopsis makes it sound that the robbery is the focal point of the novel, it’s more of the midpoint. There is Grace Before it happened and Grace After it happened. The real psychological suspense aspect for me didn’t come until the final part of the book when one of Grace’s biggest fears come to fruition. There is no dramatic climax or fight scene or narrow get away. The story continues at it’s methodical pace and I really had no idea what was going to happen next, how it was all going to turn out.

Overall, I really enjoyed Unbecoming. One of my few complaints of the novel is the information overload of antiques/art and the restoration process. There were many times where less information would have gone a long way and one of those instances where it felt like the author had done a lot of research and wanted to make sure it was all useful. Other than that, I loved the style, the alternating timelines, the character development, and even how truly unlikable the characters were. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of character-driven novels and I look forward to reading whatever Scherm comes up with next.

Rating (out of 5):

4 stars