Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Book Description:

Published: June 16, 2015

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 5

If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

Review –

Touching tale of girl with OCD finding love through poetry.

Everyone has something they want to hide, even from their closest friends, and I empathized with her desire to keep her secret from her glittery, popular clique. She also just wants to feel “normal,” something that I think everyone  struggles with in high school. 

I loved her new-found friends in Poet’s Corner. Every one was so unique and yet they all shared these secret poetry sessions that made them into a family. Poet’s Corner is an escape, but it’s also where you find your true self, and I wish we had had something similar in my school. Hell, even now I would want to join a secret poetry club!

I think it’s so important that stories like Sam’s are given a bigger place in mainstream media. Every Last Word is a story about living with a mental illness. Sam has a therapist, she takes medication, and her parents are trained on how to handle situations when Sam feels overwhelmed or out of control. She has a set treatment plan that works (and that she and her therapist worked on together and continue to develop as Sam grows), and a therapist who is portrayed in a positive light and I think that all of that is so important. Sam struggles throughout the book with the idea of “normal.” She wants to feel that way and doesn’t see herself as such. But by the end, she realizes that there are all kinds of “normal.”

The most unique aspect of Every Last Word is how Stone weaves poetry into the storyline. The poetry opens the windows to the characters’ hearts and gives a depth to characters that you just can’t get with simple characterization. I felt every emotion with this book!

There is a pivotal point in the book (no spoilers) that changes the trajectory of Sam’s life. It gave me goose bumps and I cried ugly tears.

Though this is a young adult book, I highly recommend it to everyone!

 

 

Easy Prey by Catherine Lo

Book Description:

Published: October 16, 2018

Format: Audio/Audiobook Sync

Stars: 5

Only three students had access to a teacher’s racy photos before they went viral. There’s Mouse, a brainy overachiever so desperate to escape his father and go to MIT that he would do almost anything, legal or not. Then there’s Drew, the star athlete who can get any girl’s number—and private photos—with his charm but has a history of passing those photos around. And finally there’s Jenna, a good girl turned rebel after her own shocking photos made the rounds at school last year, who is still waiting for justice. All three deny leaking the photos, but someone has to take the fall. This edgy whodunit tackles hot-button issues of sexting and gossip and will have readers tearing through the pages to reach the final reveal.

Review –

Sexting, lies, and consequences.

Jenna, Drew, and Mouse(Matthew) are thrown together for their senior law final project. Instead of being the easy “A”  Drew expected, the class ignites controversy about dangerous social media issues. Jenna hasn’t spoken to her ex-boyfriend Troy since the day he publicly tweeted topless pictures of her. She has since cut her hair short, dyed it jet black, cut up her girly wardrobe and set his truck on fire, exchanging ballet shoes for a court-mandated anger management class. Drew is an unapologetic player on and off the basketball court but finds himself drawn to Jenna’s newfound strength. Uber-intelligent Mouse is bound for MIT and painfully in love with Jenna. He stands to lose everything if anyone finds out that the basketball team hired him to build a database to house photos of naked girls. What all three students have in common are grievances against their law teacher, Mrs. Bailey. When shocking photos of Mrs. Bailey are posted on the internet, the threesome begin to suspect each other while confronting their own moral transgressions. The author creates realistic, multidimensional characters while exploring the legal and ethical ramifications of privacy as it plays out in a hormonally charged high school environment. Drew and Jenna are white, and Mouse and Troy are black.

I thought I knew where this book was going and BOOM, a twist I didn’t see coming. Fantastic and well deserved ending.

A provocative story about the consequences of poor decisions in our digital world.

I highly recommend it to all young adults who have ever thought about posting something they shouldn’t on social media!

 

 

The Vanishing Season (The Collector #4) by Dot Hutchison

Book Description:

Published: May 21, 2019

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 5

A recent abduction becomes an unexpected link to a decades-long spree of unspeakable crimes.

Eight-year-old Brooklyn Mercer has gone missing. And as accustomed as FBI agents Eliza Sterling and Brandon Eddison are to such harrowing cases, this one has struck a nerve. It marks the anniversary of the disappearance of Eddison’s own little sister. Disturbing, too, is the girl’s resemblance to Eliza—so uncanny they could be mother and daughter.

With Eddison’s unsettled past rising again with rage and pain, Eliza is determined to solve this case at any cost. But the closer she looks, the more reluctant she is to divulge to her increasingly shaken partner what she finds. Brooklyn isn’t the only girl of her exact description to go missing. She’s just the latest in a frightening pattern going back decades in cities throughout the entire country.

In a race against time, Eliza’s determined to bring Brooklyn home and somehow find the link to the cold case that has haunted Eddison—and the entire Crimes Against Children team—since its inception.

Review –

This is the fourth book in The Collector series by Dot Hutchison, which began with The Butterfly Garden.

The Vanishing Season starts when eight year old Brooklyn goes missing on her way home from school. The familiar FBI team (they appear in the other books as well) is put on the case, and soon it becomes clear that one of the agents is connected to the disappearance. Agent Eddison’s eight  year old sister went missing years ago and has yet to be found. Similarities between the cases start to unravel. 
The team starts piecing together the mystery of missing girls and disappearances of other girls with similar looks starts to unfold. In the meantime we are taken on a journey of backstories involving Eddison and other team members. It was a lot to keep track of but I didn’t think it took away  from the current case.
As always, the Butterfly girls and Priya make their appearances and visit the team to help support them through hard times. The author always makes them part of the background story line and this time they are there to tie all four  books together. 
This is really an emotional journey of the intertwining relationships of the FBI agents. If you are looking for shock value and unbelievable thrilling moments like in the previous books, you will not find it in this one. If you haven’t yet read the three previous books, don’t bother with this, as you will be so lost in a huge wave of keeping track of characters.
All in all, it was a fantastic ending to the  series. It was great to see where the characters I have come to love end up.
Not as much suspense and action in this installment but the emotional rescue and ending well made up for it!

I Know Everything by Matthew Farrell

 

Book Description:

Published: August 6, 2019

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 5

A psychologist grapples with his own sanity as murder evidence mounts against him.

Police investigator Susan Adler is ready to close the book on a deadly car accident, but after the medical examiner discovers evidence of foul play, she knows she has a murder on her hands. The victim was the wealthy wife of Randall Brock, a renowned psychologist who treats patients with disturbing, brutal fantasies. And just like that, Susan’s got a suspect.

Randall has a violent past but knows he didn’t kill his wife. In the midst of his crushing grief, Randall receives a visit from a stranger with information to share about his wife’s death. But there’s a catch: in exchange for the stranger’s information, Randall must reveal dark secrets he’s kept hidden for years. As this shady figure applies more pressure and Susan closes in, Randall begins to doubt himself, clinging desperately to the pieces of his sanity.

Revelations and suspicious coincidences send shock waves through the investigation, and circumstances spin out of control. Susan must race to put it all together before it’s too late—before the next murder strikes too close to home.

Review –

The author opens with a gruesome prologue set in a basement, where an unnamed dying man chained to a wall surveys two corpses while hearing noises upstairs.

Chapter One jumps to psychologist Randall Brock’s research on talk-therapy methods designed to reduce and eliminate patients’ homicidal fantasies. Brock himself becomes a murder suspect after his wealthy philanthropist wife, Amanda, dies in an automobile accident the same night she’s received a humanitarian award. Police officer Susan Adler leads the investigation; she’s a single mother struggling to balance her commitment to criminal analysis while raising two sons whose father fails to take them on a promised ski trip to Vermont. Adler’s attractive new partner, Tommy Corolla, charms Adler and her children and wants to take her out after the case closes; he suspects Brock: “It’s always the husband.”

The night of the accident, a mysterious stranger catches Brock’s attention at the awards dinner, then shows up at his office after Amanda’s death. The stranger knows about the death of Brock’s brother when they were children, declares to Brock that Amanda was murdered, claims to have seen the whole thing, and offers to tell Brock who killed her in exchange for Brock’s revealing his own truths, although the arrangement will be off if Brock tells police about their encounters. The stranger seals the deal by revealing one of Amanda’s dirty secrets.

An intriguing premise inexpertly executed though some of the plot twists were predictable.

Great read!

Pretty Girls Dancing by Kylie Brant

Book Description:

Published: January 1, 2018

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 5

Years ago, in the town of Saxon Falls, young Kelsey Willard disappeared and was presumed dead. The tragedy left her family with a fractured life—a mother out to numb the pain, a father losing a battle with his own private demons, and a sister desperate for closure. But now another teenage girl has gone missing. It’s ripping open old wounds for the Willards, dragging them back into a painful past, and leaving them unprepared for where it will take them next.

Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent Mark Foster has stumbled on uncanny parallels in the lives of the two missing girls that could unlock clues to a serial killer’s identity. That means breaking down the walls of the Willards’ long-guarded secrets and getting to a truth that is darker than he bargained for. Now, to rescue one missing girl, he must first solve the riddles that disappeared with another: Kelsey Willard herself. Dead or alive, she is his last hope.

Review –

Pretty Girls Dancing is Kylie Brant’s latest standalone  novel, and the first book of hers that I’ve tried.  It’s described as a dark thriller, although I disagree.

A series of kidnappings/murders is devastating a small town and the families involved. The world is believed to be done by a serial killer called the Ten Mile Killer (TMK for short). Okay, so a lot of this is probably pretty obvious from the description of the novel. The TMK villain kidnaps and tortures little girls. While the torture is necessarily graphic, it is still very much torture. Bodies are found during the course of the novel, as is (spoiler warning) a surviving victim. While they don’t use the word, it’s very clear that she has been sexually assaulted by her TMK captor. I know these themes can be upsetting to many, so just be aware of them going in.

 

Trouble at Brayshaw High (Brayshaw #2) by Meagan Brandy

Book Description:

Published: May 28, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 5

“You don’t belong.”

No words whispered in anger have ever rung more true.

They’re the Kings of Brayshaw with the world at their feet, destined for greatness and in need of control.
I’m the girl from the ghetto with nothing to offer and as defiant as they come.

They say it doesn’t matter, that I’m one of them now, and nothing could ever change that. Not even me, should I dare try.

But they’re wrong.
They underestimate how far I’ll go to protect them.

Trouble is coming…and they have no idea.
—–

Review –

Picking up right after the events of the first book, The Boys of Brayshaw High,  Raven has put her pride and happiness on the line to protect her Boys, and is at the mercy of the Gravens, who are making their move to take the Brayshaws down. The Boys know that there is something deeper happening, something that Raven is keeping a secret, and don’t want to believe that she betrayed them. Raven’s name has been run through the dirt, but her Boys know better than to believe gossip. They will get her back, no matter the cost.

Their ties will continue to be tested as the head of the Brayshaw name, the boys’ father, pulls major strings from behind bars. But if its up to him, he won’t be in jail much longer, and his Boys will be fighting a war that doesn’t have Raven on the winning end.

In this book the heartwarming relationships between the Boys and Raven grow even stronger, through trials that have them second-guessing everything they thought they knew. They may have to be strong in order to survive the betrayals headed their way, but they will have to stand together to overcome the revelations that threaten to shatter their kingdom.

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting after the first installment.  I knew that I was going to be pissed after that cliffhanger with the Gravens, and I was right. The first 15% of this book was so angsty, but I’m not going to lie: I had to shut down my listening device so I could decompress for a couple of hours. We really got to see Raven and the Boy’s relationship tested during this time, in a way we never seen before. We got to see how they truly feel when they are knocked down and hurt, when they think they were blindsided by one of their own. And they still wanted to love and trust each other, no matter what. 

I could probably gush about their relationships all day, and how I love the way they just mesh together so perfectly, despite their awful histories and inner darkness. But I have to move on, cause lets be real: the first 15% held NO FIGHT to how the rest of the book attacked them. I can’t rant too much, cause I’m awful for spoilers when I rant. But I’ll say this: rethink everything, trust no one, and fucking be ready to fight in book 3 because  by the end of this book our King and Queen are going to have to play one hell of a game to come out on top. But I know they can do it.

Other than the mind-blowing, secrets that were revealed, I loved this book for it’s honesty on the characters. We all know that no one in Brayshaw is perfect, and that the author  knows how to make diverse characters who are full of motive and angst and sass and grit. Part of why people love the books is because of the completely imperfect harsh reality our characters live in, much like our own, but they stand up and fight their problems head on with so much bad-assery. This world made our characters who they are, and this book dug even deeper into their pasts in ways I never imagined. There are so many triggers due to this, so much sadness and hate and anger, but we see our characters more vulnerable and even more deeply connected than in book 1 because of it.

There’s not much more I can say without going into a rant,  but for now, I’ll leave you with this. If you love dark romances, if you love high school contemporaries, if you need a love story with more than just happy endings, a book with so many levels of secrets and lies, where the characters are thrown into situations you wouldn’t wish on anybody, Brayshaw is for you. I honestly did not think I would enjoy it as much as I did, but I wish I could go back and be surprised by this series all over again. Of course I can’t, but you can. 

As much as I loved the first book, I loved this one ten times more, even though it almost gave me a heart attack!

 

A Thin Dark Line (Broussard and Fourcade #1,Doucet #4)) by Tami Hoag

Book Description:

Published:  April 1, 1998

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 5

Terror stalks the streets of Bayou Breaux, Louisiana. A suspected murderer is free on a technicality, and the cop accused of planting evidence against him is ordered off the case. But Detective Nick Fourcade refuses to walk away. He’s stepped over the line before. This case threatens to push him over the edge.

He’s not the only one. Deputy Annie Broussard found the woman’s mutilated body. She still hears the phantom echoes of dying screams. She wants justice. But pursuing the investigation will mean forming an alliance with a man she doesn’t trust and making enemies of the men she works with. It will mean being drawn into the confidence of a killer. For Annie Broussard, finding justice will mean risking everything—including her life.

The search for the truth has begun—one that will lead down a twisted trail through the steamy bayous of Louisiana, and deep into the darkest reaches of the human heart.

Review –

This is a psychosexual thriller about tough Cajun loners looking for love in unlikely places.

Heroine Annie Broussard is a deputy with the sheriff’s office in Partout Parish in southern Louisiana. An orphan who’s working hard to make detective, she’s also devoted to getting rid of the sexual predators who victimize women. But just as her career seems to be looking up, Annie breaks an unwritten police law: She arrests a fellow officer, Nick Fourcade, when she finds him beating up a murder suspect. Annie should have let Fourcade kill him, say both her colleagues and the bayou parish citizens. After all, the suspect, Marcus Renard, had supposedly stalked Pam Bichon, a single mother. He’d driven stakes through her hands, raped her, killed her, eviscerated her, then left her wearing only a feathered Mardi Gras mask in a deserted cottage on Pony Bayou. Why not kill him? Switching his obsession from Pam to Annie, he maintains that he’s innocent and begs Annie to help him. Working with Fourcade, who’s suspended but still obsessed with the case, she seeks evidence to put the troubled Marcus legally behind bars. Meanwhile, someone’s raping Louisiana women, and Marcus is too injured to be the perp. Is it Annie’s lazy, mean-spirited colleague Stokes? Or Pam’s husband, involved with a New Orleans racketeer from Fourcade’s past? As Mardi Gras approaches, Annie, a cute kid who does fifty chin-ups a day and has an addiction to candy bars, wrestles with Fourcade’s dangerous sexualityfortunately a losing battle—and with the evil presence of deranged male predators who aren’t who they seem.

I read the second book first and it did not dampen my enjoyment of this one, but rather, gave me a better understanding go the characters. I don’t understand why this author has not written any more books in this series. Maybe she will surprise me one day.

 

 

 

 

The Boys of Brayshaw High (Brayshaw #1) by Meagan Brandy

Book Description:

Published: January 15, 2019

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 5

Triggers: Yes

“Girls like you aren’t exactly welcomed at a place like this, so keep your head down and look the other way.”

Those were the exact words of my social worker when she dropped me in my newest hellhole, a place for “troubled teens”.

I didn’t listen, and now I’m on their radar.

They expect me to play along in their games of hierarchy, to fall in line in the social order they’ve deemed me fit.

Too bad for them, I don’t follow rules.
Too bad for me, they’re determined to make sure I do.

Inconceivably attractive and treated like kings…these are the boys of Brayshaw High.
And I’m the girl who got in their way.

Review –

OMG….I dont even know where to start with this one!! There are NO words! I’m totally #abraygirlforlife !

What do you get when you pair a girl from the wrong side of the tracks with three bad boys who run the town? The answer is: a world that you crave to live in. Boys you salivate over. A girl who is tough as nails, takes no BS from anyone. You get the most amazing story with EVERYTHING. Raven, Maddoc (new book boyfriend), Royce and Captain are just amazing characters, that the author effortlessly makes you fall in love with. All four strong, fierce, loyal and independant. They have a way of getting under you skin and living there.

I had the audio version and listened to it almost in one sitting. I just had to know WTF was going on. The author kept me interested and on the edge of my seat, just waiting for that moment that my jaw would hit the damn floor and pause my listening device and just TRY to slow my heartbeat!  And when it did, boy did I scream at the top of my lungs. I’m so invested in this world, in these characters, in this story.

The level of angst in this book (which is OFF THE CHARTS) had my head spinning and my mind going all over the place. Readers will be in a continual state of “what the actual F***”, then jumping to “oh he** no”, all while their hearts will be racing and their mind will be swimming with questions.

There is so much that goes on in this book that I can not do it justice, so invest in a copy (written or audio) and hang on for the ride of your life. it has drama plus revelations you don’t see coming. There are hot steamy sex scenes and one that will have you blushing from head to toe!!!!!!!!

Can you tell I loved it?

 

The Woman in the Park by Teresa Sorkin and Tullan Holmqvist

Book. Description:

Published: August 26, 2019

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 5

When Manhattanite Sarah Rock meets a mysterious and handsome stranger in the park, she is drawn to him. Sarah wants to get away from her daily routine, her cheating husband and his crazy mistress, her frequent sessions with her heartless therapist, and her moody children.

But nothing is as it seems. Her life begins to unravel when a woman from the park goes missing and Sarah becomes the prime suspect in the woman’s disappearance. Her lover is nowhere to be found, her husband is suspicious of her, and her therapist is talking to the police.

With no one to trust, Sarah must face her inner demons and uncover the truth to prove her innocence.
A thriller that questions what is real-with its shocking twists, secrets, and lies―The Woman in the Park will leave readers breathless.

Review –
The premise  of this book is great: a woman who believes her husband is having an affair meets a man in the park. She feels happiness once again until a woman goes missing from the same park she frequents, and the police come knocking and her therapist appears to doubt her.
This was a pleasure from beginning to end. This  psychological thriller is a fast page turner that keeps the tension high and had me trying to figure out what was going on. I love putting on my Sherlock Holmes  hat and trying to figure out twists  and turns. What is real and what is imagined?
This book was hard to put down  or stop listening to and really packs a lot into its pages without being over the top. The pace is spot on and at times the tension leaps off the page. I loved the originality of the story and way the authors told the story. This writing duo had me trying to determine what was real and what wasn’t. Who can be trusted? Look at the clues, and delve into this book of engaging suspense, drama and dark questions.
A delightfully complex mystery with a compelling protagonist.
Fantastic read!

Watching You by Lisa Jewell

Book Description:

Published: December 26, 2018

Format: Audio/Scribd

Stars: 5

Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you.

As the headmaster credited with turning around the local school, Tom Fitzwilliam is beloved by one and all—including Joey Mullen, his new neighbor, who quickly develops an intense infatuation with this thoroughly charming yet unavailable man. Joey thinks her crush is a secret, but Tom’s teenaged son Freddie—a prodigy with aspirations of becoming a spy for MI5—excels in observing people and has witnessed Joey behaving strangely around his father.

One of Tom’s students, Jenna Tripp, also lives on the same street, and she’s not convinced her teacher is as squeaky clean as he seems. For one thing, he has taken a particular liking to her best friend and fellow classmate, and Jenna’s mother—whose mental health has admittedly been deteriorating in recent years—is convinced that Mr. Fitzwilliam is stalking her.

Meanwhile, twenty years earlier, a schoolgirl writes in her diary, charting her doomed obsession with a handsome young English teacher named Mr. Fitzwilliam…

Review –

“A young newlywed’s life is upended, and a picturesque neighborhood is shattered, when she is suspected of a savage murder.

At the beginning of a new year, Joey Mullen moves back to England from Ibiza with Alfie, her husband, whom she hastily married out of grief over the death of her mother. Jack, Joey’s older brother, invites the young couple to move into his painted Victorian house in the upscale Bristol neighborhood of Melville Heights so they can get on their feet financially and help with the baby that Jack and his wife, Rebecca, are expecting. Joey quickly becomes infatuated with their neighbor Tom Fitzwilliam, a new headmaster charged with improving the local school. Her crush only intensifies when Alfie suggests having a baby, and Joey begins to suspect her marriage was a mistake. Meanwhile, Tom’s wife, Nicola, struggles to fill her days and remains oblivious to their son, Freddie, who regularly spies on his neighbors and the village’s teenage schoolgirls, taking their photos and keeping a detailed log of everyone’s activities. This surveillance exacerbates the paranoia and mental illness of another neighbor, the mother of 16-year-old Jenna, one of Tom’s students. Jenna’s mother is convinced that she knows the Fitzwilliam family from a vacation incident years earlier (and that the family is now stalking her), but Jenna is more concerned that Tom may be having an inappropriate relationship with her best friend. After several months, tension in the neighborhood explodes, and Joey is suspected of a brutal murder. However, as the police gather evidence, it becomes clear how many secrets each family has been hiding. Jewell (Then She Was Gone, 2017, etc.) adeptly weaves together a complex array of characters in her latest thriller. The novel opens with the murder investigation and deftly maintains its intensity and brisk pace even as the story moves through different moments in time over the previous three months. Jewell’s use of third-person narration allows her to explore each family’s anxieties and sorrows, which ultimately makes this novel’s ending all the more unsettling.

An engrossing and haunting psychological thriller.” Kirkus Review

So many twist and turns, this book will make you dizzy. Fantastic read!