WE WERE NEVER HERE by Andrea Bartz

On holiday in Chile with her best friend Kristen, Emily is having the time of her life.

Until one night, she finds their hotel suite covered in blood.

Kristen claims a backpacker attacked her. She shouted, but no-one heard. She struggled, but he was too strong.

She had no option but to kill him.

With no evidence of the assault, Emily must help her hide the body. . .

Back home, Emily tries to forget what happened, but a surprise visit from Kristen forces her to confront the events of that night.

As the walls close in, Emily asks herself: can her closest friend be trusted?


Title : We Were Never Here
Author : Andrea Bartz
Format : eARC
Page Count : 306
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Penguin
Release Date : August 3, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Sucked in
Spat out
Head spinning

That’s pretty much me on the whole reading experience of this book and on finishing. What did I read? What were those characters?

This story of two besties having holidays off the beaten track togther across the years focused in particular on one holiday to Cambodia and one to Chile. Not far into the book, I just knew there was something fishy about one of these besties but I had no idea how this was going to escalate.

This read felt like a combination of Single White Female (look it up if you’re unfamiliar) and Shallow Grave. On the one hand I was rooting for the more innocent of the pair and on the other hand, I was conflicted at her implicitness in the events that played out.

It all got a lot more sinister as it culminated.

Did I enjoy it? I guess in some ways yes, but it was angsty, uncomfortable reading. That said, I could not look away or put the book down. It was a wild trip and an all consuming read.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the early review copy.

THE GIRLS I’VE BEEN by Tess Sharpe

A slick, twisty YA page-turner about the daughter of a con artist who is taken hostage in a bank heist.

Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.

For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:

#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:

#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.

The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…


Title : The Girls I’ve Been
Author : Tess Sharpe
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 336
Genre : YA contemporary thriller
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date : January 26, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This was.. wow.

I don’t know what I expected when I picked this up (#NoBlurbers) but this was an off the cuff recommendation from a friend of mine (hi Sam!) and I saw my library had it so thought, hey, why not. And wow.

[..] she kissed me like I was prickly, like I was already understood, like I was worth it.

I really don’t even know where to begin. Within these pages you’ll find con artists, queer humans, trauma, clever girls, one of the absolute best representations of found family I’ve ever read, sharp edges, devoted sisters, dangerous situations, and the absolute will to survive.

I hate the whole “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” saying. It’s bullshit. Sometimes what doesn’t kill you is worse. Sometimes what kills you is preferable. Sometimes what doesn’t kill you messes you up so bad it’s always a fight to make it through what you’re left with.

Some books inspire paragraphs upon paragraphs of words and sometimes you’re just just staring at a blinking cursor. This is obviously the latter.

Netflix has apparently snatched this up to be adapted, with Millie Bobby Brown to star, and that is incredibly exciting. If they capture even half the magic of Sharpe’s words, pacing, and general vibe, it’ll be amazing. More amazing? It might get more people wanting to read the source material. Which you absolutely should. And, yes, I will be chewing through the author’s backlist between now and then.

Highly recommend.

A LESSON IN VENGEANCE by Victoria Lee

For fans of Wilder Girls and Ninth House comes a dark, twisty, atmospheric thriller about a boarding school haunted by its history of witchcraft and two girls dangerously close to digging up the past.

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself. 


Title : A Lesson in Vengeance
Author : Victoria Lee
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ paranormal/thriller
Publisher : Delacorte Press
Release Date : August 3, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I think this would’ve worked so much better if, like one of the comp titles, this had been an adult (or at least new adult) novel. I think so much of what I struggled with, or found hard to believe, could have been easier to swallow if this had been aged up.

That said, I really enjoyed the first half of the story. We open up with our main character returning to this elite/exclusive/preppy highschool, almost like a pre-college collegiate style school, after time away in recovery from her girlfriend’s death. She soon finds being back on campus is damaging to her ability to discern reality from the belief that she’s being haunted; not by her girlfriend (or not only..) but by the ghosts of girls long dead who are built into the history, the mythology, of the school. Felicity sees things, feels things, and it makes the reader question her reliability as a narrator; is she delusional, is her grief causing her prior obsession with witchcraft, with the dead girls, making her see things that aren’t there or are these manifestations actually real?

.. grief would tie itself to the small things, that I’d be living my life as normal and then a bit of music or the cut of a girl’s smile would remind me of her and it would all flood back in.

Felicity’s journey, her obsession, her grief, her hauntings, they were all compelling. Where I started to side-eye things was with.. well, almost everything else. Certain characters, with certain influences and motivations, and how transparent it all seemed. And also, my biggest problem really, was just.. why? Maybe there wasn’t supposed to be a why. Maybe I just didn’t get it.

There was one big exception to the transparent bit, though. Something I definitely didn’t see coming. And I loved it? I don’t think many will. Infact, I think the ending in general will be polarizing. You’ve been warned!

I was definitely a bit hesitant going into this, no matter how pumped I was over the concept, because I had a rough go with Lee’s debut series. This? I loved the writing, I loved the dip in and out of spooky paranormal horror, the uncertainty of it all. I started this late at night and I won’t say it scared me but oh did it do a good job with the eerie vibes.

This might not have been a solid win but parts of it worked so so well for me. I’m definitely looking forward to more from this author, especially if they write more in this darker vein, but I think Lee would absolutely excel at an adult story. I hope one day it happens.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

FALLING by T.J. Newman 🎧

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.


Title : Falling
Author : T.J. Newman
Narrators : Steven Weber
Format : Audiobook
Length : 8 hours, 26 minutes
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date : July 6, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Fast-paced
Two tandem/linked stories
Won’t put you off flying

I’m giving this book 4 stars as much for the sweeping audio experience and the storyline in general. I think audio was the right format for this thriller for me, it felt like watching a really great disaster movie.

The story was fast-paced following a hostage situation and a plane situation. All focus was on Bill the pilot and Jo the head steward. These two characters really made the story but in addition, so did the whole air steward crew.

The baddies of the piece weren’t always obvious and I enjoyed the twists we got along the way. The backdrop for why all this happened was an interesting piece of contemporary political history that feels less explored in thrillers.

This was a ride and I sure enjoyed, punching through this in a few days, wishing myself back to the audiobook.

Thank you to LibroFM & Simon and Schuster Audio for the review copy.

https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781797128221-falling

THE OTHER BLACK GIRL by Zakiya Dalila Harris 🎧

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and the micro-aggressions, she’s thrilled when Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events cause Nella to become Public Enemy Number One and Hazel, the Office Darling. 

Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: Leave Wagner. Now.

It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realises that there is a lot more at stake than her career. 

A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.


Title : The Other Black Girl
Author : Zakiya Dalila Harris
Narrators : Aja Naomi King, Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Bahni Turpin, Heather Alicia Sims
Format : Audiobook
Length : 13 hours, 33 minutes
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date : June 1, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Office politics
Undertones and rumblings
Allies or enemies

The Other Black Girl was an incredibly unusual thriller in terms of plot. It was an office-based story about the relationhip and power dynamics between the bosses and those wanting to move up the ranks, twinned with the inequality of people of colour in the workplace. All that led to a blend of competition, underhandedness and suspicion.

I’d seen this book heralded as a ‘Devil Wears Prada’ thriller but there was little I could equate to that story. There was zero humour or levity, but a lot of looking over the MC’s shoulder. It was hard to see who was friend or foe.

This was a fast-paced read with mulitple POVs and to be honest, I wanted to stay with Nella’s perspective most of the time. I got lost at points when the story moved back to a drama in office from some time ago with an black editor and author.

I didn’t like where the story ended up and that factor definitely brought the rating down for me. However, the journey through the story was tense and entertaining, so I would be eager to read Zakiya Dalila Harris again.

The narration of the audio was strong. Nella’s POV was pitched well, with that kind of suspicious tension that set the tone. There were other POVs that again were a little confusing at times but well narrated.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for the audio and physical copies.

THE MAIDENS by Alex Michaelides 🎧

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.


Title : The Maidens
Author : Alex Michaelides
Narrators : Louise Brealey, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
Format : Audiobook
Length : 10 hours
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Macmillan Audio
Release Date : June 15, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Creepy men galore
Power imbalance
Great plot with some fading

I felt really excited about this one, the Grecian historical connection, university, students and with a murder at the centre; this audio did deliver on those aspects. The setting conjured that academia feel but with an encroaching darkness of these ongoing murders.

Mariana as a MC had my empathy to some extent for her recent past but I wouldn’t describe her as brilliant (as per the blurb), in fact I found her to be completely stupid making accusations left, right and centre while running headlong into obvious danger. After a while, she annoyed me.

The Maidens had a complex plot at the heart and I really liked the depth and intracacies. It really kept me guessing, that is, until it didn’t as it faded towards the end. I felt somewhat disappointed in the final culmination. I’m not sure what the point of Fred was in the plot.

I was interested in how Sebastian could be such an important character and creepy from the grave, I thought there was some clever writing there.

The narration was dual POV which was 95% Mariana and 5% someone else. The narration was strong throughout.

Thank you to LibroFM and Macmillan Audio for the audio review copy.

THE TAKING OF JAKE LIVINGSTON by Ryan Douglass

Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this YA social thriller where survival is not a guarantee.

Jake Livingston is one of the only black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed sixteen kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win. 


Title : The Taking of Jake Livingston
Author : Ryan Douglass
Format : eARC
Page Count : 256
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ fantasy/thriller
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date : July 13, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Hm. I’m leaving this unrated for now (for good?) because my thoughts are kind of all over the place.

I think, when you’re neck deep in the spooky thrilling creepiness of this story, you’re in it. You’re having a good scary time. The problem is when you pause, put the book down, and start wondering.. why. Why are these things happening, what is this world, what is the history.. and, the biggest most perplexing thing, why did the author choose to go in this direction with the villain.

I honestly think this would make a great movie because the atmosphere and the ambience, though hella confusing, still did a great job at creeping me out. Some of the visuals were, again, sometimes confusing but somehow still managed to be translated into my brain. But so much of this needs more. Yes, the story is short, so I guess a lot of this surface level non-explanation could be blamed on that but.. why was it short? Why wasn’t this longer, more fleshed out, given context? So much could’ve been improved, including the romance.

If you want a short spooky dose of a novel that brushes up against topics of racism and homophobia, without making them the central theme, and that will likely keep you on the edge of your seat, you could probably do worse. I just wish it could’ve done.. not better, maybe, but more.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE IVIES by Alexa Donne

Everyone knows the Ivies: the most coveted universities in the United States. Far more important are the Ivies. The Ivies at Claflin Academy, that is. Five girls with the same mission: to get into the Ivy League by any means necessary. I would know. I’m one of them. We disrupt class ranks, club leaderships, and academic competitions…among other things. We improve our own odds by decreasing the fortunes of others. Because hyper-elite competitive college admissions is serious business. And in some cases, it’s deadly.

Alexa Donne delivers a nail-biting and timely thriller about teens who will stop at nothing to get into the college of their dreams. Too bad no one told them murder isn’t an extracurricular.


Title : The Ivies
Author : Alexa Donne
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA thriller
Publisher : Crown Books for Young Readers
Release Date : May 25, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

This is exactly the kind of thing that would make a great mini series. Mostly because it felt not unlike a Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars mashup (I say this without ever having watched or read PLL, so I could be off base, but from random ads I’ve seen it has the thriller vibes needed). Except throw in the Gilmore Girls education focus that Rory and Paris had in their final year at Chilton.

There were ruthless students before us — they just weren’t as well organized.

All that to say, this was a hot twisty priviledged backstabby underhanded mess and boy was I enthralled. I think what worked against it, though, and why I’m not rating higher, is I felt our protagonist was just a little too inconsistent in both her feelings and her reactions. I don’t know if maybe that was on purpose, particularly with how this ended, but.. it made for strange reading sometimes. But the cliquey Ivies, the school itself, it was all so messed up but so fascinating.

Equally, I think, had this been done (or when it’s done? who knows!) in a television format I think we could’ve had some extra nuance or layers that maybe would’ve rounded this out a bit. The mystery itself wasn’t too straight forward, despite the red herrings or supposed red herrings, but there were a few other twists I found rather easy to see coming. But, again, maybe that was on purpose so we didn’t guess the other? Hard to say.

Do you know how hard it is to be a rich, above-average white guy in college admissions?
Oh, wait, you’re being serious? Sorry.

I also found it interesting how much this actually said about the whole college admissions mania. Not being American I’ve only ever really seen this portrayed in fiction and this definitely took it up a notch or twelve but I think there’s a lot of reality buried into this fictional narrative, too.

I probably could’ve done without the two or three throwaway references to the pandemic but as this is an ARC who knows if that feedback will make it up the chain or not.

I had a fun time with this, though, and it was the perfect twisty ride to pass a gloomy afternoon.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

GOOD GIRL, BAD BLOOD by Holly Jackson

Pip is not a detective anymore.

With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.

But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared, on the very same night the town hosted a memorial for the sixth-year anniversary of the deaths of Andie Bell and Sal Singh.

The police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time everyone is listening. But will she find him before it’s too late?


Title : Good Girl, Bad Blood
Author : Holly Jackson
Series : A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 388
Genre : YA mystery
Publisher : Delacorte Press
Release Date : March 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

So this wasn’t quite the amazing, out of this world, sequel I had expected it to be, or been led to believe it was, but that’s just my opinion so, as always, grain o’salt.

This particular mystery plot was definitely a bit less of a disbelief stretch, though still a little wild, and even though I was far from crying or even tearing up somehow this ended up also being more emotional. There were some incredibly moving scenes from events leftover from the previous book and specific to this book’s plot and all that just made everything really solid.

I felt this particular installment also had a chance to really dig deep into both the main character and some of the characters on the periphery. I liked the changing, evolving, and surprising, direction of certain dynamics and am very interested to see how that all plays out in book three.

I also appreciate that Jackson isn’t leaving the main character unscathed by these rather unprecedented events. She’s almost sorta spiraling into self-destruction, but not quite, and battles a bit with coming to terms with who she really is, what she’s willing to do, and also forgive, and those were really interesting moments. Another thing I’ll be curious to see play out.

Overall this is a really solid series that definitely sucks you in. This installment might even be a four star. I may come back and change that later.

A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER by Holly Jackson

Everyone in Fairview knows the story.

Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.

But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?

Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.

This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you’ll never expect.


Title : A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder
Author : Holly Jackson
Series : A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 389
Genre : YA mystery
Publisher : Delacorte Press
Release Date : February 4, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Was this the epic murder mystery contemporary I have seen everyone else say it is? Maybe not. Was this hella engrossing and did I finish it in a record breaking timeframe? Yes.

I’m sure the Veronica Mars comparisons have all already been done ad nauseum and so I won’t say much more about it. But I will say that while it’s far and away from a direct lift of season one’s plots and concepts, you might still get some of those vibes. I sure did.

You, of course, have to suspend a bit of disbelief around some of this, as one might expect going into a YA murder mystery, but I’m okay doing that. It does, overall, maybe keep it from being the perfect read, though. Hence the rating. While some of the twisting and turning plots and schemes and secrets might elicit some side-eye, though, I enjoyed the cast of characters and the multimedia aspect of the story telling. While the Marshmallow comparison is an obvious one, the media element also did give me a small amount of Sadie vibes, and one particular event felt like a throwback to a certain nineties movie franchise I can’t hint at further for spoiler reasons.

So, yes, I did like this! Obviously. I’ve heard, though, that book two is even better than and because I’m on a completed-a-book-in-one-sitting high, I’m diving right into the sequel.