NEVER COMING HOME by Hannah Mary McKinnon

First comes love. Then comes murder.
Lucas Forester didn’t hate his wife. Michelle was brilliant, sophisticated and beautiful. Sure, she had extravagant spending habits and that petty attitude, a total disregard for anyone below her status. But she also had a lot to offer. Most notably, wealth that only the one percent could comprehend.

For years, Lucas had been honing a flawless plan to inherit Michelle’s fortune. Unfortunately, it involved taking a hit out on her.

Every track was covered, no trace left behind, and now Lucas plays the grieving husband so well he deserves an award. But when a shocking photo and cryptic note show up on his doorstep, Lucas goes from hunter to prey. 

Someone is onto him. And they’re closing in.

Told with dark wit and a sharply feminist sensibility, Never Coming Home is a terrifying tale of duplicity that will have you side-eyeing your spouse as you dash to the breathtaking end.


Title : Never Coming Home
Author : Hannah Mary McKinnon
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : mystery thriller
Publisher : MIRA
Release Date : May 24, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I’m a little disappointed I didn’t love this more but I think this’ll satisfy readers a little less grumpy and picky than moi.

The most interesting thing about this story was the fact that we know who did the deed. And, in fact, we spend the entire time in the head of the one who has committed the crime. I quite liked that. But I found Lucas.. kind of insufferable? It wasn’t even the fact that he was a con-man mastermind responsible for his wife’s death, that he’d been orchestrating a particular end result for the entirety of their relationship. It was maybe moreso the narrative voice. And perhaps the pacing.

I never fully engaged in this story, I was completely uninterested in all of Lucas’ backstory, and while I enjoyed the ending, I’ll admit I did see part of it coming. It was still a good gotcha moment but it didn’t quite redeem the journey to where we finally get there. I’m not quite sure this had the dark wit that was promised in the pitch, either.

This was my first read by McKinnon, and while she’s got a good few books out and seems to be well loved, I’ll admit I had never even heard of her. I’ll likely peek through her backlist to find another that might work better, though, because I have’t quite given up yet.

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

UNTIL THE LAST OF ME by Sylvain Neuvel

The First Rule is the most important: ‘Always run, never fight’.

For 3000 years Mia’s family has shaped Earth’s history to push humanity to the stars, making brutal, wrenching choices along the way.

And now, in the year 1968, Mia finds herself about to help launch the first people into space. She can’t take them to the stars, not quite yet. But with her adversary almost upon her, and with the future of the planet at stake, it’s becoming clearer that obeying the First Rule is no longer an option.

For the first time since her line’s first generation, Mia will have to stand her ground.

Because the overwhelming odds mean that she risks not only her bloodline, but also the future of the human race . . .


Title : Until The Last of Me
Author : Sylvain Neuvel
Series : Take Them To The Stars #2
Format : Physical
Page Count : 304
Genre : Sci-Fi Thriller
Publisher : Michael Joseph Books
Release Date : March 17, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Feminist stem sci-fi thriller
Ancient meets contemporary
Space programme

Okay, I jumped into this second installment hoping I’d be able to remember my place in the story and who was who with the characters. Neuvel wrote this in a way that readers will remember with ease this Kibsu race of women with a tendency for maths, space, killing and evasion.

While the whole premise of this story is about history repeating itself and how that played out with these generations of women, the story landed back with Mia and her daughter Lola. After the last book, the reader has a sense of what is coming to these women but also there was so much newness in the plot as the years went from the 1960s to the late 1980s. It was so interesting seeing the space race play out and Mia’s subtle contribution but desire for more.

Lola was a whole other kind of daughter not seen in the previous story. She was rebellious, hard-headed and perhaps with less of a sense of Kibsu than her matriarchal predecessors. I winced over many of the decisions Lola made but it made for good reading; I am left wondering about Catherine…a lot.

The ancient had a place in this story, how the Kibsu women influenced their time and how they were able to communicate with Mia and Lola. I found that fascinating. The trackers were prevalent and hella messy. Violence always followed these guys but the Kibsu were not innocent by any means.

Suffice it to say, I am fascinated by this story, the historical-sci-fi-thriller pitch of the tale feels so fresh and I look forward to the conclusion.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the review copy.

DEADLY CURE by Mahi Cheshire

THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH: FIRST, DO NO HARM…

Dr Rea Dharmasena is devastated when she loses out on her dream research job to her med-school rival and best friend, Dr Julia Stone.

To add insult to injury, Julia used Rea’s own cutting-edge research to get it.

But just as Rea finds it in her to forgive the betrayal, Julia, after a life-changing medical discovery, is found murdered.

Now Rea has the dream job she’s always wanted.

But at what cost?


Title : Deadly Cure
Author : Mahi Cheshire
Format : Physical
Page Count : 384
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Viking Books
Release Date : April 21, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Holy smokes, the twists
Unreliable narrators
Nothing is as it seems

I want to start off this review with my professional head on and state that the events in this book would never really happen in the UK. Health professionals would not be so lax in their personal values or their ethical accountability, on top of which medical research is tightly legislated and regulated in the UK. However, a thriller can be fantastical, right? And so, I read this by stowing all my professional knowledge and going with the flow.

This thriller was about friendships, twisted ones and genuine ones. There was a threesome of friendships in Julia, Rae and Feng, a shady bunch they were. Out of these three, I loved Feng and I basically didn’t like one other character in the book but it was never the intention of the author to make likeable characters, I don’t think. I had that ‘love to hate’ thing going on.

The setting was in the medical world, straddling the medical research world and there were some unrealistic aspects to how this written but I think that artistic licence worked on the whole here. The story depicted a search for cure to cancer that was nicely pitched alongside the personal lives of the three. I liked the fact that I was taken in by some of the characters and totally proved wrong. I had theories, none of which came to fruition, so this one really kept me guessing.

This was a gripping read and definitely one that can whisk you away. Please trust your health professionals at the end the day though please!

Thank you to Harvill Sacker/Viking Books for the review copy.

THE LAST LAUGH by Mindy McGinnis

In the dark and stunning sequel to The Initial Insult, award-winning author Mindy McGinnis concludes this suspenseful YA duology as long-held family secrets finally come to light . . . changing Amontillado forevermore.

Tress Montor murdered Felicity Turnado—but she might not have to live with the guilt for long. With an infected arm held together by duct tape, the panther who clawed her open on the loose, and the whole town on the hunt for the lost homecoming queen, the odds are stacked against Tress. As her mind slides deeper into delirium, Tress is haunted by the growing sound of Felicity’s heartbeat pulsing from the “best friend” charm around her fevered neck.

Ribbit Usher has been a punchline his whole life—from his nickname to his latest turn as the unwitting star of a humiliating viral video. In the past he’s willingly played the fool, but now it’s time to fulfill his destiny. That means saving the girl, so that Felicity can take her place at his side and Ribbit can exact revenge on all who have done him wrong—which includes his cousin, Tress. Ribbit is held by a pact he made with his mother long ago, a pact that must be delivered upon in four days.

With time ticking down and an enemy she considers a friend lurking in the shadows, Tress’s grip on reality is failing. Can she keep both mind and body together long enough to finally find out what happened to her parents?


Title : The Last Laugh
Author : Mindy McGinnis
Series : The Initial Insult (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA mystery thriller
Publisher : Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date : March 15, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated review

Much like book one in this series, I don’t quite know where I fall with this one. Strangely, in a time where memory is fleeting because time has no meaning, I remembered so much of that weird ass first instalment that picking this up without a refresher was easy. And I blitzed through it. Maybe I was just excited to be reading something after a week-long dry spell but I also definitely think that’s purely the McGinnis factor.

This is a series I definitely won’t be recommending to anyone but I think anyone who does pick it up will likely be fascinated, just like I was. This story is dark and brutal and strange and a few times you will want to yell at your iPad much like we yell at athletes on the screens of our tvs. Because how dare that character be so stupid to do (or not do..) a thing. But overall? I was hooked. But did I like anything that happened? Maybe one or two things. The problem, I think, beyond the darkness and the weirdness, is we learn so much so late in the game — which is the same for the MC — that you flounder, pulled along in the current of wtf and why, for just too long.

Having said that, I’ll never stop picking this author up because whether it’s a win or a lose or a whoevenknows, I am fascinated not only by the way she tells stories but of what kinds of stories she chooses to tell.

RUN ROSE RUN by Dolly Parton and James Patterson 🎧

Find a future. Lose a past.

She’s a star on the rise, singing about the hard life behind her.

She’s also on the run.

Nashville is where she’s come to claim her destiny.

It’s also where the darkness she’s fled might find her. And destroy her….

Run Rose Run: a story glittering with danger and desire.

Also available: an album of 12 original Dolly Parton songs made for the novel!


Title : Run Rose Run
Author : Dolly Parton & James Patterson
Narrator : Full cast including Dolly Parton
Format : Audiobook
Length : 10 hours, 17 minutes
Genre : Contemporary
Publisher : Penguin Audio
Release Date : March 7, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Singing for escape
Secrets and lies
Full cast audio

Run, Rose, Run was incredibly easy to listen to with a full cast dramatisation that really floated my boat and brought the different characters alive. You even get some Dolly Parton as Ruthanna, the MC’s mentor. Annie-Lee, the main character was a young woman, clearly on the run, definitely on hard times, living rough but with the voice and talent that made her exceptional.

This Nashville-centric story reminded me completely of the TV series of the same name in terms of vibe, but not necessarily story-wise. While this wasn’t a unique story, it had such a great suspense plot with a bit of thiller towards the end. I completely bought into the ups and downs of Annie-Lee’s determined trip to the stage and writing her own music.

The cast of characters around Annie-Lee were brilliant. I loved Ethan, such a humble and in the background kind of guy, but he was instrumental to Annie-Lee’s story. Equally, Ruthanna was such a colourful ‘Dolly’ kind of character, she was hard not to love.

If you’re looking for an all-absorbing listen, then Run, Rose, Run has all the ingredients for a great contemporary fiction listen, with comforting predictability, a solid plot and fantastic all cast narration.

Thank you to Penguin Audio for the ALC.

THE GOLDEN COUPLE by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen 🎧

If Avery Chambers can’t fix you in 10 sessions, she won’t take you on as a client. Her successes are phenomenal–she helps people overcome everything from domineering parents to assault–and almost absorb the emptiness she sometimes feels since her husband’s death.

Marissa and Mathew Bishop seem like the golden couple–until Marissa cheats. She wants to repair things, both because she loves her husband and for the sake of their 8-year-old son. After a friend forwards an article about Avery, Marissa takes a chance on this maverick therapist, who lost her license due to controversial methods.

When the Bishops glide through Avery’s door and Marissa reveals her infidelity, all three are set on a collision course. Because the biggest secrets in the room are still hidden, and it’s no longer simply a marriage that’s in danger.


Title : The Golden Couple
Author : Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Narrator : Karissa Vacker & Marin Ireland
Format : Audiobook
Length : 10 hours, 30 minutes
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Macmillan Audio
Release Date : March 8, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines
Couple non-goals
A wild therapist
Secrets & lies

The Golden Couple had me hooked from the first five minutes of listening. A couple with a marriage on the sudden rocks, side characters with dubious and tenuous connections and a therapist with a revoked license was quite frankly, everything I wanted. These characters were incredibly interesting even though each one felt some degree of shady.

I always felt some kind of trustful connection to Marissa despite her duplicity and bad decisions. I trusted Matthew and I didn’t trust Skip. I loved Avery, her weird way of working, her intrusions. Whilst I wouldn’t want to be on the end of this in real life, it made for a fantastic storyline.

How everything unravelled in the end was excellent, I was so off the mark, which is the best reading experience for this kind of suspenseful read. I enjoyed the fact that I wasn’t full of tension listening until the end scenes. It was more written in the style of Big Little Lies.

The audio had dual narration and dual pov, from the perspectives of Marissa and Avery which simply told this story to its strengths. The narration was excellent.

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

RECKLESS GIRLS by Rachel Hawkins

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs comes a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set on an isolated Pacific island with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.

When Lux McAllister and her boyfriend, Nico, are hired to sail two women to a remote island in the South Pacific, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. Stuck in a dead-end job in Hawaii, and longing to travel the world after a family tragedy, Lux is eager to climb on board The Susannah and set out on an adventure. She’s also quick to bond with their passengers, college best friends Brittany and Amma. The two women say they want to travel off the beaten path. But like Lux, they may have other reasons to be seeking an escape.

Shimmering on the horizon after days at sea, Meroe Island is every bit the paradise the foursome expects, despite a mysterious history of shipwrecks, cannibalism, and even rumors of murder. But what they don’t expect is to discover another boat already anchored off Meroe’s sandy beaches. The owners of the Azure Sky, Jake and Eliza, are a true golden couple: gorgeous, laidback, and if their sleek catamaran and well-stocked bar are any indication, rich. Now a party of six, the new friends settle in to experience life on an exotic island, and the serenity of being completely off the grid. Lux hasn’t felt like she truly belonged anywhere in years, yet here on Meroe, with these fellow free spirits, she finally has a sense of peace.

But with the arrival of a skeevy stranger sailing alone in pursuit of a darker kind of good time, the balance of the group is disrupted. Soon, cracks begin to emerge: it seems that Brittany and Amma haven’t been completely honest with Lux about their pasts––and perhaps not even with each other. And though Jake and Eliza seem like the perfect pair, the rocky history of their relationship begins to resurface, and their reasons for sailing to Meroe might not be as innocent as they first appeared.

When it becomes clear that the group is even more cut off from civilization than they initially thought, it starts to feel like the island itself is closing in on them. And when one person goes missing, and another turns up dead, Lux begins to wonder if any of them are going to make it off the island alive.


Title : Reckless Girls
Author : Rachel Hawkins
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 320
Genre : mystery / thriller
Publisher : St. Martin’s Press
Release Date : January 4, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

So, while this isn’t getting a rave review or rating, I will say that I found it hard to pull myself away from this and also really liked how the story was told and also unfolded. Will I remember it in a few weeks or, even, months? I don’t know. It definitely has unique elements that will stand out but the details? Hard to say.

If you like island settings, or boats, or isolated anything and anywhere, you will absolutely be into this one. The setting was definitely a stand out. The characters.. well, they had their moments.

While we do get some backstory, and motivations, for our cast of characters, they didn’t get much more than surface level. Likely because we didn’t need anything more from them as they served their purpose; particularly once said purposes were revealed. This could likely be equated to an action flick where the effects dazzle and distract from anything else. And that’s totally fine, a-okay, I love to consume that kind of content. And I enjoyed consuming this, too.

Probably the only thing I actually disliked (beyond a certain bit of main character hypocrisy that made me grind my teeth) was the final chapter. I was totally fine with how things wrapped with the conflict but that final tease? Eh, left me wanting.

While I’ve enjoyed, though not loved, this author’s recent forays into adult titles and will continue to pick her up. I continue to hesitate about recommending said titles, however, but I’ll say that if this sounds like your thing.. it might be your thing.

REAL EASY by Marie Rutkoski

Three Women meets Tana French in a compulsive, unflinching and unexpectedly hopeful thriller set in a midwestern strip club.

It’s 1999, and Samantha has danced for years at the Lovely Lady strip club.

She’s not used to taking anyone under her wing – after all, between her disapproving boyfriend and his daughter, who may as well be her own child, she has enough to worry about. But when Samantha overrides her better judgment to drive a new dancer home, they are run off the road. The police arrive at the scene of the accident – but find only one body.

Georgia, another dancer, is drawn into the investigation as she tries to assist Holly, a detective with a complicated story of her own. As the point of view shifts from police officers and detectives to club patrons, the women circle around a list of suspects, all the while grappling with their own understanding of loss and love.

As they get closer to the truth they must each confront a fundamental question:

How do women live their lives knowing that men can hurt them?


Title : Real Easy
Author : Marie Rutkoski
Format : e-ARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Tinder Press
Release Date : January 18, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★


Micky’s 2 star review

Headlines:
Plot potential
Choppy writing
Many, many POVs

This is a hard review for me to write as I love MR’s books in the fantasy worlds she’s written but I didn’t love this despite wanting to. The stripper club world of Real Easy was engaging, interesting and fascinating, all the more for being set in the late 1990s.

This ‘sisterhood’ of dancers behind the scenes was full of connections, jealousy, support and rivalry. I connected as reader with Samantha but ultimately that was a mistake. The other characters in this story were tolerable but there were not any that I could connect with. Once the book hit 30%, the POVs exploded and it made for difficult reading. Adding to that, the choppy moves from one POV to another, sometimes after a page or two were jolting. This was a book written with very descriptive detail.

Plot wise, I was on board for the first quarter but I stayed around for completion. I didn’t enjoy the plot and I ultimately found it a dissatisfying story.

From a social commentary perspective of the time, the seedy world that was portrayed, this book had fascinating aspects but ultimately the execution of the story and the POVs didn’t work for me.

There are lots of content warnings for this book, so please DM me if you want to know more.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for an early copy of this book.

ONE STEP TOO FAR by Lisa Gardner

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner, a thrilling new novel that sends Frankie Elkin into the woods in search of a lost man–and the shocking truth about why he went missing in the first place.

Frankie Elkin, who readers first met in Before She Disappeared, learns of a young man who has gone missing in a national forest. Law enforcement has abandoned the search, but a crew of people led by the young man’s father are still looking. Sensing a father’s desperation, Frankie agrees to help–but soon sees that a missing person isn’t all that’s wrong here. And when more people start to vanish, Frankie realizes she’s up against something very dark–and she’s running out of time.


Title : One Step Too Far
Author : Lisa Gardner
Series : Frankie Elkin (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 400
Genre : crime/mystery
Publisher : Dutton
Release Date : January 18, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

When I started this follow-up instalment in Gardner’s new series, featuring something of a lone-wolf cold case investigator (though not a professional one, just a concerned and capable citizen), I did not expect to cry as much as I did. But maybe that’s just me being a softie as always.

Now, the emergency whistle.”
I have a whistle! I carry it around tough neighbourhoods all the time.”
Your idea of self-defence in an urban environment is a whistle? Are you trying to die?

This particular case that Frankie stumbles her way into is so very different from the first we experience through her. Gone are the mean streets of Boston; say hello to the wilds and dangers of Wyoming. She hears about the fifth year anniversary — and final hail mary search — of a missing man who went camping with his groomsmen for their bachelor party and later disappeared. She manages to negotiate her way into the hiking expedition and from then on it’s exhaustion, sweat, secrets revealed, and everything going wrong.

I hate pity.”
Then stop being so pathetic.”
I hope Bigfoot kicks your sorry ass.
Wouldn’t that be something? Please take video.”

As I feel is often the case with Gardner mysteries, I did not see the reveal for this one coming. I had suspected something very different and was way off base. But this wasn’t one of those twists that come totally out of left field, either. So I loved that.

I thought you mountain-guru types were supposed to be able to sniff the dirt, lick a pine cone, then state unequivocally who came here at what date and time, not to mention their favourite food and astrological sign.
I know you’re a Virgo, does that help?
How do you know that?
Because you’re a pain in my ass.

I also loved all the new characters we were introduced to. Which is probably why I cried so much. Plus there’s a dog! But in addition to the new faces, I still really liked Frankie — or rather, maybe stated to like her more, as I don’t know if I appreciated her in book one the way I did in this one. Her internal monologue is a little repetitive when she gets going and thinking about her past, her life up until now, but it also makes sense considering her pile of regrets and the fact that she’s a recovering alcoholic. But I like the concept of her, this rogue individual, the fact that she’s lived a hard life and is committed to doing for other people, and also that she’s middle aged and not a spring chicken.

If a dog can do this, I tell myself, than I can, too. Of course, the dog has had way more training.

The whole unravelling of this mystery worked so well; the stakes were high, the players all had varying levels of expertise and capabilities, and again, the reveal? So good. I also really enjoyed how contemplative Frankie was near the end and how this story wrapped. That whole section was lovely.

Why do I do what I do? Because at the end of the day, the people left behind matter as much as the ones who are missing. We mourn the ones we’ve lost, but we agonize over the pieces of ourselves they took with them.

I’m always excited for new releases from this mystery/thriller author and I am happy to say I’ll now be as excited for a new Frankie book as I would be for a new DD book. Give me anything from this author. Looking forward to the next!

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

DEAD LUCKY by Andreina Cordani

Lucky to be rich. Lucky to be famous. Lucky to be alive.

Xav, Ed, Leni, Maxine.

They are the influencers, the lucky ones. Gifted, gilded people who have everything – fame, respect, adulation, more freebies than they can ever unbox. Their lives, loves and feuds are shared with millions of fans on the streaming platform PlayMii, and they are living the dream.

But it’s broken Ed’s heart.

It’s crushing Maxine.

It’s destroying Leni’s friendships.

And it’s gone to Xav’s head.

Then, a masked figure walks into Xav’s apartment and murders him on camera.

As the world reels with shock, Maxine discovers Xav was sitting on a file of secrets about his fellow creators – career-destroying secrets that they’d do anything to keep hidden. And if she doesn’t find the file, she could be next . . .


Title : Dead Lucky
Author : Andreina Cordani
Format : Physical ARC
Page Count : 323
Genre : Thriller YA/NA
Publisher : Atom Books
Release Date : January 13, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines
Egos
Shocks from start to finish
What is filmed lives forever
Behind the scenes of influencers

Dead Lucky started with a big boom that basically sealed my allegiance from the get go. My reading experience was that I couldn’t put this down and I loved the wild ride.

This story is centred around a group of ex-high school friends who started a dare/stunt channel on the popular PlayMii site that went viral. This rocketed these kids to fame and they all went their seperate influencer way. This lifestyle, the individual personalities of the influencers and their insipid and occasional genuine ways were addictive reading. From Xav to Maxine, this was a hold your breath while judging read.

Most of the story was told from Maxine’s pov. She was heralded the dumb influencer but she was more mature and insightful that most of them; I enjoyed her character growth. As to the who-dunnit, that consumed the book…and me. I didn’t figure it out until late on and my initial guesses were off base.

This YA/NA thriller is well written, it doesn’t poke too much at the concept of influencers but it does expose some elements that we all wonder at. What it does do, is it brings the real person behind the influencer to the fore, what’s behind the camera, the campaigns, the videos. There’s much to unpick here about this element of contemporary society if that’s your thing.

I highly recommend this thriller, I enjoyed it front to back.

Thank you to Atom Books for the early review copy.

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