NAKED IN DEATH by J.D. Robb

THE FIRST NOVEL IN THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING IN DEATH SERIES

It is 2058, New York City. Technology now completely rules the world, but for New York Detective Eve Dallas, one irresistible impulse still rules the heart: passion…

Eve Dallas is a New York police lieutenant hunting for a ruthless killer. In over ten years on the force, she’s seen it all – and knows her survival depends on her instincts. And she’s going against every warning telling her not to get involved with Roarke, an Irish billionaire – and a suspect in Eve’s murder investigation. But passion and seduction have rules of their own, and it’s up to Eve to take a chance in the arms of a man she knows nothing about – except the addictive hunger of needing his touch.


Title : Naked In Death
Author : J.D. Robb
Narrator : Susan Ericksen
Series : In Death #1
Format : Audio
Page Count : 10 hours, 17 minutes
Genre : Thriller/Romantic Suspense
Publisher : Brilliance Audio
Release Date : 1995

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

I thought it was about time I gave this series a go as I’ve been meaning to dip my toe in for years and I was reasonably content with the experience.

This is a futuristic world (circa 2050 I think) but it still shows it’s age in terms of tech because this book was originally published in 1995. I did like the world depicted, it made it a bit more interesting in terms of a romantic suspense/thriller vibe. The main selling point of this book and I believe of the series as a whole, is the couple – Eve and Rourke. Their whole developing romance was more interesting to me than the murders. As to the crime/murders, they were pretty gritty and vile. Please see my content warnings at the bottom.

I do want to make a huge note of kudos to the author regarding her mention a few times of the importance of trans rights, especially considering the date of publication. Nicely done Robb/Roberts.

I’ll definitely be carrying on with the series.

**Content warnings: rape, sexual crime, incest. There were a few later graphic depictions of incestual rape that I found hard to read and I would have preferred less detail.**

FINLAY DONOVAN KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan is―once again―struggling to finish her next novel and keep her head above water as a single mother of two. On the bright side, she has her live-in nanny and confidant Vero to rely on, and the only dead body she’s dealt with lately is that of her daughter’s pet goldfish.

On the not-so-bright side, someone out there wants her ex-husband, Steven, out of the picture. Permanently. Whatever else Steven may be, he’s a good father, but saving him will send her down a rabbit hole of hit-women disguised as soccer moms, and a little bit more involvement with the Russian mob than she’d like.

Meanwhile, Vero’s keeping secrets, and Detective Nick Anthony seems determined to get back into her life. He may be a hot cop, but Finlay’s first priority is preventing her family from sleeping with the fishes… and if that means bending a few laws then so be it.

With her next book’s deadline looming and an ex-husband to keep alive, Finlay is quickly coming to the end of her rope. She can only hope there isn’t a noose at the end of it…

From Edgar-Award nominee Elle Cosimano, comes Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead―the hilarious and heart-pounding follow-up to Finlay Donovan is Killing It.


Title : Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead
Author : Elle Cosimano
Series : Finlay Donovan (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 353
Genre : contemporary / mystery thriller
Publisher : Minotaur Books
Release Date : February 1, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

This story would’ve been a whole lot simpler if Finlay had just let someone off her shitbag of an ex-husband. It would’ve been a whole lot more enjoyable, too, no matter how happily things seem now at the end (not saying how or why and what makes things happier, or if it even relates to said ex-husband, though). But I digress..

Honestly, while I’m awarding this the same rating, overall it wasn’t quite on par with book one. Mostly the success comes from the big reveal at the end that.. yeah, I did not see that one coming. Brava. I loved it.

But the romance takes a turn in the direction I didn’t want, leaving me feeling a bit letdown (even though it’s still early in the series and I shouldn’t have put all my eggs in any one basket in book one, what a noob). And once again we have so many coincidences and conveniences that I’m just constantly having to hit refresh on my suspension-of-disbelief button and I think I pointer finger was getting tired.

Book three is lining up to be very Vero-centric and I’m both looking forward to it and nervous because I kind of wanted her role as bestie and ride or die to be drama-free and less OTT than some of the circumstances these two find themselves in. So I’m a wee bit concerned. But we’ll see how it all plays out.

Having said that, these are quick action-y reads with the single-mom-trying-to-do-it-all, matched up with spying and thrills and the banality of book deadlines, all alongside the absolute belief that a wig and a dress can convince anyone you’re someone else. Apparently.

I wouldn’t push these on anyone as a recommendation but you could totally do worse.

FINLAY DONOVAN IS KILLING IT by Elle Cosimano

“Getting the job done” for one single mom takes on a whole new meaning in Finlay Donovan is Killing It.

Finlay Donovan is killing it…except, she’s really not. A stressed-out single mom of two and struggling novelist, Finlay’s life is in chaos: The new book she promised her literary agent isn’t written; her ex-husband fired the nanny without telling her; and this morning she had to send her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head after an incident with scissors.

When Finlay is overheard discussing the plot of her new suspense novel with her agent over lunch, she’s mistaken for a contract killer and inadvertently accepts an offer to dispose of a problem husband in order to make ends meet. She soon discovers that crime in real life is a lot more difficult than its fictional counterpart, as she becomes tangled in a real-life murder investigation.

Fast-paced, deliciously witty, and wholeheartedly authentic in depicting the frustrations and triumphs of motherhood in all its messiness, hilarity, and heartfelt moments, Finlay Donovan Is Killing It is the first in a brilliant new series from award-winning Elle Cosimano. 


Title : Finlay Donovan is Killing It
Author : Elle Cosimano
Series : Finlay Donovan (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 355
Genre : contemporary / mystery thriller
Publisher : Minotaur Books
Release Date : February 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

While much of this story is the depiction of a woman stumbling through a situation (or two) that requires her to suddenly dispose of another human when she’s mistaken for a contract killer, it might be more accurate to say this is a domestic mystery/thriller. Because so much of who Finlay is.. is a stressed out, barely making ends meet, mother and writer. Both tasks demand much of her and she’s rather spectacularly failing at both, all while navigating interactions with her ex and the woman, now fiancé, he cheated on her with. It’s the threat of bills, of losing her kids, that convinces Finlay to do it. Or rather, like any good writer, to do her research. Who is this man she’s been asked to kill? Is he actually terrible? And thus sets in motion a series of events that Finlay can’t come back from, which spins out into connections she never could’ve seen coming and, also, the mob?

I’ll admit those same connections sort’ve had me side-eyeing the plot because it’s all just a little (lot) too convenient. But it does make for an interesting quandary or two that Finlay has to reconcile with and maybe that was the main point of it all.

While I did enjoy Finlay, most of the time, I think I enjoyed her side-kick, Vero, more. Or maybe I just really enjoyed their dynamic together? Because every Vero scene was great and I was a fan of their completely inept duo (the cling wrap scene, I cannot even..) and very much look forward to more of that.

For romance fans, or readers who like a little romance spliced into their novels, regardless of genre, there’s something here for you, too! Perhaps even more than one option? I won’t say more. Except to say I am very pleased with where we ended by the final chapter of this first book. Though.. I also did a little side-eye of a certain visit to a certain bar near the end. Honestly, proving this isn’t some smooth and slick murder mystery, there was a lot of side-eyeing of a lot of decisions, really. But it does give it some amateur hour realness, I guess.

So, yes, maybe some of the hype took some of the shine off this one, and that’s why I’m not quite as effusive about this as I expected to be, but I have hopes that book two might be even better. And yes, I’m about to find out right.. now.

EVERY WORD by Ellie Marney

Sparks fly when Watts follows Mycroft to London in this second steamy thriller about the teen crime-fighting duo.

James Mycroft has just left for London to investigate a car accident similar to the one that killed his parents without saying good-bye to his partner in crime, Rachel Watts.

Rachel is furious and worried about his strange behavior—not that Mycroft’s ever exactly normal, but London is the scene of so many of his nightmares. Unable to resist, Rachel jumps on a plane to follow him and lands straight in a whole storm of trouble.

The theft of a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, the possible murder of a rare books conservator and the deaths of Mycroft’s parents…Can Watts help Mycroft make sense of the three events—or will she lose him forever?


Title : Every Word
Author : Ellie Marney
Series : Every (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 340
Genre : YA mystery / contemporary / retellings
Publisher : Allen & Unwin
Release Date : June 1, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

As much as I had loved these characters in book one, book two is where Wattscroft took it upon themselves to m u r d e r me. Also, yes, I’m going to thief from my original review a bit, which I didn’t do for the first instalment, because it pretty much sums up my feels to this day.

Every Word is everything that Every Breath was but turned up to eleven. The stakes, the action, the mystery, the scorching heat, the violence, the heartbreak.. everything.

Swoony hearts in eyes expression aside, this book definitely went a bit dark and my stomach fell to my feet multiple times. Not just because of Rachel and Mycroft but because Marney does not pull any punches. The vividness of the autopsy scene, the startling savagery of torture, the isolation; it was just as awful and as real as when our two heroes are stumbling along to understand each other, navigating both their relationship and the horror of Mycroft’s past. And how Marney handled this was just.. fantastic. There were so many things I think I appreciated more this second time around with how she unravelled Mycroft and his processing — or lack thereof. That turning point, once we finally get it, was just (chefs kiss). And the strangeness of how Rachel feels, knowing he has something new, and scarier, to fixate is just.. yeah, really well done.

Knowing what extremes and dangers these two faced, and that not having been the ultimate confrontation, I can only imagine what’s to come next.

UPGRADE by Blake Crouch

‘You are the next step in human evolution . . .’

What if you were capable of more?

Your concentration was better, you could multitask quicker, read faster, memorize more, sleep deeper.

For Logan Ramsay, it’s happening. He’s beginning to see the world around him, even those he loves the most, in whole new ways.

He knows that it’s not natural, that his genes have been hacked. He has been targeted for an upgrade.

Logan’s family legacy is one he has been trying to escape for decades and it has left him vulnerable to attack. But with a terrifying plan in place to replicate his upgrade throughout the world’s population, he may be the only person capable of stopping what has already been set in motion.

To win this war against humanity Logan will now have to become something other than himself . . .

Intricately plotted and epic in scope, Upgrade asks us to ponder the limits of our humanity – and our boundless potential. Are you ready for the impossible?


Title : Upgrade
Author : Blake Crouch
Format : eARC
Page Count : 341
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Pan Macmillan
Release Date : July 7, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

Headlines:
The arrogance of humanity
Futuristic thriller with a shade of dystopia (or reality)
All the science goodness

We don’t have an intelligence problem. We have a compassion problem.”

I could not put this book down and for 24 hours, the themes of this book have truly invaded my thoughts. The subjects of environmental demise, political and international inertia to make change and the break neck speed of scientific and genomic progress felt close to where we are in 2022. So, this story set in a future felt utterly believable.

This story started and ended with the arrogance of individuals, thinking they knew best and being sure their intelligence superseded others. The sacrifice of some outweighing the many was part of this arrogant belief. Imagine if you could upgrade the intelligence and strength of humans…would that be the answer to all our problems? Logan the protagonist was the epicentre of this conundrum and this whole problem was through his eyes over a number of years.

The story was fast-paced, immediately gripping and it kept the reader’s attention throughout. The science was fascinating, not beyond my grip and I’m no geneticist. Nevertheless, this kind of science dominance of the story was right up my street, I could see how much research and expertise was sought to make this story work so well.

This story provoked the reader to consider individual morals and societal ethics and yet, this was not a heavy read. The pacing, the plot and characters kept the reader moving through the story as fast as their normal-speed mind could manage.

The triumph of this book was in how it ended, basically as well as it started. When a book tackles such a big plot and dilemma as this storyline presented, there’s always the risk that it’ll disappoint as it culminates. Crouch finished this superbly, with some bittersweet-ness and a bang.

Thank you to Pan Macmillan and Black Crow PR for the review copy.

DEAD SILENCE by S. A. Barnes

Titanic meets The Shining in S.A. Barnes’ Dead Silence, a SF horror novel in which a woman and her crew board a decades-lost luxury cruiser and find the wreckage of a nightmare that hasn’t yet ended.

A GHOST SHIP.
A SALVAGE CREW.
UNSPEAKABLE HORRORS.

Claire Kovalik is days away from being unemployed—made obsolete—when her beacon repair crew picks up a strange distress signal. With nothing to lose and no desire to return to Earth, Claire and her team decide to investigate.

What they find at the other end of the signal is a shock: the Aurora, a famous luxury space-liner that vanished on its maiden tour of the solar system more than twenty years ago. A salvage claim like this could set Claire and her crew up for life. But a quick trip through the Aurora reveals something isn’t right.

Whispers in the dark. Flickers of movement. Words scrawled in blood. Claire must fight to hold onto her sanity and find out what really happened on the Aurora, before she and her crew meet the same ghastly fate.


Title : Dead Silence
Author : S. A. Barnes
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 343
Genre : sci-fi horror
Publisher : Tor Nightfire
Release Date : February 8, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Hoo boy, fam, if you enjoy the thrilling sensation of feeling like you’ve seen something out of the corner of your eye, the certainty that something is hiding underneath your bed, combined by the terror and unpredictability (not to mention darkness) of space, you will love this book. Conversely, if you loved Serenity or The Illuminae Files, there are elements in here you might appreciate.

I will admit, there was a scene or two that really got me going. I had to set the book down and take a breath.

But beyond the suspense and gruesome parts, the beauty of this story is in the narrator’s uncertainty of what is real and what isn’t. Which adds to the scary. For reasons you’ll learn about, Claire is already an unreliable narrator. And it only gets worse as she tries to piece together what happened after she and her crew dock with a decades-long missing ship.

I had such a good time reading this, both because of the thrills and for following along to figure out the what of it all. The ending did surprise me, and I can see some people maybe not enjoy it for a few different reasons, but it landed fine for me.

Obviously, due to the horror — gore, violence, all that jazz — this isn’t one I can recommend to just anyone, but if the themes and synopsis seem to be in your wheelhouse, I would definitely give it a try. This is Barnes’ debut, under this penname at least, and I will definitely pick her up again.

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.

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