Book Review: The Couple Upstairs By Shalini Boland

After a young couple buys a new house together, things slowly start to unravel.

This one was only okay for me, definitely not my favorite by this author. I didn’t connect with the characters and the plot just didn’t have the stakes necessary to hook me and invest me in the outcome, but this book comes highly rated/recommended, so while I found it underwhelming, many readers found it thrilling.

3.5 rounded up.

From Goodreads: I should never have become friends with the couple upstairs…

The first time I step inside this cosy apartment with its sash windows, just minutes from the sea, I think it would be the perfect place for me and my partner Zac to start again. A chance to leave our troubled past behind.

Chris and Vanessa, the couple upstairs, are so welcoming: smiles, flowers, a home-baked cake. It’s strange how he does all the talking, and she seems so shy, but I’m just thrilled to have new friends nearby.

But everything starts to go wrong… my business begins to crumble, I can’t ignore the whispers at our housewarming party and loud arguments from upstairs keep me awake at night. I can’t sleep, I can’t think straight and I feel like someone is watching me in my own home.

And then Zac comes home one afternoon, his face clenched with fury, and says he knows what’s going on. He knows about my secret…

He won’t listen to me. He storms out and I’m left in tears, completely devastated.

Why has my life fallen apart since we moved here? Am I going mad? Or is someone trying to destroy us?

If only I’d known what I know now.
If only I hadn’t trusted the couple upstairs.

From the USA Today bestselling author Shalini Boland comes an absolutely heart-thumping psychological thriller with a twist you won’t see coming. Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl and The Wife Between Us. 

Book Review: Hold Back The Night By Sean Lynch

Two escaped convicts, a raging wildfire, and an innocent family in both of their paths . . .

One word is all I need to describe this book – intense. From the SWAT scenes to the criminal element to the fire, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat, breathless, not sure whether you should beg for it to stop or beg for more. I chose more and was quite satisfied with the outcome.

From Goodreads:

As wildfires blaze in Northern California, a female SWAT team operative hunts two escaped convicts in a heart-pounding thriller inspired by real-life cases and crackling with authenticity from bestselling author and law enforcement veteran Sean Lynch.

If you think you’re scared now…wait until dark.

Three unsuspecting women. Two escaped convicts. One shocking night of escalating terror. From acclaimed crime writer and law enforcement veteran Sean Lynch…

It begins with a spark. A simple act of carelessness that ignites the autumn grass of the Sierra Nevadas. In minutes, the flames spread. A raging wildfire sweeps down the mountain, engulfing a van from the local prison–giving two chained convicts a chance to escape…
Two desperate men. Psychologically disturbed. Extremely dangerous.

In Farnham County live three very different women. Marjorie Guthrie, a wealthy suburban housewife fleeing an abusive marriage; Mary Hernandez, her troubled, rebellious sister; and Leanne Strayer, a young SWAT deputy with a dark past. All three share one thing in common: they are in the wrong place at the wrong time….
Today, their worst fears come true. Tonight, the nightmares come home.

Book Review: Pumpkin By Julie Murphy

An overweight gay boy in a small town films a private video where he experiments with drag. After the video gets leaked and he’s nominated for his high school’s prom court – for queen – he decides to throw caution to the wind and go for the crown.

This is the third in the Dumplin‘ series, and I swear, these books are so feel-good, funny, and addictive it’s unbelievable – they take me half the time to read as similar length books! Filled with teen angst and coupled with hope, this is the high school experience you wish you’d had!

From Goodreads: Return to the beloved world of Julie Murphy’s #1 New York Times bestselling Dumplin’—now a popular Netflix feature film starring Jennifer Aniston—in this fabulously joyful, final companion novel about drag, prom, and embracing your inner Queen.

Waylon Russell Brewer is a fat, openly gay boy stuck in the small West Texas town of Clover City. His plan is to bide his time until he can graduate, move to Austin with his twin sister, Clementine, and finally go Full Waylon so that he can live his Julie-the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music-Andrews truth.

So when Clementine deviates from their master plan right after Waylon gets dumped, he throws caution to the wind and creates an audition tape for his favorite TV drag show, Fiercest of Them All. What he doesn’t count on is the tape getting accidentally shared with the entire school. . . . As a result, Waylon is nominated for prom queen as a joke. Clem’s girlfriend, Hannah Perez, also receives a joke nomination for prom king.

Waylon and Hannah decide there’s only one thing to do: run—and leave high school with a bang. A very glittery bang. Along the way, Waylon discovers that there is a lot more to running for prom court than campaign posters and plastic crowns, especially when he has to spend so much time with the very cute and infuriating prom king nominee Tucker Watson.

Waylon will need to learn that the best plan for tomorrow is living for today . . . especially with the help of some fellow queens. . . . 

Book Review: At First Light By Barbara Nickless

Gritty murders full of symbolism. Viking lore and ruins. An academic and a detective hot on the killer’s trail.

This was a smart book that read like watching a movie and kept me guessing until the end! The characters were great, well developed, perfectly flawed, and interesting. The plot was enthralling, and the Viking history, semiotics, and lore were fascinating! This is the first in a brilliant new series that is sure to be a success!

From Goodreads: Ritual murder. Archaic clues. A visionary killer. In this heart-stopping novel by the Wall Street Journal and Amazon Charts bestselling author of the Sydney Rose Parnell series, words can kill.

On the muddy banks of the Calumet River, a body has been found posed next to a series of mysterious glyphs and bearing wounds from a ritualistic slaying. Chicago detective Addie Bisset knows only one man who can decipher the message left by the killer: her friend Dr. Evan Wilding. A brilliant forensic semiotician, Evan decodes the etchings as Viking Age runes. They suggest either human sacrifice or righteous punishment. But to what god? And for what sins?

Only one thing is clear from the disturbing runic riddles: there are more victims to come.

As Evan races to determine the identity of the Viking Poet, he and Addie uncover the killer’s most terrifying secret yet: the motive. This startling discovery puts Evan’s life in mortal danger, and verse by ancient verse, time is running out. 

Book Review: Falling By T.J. Newman

It was supposed to be a routine flight, but when the pilot finds out his wife and children have been kidnapped and will die unless he crashes the plane, things get interesting.

I’ve seen mixed reviews about this book, but I thought it was an action-packed thrill ride full of tension and adventure! The characters were a little one-dimensional and certain parts of the premise were a little farfetched, but it held my attention and I enjoyed it.

From Goodreads:

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.

Book Review: Third Girl By Agatha Christie

A young woman confesses that she thinks she may have committed a murder, then vanishes, leaving Christie’s legendary sleuth Poirot desperate to find her and to figure out just exactly how one could not know whether they were a killer or not.

This was a little slower than some of Christie’s other tales, but is good nonetheless. This slow burner presents a complex mystery where reality is subjective and not everything is as it seems.

From Goodreads:

In this breathtaking Agatha Christie mystery, the Third Girl sharing a London flat with two others announces to Hercule Poirot that she’s a murderer and then disappears. The masterful investigator must figure out whether the missing girl is a criminal, a victim, or merely insane.

Three young women share a London flat. The first is a coolly efficient secretary. The second is an artist. The third interrupts Hercule Poirot’s breakfast confessing that she is a murderer—and then promptly disappears.

Slowly, Poirot learns of the rumors surrounding the mysterious third girl, her family, and her disappearance. Yet hard evidence is needed before the great detective can pronounce her guilty, innocent, or insane.…

Book Review: One By One By Frieda McFadden

Three couples leave for a rural resort vacation, but when their car breaks down they find themselves stranded and lost in the woods . . . but are they alone?

This is the second book I’ve read by this author, and while the plot was no less compelling than the first, I found the writing a little weaker in this one. I was so drawn in by the story, however, that I barely noticed the little hiccups after a while as I sped through the pages!

From Goodreads: One by one, they will get what they deserve…

A night spent sleeping on dirt and leaves is not how Claire Matchett expected to spend her vacation.

She thought this would be a break from the stresses of work and raising her young children. A chance to repair her damaged marriage. A week of hiking and hot tubs with two other couple friends. It sounded like heaven.

Then Claire’s minivan breaks down on a lonely dirt road. With no cell reception, the group has no choice but to hike the rest of the way to their hotel. But it turns out the woods aren’t as easy to navigate as they thought.

Hours later, they are lost. Hopelessly lost.

And as they navigate deeper into the woods, the members of their party are struck down mysteriously one by one. Has a wild animal been hunting them? Or is the hunter one of them?

But as more time passes, one thing becomes clear:

Only one of them will return home alive. 

Book Review: The Girl In The Moss By Loreth Anne White

An ex-cop strives to find her new normal as she reconciles recently recovered memories about her traumatic past, tries to earn her P.I. license, and her feelings about her engagement to a man who’s still with the force. A new client’s cold case may be just what she needs – if it doesn’t end up getting her killed.

This thriller had twists out the wazoo! Just when one revelation was made, everything was turned upside down by the next! Not my favorite by this author, but a solid, suspenseful read.

This is the 3rd book in a series, which I didn’t know when I picked it up. It definitely wasn’t necessary to read the previous books, but it probably would have helped with certain aspects of the MC’s backstory.

From Goodreads: A shallow grave exposes deadly secrets as bestselling author Loreth Anne White brings her thrilling series of romantic suspense to its shocking conclusion…

Disgraced ex-cop Angie Pallorino is determined to make a new start for herself as a private investigator. But first, she and her lover, newly promoted homicide detective James Maddocks, attempt a quiet getaway to rekindle a romance struggling in the shadows of their careers. The peace doesn’t last long when human skeletal remains are found in a nearby mossy grove.

This decades-old mystery is just what Angie needs to establish her new career—even as it thrusts her and Maddocks back into the media spotlight, once again endangering their tenuous relationship.

Then, when Angie’s inquiry into the old crime intersects with a cold case from her own policing past—one that a detective on Maddocks’s new team is working—the investigation takes a startling twist. It puts more than Angie’s last shot at redemption and a future with Maddocks at risk. The mystery of the girl in the moss could kill her.

Book Review: Do Not Disturb By Freida McFadden

After committing a horrible crime, a woman goes on the run before the police find out. When a blizzard forces her off the road, she seeks shelter at out of the way, creepy, rundown Baxter Motel, where the cute owner is friendly, but the tenants have a history of winding up dead.

I’ve found a new author! One who writes suspenseful, Hitchcockian-type books that keep me on the edge of my seat! You may think you have this one figured out, but you may be wrong! Parts were not completely unpredictable, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the epilogue, but there’s no denying that this twisty thriller had me hooked! (I may have immediately bought another book by this author. And I may have immediately started reading it. My apologies to the hordes of unread books I have that have been patiently waiting their turn. #sorrynotsorry )

From Goodreads:

Quinn Alexander has committed an unthinkable crime.

To avoid spending her life in prison, Quinn makes a run for it. She leaves behind her home, her job, and her family. She grabs her passport and heads for the northern border before the police can discover what she’s done.

But when an unexpected snowstorm forces her off the road, Quinn must take refuge at the broken-down, isolated Baxter Motel. The handsome and kindly owner, Nick Baxter, is only too happy to offer her a cheap room for the night.

Unfortunately, the Baxter Motel isn’t the quiet, safe haven it seemed to be. The motel has a dark and disturbing past. And in the dilapidated house across the way, the silhouette of Nick’s ailing wife is always at the window. Always watching.

In the morning, Quinn must leave the motel. She’ll pack up her belongings and get back on the road to freedom.

But first, she must survive the night.

Do Not Disturb is a Hitchcock-style psychological thriller that will keep you tearing through the pages until you reach the shocking conclusion!

And The 2021 Al Blanchard Award Goes To . . .

. . . alas, not me but someone else! But I was one of the top 4 and received an honorable mention for my crime/mystery short story, “Lady Killer,” so that’s pretty cool. I was unable to attend this year’s Crime Bake convention in Massachusetts, but they sent me this award certificate to commemorate the achievement.

This is the second time I’ve made it to the top 10 of the Al Blanchard Awards, but my first time as a finalist, and I have to say, it was pretty exciting!

The award submission period opens each January and is open to all writers living in New England or writers who have written a story in the mystery, thriller, suspense, caper, or horror genre that takes place in New England. Find out more info here.

For those who don’t know who Al was: (as taken from the Crime Bake website)

“Al Blanchard was MWA-NE chapter president and a member of Sisters in Crime when he and then-president of Sisters in Crime New England Gin Mackey seized the initiative to organize a regional mystery conference for New England. He then served as co-chair for the first three New England Crime Bake conferences.

Al exemplified everything great about mystery writing. He was the grateful recipient of mentoring and advice from writers who came before him, and he was always ready to reach out to new and aspiring writers to share his experience and knowledge. He was a dedicated and prolific writer whose career was exploding at the time of his tragic death in 2004.

The New England Crime Bake Committee established the Al Blanchard Award in his memory to annually honor the best crime short story by a New England writer or with a New England setting.”

To all those genre fans out there, happy reading and happy writing!

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