Review: Very Bad People

Title: Very Bad People
Author: Kit Frick
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Contemporary
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback arc
Release Date: April 5, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In this dark academia young adult thriller for fans of The Female of the Species and People Like Us, a teen girl’s search for answers about her mother’s mysterious death leads to a powerful secret society at her new boarding school—and a dangerous game of revenge that will leave her forever changed.

Six years ago, Calliope Bolan’s mother drove the family van into a lake with her three daughters inside. The girls escaped, but their mother drowned, and the truth behind the “accident” remains a mystery Calliope is determined to solve. Now sixteen, she transfers to Tipton Academy, the same elite boarding school her mother once attended. Tipton promises a peek into the past and a host of new opportunities—including a coveted invitation to join Haunt and Rail, an exclusive secret society that looms over campus like a legend.

Calliope accepts, stepping into the exhilarating world of the “ghosts,” a society of revolutionaries fighting for social justice. But when Haunt and Rail commits to exposing a dangerous person on campus, it becomes clear that some ghosts define justice differently than others.

As the society’s tactics escalate, Calliope uncovers a possible link between Haunt and Rail and her mother’s deadly crash. Now, she must question what lengths the society might go to in order to see a victory—and if the secret behind her mother’s death could be buried here at Tipton.

Review:

Six years ago, Calliope Bolan’s mother drove their van into a lake. Only Calliope and her two younger sisters survived. Now, Calliope is still looking for answers for what made her mother drive off the road. She transfers to the elite boarding school Tipton Academy, which her mother attended. Calliope is invited to join the secret society, Haunt and Rail, which stages pranks across campus in order to achieve social justice. She discovers a possible link between the society and what happened to her mother, involving a mysterious man she sees in town who reminds her of the crash. As the society takes on a huge social justice issue, Calliope discovers the secret behind her mother’s death. 

This was such a suspenseful thriller. I couldn’t put it down. There were so many layers to the story, including the car crash where Calliope’s mother died, the Haunt and Rail society, and the new relationships Calliope made at school. All of these plots came together at the end. 

The only thing that I didn’t like was that the story ended on a cliffhanger. I realized when I had about ten pages left that there wasn’t enough space to resolve all the questions I had. I’m really hoping there will be a sequel because I need to know what happens next!

Very Bad People is a suspenseful, boarding school thriller!

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Have you read Very Bad People? What did you think of it?

Review: What His Wife Knew

Title: What His Wife Knew
Author: Jo Jakeman
Genre: Thriller, Contemporary
Publisher: Viking
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback
Release Date: March 1, 2022
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Nail-biting domestic suspense that puts a contemporary twist on the classic whodunit, from the acclaimed international author of The Exes’ Revenge and Safe House.

When the body of Oscar Lomas, an experienced hiker, is found at the bottom of a remote cliff in the Peak District of England called Cloud Drop, all the signs–including the Sorry note he left behind for his wife, Beth–point to suicide.

Plans for the funeral begin, but Beth cannot accept that her husband took his own life. As she sets out to discover what really happened, Beth soon realizes that the safe, protected life she thought she had was nothing of the sort, and that Oscar had kept many secrets from her–secrets that involve even close family and old friends. It turns out that he had enemies–and perhaps she did too, even if she didn’t know it.

As the troubling revelations keep coming, Beth has to focus on solving one mystery if she is to reclaim her own life: who killed Oscar Lomas?

Review:

When Oscar Lomas’s body is found at the bottom of a cliff, all the signs point to suicide. However, his wife, Beth, doesn’t believe that’s what happened. She insists that there be an investigation into her husband’s death, and she starts asking questions around town. As she discovers more of Oscar’s secrets, she realizes she didn’t really know her husband or most of the people around her. He had a lot of enemies who could be suspects in his death. Beth keeps digging until she can finally answer who killed her husband.

It’s been a while since I’ve been blown away at a thriller, but this one kept me guessing. I was certain that I knew what had happened but I was completely wrong. There were so many twists and it was fast paced, so I couldn’t put the book down. 

There were some tough subjects in this book. They include suicide, rape, drugging, adultery, and murder. I think these tough topics were handled well, but they could be potentially triggering to some readers. 

What His Wife Knew is a thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat!

Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

The Exes’ Revenge by Jo Jakeman

The Last Affair by Margot Hunt

Have you read What His Wife Knew? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: Killing Time

Title: Killing Time
Author: Brenna Ehrlich
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Contemporary
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: March 8, 2022
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Summer in Ferry, Connecticut, has always meant long, lazy days at the beach and wild nights partying in the abandoned mansions on the edge of town. Until now, that is.

Natalie Temple, who’s never been one for beaches or parties in the first place, is reeling from the murder of her favorite teacher, and there’s no way this true-crime-obsessed girl is going to sit back and let the rumor mill churn out lie after lie—even if she has to hide her investigation from her disapproving mom and team up with the new boy in town…

But the more Natalie uncovers, the more she realizes some secrets were never meant to be told.

Expertly-plotted and brimming with suspense, Killing Time is more than just a mystery. It’s a thoughtful novel about true crime stories and how we tell them.

Review:

Natalie Temple is obsessed with true crime. When her favourite teacher is murdered, Natalie wants to investigate it herself to put on her podcast. Her mom disapproves of Natalie’s true crime obsession because she has a secret history with a criminal investigation. Natalie sneaks around, behind her mother’s and her best friend’s backs, to get the story, but she ends up getting more tangled up in the murder investigation. 

This was a very suspenseful story about a teenage girl investigating a murder in her small town. Natalie’s mom seemed a little extreme in the way she controlled everything Natalie did, but she had her own reasons which were told through some flashback chapters. Though her mom was overprotective, there were a few moments where Natalie was able to sneak around without getting caught. If her mom was as protective as she said she was, I don’t think Natalie would have been able to get away with so many things. She did get into some very dangerous situations so I can’t blame her mom for trying to protect her. 

There were some potentially triggering scenes. There was murder, suicide, assault, and a couple of non-consensual kisses. The non-consensual kisses were kind of brushed off. Since it was clear that Natalie didn’t want them to happen, I would have liked that to be addressed more to make it clear that she didn’t want it and that it wasn’t a good situation.

I figured out some of the twists before they happened. The murderer was in my top two suspects, but I still enjoyed this story.

Killing Time was a suspenseful thriller!

Thank you Inkyard Press for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh

About the author:

Brenna Ehrlich is a journalist, YA author, and editor who has worked everywhere from MTV News to Rolling Stone. She resides in New Jersey with her husband Morgan and their two cats, Nimbus and Hazel. She enjoys horror movies and romcoms in equal measure.

Have you read Killing Time? What did you think of it?

Review: In My Dreams I Hold a Knife

Title: In My Dreams I Hold a Knife
Author: Ashley Winstead
Genre: Thriller, Contemporary
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: August 3, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Six friends. 

One college reunion.

One unsolved murder.

Ten years after graduation, Jessica Miller has been invited back to her university for a reunion and she is obsessed with dazzling everyone with her beauty and success. This time when they see her, it has to be perfect because she is perfect. Not the girl she was when she left campus, back when Heather Shelby’s murder fractured everything, including the tight bond linking the six friends she’d been closest to since freshman year.

But there’s more at stake than the delicious envy of her peers—not everyone is ready to move on. Not everyone can let Heather’s murder go unsolved. In fact, someone has orchestrated the whole weekend to trap the real killer. As the weekend unfolds and they get closer to the truth, the group finds there was more than murder hidden amongst them on campus.

Told in racing dual timelines, with a dark campus setting and a darker look at friendship, love, obsession and ambition, In My Dreams I Hold a Knife is an addictive, propulsive millennial thriller you won’t be able to put down.

Review:

Ten years after graduation, Jessica Miller returns to Duquette University for their reunion. She wants everyone to see how confident and beautiful she is, not the ordinary girl she had been in school. However, when she’s reunited with her friends, they’re confronted by the brother of their friend Heather. Heather was murdered during their senior year. Though all evidence pointed to Heather’s boyfriend at the time, there wasn’t enough evidence for a conviction. The group of six remaining friends must figure out all the secrets and lies that were told that fateful night to determine who really killed Heather.

This story was intense and emotional. Everyone had dark secrets and had betrayed someone at some point in the past. The story was told through alternating timelines. Jessica told her own narrative in the present, but she was unreliable because of her secrets and her inability to remember the night Heather was killed. The chapters alternated between the present and their time in school, to show exactly what they were doing back then.

There are some potential triggers in this story. There was murder, rape, homophobia, abuse, and affairs. I think these topics were addressed and punished appropriately, for the most part. Though this was an emotionally charged story, it was an intense and intricate plot.

In My Dreams I Hold a Knife is an intense thriller!

The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison

Have you read In My Dreams I Hold a Knife? What did you think of it?

Review: All Her Little Secrets

Title: All Her Little Secrets
Author: Wanda M. Morris
Genre: Thriller, Contemporary
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: November 2, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In this fast-paced thriller, Wanda M. Morris crafts a twisty mystery about a black lawyer who gets in over her head after the sudden death of her boss. A debut perfect for fans of Attica Locke, Alyssa Cole, Harlan Coben, and Celeste Ng, with shades of How to Get Away with Murder and John Grisham’s The Firm.

Everyone has something to hide… 

Ellice Littlejohn seemingly has it all: an Ivy League law degree, a well-paying job as a corporate attorney in midtown Atlanta, great friends, and a “for fun” relationship with a rich, charming executive—her white boss, Michael.

But everything changes one cold January morning when Ellice goes to meet Michael… and finds him dead with a gunshot to his head.

And then she walks away like nothing has happened. Why? Ellice has been keeping a cache of dark secrets, including a small-town past and a kid brother who’s spent time on the other side of the law. She can’t be thrust into the spotlight—again.

But instead of grieving this tragedy, people are gossiping, the police are getting suspicious, and Ellice, the company’s lone black attorney, is promoted to replace Michael. While the opportunity is a dream-come-true, Ellice just can’t shake the feeling that something is off.

When she uncovers shady dealings inside the company, Ellice is trapped in an impossible ethical and moral dilemma. Suddenly, Ellice’s past and present lives collide as she launches into a pulse-pounding race to protect the brother she tried to save years ago and stop a conspiracy far more sinister than she could have ever imagined…

Review:

Ellice Littlejohn has worked hard to become a corporate lawyer in Atlanta, but she has secrets. When she goes to her office to meet her boss, who she’s also having an affair with, she finds him dead in his office. Ellice doesn’t want to be brought into any investigation because her past would be uncovered, so she leaves and pretends she didn’t see anything. However, when Ellice gets promoted to replace her boss, the spotlight is put on her. She finds some documents that point to some shady business, and puts her in an ethical dilemma. The investigation becomes personal when parts of Ellice’s past is brought into question. Ellice has to face her history coming back to haunt her, while trying to save herself.

This was a fast paced thriller! I was hooked on it right from the first page. This was one of those books that I didn’t want to rush through because, even though I wanted to know who did it, I also didn’t want it to be over. It was a wild ride!

There was a lot of discussion of racism, white supremacy, and misogyny. Ellice was the only Black executive at the office, and she was only one of two women in the executive department. It was clear early on in the story that the other executives were treating Ellice differently because she was a Black woman. There was a deeper conspiracy at play, but that dynamic represents many offices in the world. I appreciated that racism was addressed in this novel, because I haven’t seen it in many contemporary thrillers.

All Her Little Secrets is a thrilling debut!

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Have you read All Her Little Secrets? What did you think of it?

Review: Ace of Spades

Title: Ace of Spades
Author: Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Contemporary
Publisher: Usborne
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Release Date: June 1, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice. 

Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light. 

Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power. 

Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game…

Review:

Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo are chosen to be school prefects at Niveus Private Academy. It isn’t a surprise for overachieving Chiamaka, but Devon is surprised at being chosen. Soon after they’re chosen, anonymous texts are sent to everyone in the school, revealing secrets about Chiamaka and Devon. These texts, from the anonymous Aces, threaten to ruin their futures. As more texts are sent, the stakes of secrets become more dangerous. Chiamaka and Devon have to work together to figure out who Aces is, before their lives are completely destroyed.

This was a disturbing story. The best comparison titles for this book would be Gossip Girl meets Get Out. It was fast paced and suspenseful. I truly couldn’t figure out what was happening, and I couldn’t put the book down for the last 200 pages.

This story addressed some serious issues. There was homophobia and racism, as well as sexual assault and violence. Many of the disturbing scenes seemed exaggerated for the story, yet it also felt like it could happen in real life. I don’t want to give away what happens, but this story had a creepy, realistic quality, which made it even more disturbing.

Ace of Spades is a disturbing look at racism and homophobia that everyone should read.

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Have you read Ace of Spades? What did you think of it?

Review: Monday’s Not Coming

Title: Monday’s Not Coming
Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: May 22, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?

Review:

Monday and Claudia have always been inseparable. When Monday doesn’t show up for their first day of eighth grade, Claudia knows something is wrong. Their friendship was deeper than anyone knew. Monday would defend Claudia from bullies and rumors, and helped her keep her grades up. When Claudia asks her mom, Monday’s sister, and the school staff for help, they all brush her off. No one helps Claudia on her search, so she has to take matters into her own hands.

I’ve heard a lot about this book over the past couple of years. It has recently been banned by some school boards in the United States. The story itself was entertaining and suspenseful, but it also has an important message within it. This story shows the dark side of childhood, with many children left behind by the systems that are meant to protect them.

The premise and plot of this book were intriguing but it was put together in an intricate story. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading it, and I couldn’t read the story fast enough. This was one of those special stories where after learning the ending, you can flip through the book to see where all the clues and breadcrumbs (as Claudia’s mom would say) left a trail throughout the story. It truly is a masterpiece of a plot.

Monday’s Not Coming should be required reading for everyone.

White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Have you read Monday’s Not Coming? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Excerpt: The Sorority Murder

Title: The Sorority Murder
Author: Allison Brennan
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: MIRA Books
Release Date: December 28, 2021

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A popular sorority girl. An unsolved murder. A campus podcast with chilling repercussions.

Lucas Vega is obsessed with the death of Candace Swain, who left a sorority party one night and never came back. Her body was found after two weeks, but the case has grown cold. Three years later while interning at the medical examiner’s, Lucas discovers new information, but the police are not interested.

Lucas knows he has several credible pieces of the puzzle. He just isn’t sure how they fit together. So he creates a podcast to revisit Candace’s last hours. Then he encourages listeners to crowdsource what they remember and invites guest lecturer Regan Merritt, a former US marshal, to come on and share her expertise.

New tips come in that convince Lucas and Regan they are onto something. Then shockingly one of the podcast callers turns up dead. Another hints at Candace’s secret life, a much darker picture than Lucas imagined–and one that implicates other sorority sisters. Regan uses her own resources to bolster their theory and learns that Lucas is hiding his own secret. The pressure is on to solve the murder, but first Lucas must come clean about his real motives in pursuing this podcast–before the killer silences him forever.

Excerpt:

One

Three Years Ago

Friday, April 10

 Candace Swain forced a smile as she walked out of her dorm room.

Smiling was the last thing she wanted to do, but Candace had an image to uphold.

She was going to be late for the Sigma Rho Spring Fling—the last big party before the end-of-year crunch. Studying for finals, capstones and senior projects, stress and more stress, and—for some of them—graduation.

The mild April weather was perfect for an outdoor gathering. Candace had led the sorority’s social-events committee with setup, and they’d included heat lamps along the perimeter. The Mountain View dorm—which housed all campus sororities, each with their own wing—was on the northeast corner of campus, adjacent to the football field. The Spring Fling was held on the large lawn that framed the north entrance, where they had the most room. It was open to all students for a five-dollar admission, and was one of the biggest moneymakers for the sorority, more than charities. Candace had fought for—and won—giving the profits to a rescue mission that helped people get back on their feet. She volunteered weekly for Sunrise Center, and it had changed how she viewed herself and her future. She now planned to be a nurse in the inner city, working for a clinic or public hospital, where people deserved quality health care, even if they were struggling. She even considered specializing in drug and alcohol issues, which were unfortunately prevalent among the homeless community.

She used to think of her volunteerism as penance for her failings. She wasn’t religious but had had enough preaching from her devout grandmother to have absorbed things like guilt, penance, sacrifice. Now, she looked forward to Tuesdays when she gave six hours of her time to those who were far worse off than she. It reminded her to be grateful for what she had, that things could be worse.

Candace exited through the north doors and stood at the top of the short flight of stairs that led to the main lawn. Though still early in the evening, the party was already hopping. Music played from all corners of the yard, the din of voices and laughter mingling with a popular song. In the dusk, the towering mountains to the north were etched in fading light. She breathed deeply. She loved everything about Flagstaff. The green mountains filled with pine and juniper. The crisp, fresh air. The sense of community and belonging felt so natural here, something she’d never had growing up in Colorado Springs. With graduation on the horizon, she had been feeling a sense of loss, knowing she was going to miss this special place.

She wasn’t close to her parents, who divorced right before she started high school and still fought as much as they did when they were married. She desperately missed her younger sister, Chrissy, a freshman at the University of South Carolina. She’d wanted Chrissy to come here for college, but Chrissy was a champion swimmer and had received a full scholarship to study practically a world away. Candace had no plans to return to Colorado Springs, but she didn’t know if she wanted to follow her sister to the East Coast or head down to Phoenix where they had some of the best job opportunities for what she wanted to do.

Vicky Ryan, a first year student who had aspirations of leadership, ran up to her.

“That weirdo is back,” Vicky said quietly. “Near the west steps. Just loitering there, freaking people out. Should I call campus police?”

Candace frowned. The man Vicky was referring to was Joseph, and he wasn’t really a weirdo. He was an alcoholic, and mostly homeless, who sometimes wandered onto campus and wouldn’t accept the help he had been repeatedly offered. He wasn’t violent, just confused, and sometimes got lost in his own head, largely from how alcohol had messed with his mind and body. But his problems understandably made her sorority sisters uncomfortable. He’d twice been caught urinating against the wall outside their dorm; both times, he’d been cited by campus police. He wasn’t supposed to be on campus at all anymore, and Candace knew they’d arrest him if he was caught.

“I’ll take care of it,” Candace said and made her way around the edge of the party.

She found Joseph on the narrow grassy knoll that separated the football field from the dorms. A small group of students approached her, but one in their group turned toward the grass, likely to confront Joseph.

Candace walked faster, caught up with the student, and smiled brightly. “I got this.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “I’ll handle him.”

“I said I will take care of this. I know him. But thank you anyway.”

Mr. Macho didn’t want to walk away, yet Candace stood firm. She didn’t want anyone to harass Joseph, and she knew he would listen to her. While he wasn’t violent, he could be belligerent, and being confronted by a jerk wanting to impress his girlfriend was a surefire way to trigger Joseph and have him dig in his heels. It would only lead to an arrest, and that wasn’t going to help him in the long run.

The group walked off, grumbling; Candace ignored them. She approached Joseph cautiously, so as not to startle him. “Joseph, it’s Candace,” she said. “Remember me? From Sunrise Center?”

He turned slowly at the sound of her voice. A tall man, nearly six foot four, he could intimidate people. But he was also skinny and hunched over from years of walking the streets and looking down, rummaging through garbage, with his hangdog face, ragged salt-and-pepper beard, and watery blue eyes. He was the kind of guy her grandmother would have called a bum—dressed in multiple layers of dirty, mismatched clothes, and smelling of dirt and stale beer. He looked about sixty, but she knew that he was only in his early forties. She’d heard he’d been living along Route 66 for the better part of ten years. The people who ran Sunrise Center didn’t know much about his personal life, only that when he was sober (which was rare), he would talk about home being east, at the “end of the line.” But no one knew if that meant Chicago or any of the stops in between.

Candace wanted to know more about his story, how he came to be in these circumstances, why he wouldn’t—or couldn’t—accept help. Many of the homeless who came to Sunrise for shelter or food would talk to her freely. But not Joseph. When she’d pried once, he disappeared for a while, so she stopped asking. She would rather him be safe than riding the rails, which was dangerous.

“Candace,” he said slowly after several moments.

“You can’t be here, Joseph. The campus police told you that. Don’t you remember?”

He didn’t say anything or acknowledge that he understood what she said.

“Would you like me to take you over to Sunrise Center? You can get a hot meal there, maybe a cot for the night.”

Again, silence. He turned away from her but didn’t leave.

She really didn’t want to call campus police, but if she didn’t do something, someone else would.

“Is there a reason you are here?” she asked.

“Leave me alone,” he said.

“I will, but you have to leave. Otherwise someone is going to call the police.” If they haven’t already.

He abruptly turned toward her, staggered on the slope of the lawn. His sudden movement startled her; she stepped back.

“No cops!” he shouted.

“You have to leave, Joseph,” she said, emphatic. Her heart pounded in her chest, not so much from fear but uncertainty. “Please go.”

Again, he turned abruptly, this time staggering down the short slope toward the stadium fence. She held her breath, watching him. He almost ran into the fence, put his arms out to stop himself, then just stood there. A minute later, he shuffled along the field perimeter, shoulders hunched, without looking back.

She breathed easier, relieved that he was heading off campus. She would talk to the director of Sunrise on Tuesday, when she went in to volunteer. Joseph couldn’t keep coming here, but she didn’t really want to call the authorities on him. He needed help, not more trouble, and definitely not incarceration.

Candace was about to return to the party when she heard someone call her name. She turned and saw one of her former tutoring students, Lucas Vega, running toward her. She didn’t want to talk to Lucas tonight. How many times did she have to tell him to leave her alone?

She stopped anyway and waited.

“Candace,” he said, catching his breath. “Thanks.”

“What do you want?” she snapped, crossing her arms over her chest.

“I’m sorry.”

“Sorry,” she said bluntly.

“I didn’t mean to upset you the other day. I am sorry about that.”

She blinked. He sounded so sincere. And truth be told, something he’d said to her a few days earlier made her think long and hard about herself, her life, and the time she’d spent as a student at Northern Arizona University.

A lie for a good reason is still a lie.

Lucas and his wide-eyed, good-natured innocence, his innocuous questions had her feeling guilty for no reason. He had picked up on that. And pushed.

No reason? Ha. Plenty of reasons. All these doubts and worries she’d been having this semester, the sleepless nights, all came from something she’d done as a freshman that she now had good reason to regret. But what could she do about it? What would come of the truth now?

Maybe there was no good reason to lie.

“All right,” she said. “Thank you.” It was easier to forgive Lucas than to hold on to this anger. None of what happened was Lucas’s fault.

“So will you tutor me again, for finals?”

“No. Afraid not.” She could forgive him for prying, but she really needed first to forgive herself. And she didn’t know if she could do that with Lucas around, reminding her of her failures and mistakes. He didn’t even know what she’d done, but seeing him now was like reliving the past, and her chest tightened. “I’m sorry, but I have too much studying of my own, too many tests. And I’m not working at the writing lab anymore.”

Because of you.

Was that even fair? Was it because of Lucas…or because of her own guilt?

He was disappointed, but that wasn’t her problem.

“Okay, I understand,” he said.

“Besides, you’re smart. You’ll be fine.”

He shrugged. “Thanks.”

“Uh, you want to come to the party?” She gestured over her shoulder. They could hear the music from where they stood. “I’ll get you a pass. Won’t even cost you the five bucks.”

He shook his head. “I’m fine. I’m not really one for parties. But thanks anyway.”

He turned to leave.

“Lucas,” she said. He looked at her over his shoulder. “I’m really sorry.”

Then she left him there, waiting for something she couldn’t give him.

It took Candace several minutes before she could work up the courage to return to the party. An idea she’d been thinking about for the last few months was now fully developed, as if something inside clicked after her brief conversation with Lucas. Everything shifted into place, and she knew what she needed to do; it was the only thing she could do.

No one was going to like her decision.

When she realized she no longer cared what anyone thought, a burden lifted from her heart. She was certain then that she was doing the right thing.

Everyone at the party was asking for Candace, and Vicky had become worried when her friend and mentor hadn’t returned after thirty minutes. She sought out Taylor James, the Sigma Rho president, and told her about the homeless guy. “I don’t know where Candace is,” she said. “I should have just called campus police.”

“Candace says he’s harmless,” Taylor said, frowning. “Sometimes she’s so naive. I’ll go look for her.”

“Thanks. The party is great by the way. Everyone seems to be having fun. How does it compare to previous years?” This was the first party Vicky had helped put together for the sorority, so she was eager to know how well she’d done.

“As good or better,” Taylor said with a wide smile.

Vicky tried not to gloat as she practically floated over to her friends chatting near one of the heat lamps. It wasn’t cold, but the warmth of the heat lamp and the glow from the string lights added terrific ambience to the place.

“Oh my God, Vicky, this is a blast,” her roommate, Nicole Bergamo, said. Nicole was a half-Black, half-Italian math major who could have easily been a model she was so tall and stunning. “Everyone is talking about how great it is.”

Vicky smiled, talked for a bit, then moved around, being social, doing all the things that she’d seen Sigma Rho board members do. Hundreds of people were dancing, talking, mingling, eating, drinking, playing games. Mostly, they were having fun, which was the whole purpose. When the new Sigma Rho advisor, Rachel Wagner, told her it was the best Sigma Rho party she’d been to ever, Vicky thought she’d never come down from cloud nine.

“I agree,” said the gorgeous woman who was with Rachel. “I’m Kimberly Foster, by the way,” she introduced herself. “I’m a sorority alum, and I’m so happy I came up this weekend. You’ve done a fantastic job. Rachel said you’re part of the social-events committee. Isn’t Candace leading the committee? I haven’t seen her yet.”

“Yes, she’s around,” Vicky said. “This is all her vision. We just implemented it.”

“I love Candace. Oh! I see her over there.”

Vicky looked to where Kimberly was gesturing. Candace was talking in a small group.

“I’m going to catch up with her,” Kimberly said. “Nice to meet you, Vicky.”

The two women walked away, and Vicky continued her rounds. She was having a blast as her worries that the party might flop were replaced with pride and satisfaction over its success.

Hours later it was midnight, and per city ordinance—because their dorm bordered a public street—they had to cut off the music. That put a damper on things, but it was fine with Vicky—she was exhausted after working all day prepping and all night making sure everything was running smoothly. She was a little miffed that Candace was hardly there: Vicky had only caught a glimpse of her twice. But whatever, she’d seemed preoccupied, and that would have been a party downer.

Vicky ran into the dorm to get extra trash bags—they had to clean up tonight so wild animals wouldn’t get into the garbage and create a bigger mess in the morning. She came back out and heard voices arguing near where the DJ had been set up. He’d already packed up and left. She couldn’t hear exactly what was being said. It seemed like a quiet, intense exchange between Taylor and Candace though Rachel and her guest Kimberly were there, too. Everyone, especially Taylor, seemed angry.

About sixty people were still milling around, mostly Sigma Rho sisters helping with the cleanup. Nicole came up to Vicky and said, “What are Candace and Taylor fighting about?”

“I don’t know. It’s probably nothing.”

“It’s not nothing,” Nicole said. “I heard Taylor call Candace a selfish bitch.”

“Ouch. Well, Rachel is there. She’ll mediate.”

But Rachel looked angry as well; it seemed that Candace was on one side, and the other three women were yelling at her.

“You’re wrong!” Candace screamed, and Vicky jumped. She glanced at Nicole, who looked perplexed as well. Vicky handed her a garbage bag, and they both started picking up trash. She didn’t want anyone to think she was eavesdropping.

But she was. As she inched closer to the group, she heard Kimberly say, “Let’s talk about this tomorrow, okay? When everyone has had a good night’s sleep and we can all think more clearly.”

“I am thinking clearly,” Candace said. “I’m done. Just…done.”

She left, walked right past Vicky without even seeing her. There were tears in Candace’s eyes, and Vicky didn’t know if she was angry or upset, but probably both. Vicky thought about going after her to make sure she was okay, then felt a hand on her shoulder.

She jumped, then laughed nervously when she saw Rachel. Taylor and Kim had walked away in the other direction.

“Sorry. You startled me.”

“I’m sorry you had to witness that,” Rachel said.

“I didn’t, really. Just saw that Taylor and Candace were arguing about something. I didn’t want to intrude.”

“It’s going to be fine. Just a little disagreement that Candace took personally.”

“About the party?” Vicky asked, her insecurities rising that she’d messed up something.

“Oh, no, the party was perfect. Don’t worry about that.”

Relieved, she said, “Maybe I should go talk to Candace.”

“No, let her be. I’ve known her since she was a freshman and took my Intro to Bio class. She has a big heart, and sometimes you can’t help everyone.”

Now Vicky understood, or thought she did. Taylor had been the most vocal about the creepy homeless guy hanging around the dorms, and she’d been the one who’d called campus police last time, after Candace said not to.

“Let me help,” Rachel said and took a garbage bag from Vicky’s stash.

Rachel chatted with Vicky, who felt lucky to be able to spend so much one-on-one time with her sorority advisor. Rachel was so smart, an associate professor at just thirty-two, an alum of the University of Arizona Sigma Rho chapter. Plus she had such interesting stories to share. By the time they were done with the cleanup—it didn’t take long with so many people working together—Vicky had forgotten all about the argument between Candace and Taylor.

It was the last time anyone saw Candace alive.

Excerpted from The Sorority Murder by Allison Brennan, Copyright © 2021 by Allison Brennan. Published by MIRA Books.

About the author:

ALLISON BRENNAN is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels. She has been nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers and the Daphne du Maurier Award. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, Allison lives in Arizona with her husband, five kids and assorted pets. The Sorority Murder is the first of a new mass market series.

Where to buy:

Have you read The Sorority Murder? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: My Darling Husband

Title: My Darling Husband
Author: Kimberly Belle
Genre: Thriller, Contemporary
Publisher: Park Row
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: December 28, 2021 (paperback will be published March 8, 2022)
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Jade and Cam Lasky are by all accounts a happily married couple, with two adorable kids, a spacious home and a rapidly growing restaurant business. But their world is tipped upside down when Jade is confronted by a masked home invader. As Cam scrambles to gather the ransom money, Jade starts to wonder if they’re as financially secure as their lifestyle suggests, and what other secrets her husband is keeping from her.

Cam may be a good father, a celebrity chef and a darling husband, but there’s another side he’s kept hidden from Jade that has put their family in danger. Unbeknownst to Cam and Jade, the home invader has been watching them and is about to turn their family secrets into a public scandal.

With riveting twists and a breakneck pace, My Darling Husband is an utterly compelling thriller that once again showcases Kimberly Belle’s exceptional talent for domestic suspense.

Review:

Cam Lasky is a famous chef in Atlanta with a few high-priced restaurants. He arrives at his biggest restaurant to find that it’s burned down. While he’s dealing with the insurance, his wife, Jade, is confronted with a masked intruder who has trapped her and her two children in their home. The kidnapper is asking for a specific amount in ransom, which Jade thinks won’t be a problem for her successful husband to put his hands on in a few hours. However, Jade doesn’t know about the secrets her husband has been keeping from her, that could determine if anyone gets out of this situation alive.

This was a fast paced and suspenseful thriller. There were great cliffhangers at the end of chapters that made me keep reading. It was really hard to put down because I needed to know how it ended.

There were a couple of surprising twists at the end of the story. However, some of the subplots weren’t related to the main plot. I won’t mention them and give them away, but they were really good subplots, yet they didn’t really add to the main plot. I would have loved it if all of these plot threads came together at the end.

My Darling Husband is a fast paced thriller!

Thank you HarperCollins for providing a copy of this book.

Tell Me My Name by Erin Ruddy

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle

About the author:

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of seven novels, including her latest, My Darling Husband (December 2021). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Have you read My Darling Husband? What did you think of it?

Review: You’ll Be the Death of Me

Title: You’ll Be the Death of Me
Author: Karen M. McManus
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Contemporary
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: November 30, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Ivy, Mateo, and Cal used to be close. Now all they have in common is Carlton High and the beginning of a very bad day.

Type A Ivy lost a student council election to the class clown, and now she has to face the school, humiliated. Heartthrob Mateo is burned out–he’s been working two jobs since his family’s business failed. And outsider Cal just got stood up…. again.

So when Cal pulls into campus late for class and runs into Ivy and Mateo, it seems like the perfect opportunity to turn a bad day around. They’ll ditch and go into the city. Just the three of them, like old times. Except they’ve barely left the parking lot before they run out of things to say…

Until they spot another Carlton High student skipping school–and follow him to the scene of his own murder. In one chance move, their day turns from dull to deadly. And it’s about to get worse.

It turns out Ivy, Mateo, and Cal still have some things in common. They all have a connection to the dead kid. And they’re all hiding something.

Now they’re all wondering–could it be that their chance reconnection wasn’t by chance after all?

From the author of One of Us Is Lying comes a brand-new pulse-pounding thriller. It’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with murder when three old friends relive an epic ditch day, and it goes horribly–and fatally–wrong.

Review:

Ivy worked hard to be the top student and was class president for the last three years. That’s why she was shocked to lose the student council election to class clown Brian “Boney” Maloney. It upsets her so much that she decides to skip school on the day after the election results. She runs into her two former best friends: Cal and Mateo. Cal was just stood up for a date again, and Mateo is burned out from working two jobs and being lied to by his cousin. Ivy, Cal, and Mateo decide to skip school, to recreate the first time they met and skipped school years before. However, this time, they come across the body of a student who they’re all connected to. Each of them are suspects, so they spend the day investigating the death and running from everyone else.

This was another fabulous thriller from Karen M. McManus. It was fast paced and thrilling the entire time. It was so hard to put this book down. I needed to know how it ended.

I haven’t read many thrillers lately, because I’ve found them formulaic and easy to figure out. This one has so many shocking twists that kept me reading. I was truly surprised at every twist, especially the big reveals at the end. This was such a well written, suspenseful thriller.

You’ll Be the Death of Me is an amazing new thriller!

Thank you Penguin Random House for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

This Is Why We Lie by Gabriella Lepore

Have you read You’ll Be the Death of Me? What did you think of it?