A fun Bookstagram challenge tag from the wonder duo of Shannon (@givemeallthebooks) and Jamie (@beauty_andthebook_)
This is a stack of books that were hits so far this summer. Ones that you read and loved and would definitely recommend to other readers. Even though two of these were 4 star reviews, they’re still books I immensely enjoyed and will continue to recommend them!
So, here is my #StarsOfSummerStack 🙂 And their reviews (of course)
THE WOLF WANTS IN – Laura McHugh – 5 stars
I’ve heard great things about McHugh’s books and I was so ready to start her newest release, THE WOLF WANTS IN. This one is the definition of small towns and their deep secrets that people are willing to protect at any cost. This was a fast paced mystery and I loved every reveal as the story progressed.
We have two perspectives: Sadie and Henley. Sadie’s story is present day while Henley’s starts four months prior. Sadie’s world is rocked when her brother suddenly and unexpectedly dies. His wife, Crystle, claims it was his heart medications that did it and he had a heart attack. She didn’t want an autopsy and she was very quick to have the funeral and get his things out of the house. Odd behavior from a woman who is supposedly in mourning, and this leaves Sadie, her sister, and her mother with no answers.
Meanwhile, we have Henley, a young girl that is working as a maid in place of her mother at the Sullivan house. The family is wealthy and well-known throughout the town. Her mother has known drug problems and currently is MIA. She begins to develop a relationship with Jason Sullivan, who grew up in a very different world than she did. Henley is fiercely loyal to her family and knows that you don’t get into anyone’s business – especially when it came to the activities of her uncles and cousins.
As all of this is going on we have a discovery of the skull remains of a young girl that went missing years before. Hannah, Sadie’s old friend, had tragedy strike when her ex-husband ran off with their daughter and they were never found. They also uncover his remains in the woods not too far away from Macey’s body. Was this a case of murder/suicide or is there more to it?
I loved how the story built and the mystery grew. McHugh expertly adds in little reveals and makes you question what you thought to be true. I did have part of it figured out early on, but not the final reveal at the end. There is a bleak overtone to the story and we get an examination of what addiction and drugs can do to a small town. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a quick mystery read and to those that love the small town secrets theme.
LOCK EVERY DOOR – Riley Sager – 5 stars
Holy crap, guys. Riley Sager quickly became an auto-buy author for me after FINAL GIRLS and I was reminded why after I picked up LOCK EVERY DOOR. I sat down with this on Sunday night, couldn’t get very far because sleep was needed, but I flew through pages 80 until the end in about 2 hours on Monday. I just couldn’t stop!
Jules is having a rough time. She was just let go from her job and then she comes home to find her long-term boyfriend with another woman. She moves out and looks for a new job. She finds an ad for an apartment sitter at one of the most secretive and high-profile buildings in Manhattan – The Bartholomew. She gets to live in one of their luxury apartments, rent free, AND she’ll be paid $1,000 a week for her 3 month stay. The job comes with specific rules: no visitors, no nights away from the apartment, and do not disturb the other residents. Seems like an easy way to make a good amount of money, right?
The Bartholomew, of course, has a mysterious and creepy past. Is the building haunted? Why are other apartment sitters disappearing without a trace? Jules is determined to get to the bottom of things even if it puts her residency and her life at risk.
Let me tell you, I was not expecting that ending. The big reveal was not what I was anticipating because Sager did a phenomenal job pulling us in a different direction. The suspense stayed consistent throughout the book, a sense of foreboding loomed overhead, and you couldn’t deny all the weird things happening. If you’re a fan of Sager then this is an obvious addition to your TBR. If you’re wanting a binge-worthy thriller with a Gothic backdrop, then you’ll definitely love this one.
BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE – Rea Frey – 5 stars
Why haven’t I ever picked up a book by Rea Frey before?? I’ve read one book and I’m already calling her a new auto-buy author. I read through BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE in almost one sitting – damn you 2am! This is more of a domestic drama/suspense than a thriller, but there is plenty of drama to keep you sucked in.
I don’t even know where to begin without giving away any spoilers. All I can say is, so many secrets! Throughout the book we see through Lee, Grace, and Noah’s perspectives. Everyone has a secret they know they have to tell, but they are dreading the outcome. Telling the truth sets you free, but keeping a secret keeps you safe, right? I had a few times that I thought I had things all figured out, nope! I couldn’t believe how many curve balls that Frey threw at us, and they were all subtle ones where it wasn’t earth shattering, but enough to make you go – wait a second, what!
The characters were developed well and as the story unfolded we learned more and more about what makes them tick. I will be keeping an eye out for more from Frey the next time I’m at the bookstore and can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.
KEEPING LUCY – T. Greenwood – 5 stars
When I picked up RUST & STARDUST by T. Greenwood I fell in love with the writing and the story we got to experience. So when I saw KEEPING LUCY was coming out, I immediately knew I had to get a copy. I was not disappointed. A moving story about the lengths a mother will go to to protect her child – even from her husband and in-laws.
It’s 1969, and we open with Ginny going into labor two weeks early and during a Blood Moon. Which everyone around her warned her would happen. We experience her confusion and panic when the doctor explains to her in her groggy state that her daughter was born with defects, what they called mongoloid. She isn’t allowed to see her daughter for days and they continue to force her to rest. Her husband, Ab, finally is at her bedside and explains that he and his parents have sent their newborn daughter, Lucy, to an institution that cares for children “like her”.
Fast-forward two years, and her world turns upside down when an article is written about the institution she was sent to and they inhumane conditions the children live in. Determined to save her daughter, and finally meet her, Ginny, her best friend Marsha, and her six year old son, Peyton, all make the journey to get Lucy. After seeing what poor health Lucy is in and the obvious neglect she has been subjected to, Ginny makes the decision to keep Lucy and check her out for good. Things get complicated when we learn that her husband signed Lucy over to the state – Ginny is no longer seen as her mother or guardian and can be arrested for kidnapping if she doesn’t return Lucy. Here starts the desperate journey to keep Lucy safe.
Greenwood takes us across the country as Ginny tries to stay a step ahead of her husband. There was that slight feeling of cat-and-mouse, but this would definitely fall under the fiction category. You just feel for Ginny and her undying need and desire to keep her only daughter. As I was reading, I completely forgot the time period and was shocked how people treated children with mental/physical disabilities. I loved seeing Ginny grow in her independence from page one until the end. Having never gone against what her husband wanted, this was a story of growth and finding her strength. I’ll continue to pick up whatever Greenwood releases, and I would highly recommend this one for your summer TBR!
DEAD GIRL IN 2A – Carter Wilson – 5 stars
So last year I couldn’t stop raving about Carter Wilson’s book, MISTER TENDER’S GIRL, so when I saw he had another one releasing I was anxiously awaiting it. THE DEAD GIRL IN 2A was definitely different but with the same fast-paced and addictive writing style. Much like his other book, I read this one in two sittings. The short chapters coupled with the suspense and mystery of the story kept me hooked.
Have you ever had those moments where you see someone and you SWEAR you’ve met them or seen them before? There’s something familiar about them but you can’t quite place it? Jake and Clara experience this on their flight to Denver. Jake is on his way to ghostwrite for someone that is wanting their memoir published, and Clara has her own reasons for going to Denver. They experience this moment and play a version of 20 questions with each other to try and get to the bottom of it.
This encounter means more than they realize. Their paths cross again when they learn that they share a history that neither of them remembers. Sounds crazy, right? Well, let me tell you, it only gets crazier from here! I can’t really go into much more detail for fear of spoiling some twists.
Another book I’ve read, in a row, that has to do with memory. Man, these authors just want to mess with us! I love it, though. The Author’s Note in the back is definitely important to read – so don’t miss that. Memory is a fascinating thing. The small triggers we have for things we’ve long forgotten, feelings of deja vu, and so much more. The confusion these characters experience, the curiosity, the danger, it all felt so real. Wilson will remain an auto-buy author for me, and I highly recommend picking this one up if you’re wanting a binge read this summer.
MURDERABILIA – Carl Vonderau – 5 stars
Imagine being a kid and finding out that your father was a serial killer? That is the reality for William and his sister Polly. When they were young their father was arrested and convicted as the serial killer dubbed The Preying Hands. He was known for sending graphic photos of his victims to the newspapers, only these were carefully staged photos. He would cut off their hands and other body parts – he would position the hands in a praying position and then arrange the rest of the photo.
It’s been decades and William and Polly have changed their last names and are living happy lives without that stigma hanging over them. Until one day William receives a call from someone claiming to be his brother threatening him. Then he’s framed for a murder that is similar to that of his father. Will they be able to catch the man that is copying the notorious Preying Hands before it’s too late?
This was a thrilling read from start to finish. Being around 400 pages I wasn’t expecting to go through it as quickly as I did. Started last night and finished this morning! This cat and mouse game was suspenseful and gruesome. The way that these women were killed and then photographed was horrific and twisted – exactly what we look for in a serial killer thriller, right? This is told from William’s perspective as they try to catch his father’s copycat. Vonderau gives you just enough information to string you along to see what will happen next and really makes you feel the tension.
I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a new cat and mouse thriller!
THEME MUSIC – T. Marie Vandelly – 5 stars
Talk about an opening. Holy crap – that prologue really set the tone for the rest of the book. Dixie is the sole survivor from her father’s massacre of her family on Thanksgiving over a decade ago. She was barely 2 years old and was the only witness to what happened. Only knowing what was told her about the event, Dixie can only let her imagination run wild with the details. Now as an adult, she was browsing through homes for sale, and there it is. The home she once lived in where the massacre took place. I mean, we’d all want to buy it and live there, right? Um, I would have to take a hard pass, but Dixie’s curiosity gets the best of her and she decides to move in.
As you would expect, creepy things start to happen. Even if it wasn’t a paranormal presence, I feel like your imagination would get to you being back in that house. Dixie reclaims all of her family’s belongings from her aunt and brings them all back to the house. In a way of trying to feel connected to them because she was robbed of ever creating memories with her brothers and parents. I couldn’t do it. Maybe you could convince me to go through their things or walk through the house once, but not live there with all of their belongings.
I think for those thriller fans out there that enjoy a paranormal element to their books will love this one. If you’re a fan of the paranormal stories, then this will be a quick read with a psychological thriller element. I couldn’t put it down, and it’s quite the insane ride from start to finish! I can’t wait for more from Vandelly.
THE ARRANGEMENT – Robyn Harding – 5 stars
I’ve been in love with Robyn Harding since THE PARTY and she quickly became an auto-buy author for me. Do you want a binge read that you just don’t want to put down? Well, THE ARRANGEMENT needs to be on your TBR.
We are brought into the world of sugar daddies and sugar babies. Nat is an art student struggling to make her rent and other bills every month. After losing her job, Nat is desperate to find a new source of income. A classmate of hers introduces her to a sugar baby website and opens her eyes to a whole new world.
She meets Gabe, how becomes her first sugar daddy. They make an arrangement to have their relationship become more official. A new apartment, monthly allowance, gifts, and traveling. Nat falls in love with Gabe and things get complicated when he abruptly ends things. Secrets, sex, money, and even murder. This book will keep you on your toes!
I loved seeing that Harding put in so much research into this book. She even joined one of the websites for her to better understand this world. I highly recommend picking up anything by Harding and now the wait begins for her next book!
MINE – Courtney Cole – 5 stars
I don’t even know where to start with this. I read this in an evening – I just could not put it down! I started at home before we ran errands and continued in our hour drive to our destination. MINE is the definition of a binge-read. Make sure you clear out some time in your schedule when you pick this one up!
Tessa seems to have it all – a successful make up company, 3 teenage kids, and a loving husband of over 2 decades. After dropping her kids off at her parents’ house for the weekend, she gets home to spend the time alone with her husband. Plans change when his flight is delayed from New York and a hurricane starts up. Planning on getting some work done, she comes across some explicit texts and photos on her husband’s iPad from another woman. What do you do in a blind rage when you find out your husband is being unfaithful? Well, you lure the mistress to your home for some answers, right?
I don’t want to go into anymore detail because this book is CRAZY! Tessa and Lindsey have a night they’ll probably never forget as we’re brought through the details of Ethan’s infidelity. Going from Tessa’s perspective (present day) and Lindsey’s perspective (from when she meets Ethan to this night), we get a glimpse into how the events culminated into one insane evening. The emotions felt throughout this book are so real and this is an entirely plausible premise. I definitely recommend reading the Acknowledgments at the end – knowing this is based on Cole’s experiences with infidelity made it even more authentic and real.
I recommend this to everyone and anyone that wants a thrill-ride and a good dose of crazy. Plenty of action and intensity to keep you sucked in from page one. Like they say – hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
RECURSION – Blake Crouch – 5 stars
I’m ashamed to say that this is my first time picking up a book by Blake Crouch. I know, I know! I’ve had DARK MATTER and a couple of his other books on my shelves for years now and I’m just kicking myself for not having listened to everyone sooner. RECURSION can only be described as mind-blowing. Holy shit, guys, I completely understand the hype around this book. It took me a while to try and put together my thoughts on this one so it made sense (and without spoiling anything).
What would you do if you woke up one morning and your entire life as you knew it was all a lie? The memories of loved ones, experiences, life events, and everything else that shapes you as a person were all false. Your entire perception on reality is warped and not knowing what you can trust if your memories are false? How could this be possible? This is the reality for those suffering from False Memory Syndrome. People living with dual memories of different lives. This concept is terrifying to me. Imagine not being able to trust everything you thought was true. The human mind is endlessly fascinating to me and there are so many things we still don’t know and understand about memory. It’s so vital to who we are as individuals – our experiences and upbringings shape us into who we are today and I couldn’t imagine not being able to trust all of those memories.
Words can’t describe how incredibly unique and well-crafted this story is from Crouch. I don’t know how he came up with this idea but the execution of it was incredible. I know it sounds confusing and complicated, but he wove this story so effortlessly that it was surprisingly easy to follow. The things these characters go through and experience, you feel for them all. I don’t know how I would be able to cope in some of these situations.
Bottom line, even if you’re not the biggest fan of science fiction this is still worth picking up. You know it’s a good book when you sit there and reflect on it after you’ve turned the last page. Now I need to finally take DARK MATTER off the shelves and start that one up!
THE FIRST MISTAKE – Sandie Jones – 4 stars
This was my introduction to Jones, her other book THE OTHER WOMAN is on my TBR and I’m definitely bumping it up the list! THE FIRST MISTAKE was a great domestic drama/suspense and I finished it in two sittings. We see through the perspective of Alice and her best friend Beth. Part one is present day in Alice’s POV, part two is Beth’s POV (9 years ago), and part three is back to present day from both perspectives. I do love when authors alternate like this.
Alice is a successful interior designer with a company, AT Designs, that has really taken off. She has a loving husband, Nathan, and two daughters, Sophia and Olivia. Everything seems perfect considering a decade earlier she had lost her first husband, Tom, in a tragic skiing accident. One day she begins to find things that are pointing to Nathan having an affair; an earring in his car, flowers for someone else delivered to their house, suspect hotel receipts. Is Nathan having an affair or is Alice just imagining things?
Let me tell you, I definitely thought I had it figured out after the end of part one, but things took a turn I wasn’t expecting. There were two bigger twists within the last like 50ish pages that I didn’t see coming. During the first part of the book it felt a little slow as we built up the tension and suspicion against Nathan, but then it really picked up! I loved how both women were really fleshed out and we got into their heads and I enjoyed Jones’ writing style. I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next!
JUST ONE BITE – Jack Heath – 5 stars
Last year I picked up Jack Heath’s HANGMAN – book one in the Timothy Blake series. A consultant for the FBI with a penchant for riddles and puzzles. He is asked to come in on the more complicated cases and assist and in return he would get a very unorthodox payment. Timothy’s dark secret? Well, he’s a cannibal. I HIGHLY recommend picking up HANGMAN first because you will be missing out on a ton of information if you try to jump into the series with book two.
We’re back with Blake and he is now working on the other side of the law. Once a consultant for the FBI he is now working for local crime lord in body disposal – a win/win situation for both parties. One night, Blake comes across a body he wasn’t supposed to find and keeps it for himself. Things get complicated when Agent Thistle from the FBI contacts him to help on a new cases that they’re hoping is just a couple missing person’s cases and not the beginnings of a serial killer.
What I loved about book one was the dark humor and thoughts while living in Blake’s mind. His internal dialogue is great and I loved getting to know him again and see him grow. The relationship between Blake and Thistle has a new dynamic after book one and continues to develop. We get some twists and turns I wasn’t anticipating and I really enjoyed the crazy ride. That ending! I’m not looking forward to the long wait for the third book in the series – I need to know what’s going to happen next!
If you like dark humor and want something that’s a cross between Dexter and Sherlock Holmes, then look no further! Oh, and you’ll get to enjoy a riddle before each chapter (this was something I loved because, like Blake, I love a good puzzle!)