Book Review: ONE LITTLE SECRET by Cate Holahan

Within 24 hours of receiving a galley of Cate Holahan’s thriller ONE LITTLE SECRET, I finished the book and published a review. If that’s not the definition of a “page-turner,” I don’t know what is!

While the novel’s beginning overwhelms with a robust cast of characters, the narrative quickly comes into focus as individual characters are fleshed out and their entanglements and conflicts are brought into full relief. Each chapter ending propelled me into the next in a voracious search for the truth. But, as readers learn throughout this journey, truth is complicated: an infinite spectrum, shades of gray.

The beauty of ONE LITTLE SECRET lies not in its ability to dangle readers on the hook or in its suspenseful rendering of “real-life” scenarios, although it achieves both seamlessly. No, the novel’s pinnacle achievement is in the crafting and representation of relatable individuals: ones who have indisputable redeeming qualities despite their obvious flaws. This duplicity of human nature, and the exploration how far one will go to protect family and self, make for a captivating, quality read.

This title is currently available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released on July 9, 2019:

NOTE: Special thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for granting me an advance e-copy of this title.

Holly’s Mid-Year Highlight Reel: Five 5-Star Reads

1. THE HUNTING PARTY by Lucy Foley

Everyone’s invited…everyone’s a suspect…

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?

2. THE WOMAN IN THE DARK by Vanessa Savage:

In the vein of The Couple Next Door, a debut psychological thriller about a woman who moves with her family to the gothic seaside house where her husband grew up — and where 15 years ago another family was brutally slaughtered.
Sarah and Patrick are happy. But after her mother’s death, Sarah spirals into depression and overdoses on sleeping pills. While Sarah claims it was an accident, her teenage children aren’t so sure. Patrick decides they all need a fresh start and he knows just the place, since the idyllic family home where he was raised has recently come up for sale. There’s only one catch: for the past fifteen years, it has become infamous as the “Murder House”, standing empty after a family was stabbed to death within its walls.

Patrick believes they can bring the house back to its former glory, so Sarah, uprooted from everything she knows, pours her energy into painting, gardening, and giving the rotting old structure the warmth of home.

But with locals hinting that the house is haunted, the news that the murderer has been paroled, strange writing on the walls, and creepy “gifts” arriving on the doorstep at odd hours, Sarah can’t shake the feeling that something just isn’t right. Not with the house, not with the town, or even with her own, loving husband — whose stories about his perfect childhood suddenly aren’t adding up. Can Sarah uncover the secrets of the Murder House before another family is destroyed?

3. THE HOMECOMING by Andrew Pyper

Bestselling author Andrew Pyper returns with a riveting psychological thriller about how the people you’ve known your whole life can suddenly become strangers.

What if everything you knew about the people you loved was a lie?

After the death of their absentee father, Aaron and Bridge Quinlan travel to a vast rainforest property in the Pacific Northwest to hear the reading of his will. There, they meet up with their mother and troubled sister, Franny, and are shocked to discover the will’s terms: in order to claim their inheritance they must all remain at the estate for thirty days without any contact with the outside world. Despite their concerns, they agree.

The Quinlans soon come to learn their family has more secrets than they ever imagined—revelations that at first inspire curiosity, then fear. Why does Bridge have faint memories of the estate? Why did their father want them to be sequestered there together? And what is out there they feel pulling them into the dark heart of the woods?

The Homecoming is at once a gripping mystery, a chilling exploration of how our memories can both define and betray us, and a riveting page-turner that will have you questioning your very existence.

4. THE LAST by Hanna Jameson

For fans of high-concept thrillers such as Annihilation and The Girl with All the Gifts, this breathtaking dystopian psychological thriller follows an American academic stranded at a Swiss hotel as the world descends into nuclear war—along with twenty other survivors—who becomes obsessed with identifying a murderer in their midst after the body of a young girl is discovered in one of the hotel’s water tanks. 

Jon thought he had all the time in the world to respond to his wife’s text message: I miss you so much. I feel bad about how we left it. Love you. But as he’s waiting in the lobby of the L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland after an academic conference, still mulling over how to respond to his wife, he receives a string of horrifying push notifications. Washington, DC has been hit with a nuclear bomb, then New York, then London, and finally Berlin. That’s all he knows before news outlets and social media goes black—and before the clouds on the horizon turn orange.

Now, two months later, there are twenty survivors holed up at the hotel, a place already tainted by its strange history of suicides and murders. Those who can’t bear to stay commit suicide or wander off into the woods. Jon and the others try to maintain some semblance of civilization. But when the water pressure disappears, and Jon and a crew of survivors investigate the hotel’s water tanks, they are shocked to discover the body of a young girl.

As supplies dwindle and tensions rise, Jon becomes obsessed with investigating the death of the little girl as a way to cling to his own humanity. Yet the real question remains: can he afford to lose his mind in this hotel, or should he take his chances in the outside world?

5. THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT by Chris Bohjalian

From the author of The Guest Room, a powerful story about the ways an entire life can change in one night: A flight attendant wakes up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed, with a dead man – and no idea what happened.

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She’s a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police – she’s a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home – Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it’s too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

Set amid the captivating world of those whose lives unfold at forty thousand feet, The Flight Attendant unveils a spellbinding story of memory, of the giddy pleasures of alcohol and the devastating consequences of addiction, and of murder far from home.

 

Highlight Reel: Nov-Dec

In spite of a heavier-than-normal grading season, I’ve been able to accomplish some “reading” via audiobooks during my daily commute.

Here are some of the most notable titles on my radar from the last few weeks.

~Holly

Favorites (5 stars)

The Troop by Nick Cutter

“Once every year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip—a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story around a roaring bonfire. But when an unexpected intruder stumbles upon their campsite—shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry—Tim and the boys are exposed to something far more frightening than any tale of terror. The human carrier of a bioengineered nightmare. A horror that spreads faster than fear. A harrowing struggle for survival with no escape from the elements, the infected…or one another.

Part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later—and all-consuming—this tightly written, edge-of-your-seat thriller takes you deep into the heart of darkness, where fear feeds on sanity…and terror hungers for more.”

River Bodies by Karen Katchur

“A body just turned up in the small town of Portland, Pennsylvania. The crime is eerily similar to a twenty-year-old cold case: another victim, brutally murdered, found in the Delaware River. Lead detective Parker Reed is intent on connecting the two murders, but the locals are on lockdown, revealing nothing.

The past meets the present when Becca Kingsley, who returns to Portland to be with her estranged but dying father, runs into Parker, her childhood love. As the daughter of the former police chief, Becca’s quickly drawn into the case. Coming home has brought something ominous to the surface—memories long buried, secrets best kept hidden. Becca starts questioning all her past relationships, including one with a man who’s watched over her for years. For the first time, she wonders if he’s more predator than protector.

In a small town where darkness hides in plain sight, the truth could change Becca’s life—or end it.”

Gilchrist by Christian Galacar

“Two years after losing their infant son to a tragic accident, Peter Martell, a novelist with a peculiar knack for finding lost things, and his wife, Sylvia, are devastated to learn they may no longer be able to have children. In need of a fresh start, and compelled by strange dreams, the couple decide to rent a lake house in the idyllic town of Gilchrist, Massachusetts, a place where bad things might just happen for a reason. As bizarre events begin to unfold around them—a chance encounter with a gifted six-year-old boy, a series of violent deaths, and repeated sightings of a strange creature with a terrifying nature—Peter and Sylvia find themselves drawn into the chaos and soon discover that coming to Gilchrist may not have been their decision at all.

Set against a small New England town in the summer of 1966, Gilchrist is a sinister tale about the haunting origins of violence, evil, and the undying power of memory.”

Honorable Mentions (4 stars)

October Reading Update, Part 2

Here’s what I’ve read since my last blog post! For most of these, I alternated between reading Kindle versions and listening to audio (Audible) versions on my commute.

I’ve had a really good run this time around; all listed below were excellent!

~Holly

  1. The Broken Girls by Simone St. James (5 stars)

2. Final Girls by Riley Sager (4.5 stars)

3. Haunted House by J.A. Konrath (5 stars)

4. Disturb by J.A. Konrath (4 stars)

 

October Reading Update

Here’s what I’ve read (or listened to) so far this month:

FIVE STARS (*****):
If you like thrillers at all, I highly recommend INFECTED by Scott Sigler.

Depending on time, I may do a separate review of this one: its brilliantly written, action-packed journey demands readers’ full attention.

FOUR STARS (****):
Ghost hunting on spring break? Sign me up!
Since I hadn’t read YA in a while, dipping into that genre again was a fun endeavor.

THREE STARS (***):

Because I typically love any entertainment that’s asylum-themed, Ibsen’s straightforward title and creepy book cover reeled me in. Unfortunately, not much happens in this book–instead, it felt like the back story or extended prelude to another book (and from what I can tell, there are at least two more books in the series). Disappointment aside, I worked as an adjunct instructor for a few years, so that angle was fun to read about from another’s perspective.

 

What is everyone else reading this month?

~Holly

Top-Rated Recent Reads

Since author Tess Gerritsen is the keynote speaker at a conference I’ll be attending in two weeks, I’ve spent the last month listening to audiobooks of hers during my work commute.

That being said, Gerritsen has made me a fan of the medical thriller.

Although I’ve read medical thrillers (at random) in the past, I’ve never devoured one after the other with wanton disregard for my burgeoning TBR.

Enter Harvest, Life Support, Bloodstream, and Gravity.

Gerritsen’s intricately researched contagions and conspiracies, grating surgical descriptions, and expertly spliced scenes ensure her titles are one-click-worthy.

All the ones I’ve read, linked below, are standalones and do not have to be read in any particular order. (Gerritsen is also the writer behind the Rizzoli & Isles series, but I haven’t gotten to any of those books yet.)

Happy Reading!
~Holly

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Book Review: This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

This is Our Story
by Ashley Elston
A good friend of mine loaned me this book through the Kindle lending program, and I am so glad she suggested it. This book was so good!

The story centers around the death of a popular senior from an elite boarding school in a small Louisiana town. The four main suspects: his best friends, the River Point Boys.

If that doesn’t intrigue you, the story is told through dual perspective…you get one of the River Point Boys, which you assume plays a bigger part in the killing than he lets on, and Kate, daughter of the secretary of the ADA who has the case. Almost like good and bad, dark and light, the opposing forces fighting with all their might…set aside teenage angst and hello mystery!

If you can’t tell, I loved this book! I needed a change from the cheesy romance, and this was the perfect book for that. I enjoyed the mystery, the suspense, the guessing game. I forget how much I love mysteries until I read a really good one. This was a really good one.

What stood out most for me was the author’s ability to hold the killer until the last few chapters. I had it narrowed down to two of the boys, but I really struggled deciding which one it would be. Even after the discovery, I still can’t see where she would have given away the answer. That to me is an awesome mystery.

Plus, I must add that Law & Order (any of them, but especially SVU) is one of my all time favorite series. I love a good crime drama and getting that extra touch was great for me.

If mysteries are your thing, I recommend this one!

4.5 out of 5 stars

-Taylon

Can we just take a minute?

On this edition with Thursdays with Taylon, can we just stop? Take a minute. And breathe.

Holly and I are both school teachers. She is a professor; I’m a high school teacher. We love teaching. Holly gets to talk books all day; I spend my days talking photography, community relations, and technology. We both get to make connections with our kids and help them see “the bigger picture.” It’s a calling, and we both love our jobs.

While we each have our own struggles, yesterday’s school shooting put things back in perspective. Every day we go to school, we have the ability to impact a student–in a positive or negative way. We do our best to have positive interactions, but let’s face it, life happens. We fail. Although we are pretty close, we aren’t perfect. (haha)

This book blog we do, we do because we love it. We have found our “people.” But not all of our kids have. Kids across the world need a group to call home. We are lucky enough to have found like-minded people who love to chat books and characters and win some pretty awesome giveaways.

Next time you see someone who is struggling, reach a hand out. Find some common ground. Show compassion. Share a smile. Everyone needs love. We should share ours.

Thanks for being a part of our tribe!

Book Review: Schooled by Piper Lawson

Schooled, by Piper Lawson

Schooled by [Lawson, Piper]

Check out this free book on Kindle! I loved the author blurb, and I jumped right in.

I enjoyed this story. The internal conflict between what your heart wants and what your head wants is something we all face. Living two lives, working several jobs, and trying to figure out who you are along the way. Well-written with great descriptions, Lawson is an author I will certainly read more of.

Warning: Do not read if you are not a fan of angst. There were several moments I was ready to strangle Lex, the main character. She was frustrating and immature. But overall, she was much better by the end!

Book Review: The Year of the Fog by Michelle Richmond

 

 

The Amazon blurb caught my attention, and the sale price of $1.99 made the one-clicking a no-brainer. But about five chapters in, I was ready to be done.

The main character, Abby Mason, is on the beach with her fiance’s six-year-old daughter, Emma. Abby looks away for less than a minute, and when she looks up, Emma is gone. Through the next year, the reader follows Abby through her experiences, her thoughts, and flashbacks. Even as others give up, she keeps looking for Emma.

I love this idea of this book. Girl loses fiance’s daughter. Fiance doesn’t know how to deal, how to forgive. Girl keeps looking, partly because she feels responsible, also because she doesn’t know what else to do with her life. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s one of my biggest fears: losing a child.

But the book did not hold my attention the way I wanted it. The back and forth chapters, the flashbacks to the most random moments from Abby’s childhood, etc. I just didn’t get it. I skimmed and skipped a lot of pages to get to the end. I wanted to know what happened, if Abby did find Emma, if she got a happy ending. I couldn’t walk away, but I also wasn’t stressing over reading all the details from Abby’s past.

Overall, the book isn’t a bad book. The story is a good, well-written story, with a plot line that makes you question and look at the world differently. For me, the story was just too slow. I do plan to give Michelle Richmond another chance. I enjoyed her narrative, and any author that can weave the past and present together the way she did deserves another chance.

-Taylon*

*This title was purchased by me; this review was not solicited by anyone or exchanged for anything.

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