review

Review: If We Were Villains by ML Rio

Summary: Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.

As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.

Genre: mystery, thriller, contemporary
Rating: ★★★★★

This is a PSA that dark academia has my heart completely and absolutely no other genre in the entire world can compare to how If We Were Villains makes me feel. I know I’ve been throwing out five-star reviews pretty frequently lately, but I truly have not been this enamored with a book since I read The Maidens by Alex Michaelides last year. I know that this book is going to stay with me for a long time, and even though I’m usually not someone who rereads, I cannot wait to revisit this and fall in love all over again.

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Review: My Sweet Girl by Amanda Jayatissa

Summary: Ever since she was adopted from a Sri Lankan orphanage, Paloma has had the best of everything—schools, money, and parents so perfect that she fears she’ll never live up to them.

Now at thirty years old and cut off from her parents’ funds, she decides to sublet the second bedroom of her apartment to Arun, who recently moved from India. Paloma has to admit, it feels good helping someone find their way in America—that is until Arun discovers Paloma’s darkest secret. Before Paloma can pay Arun off, she finds him face down in a pool of blood. She flees the apartment but by the time the police arrive, there’s no body—and no evidence that Arun ever even existed in the first place. Paloma is terrified this is all somehow tangled up in the desperate actions she took to escape Sri Lanka so many years ago. Did Paloma’s secret die with Arun or is she now in greater danger than ever before?

Genre: thriller, mystery
Rating: ★★★

I haven’t intentionally fallen off the face of the earth this last month, but I have been in a complete reading slump. Usually it happens when I read too many mediocre books in a row, which is what happened. I was hopeful that My Sweet Girl would be able to knock me out of it, because 1) the cover art is gorgeous and 2) despite it being a mystery, it sounded refreshing compared to most in the genre.

However, I really struggled to make my way through this. It took me almost three weeks to finish, and I had a difficult time connecting to it initially. At about the half-way point, I found myself wanting to reach the ending because I was interested in seeing how one small story arc played out (and thankfully it delivered!).

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Review: The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

Summary: In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men were murdered with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect–a rich, eccentric twenty-three-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted and retreated to isolation of her.

Oregon, 2017. Shea Collins runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea’s surprise, Beth says yes. They meet regularly at Beth’s mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she’s not looking, and she could swear she’s seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn’t right. Is she making friends with a murderer, or are there other dangers lurking?

Genre: mystery, thriller
Rating: ★★★

At this point, I don’t think anyone would be shocked to learn that I’m a true crime fan. So despite Shea and I having nothing in common, it was easy for me to understand her excitement when an alleged murderer strolled into her office one morning. Beth might have been acquitted of her alleged crimes, but that didn’t make her any less intriguing. Much like Shea, I couldn’t wait to discover the truth behind the murders. And knowing this was another hit from Simone St. James, whose stories I’ve adored so far, I flew through this book.

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Review: The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks + Sarah Pekkanen

Summary: If Avery Chambers can’t fix you in 10 sessions, she won’t take you on as a client. Her successes are phenomenal and almost absorb the emptiness she sometimes feels since her husband’s death.

Marissa and Mathew Bishop seem like the golden couple–until Marissa cheats. She wants to repair things, both because she loves her husband and for the sake of their 8-year-old son. After a friend forwards an article about Avery, Marissa takes a chance on this maverick therapist, who lost her license due to controversial methods.

When the Bishops glide through Avery’s door and Marissa reveals her infidelity, all three are set on a collision course. Because the biggest secrets in the room are still hidden, and it’s no longer simply a marriage that’s in danger.

Genre: thriller, mystery
Rating: ★★

The first time I picked up a book by the Hendricks and Pekkanen duo in 2018, my mind was blown. It shocked and impressed me that two authors with such distinct voices could cohesively write a book together that felt as though it came from one writer. I loved all the twists and turns, and truly did not see the story moving at all in the direction that it did. I told every single person I knew to go read their first story. I wanted to devour every single book these two created together, and so I have.

The problem is that, with every book they release together, the less impressed I become.

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Review: A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

Summary: When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, Chloe’s father had been arrested as a serial killer and put in prison. Chloe and her family were left to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.

Now 20 years later, Chloe is a psychologist in private practice in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. She finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to get. And then a local teenage girl goes missing, and then another, and that terrifying summer comes crashing back. Is she paranoid, seeing parallels that aren’t really there, or for the second time in her life, is she about to unmask a killer?

Genre: thriller, mystery
Rating: ★★★★

A Flicker in the Dark is a stunning debut novel that packs all the punches of the thriller genre without becoming a cliché story full of ridiculous tropes. I was immediately sucked into this story and had a truly difficult time setting it down. I wanted to rush to the end to figure out what happened and solve the mystery.

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