Tag Archives: psychological thriller

Book Review: Don’t Forget To Breathe – Captivating YA Psychological Thriller

Don’t Forget to Breathe

By Cathrina Constantine

Leocadia, Leo to her friends, is adrift in a life she doesn’t like but chose to enter. Up until last year she was an honor student. But after she found her mother murdered in their home and was assaulted by the killer, she withdrew from her grieving father and most of her friends. Her father drinks to numb his pain and she sometimes uses illegal substances to make it through the day.

A part of her still wants her former life, even though nothing will bring back her mother. She is cleaning up her act at school, stopped smoking, doing her homework again and hanging out with her best friend who never gave up on her. In the past year, Leo befriended a new kid, Henry, who was having trouble fitting in. He wants to be more than friends, but Leo does not feel the same towards him. Henry used to be her go-to guy to smoke a little weed with, but now that she is clean, she feels sorry for him, but is not attracted to him at all.

Nora, her best friend who never gave up on Leo introduces her to Becket Kane. Becket is one of the star football players at the school who has had his eye on Leo. They make a cute couple, even though Henry is always lurking in the shadows. Besides, Leo has had a really awful year and her mom’s killer is still on the loose, how can she get involved with a guy that could never understand.

When Henry persuades Leo to come to the local haunted house that is across the street from the home she lived in until the murder, she is unsure about facing her demons. But when she finds a picture of her mother in the infamous haunted house, along with some fresh flowers she is terrified.

Is the killer close? Will he strike again? Is it someone she knows? All of these questions and more are superbly spun into a tale of lies, deceit and death.

This novel moves at the speed of light, twisting and turning until the shocking last pages. It is a must read for any mystery/thriller fan. The characters and plot fit together seamlessly and it was impossible for me to figure out who the real bad guys actually were until the end. I had my suspicions, but when the motives are revealed, the subtle surprises gave me that “ah ha” moment every reader loves. It is a perfectly plotted psychological thriller, with no loose ends to leave the reader hanging.

This is the first novel that I have read by Cathrina Constantine, but not the first she has written. It is no wonder that Don’t Forget to Breathe is an award winner of the Literary Classics 2016 Gold Award, the 2016 New Apple Medalist Award Winner for YA/Mystery-Thriller and received the Literary Classics 2016 Gold Award.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Forbidden Door – Superb Suspense

The Forbidden Door

By Dean Koontz

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Former FBI agent Jane Hawk is back with a vengeance in the fourth installment of Koontz’s bestselling series. With law enforcement and the Techno Arcadians both searching for Jane and her young son, Travis, she has been forced to do things she never imagined doing before. She will do anything to save five-year-old Travis and the world as we know it.

Sure, there are things in this world that need to be changed, but not this way. Hordes of people look “normal” but have actually been altered by an injection of a Nano machine that takes over their brains to help the Arcadians create a perfect, supreme society. Part of their job is culling the herd so to speak, which includes murder and in some cases, suicide.

Jane has a personal stake in this game. Somehow they got to her husband and she will move heaven and earth to keep them away from anyone else she loves. She knew he would have never killed himself, so she started investigating and found out scores of people who were happy and productive also mysteriously committed suicide. As an FBI agent, she had resources available to help look for the reason why this happened, but now that she has become the most wanted person in the United States she has to move in the shadows. Keeping one step ahead of the bad guys both known and unknown is exhausting but Jane is relentless in her mission. Unfortunately, the Arcadians are ramping up at a frenzied pace and becoming more and more reckless causing things to begin going horrifically wrong.

The novel moves from Jane’s point of view to the Arcadians, both getting closer and closer to each other until the final confrontation of the book. As the tension rises, the forces of good and evil clash, determined to fight to the finish no matter what the cost.

Koontz is one of my favorite authors of all time. He delivers solid plots that are so realistic they can terrify you page after page. His descriptive style is absolutely stunning without dropping over the ledge of pretention. Foreshadowing is done artfully, such as …”lightning rips the fabric of the night, and thunder speaks against the window glass.” Seriously beautiful writing page after page without intruding or overpowering the plot is one of his specialties. Much to my delight, The Forbidden Door is no exception.

This is the fourth book in the Jane Hawk series, the fifth and last book, The Night Window, will be available in 2019. This is the second book of the series that I have read. Koontz does a great job of bringing the reader up to speed in an early chapter, so I never felt lost or confused.

I have read many of this award-winning author’s books, my favorite being the Odd Thomas series. The Jane Hawk series comes in a close second. Both series are totally different but are extremely well written and highly entertaining. When looking through the list of Koontz books to see which ones I would choose to be favorites, it was almost impossible. It is much like trying to pick a favorite child – I love them all for different reasons, each of them is amazing in their own way.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Lies – Heart Pounding, Page Turning Psychological Thriller

Lies

By T. M. Logan

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Joe has a great life, an ordinary life. Being married to Mel and father to William – Wills as he calls him, makes him content. He teaches school, helps around the house and does his fair share of parenting. Life is pretty darned good. That is until it slowly begins to unravel.

It all begins when Wills and Joe see Mel’s car on their way home from school. Wills wants to surprise her, but unfortunately Joe is the one who is surprised. Mel seems to be in some sort of meeting with an old college buddy, Ben Delaney. Joe knows Delaney, his daughter babysits Wills and their social circles sometimes intersect. He cannot figure out why Mel is meeting with him when she said she was at work.

Later, what begins as a conversation between Joe and Ben quickly develops into a confrontation. Words lead to shoving and Joe pushes Ben a little too hard. Shocked, he feels he must do something, but Wills is waiting in the car and has an immediate medical need that can’t be delayed. Once Wills is safely home and has been given his medicine, Joe worries about the fight he had with Ben. Giving an excuse to his wife, which is nowhere near the truth, he leaves the house to make sure Ben is okay.

When Joe gets back to the hotel parking lot where he left Ben, he is gone. Could Ben have been lying about his meeting with Mel? Was Ben hurt worse than it seemed when Joe had to attend to his son and left him bleeding next to his car?  Or was he fine and simply gone home.

Joe can’t tell Mel what happened or why. Then she lies to him about the meeting with Ben. As the lies pile up they gain momentum. And to make matters worse, it appears as though someone begins to systematically ruin Joe’s peaceful, perfect life. It begins almost immediately after the incident, whispers and rumors that become accusations and arrests. How did his life unravel in less than a week’s time? Will anyone believe the truth? Does Joe really know the truth about anyone or anything? His life depends upon him finding the true behind all of the lies before it is too late.

The scariest thing about this fabulous book is that it is totally believable. Technology and crime unfortunately have become willing partners. Life as we now know it could end with a few clicks of someone’s computer or a quick picture or two on an anonymous cell phone. Joe’s life goes from bad to worse in the time it takes to pay a bill or “like” something on FB. The tension ramps up from mild to out of control then continues with breakneck speed up until the final chapter.

Lies is Logan’s debut novel, published last year in the UK where he resides. It is now available in the US. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves mysteries featuring psychological twists and turns. The characters are everyday people you work with or that live next door. Who knows what secrets they have or what their past and/or present situations may motivate them to do.

Logan’s next book, 29 Seconds is also a psychological thriller and will be available in the US next year. It is available now in the UK if you happen to be traveling there, pick me up a copy.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Need to Know – Do You Really Know the Man You Love?

Need to Know

By Karen Cleveland

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Viv and Matt live a full life. Viv has a demanding job as a counterintelligence analyst for the CIA. While she is looking for Russian sleeper agents on U.S. soil, Matt takes on most of the duties of child rearing. They have a young daughter that is older than their twin boys. One of the boys has developmental problems requiring frequent visits to specialists that Matt willingly takes care of. Like any couple that has been married for over a decade, they know each other inside out.

Because of the cost of her son’s specialists, Viv had to go back to work sooner than she planned. But she loves and believes in the importance of her job. She is on the cusp of having her hard work to pay off. She has developed a program to identify people involved in these sleeper cells. Pictures start appearing on her monitor, she recognizes one of them. It is Matt.

Has her whole life been a lie? How could he be a Russian spy and did he marry her because she works for the CIA? The old adage of keeping your enemies close just might be the reason Matt met her in the first place. So many things run through Viv’s mind she can barely breathe, but she knows her husband is mixed up in something that has the ability to implode her family.

Once Matt is confronted, Viv realizes that she will have to make impossible decisions involving the country she loves and the safety of her family. She can no longer trust anything Matt says – or can she? Was he trapped in situation that he did not want to be in? Is he lying or telling her the truth? Viv has to make a move that will change the rest of their lives forever.

Debut novelist Karen Cleveland’s psychological thriller will keep you up late into the night. Her characters come to life on the pages and the twist in the last chapter will stay with the reader long after closing the book.

Need to Know could literally be ripped from today’s headlines. Recently I was in Washington D.C. at the Newseum. There is a section on spy cells that infiltrate the U.S. and how they are uncovered. The real life spies acted much like the ones in Cleveland’s novel. The realism of the book became more and more evident with each exhibit.

It is evident that Cleveland, a former CIA agent, is a gifted novelist. Need to Know holds a well-deserved spot on the New York Times Best Seller list. Film rights to the book have been sold – snatch up this book before the movie hits the screen. While I am excited to see the book come to life in the theaters, in my opinion, the book is always better than the movie and this one is outstanding.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Other Woman – Debut Author Delivers!

The Other Woman

By Sandie Jones

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Emily was picked up in a bar. She wasn’t looking for a man, but this adorable, well-dressed guy offers to buy her a drink and one thing leads to another. Emily falls fast and hard for Adam. He is a perfect man; smart, handsome, fun and single.

Their relationship begins to move at the speed of light. Dates turned to cohabitation, living together they quickly become engaged and everything in Emily’s world revolves around Adam. The only glitch in the relationship is Adam’s mother. He is truly a momma’s boy and will drop any and everything if she calls. And oddly enough, he has not brought Emily to his mother’s home so they can actually meet.

Once they do meet, Emily is even more confused. His mom seems delightful. That is until she is left alone with her. It is as though her future mother-in-law has two personalities. She is a sweet little old woman that needs 100% of her son’s attention that can turn into a conniving, meddling woman that will do anything to drive a wedge between her precious son and Emily in the blink of an eye. What lengths will this woman take to keep Emily and Adam from being together?

Emily cannot say anything against the other woman in Adam’s life, even when she begins to fear for her life. Something is going on that seems to be escalating into madness and Emily is going to have to get out of the situation before there is no turning back. But will Adam believe her?

This amazingly intricate psychological thriller cannot be put down. Just when you think you have everyone figured out, you realize nothing and no one is what and who they seem to be. Or are they? I literally did not know what was going to happen until the last pages.  In my opinion that is a fabulous psychological thriller.

This is the author Sandie Jones’ debut novel. It is an intriguing tale of mystery, suspense and of course a twisted psychological thriller. Ms. Jones is an author not to be missed; I am looking forward to reading more by this amazing author.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Exes’ Revenge – Fast Paced Psychological Thriller Not to Be Missed

The Exes’ Revenge

By Jo Jakeman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Phillip is a jerk. To be completely honest, he WAS a jerk because he is dead now. His ex-wives are at his funeral, as well as his current wife. But technically she isn’t his legal wife because he and his second wife never finalized the divorce. But all in all it doesn’t matter because he cannot hurt any of them, physically or psychologically ever again. Perhaps the three women have crossed the line of good and evil just like Phillip or maybe their survival instincts just kicked in.

The Exes’ Revenge opens with the funeral, so the reader knows up front the man is dead. But the events that lead to this funeral unfurl in the coming chapters like a flag in a sweet summer breeze that turns into a hurricane.

The three wives are unlikely cohorts, but Phillip and fear bind them together in a way that can never be understood by outsiders. He manipulates them against each other until he crosses the line of no return. But will one of them turn on the other two because deep down she cannot live without him?

Ruby, his first wife has always been a mother figure to him. Even though she has been on the receiving end of his bad temper, she has always forgiven him. But how can she possibly forgive him after finding out one of his best kept secrets?

Naomi, his third wife, is young and beautiful. She is the perfect trophy wife for Phillip to drag around to parties showing off his masculinity to his friends and co-workers. He expects her to keep a perfect home. Of course if she doesn’t there are consequences. She dare not call the police – he is a cop.

Imogen, the second (and not quite divorced) wife is the only one Phillip has a child with. Alistair is young and impressionable. He is happy with Imogen and terrified of his father. How could anyone trust a man like Phillip with her child?

The three women don’t really like each other, but are thrown together because of Phillip. They soon realize that the three of them must work together to get him out of their lives forever before one or more of them dies at his hand. The closer they get, they realize he has taken something from each of them that can never be replaced. He seems to have a knack of finding their greatest vulnerabilities and then somehow look innocent when tragedy strikes. As the novel progresses, the three women find out how cruel he is and it might just be a race to kill or be killed.

Jakeman’s psychological thriller is a page tuner you don’t want to miss. The well-developed characters will pull you into their nightmare because you know them like your favorite neighbor. Pay attention to the easy to read plot because many bits and pieces that may seem irrelevant will turn up in the last chapters fully explaining the means and motives of the main characters.

This is the first book I have read by Jo Jakeman. I really enjoyed her fast-paced writing style. She brings full characters to life and puts them in a plot that twists and turns until the end. This is Jo Jakeman’s second novel. The first, Sticks and Stones, is on my list to read. I can’t get enough of this author.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Social Creature – Compelling Debut Thriller

Social Creature

By Tara Isabella Burton

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read and Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Lavinia is rich, wild and daring. Louise is living life on the edge in other ways. She works three jobs just to make the rent on her dinky apartment. When this unlikely duo collide with each other, Louise begins to lose all sense of self as Lavinia becomes a drug and alcohol Auntie Mame, encouraging Louise to live more and more on the edge until she becomes a permanent accessory of her mentor.

Soon Louise is going to all the “in” places and seeing all the chic people. Selfies are a must as well as extravagant food, drink and over the top and sometimes illegal activities. The more involved she becomes, the less she is herself. Both figuratively and literally.

When the sand castle friendship seems to be dissolving, how far will Louise go to keep up the charade of existence Lavinia has created for her? Do we really know who Louise is?

Burton has written a fabulous book of deception and debauchery. Are these two girls Thelma and Louise, just on a joyride through life until the end goes tragically wrong? Are they both cold and calculating – or is one of them manipulating the other to keep from living a lonely existence? The twists, turns and emotions of this novel make it a true page turner.

Like Louise it is fun to step into a world that most of us just read about on the internet or in tabloids. Most of us would not like to participate, but what if we had someone encouraging and paying for all of the craziness? Maybe we would give it a try. What if we got in too deep? My suggestion is to live this craziness through the pages of Burton’s engrossing novel.

Tara Isabella Burton brings her debut novel to life skillfully. With understated realities, the plot can take the reader places he will hopefully never go in real life. Her writing style creates a reality that is so alluring, we are drawn into the characters and story from the first page and held there until the last word is read.

I hope to hear much more from this author. Social Creature is a gem.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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