Twenty-four-year-old Charlotte Stahl would do anything for her older brother, Ian. After all, he’d done everything for her growing up.
He played Burken with her—a hide-and-seek game they made up as kids.
He comforted her when their mom deserted them.
He raised her when their dad went to prison for murder.
To Charlotte, Ian is the only reason she’s still alive—he’s her rock. So when Ian asks her to play Burken in the isolated woods of Cadillac, Michigan, Charlotte feels she could use the nostalgia and agrees. Besides, they haven’t played this game since childhood. Burken—it’s the one thing that never changes …
…until Ian threatens to kill her in the middle of the game.
More than the rules have changed as Brother turns to Predator, Sister turns to Prey, and she’s navigating the forests of Northern Michigan on foot with nothing but the clothes—and a target—on her back.
If Charlotte wants to stay alive, she knows she has to untangle the web of her haunting past to find out where things went wrong, and at what point she lost sight of reality. With no other choice but to reopen old wounds—and with Ian hot on her trail—Charlotte learns that sometimes evil has to manifest in order for good to succeed. Which makes her wonder…
Is Ian really a monster? Or her savior?
I came across The Rules of Burken when author Tarryn Fisher promoted it on her Instagram at release time. I was intrigued by it then and wanted to read it, so I downloaded it. I don’t have a good reason for taking so long to get to it. It sat on my Kindle for over a year before I picked it up, which I’m not proud of.
This psychological thriller was addictive from the start. I was constantly tense trying to figure things out. The game Charlotte and her brother Ian played was brutal. Their sibling bond fascinated me. I was desperate to understand it, so I could make guesses as to what was happening. There these great flashbacks throughout the story heightened my curiosity even more. Everything moved at such fast pace, I didn’t want to miss anything. I didn’t want to put the book down.
Honestly, I was impressed this was Traci Finlay’s debut novel. The writing was great, the plot moved quickly, and the end left me wanting more. Not only do I want to read another book by this author, but I would read a sequel. It wasn’t the most complex psychological thriller, but it was a good one and I would recommend it.
Better Than This
Series: A Nine Minutes Trilogy Spin-Off, #3
Author: Beth Flynn
Publication Date: July 8, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Fiction, Mystery
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Sometimes they just scab over.
Haunted by memories of a failed marriage, trauma surgeon Barbie Anderson escapes to her hometown for a fresh start. But the quaint community of Pumpkin Rest has memories and failures of its own that should stay buried.
When Barbie runs into ex-con biker Jake Chambers, he stirs up anger and resentment in her that she doesn’t want to face. He reminds her of the one man she’s never gotten over and dredges up decades-old heartache. With his rugged criminal exterior and gentlemanly demeanor, the silver fox may have the other women in Pumpkin Rest falling at his feet, but not Barbie.
She refuses to let her guard down and have her heart broken again. When a series of revelations come tumbling forth, Barbie is forced to confront her past and trust Pumpkin Rest’s most sought-after bachelor where she’ll soon learn that love wears many faces.
Will secrets from the past destroy their future or will old wounds finally heal, allowing her to love again?
Before I begin my review of Better Than This, I feel the need to point people in the right direction if they are not familiar with Beth Flynn’s writing. Beth Flynn has an insanely good dark romance / psychological thriller trilogy called Nine Minutes. It’s really the place you need to start when reading her books. Every book that comes after the original Nine Minutes has been slowly revealing itself since then. Better Than This doesn’t exactly continue storylines from the original trilogy, but there are some surprise references to people and events from it that build to make this book what it is. I highly recommend starting with Nine Minutes and reading Ms. Flynn’s books in the order they were released. If you’re interested in my review for the first book, you can find it here. Now for my review…
Better Than This had a slightly different feel than Beth Flynn’s other novels. This one didn’t jump around in time as much. There were a few scenes that took us to the past, but the majority of the book was in the present and focused on Barbie and Jake’s romance. Barbie and Jake’s romance differed from others in this series because it was a more mature romance. The characters are in their 50’s. It’s not very often I come across a romance with characters this age that feels fresh and not antiquated. The characters had moments where they felt the things you feel when you grow older, but they also had a youthfulness to their thoughts. Getting older myself, I liked this because you still feel like you’re young at heart even when your body isn’t. Barbie and Jake’s romance was also more of a slow burn than the other novels in this series. Given their age, that was surprising. I liked the reasoning behind it.
Now that I’ve said Better Than This was mostly romance based, I need to backtrack a little on that statement. If you have read Beth Flynn’s books, you know that it’s not all about the romance. I probably shouldn’t have said it was. There’s always a gigantic mystery to unravel. That’s another thing that made this book (and all of her others) so special. I was constantly playing detective. Each little hint had me thinking back to things that had been said or done. Usually it just left me with more questions than answers, but it was so much fun and kept me glued to this book.
When I started reading Better Than This I was very curious to find out how Barbie and Jake tied into the original Nine Minutes Trilogy. They weren’t characters I remembered, but there are so many characters I could have easily forgotten them. I kept waiting for some clue to connect them. In true Beth Flynn fashion, things took a while to come together. That’s what’s so amazing about her writing, though. Every little twist, turn, and revelation gives you some new piece of information to fit together. The result is a fabulous puzzle and a huge pay off. I definitely got one of those with this book. Some of my lingering questions from previous books were answered and it was utterly satisfying. There are still more questions now, but I’m hoping Beth Flynn will keep the spin-offs coming and the next book will answer them.
Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.
Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity likely didn’t intend for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of the night their family was forever altered.
Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.
I’m not sure what switched Colleen Hoover to the dark side, but I am worried that Tarryn Fisher might have figured out how to invade her brain or use mind control or some other magical junk. That’s the only thing I can come up with for how someone who writes romances so emotionally touching could write something this twisted. Okay, maybe that’s stretching things. Colleen Hoover is a talented writer, so there’s no reason she couldn’t go to the dark side on her own. (Still…)
Verity was a deeply disturbing, but extremely addictive psychological thriller. I had no idea who I could trust throughout the entire novel. All the twists surprised me, and made me question what I thought the moment before. The ending shocked me and kept me wishing for just another page. Verity was everything I like in a thriller. I hope Colleen Hoover will grace us with another book like this in the future.
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“What are you wearing?” Corey is staring down at my shirt, perplexed, just now noticing it despite having spent the last fifteen minutes with me.
I look down at my oversized shirt.For a moment, I forgot how ridiculous I look. “I spilled coffee on my other shirt this morning and had to change.”
“Whose shirt is that?”
I shrug. “Probably yours. It was in my closet.”
“You left your house in that? There wasn’t something else you could have worn?”
“It doesn’t look high fashion?” I’m being sarcastic, but he doesn’t catch it.
He makes a face. “No. Is it supposed to?”
Such an ass. But he’s good in bed, like most assholes.
I’m actually relieved when the conference room door opens and a woman walks in. She’s followed, almost comically, by an older man walking so closely behind her, he bumps into the back of her when she stops.
“Goddammit, Barron,” I hear her mumble.
I almost smile at the idea of Goddammit Barron actually being his name.
Jeremy enters last. He gives me a small nod that goes unnoticed by everyone else.
The woman is dressed more appropriately than I am on my best day, with short black hair and lipstick so red, it’s a little jarring at nine thirty in the morning. She seems to be the one in charge as she reaches for Corey’s hand, and then mine, while Goddammit Barron looks on. “Amanda Thomas,” she says. “I’m an editor with Pantem Press.This is Barron Stephens, our lawyer, and Jeremy Crawford, our client.”
Jeremy and I shake hands, and he does a good job of pretending we didn’t share an extremely bizarre morning. He quietly takes the seat across from me. I try not to look at him, but it’s the only place my eyes seem to want to travel. I have no idea why I’m more curious about him than I am about this meeting.
Amanda pulls folders out of her briefcase and slides them in front of Corey and me.
“Thank you for meeting with us,” she says. “We don’t want to waste your time, so I’ll cut right to the chase. One of our authors is unable to fulfill a contract due to medical reasons, and we’re in search of a writer with experience in the same genre who may be interested in completing the three remaining books in her series.”
I glance at Jeremy, but his stoic expression doesn’t hint at his role in this meeting.
“Who is the author?” Corey asks.
“We’re happy to go over the details and terms with you, but we do ask that you sign the non-disclosure agreement.We would like to keep our author’s current situation out of the media.”
“Of course,” Corey says.
I acquiesce, but I say nothing as we both look over the forms and then sign them. Corey slides them back to Amanda.
“Her name is Verity Crawford,” she says. “I’m sure you’re familiar with her work.”
Corey stiffens as soon as they mention Verity’s name. Of course we’re familiar with her work. Everyone is. I hazard a glance in Jeremy’s direction. Is Verity his wife? They share a last name. He said downstairs that his wife is a writer. But why would he be in a meeting about her? A meeting she isn’t even here for?
“We’re familiar with the name,” Corey says, holding his cards close.“Verity has a very successful series we would hate to see go unfinished,” Amanda continues. “Our goal is to bring in a writer who is willing to step in, finish the series, complete the book tours, press releases,and whatever else is normally required of Verity. We plan to put out a press release introducing the new co-writer while also preserving as much of Verity’s privacy as possible.”
About Colleen Hoover
Colleen Hoover is the #1 New York Times and International bestselling author of thirteen novels and multiple novellas. She lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys. She is the founder of The Bookworm Box, a non-profit book subscription service and bookstore in Sulphur Springs, Texas.
This past weekend I knocked Love Me with Lies off my backlist. It’s been on there for years because I’m a fan of all of Tarryn Fisher’s other books. I’m so disappointed in myself for waiting so long to read it. It was crazy good — emphasis on the crazy. Here my thoughts after reading each book.
The Opportunist – ★ ★ ★ ★
That pretty much says it all.
I’m stuck using emojis for this review because I’m speechless after finishing this book. It was soooooo messed up, but in a good way. Only Tarryn can make me hate and love characters so much at the same time.
Dirty Red – ★ ★ ★ ★
This one started out bad for me. I was so disgusted by Leah. I hate Leah, but I understand her now. She grew on me as her story went on. She’s not blameless, but Caleb isn’t either. I lost some respect for him in this one. The only person I started to respect more was Olivia.
Thief – ★ ★ ★ ★
I think I liked this book? It’s hard to know because all of the characters were so messed up. I didn’t think I could end up liking them any less while also liking where the story went. I do think it was a fitting end to a crazy, addictive series.
Overall, this is a very messed up, crazy, addictive series. If you like books that will shock you and make you question everything a character does, read this series.
The Twilight Wife Author: A.J. Banner Narrator: Cassandra Campbell Publication Date: December 27, 2016 Publisher: Simon Schuster Audio Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Suspense
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
From bestselling author A.J. Banner comes a dazzling new novel of psychological suspense in the vein of S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl that questions just how much we can trust the people around us.
Thirty-four-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop remembers nothing about the diving accident that left her with a complex form of memory loss. With only brief flashes of the last few years of her life, her world has narrowed to a few close friendships on the island where she lives with her devoted husband, Jacob.
But all is not what it seems. Kyra begins to have visions—or are they memories?—of a rocky marriage, broken promises, and cryptic relationships with the island residents, whom she believes to be her friends.
As Kyra races to uncover her past, the truth becomes a terrifying nightmare. A twisty, immersive thriller, The Twilight Wife will keep readers enthralled through the final, shocking twist.
The Twilight Wife was a sleepy psychological thriller. It began with Kyra embarking on a new life with her husband, Jacob. They were moving to a Pacific Northwest island to help Kyra heal from an accident. She had amnesia and could not remember the last four years. Everything about her life felt familiar yet strange. Kyra was in a constant state of confusion over her current life. Even her relationship with her husband, Jacob. Dreams and memories plagued her until she couldn’t tell what was real and what wasn’t. Kyra searched for the answers to her questions about her life, but each revelation twisted what she thought she knew. The truth was more frightening than what she could have imagined.
When I first started listening to The Twilight Wife, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. The narrator’s voice was whimsical, almost dreamlike, when Kyra was talking. It took me a while to get used to that, but then I decided that it was perfect for this book because Kyra was in an almost dreamlike state. She was so confused. The narrator did an excellent job expressing Kyra’s thoughts and emotions.
I loved the setting of this book. Being a PNW resident, I could easily imagine Kyra’s habitat. The author did an amazing job describing the scenery. I felt like I was right there along with the characters. The setting felt like a character itself in this book.
The Twilight Wife was a great audio book, but I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I would have read it. The story unraveled so slowly. That would have bothered me if I had read rather than listened to it. The author does a great job of throwing out pieces of information that made me question where the story was going, but most of the action and excitement was left to the end. I would have liked some of that excitement and suspense felt more throughout the story. It would have moved the story at a faster pace.
What I loved about The Twilight Wife was the surprise it had in store. I felt like I knew where this one was going from almost the beginning, but I didn’t know all of the pieces. I really liked all of the pieces of Kira’s past that were slowly revealed. Her story was bigger than I expected it to be. The explosive ending and wrap up was really good, too.
Overall, The Twilight Wife was a great read. I loved the setting and how the story unraveled. I wish it would have moved at a quicker pace, but I know some readers will enjoy the way things slowly drift from dream to reality.
Genuine Fraud Author: E. Lockhart Publication Date: September 5, 2017 Publisher: Delacorte Press Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Contemporary
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.
Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.
Genuine Fraud was an interesting tale. E. Lockhart continued to give the reader the unexpected with it. Genuine Fraud began in the present and each chapter went back in time. The effect was that I felt like I was reading the story backward. The story continued that way all the way until almost the end. It made for a great guessing game. Each chapter divulged just enough to make me keep reading.
I have to admit that I got a bit bored in the middle of the book. I think it’s because I was frustrated. I just wanted to know what the deal was with Jule and Imogen! Once I got to that part, the story flew again for me. I loved the ending, and thought it was very clever.
Overall, Genuine Fraud was a fun read. It was a darker read, but light at the same time. It had great foreshadowing and a cool set up. It was the perfect book to read on my vacation.
Bad Mommy Author: Tarryn Fisher Publication Date: December 24, 2016 Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Suspense
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
When Fig Coxbury buys a house on West Barrett Street, it’s not because she likes the neighborhood, or even because she likes the house. It’s because everything she desires is next door: The husband, the child, and the life that belongs to someone else.
Bad Mommy is a mind$#%^. I don’t know how else to explain it. It was everything I expected from Tarryn Fisher, but nothing like I expected. Every time I thought I had a grasp on what was going on, I would start a new section of the book and become completely disoriented. It was such a trip!
I want to go back and read Bad Mommy a second time. That’s high praise because it’s rare for me to re-read a book. I feel like I would grasp more from the story a second time, and enjoy it even more.
Anyone who loves a great psychologically suspenseful novel will enjoy Bad Mommy. It’s dark, deceitful and will keep you turning the pages long after you should have gone to bed.
And that’s all I’m saying because I’m not going to ruin this book for anyone. 😉
Dark Water Author: Sara Bailey Publication Date: October 3, 2016 Genre: Psychological Thriller Note: I received an ARC from Nightingale Editions in exchange for an unbiased review.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Friendship doesn’t die, it waits…
A haunting and lyrical novel, Dark Water is a psychologically intense portrait of adolescent yearning and obsession.
When Helena returns to her childhood home in Orkney, she is forced to face memories that she has spent half a lifetime running from. Her best friend, the charismatic Anastasia, disappeared after a swimming incident. But what really happened that night by the wrecks?
I have mixed feelings about Dark Water. On one hand, it was an incredibly strong debut novel. On the other, it didn’t really feel like a psychological thriller.
Sara Bailey’s writing in Dark Water is exceptional. The pictures she paints in her novel are clear and concise. Her descriptions of Orkney were so beautiful and haunting. They took over the novel at times, but that was a good thing because the setting played a huge part in the story. I liked the characters and their dark history.
There were a couple of things that kept me from truly appreciating Dark Water, though. First, The story unraveled so slowly that it never truly pulled me in. I wasn’t truly invested in it until the last third of the book. That’s when the story felt like it really took shape and built toward an amazing ending. Second, I was interested in the characters and their present points of view, but not as much as I was interested in the past. The little bits of it I got weren’t enough. I wanted more of them. They were the only parts that made me feel like I was reading a psychological thriller.
Overall, Dark Water was a well written and interesting tale of the bond of an obsessive adolescent friendship. It wasn’t quite the psychological thriller I was hoping, but it was still a tale I think readers of the genre might enjoy.
A Gift of Time
Series: Nine Minutes, #3 Author: Beth Flynn Publication Date: July 19, 2016 Genre: New Adult, Romance, Psychological Thriller
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Note: You must read Nine Minutes and Out of Time prior to reading A Gift of Time. A Gift of Time is the conclusion to the this story.
Are some secrets meant to stay buried?
Three months have passed since Jason “Grizz” Talbot was put to death by lethal injection for crimes he committed. His former wife, Ginny, whom he had abducted from a convenience store when she was a teenager and became the love obsession of his life, has spent more than the last decade trying to carve out a life of normalcy in the bustling suburbs of Fort Lauderdale—including a thriving and happy marriage to Tommy “Grunt” Dillon, a former member of Grizz’s gang.
Tired of the secrets and the lies, Ginny and Tommy thought the final piece of their past could be left behind forever with Grizz’s execution. However, the past comes crashing around Ginny and Tommy when a newly discovered secret threatens to destroy their marriage. When tragedy strikes, Ginny is forced to reach into her heart and decide, once and for all, what she really wants.
In this third book in the Nine Minutes trilogy, A Gift of Time takes readers from the busy tropical metropolis of South Florida into the serenity of the North Carolina Blue Ridge mountains as Ginny chases down the answers she needs.
Will she have the strength to confront the secrets of her past…and her heart?
An epic conclusion to an epic ride!
A Gift of Time was an amazing ending to an outstanding series. Beth Flynn continued to take readers on an epic, beautifully written ride. All of the questions fans of the series have been asking were answered. No secret was left untold.
I’m not going to say much else because I don’t want to ruin the conclusion of the story for anyone, but I will say that I don’t think Ginny, Grizz and Grunt’s story could have ended more perfectly. I absolutely loved the way everything turned out. I’m sad the story has come to an end, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what Beth Flynn comes up with next!
If you haven’t read the Nine Minutes Trilogy, I would highly recommend it. It is the best thriller and biker romance I’ve read. If you’re interested in reading it, as of now Nine Minutes is $1.99 on Kindle for a limited time.
Valentina: A Hauntingly Intelligent Psychological Thriller
Author: S.E. Lynes Publication Date: July 1, 2016 Genre: Psychological Thriller, Fiction Note: I received an ARC from Blackbird Digital Books in exchange for an unbiased review.
When Glasgow journalist Shona McGilvery moves with her partner Mikey and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, they believe that all that lies ahead of them is happiness.
But with Mikey working offshore, the frightening isolation of the Aberdeenshire countryside begins to drive her insane…
That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina.
She has the perfect home, the perfect man, and a charismatic new best friend – or does she?
As her fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood becomes the least of her fears…
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
When Mikey takes an off-shore job, he moves his girlfriend Shona and their baby to a cottage in rural Scotland. The move leaves Shana and the baby alone the majority of the time. Shona immediately feels lonely and isolated. She’s pleased when she makes a connection with vibrant Valentina.
With Mikey gone more and more, Shona depends on Valentina and her young son for companionship and support. But the more Shona gets to know Valentina, the more she begins to wonder about her new friend. Something is not adding up and Shona can’t put her finger on it.
The closer she becomes with Valentina, the more Shona’s life feels like it’s beginning to spin out of control.
Valentina was a very good psychological thriller.The writing was incredible. It had a dark and dreary feel to it, which is exactly what I would expect from a thriller. I could imagine the story playing out on a dark and grainy movie screen. The setting was absolutely perfect.
The characters were extremely complex. Shona was stuck in the haze of new motherhood. She was overwhelmed, anxious and lonely. She was desperate for a friend and confidant. As sweet as her boyfriend Mikey was, his absence was slowly draining her.
Valentina was the answer to Shona’s prayers. She was supportive and available at a moments notice. They had children the same age and that helped strengthened their bond. Their friendship fills the void Shona was missing in her near perfect life.
But as the synopsis hints, things may not be as perfect as they seem. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that I guessed part of the twist correctly. The rest of it definitely surprised me. It was really cool.
Valentina had all the makings of the perfect psychological thriller except for one thing: the pace. While I was immediately pulled in by the imagery and emotion of the story, Part I of the book moved so slowly I was beginning to lose interest. Shona’s day-to-day life was so mundane. I get it. I’ve had a baby and know how trying, boring and emotional that first year is, but Shona’s boredom started to make me bored. There needed to be the introduction to and build of a relationship with Valentina, but I wish it would have been faster paced. Parts II and III moved a lot quicker and contained most of the action. They’re what made the story truly interesting and amazing.
Despite the slower pace, Valentina was still a wonderful psychological thriller that had guessing until the end. I would definitely recommend it.