Book Reviews · Fiction · ThrillerThursday

Book Review: “Stranger in the Lake” by Kimberly Belle

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Happy Thriller Thursday! Thank you @parkrowbooks for my gifted copy of “Stranger in the Lake” by Kimberly Belle! (pub date 6/9)

Charlotte didn’t know her greatest risk was saying, “I do.”

When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past & his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

I have read so many psychological thrillers, that it’s getting tougher to knock my socks off these days. But Belle’s latest novel, “Stranger in the Lake”, did manage to at least pull my socks down to my toes. This book is atmospheric, tension building, twisty, layered & captivating. My only issues with it was the ending & the story was sometimes hard to follow. Overall I did enjoy the book, maybe not as much as some of her others, & it was a 3 star read for me. Some readers will love it, some will not, but that holds true with all books. I do look forward to reading more by Belle in the future. Click HERE to add this book to your Goodreads TBR.

What other authors are saying about “Stranger in the Lake“:

STRANGER IN THE LAKE is a spellbinding tale of lies and deceit that unfolds piece by devastating piece. Another outstanding novel by Kimberly Belle, masterfully written to lure you in and never let go.”
– Samantha Downing, USA Today bestselling author of My Lovely Wife and He Started It

“Kimberly Belle explores the shocking depths people will go to keep their secrets buried in her latest slow burn thriller STRANGER IN THE LAKE, before building to an explosive and unexpected finale. Belle delivers with lyric prose an atmospheric, moody mystery that will have her fans begging for more. A must-read!”
– Mary Kubica, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Other Mrs.

“Absolutely superb. Kimberly Belle is the queen of domestic suspense, and STRANGER IN THE LAKE is her darkest, most hypnotic work to date.”
– Cristina Alger, New York Times Bestselling Author of Girls Like Us

“Clear your calendar because once you’ve started Kimberly Belle’s utterly engrossing STRANGER IN THE LAKE, you won’t be able to tear yourself away! Old and new secrets abound in this tense and atmospheric thriller that will make you question how well we can really know anyone, and how much we might be willing to forgive for those we consider family.”
– Kathleen Barber, author of Follow Me

“Belle’s latest is another riveting, superbly written, didn’t-see-that-coming thriller that will keep you up way past your bedtime. With tension building on every page, Charlotte digs relentlessly for the truth about her new husband, even though it might destroy everything she loves.”
– Kate White, New York Times bestselling author of Have You Seen Me?

Book Reviews

Book Review: “Sister Dear” by Hannah Mary McKinnon

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Thank you @harlequinbooks #mirabooks for my gifted copy of “Sister Dear” by Hannah Mary McKinnon! (pub date 5/26) (Click HERE to go to HMM’s Instagram & HERE for her website.)

Beauty. Wealth. Success.

She’s got it all.

And it all should’ve been mine.

When Eleanor Hardwicke’s beloved father dies, her world is further shattered by a gut-wrenching secret: the man she’s grieving isn’t really her dad. Eleanor was the product of an affair and her biological father is still out there, living blissfully with the family he chose. With her personal life spiraling, a desperate Eleanor seeks him out, leading her to uncover another branch on her family tree—an infuriatingly enviable half sister.

Perfectly perfect Victoria has everything Eleanor could ever dream of. Loving childhood, luxury home, devoted husband. All of it stolen from Eleanor, who plans to take it back. After all, good sisters are supposed to share. And quiet little Eleanor has been waiting far too long for her turn to play.

***Man! This book is GOOD! So good! Dark, twisty, fraught with tension, & addictively unputdownable (yes, those are official book reviewer adjectives), “Sister Dear” grabs you right out of the gate & doesn’t let go! I have always yearned to have a sister. A sibling BFF to gossip, share clothes & secrets with & always be there for each other. But now…maybe I don’t really need one after all.

Sister Dear” is a domestic, psychological suspense novel with characters you will love to hate & a shocking ending you won’t see coming. Highly recommend this book! This one is not to be missed & is available now. Be sure to look for this & McKinnon’s other 3 books (“Her Secret Son“, “The Neighbors” & “Time After Time“) at your local indie bookstores first. They need our sales more than Bezos does. Click HERE to use BookStoreLink, which helps you locate the books you want at independent bookstores. (And now I have to try & remember who borrowed my other 2 McKinnon books & didn’t return them, since they are both MIA, & I haven’t gotten to read them yet…).

Editorial reviews:

A stunning achievement! Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, Hannah Mary McKinnon proved me wrong. Beautifully plotted story with characters that left a mark.” — Samantha Downing, author of #1 International Bestseller, My Lovely Wife

“Loss, love, revenge, buried secrets and greed add up to make Sister Dear an electrifying read. If you think you know where this story is headed, watch out. Hannah Mary McKinnon has a few tricks up her sleeve. A must read!”—Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl and The Other Mrs.

 “A brilliant, breathless thriller that crackles with suspense and heart-thumping twists. I finished this absorbing, creepy and downright sinister novel in the wee hours of the night. And the ending…perfection! Sister Dear is McKinnon’s best book yet.”—Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and Before She Was Found

Sister Dear is fabulous, with a bombshell twist you won’t see coming. I devoured it.”—Kaira Rouda, internationally bestselling author of The Favorite Daughter

“Hannah Mary McKinnon keeps getting better! Her latest domestic suspense ratchets up the tension as one sister stalks another. Jealousy and betrayal go hand in hand as readers try to guess, in this family, who is predator and who is prey.”—Mindy Mejia, internationally acclaimed author of Leave No Trace

“When Eleanor Hardwicke learns that her late father wasn’t her biological father, she embarks on a quest to discover the truth about her family. Hannah Mary McKinnon weaves a tale so twisted and masterful, you’ll be dizzy with exhilaration by the end. Sister Dear is a rip-roaring, page-turning, hold-your-breath thriller where there’s only thing you can be certain of: trust no one.”— Jennifer Hillier, award-winning author of Jar of Hearts and Little Secrets

Here are Hannah Mary McKinnon’s other books to check out:

Click HERE to find

How far would you go to protect the ones you love…when they may not be yours to protect?

When Josh’s longtime partner, Grace, dies in a tragic accident, he is left with a mess of grief—and full custody of her seven-year-old son, Logan. While not his biological father, Josh has been a dad to Logan in every way that counts, and with Grace gone, Logan needs him more than ever.

Wanting to do right by Logan, Josh begins the process of becoming his legal guardian—something that seems suddenly urgent, though Grace always brushed it off as an unnecessary formality. But now, as Josh struggles to find the paperwork associated with Logan’s birth, he begins to wonder whether there were more troubling reasons for Grace’s reluctance to make their family official.

As he digs deeper into the past of the woman he loved, Josh soon finds that there are many dark secrets to uncover, and that the truth about where Logan came from is much more sinister than he could have imagined… Tightly paced and brimming with tension, Her Secret Son is a heartbreakingly honest portrait of a family on the edge of disaster and a father desperate to hold on to the boy who changed his life.

Click HERE to find

Abby looks forward to meeting the family who just moved in across the street—until she realizes they’re the one couple who could expose her deepest secrets

After a night of fun back in 1992, Abby is responsible for a car crash that kills her beloved brother. It’s a mistake she can never forgive, so she pushes away Liam, the man she loves most, knowing that he would eventually hate her for what she’s done, the same way she hates herself.

Twenty years later, Abby’s husband, Nate, is also living with a deep sense of guilt. He was the driver who first came upon the scene of Abby’s accident, the man who pulled her to safety before the car erupted in flames—the man who could not save her brother in time. It’s this guilt, this regret, that binds them together. They understand each other. Or so Nate believes.

In a strange twist of fate, Liam moves into the neighborhood with his own family, releasing a flood of memories that Abby has been trying to keep buried all these years. Abby and Liam, in a complicit agreement, pretend never to have met, yet cannot resist the pull of the past—nor the repercussions of the terrible secrets they’ve both been carrying…

Have you ever wondered “What if?”
When Hayley Cooper goes to sleep wishing for a different life, then wakes up in bed with her first boyfriend, she can’t believe her eyes. She hasn’t seen Chris in over twenty years – but now she’s married to him. And Hayley is in for a few more romantic surprises . . .

Over a single weekend, Hayley lives her life time and time again, and as each of her former loves resurface, Hayley starts to realise that there’s some truth in the saying ‘be careful what you wish for.’ Yes, the past two years with her husband Rick have been tough, but is the grass always greener?
Time After Time is a fresh, funny novel, which explores the romantic paths that could have been and the ones who (almost) got away. . .

What readers are saying about Time After Time:
‘An upbeat, feel good read that looks at what can happen when you say What If?’
‘The book is billed as Ground Hog Day meets Sliding Doors. I say it would make a great movie of its own!
I enjoyed this book immensely, it was something different, from the normal chick-lit genre, and it had me laughing one minute and in tears the next.’
‘The book was really thought-provoking and quite philosophical, too – the main message being, appreciate what you’ve got, cos the grass isn’t any greener anywhere else. Very enjoyable read. I’ve already recommended it to friends.’

About the author:

Hannah Mary was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing. She now lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute. Connect with her on Facebook, on Twitter @HannahMMcKinnon, and on Instagram @HannahMaryMcKinnon. For more, visit her website at

Book Reviews

Book Review: “Take Me Apart” by Sara Sligar

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Thank you @mcdbooks & @fsgbooks for my gifted copy of ‘Take Me Apart’ by Sara Sliger! (pub date 4/28).

A young archivist’s obsession with her subject’s mysterious death threatens to destroy her fragile grasp on sanity, in a riveting debut novel of psychological suspense.

When the famed photographer Miranda Brand died mysteriously at the height of her career, it sent shock waves through Callinas, California. Decades later, old wounds are reopened when her son, Theo, hires ex-journalist Kate Aitken to create an archive of his mother’s work.

From Miranda’s vast maze of personal effects, Kate pieces together a portrait of a vibrant artist buckling under the pressures of ambition, motherhood, & marriage. As the summer progresses, Kate navigates vicious local rumors & her growing attraction to the enigmatic Theo, all while unearthing the shocking details of Miranda’s private life. But Kate has secrets of her own, & when she stumbles across a diary that may finally resolve the mystery of Miranda’s death, her curiosity starts to spiral into a dangerous obsession.

With breathtaking & haunting imagery, ‘Take Me Apart paints a vivid picture of two magnetic young women, separated by years, but bonded by shared struggles. Sara Sligar draws readers into a web of secrets & lies, alternating between the present & the past & revealing the truth about Miranda’s death through the objects she left behind.

Click HERE to go to the Instagram post

Take Me Apart‘ is a strikingly rich, psychological mystery that explores mental illness, sexism, violence & obsession. It’s a slow burner that is haunting, complex & thought-provoking & will leave you yearning for more from this promising, debut author.

Click HERE to add it to your Goodreads list

Here are some more good things that have been said about ‘Take Me Apart‘:

“Kate and Miranda are vividly rendered, and an entire novel could easily be crafted out of Miranda’s fascinating diary, letters, and other ephemera, snippets of which are sprinkled liberally throughout. Sligar delivers an intriguing mystery while tackling big themes, especially sexism and the societal restraints placed on women’s bodies and minds. The results are spellbinding. A raw and sophisticated debut.”
Kirkus, starred review

“What a clever, visceral thriller. A raw, unfiltered twist on gaslighting that challenges how society treats women. It made me sad, angry, and fired up.”
―Araminta Hall, author of Our Kind of Cruelty

“This story of gaslighting, high art, intergenerational trauma, and archival work, among many other things, is propulsive in its telling and fascinating in its composition.”
―Molly Odintz, CrimeReads

“Sligar masterfully alternates between Kate’s perspective . . . and the documents Kate is finding in the disorganized piles . . . Take Me Apart is an incisive look at women in art, domestic violence, and the complexities of legacy.”
―Emily Burack, Hey Alma

“A perceptive debut . . . Alternating between chapters focusing on Kate and epistolary documents by the tormented Miranda, Sligar reveals Miranda’s unraveling throughout her brilliant career as she labors with parenthood and life with a manipulative husband . . . Sligar shows off a keen ear for dialogue . . . With a cool style and fast pace, Sligar achieves a propulsive exploration of these ambitious women’s inner turbulence in response to an abusive man in each of their lives.”
―Publishers Weekly

Take Me Apart is a stunning debut. In gorgeous prose, Sara Sligar creates a haunting and decidedly feminist literary thriller that explores mental illness, violence, and the nature of obsession. I loved this novel so much that I blew off all my responsibilities, turned off my phone, and blistered through the whole thing in one sitting. Unforgettable and thought-provoking, Take Me Apart has my highest recommendation.”
―Angie Kim, author of Miracle Creek

“A study of two damaged and sympathetic women . . . Love story, hate story, mystery―all in one.”
Library Journal

“Sligar handles her intricately structured story’s threads with delicacy in this impressive, suspenseful debut.
―Annie Bostrom, Booklist

Take Me Apart is such a delicious novel: perfectly plotted, atmospheric, disturbing, sad―even sexy. Sara Sligar brings both the northern California coast and the personal history of a brilliant artist to vivid life. I couldn’t put it down.”
―Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State

“A smart, post-modern book that takes on the complexities of gendered mental illness and trauma at an engrossing clip. With a complicated visual artist at its narrative center, Take Me Apart teases out the tensions of visibility and fame versus the hidden, unseen wounds of home and interiority, and asks the hard questions of what it means to create as a woman―create art, create life, and create yourself.”
―Caite Dolan-Leach, author of Dead Letters

from the personal affects of Miranda Brand…

***Click here 👉 ‘Take Me Apart‘ to use BookStoreLink & find this book at a local independent book store. Please read my last blog post if you haven’t already about independent bookstores & the importance of buying our books from them whenever we can. (Remember, Amazon doesn’t feel books are essential & they have been delaying most book orders for weeks, even a month on some. Which is utterly ridiculous, in my opinion. Books are ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to readers & for learning material for kids who are now being homeschooled, like mine.

And don’t forget, tonight is the last night to enter to win two advance copy true crime novels in my Murderino Monday Instagram giveaway! Click HERE to go to that post now. Stay tuned for a NEW giveaway coming this week! And as always…stay home, stay safe, stay sane. Now go wash your hands!

About ME · Book Reviews

Book Review: “The Familiar Dark” by Amy Engel

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Thank you @duttonbooks for my gifted copy of “The Familiar Dark” by Amy Engel!

Set in the poorest part of the Missouri Ozarks, in a small town with big secrets, “The Familiar Dark” opens with a murder.

Eve Taggert, desperate with grief over losing her daughter, takes it upon herself to find out the truth about what happened. Eve is no stranger to the dark side of life, having been raised by a hard-edged mother whose lessons Eve tried not to pass on to her own daughter. But Eve may need her mother’s cruel brand of strength if she’s going to face the reality about her daughter’s death and about her own true nature.

Her quest for justice takes her from the seedy underbelly of town to the quiet woods and, most frighteningly, back to her mother’s trailer for a final lesson.

Click HERE to add it to your Goodreads list

What a gripping, darkly addictive, heart-wrenching read! Just so good! Engel’s previous book, “The Roanoke Girls” gave you taste of her amazing writing skills, and “The Familiar Dark” is no exception.

Engel created an expertly paced novel wrought with grittiness, betrayal, vengeance, and perfectly nuanced, damaged characters. “The Familiar Dark” is a disturbing, psychological thriller at heart, but it is also powerful, emotional and thought-provoking. You will remember this story long after you have finished reading it.

Click HERE to go to my Instagram post

The Familiar Dark” was released on 3/31. Look for it at your local independent bookstore. Many bookstores are doing curbside pickups and home deliveries. Amazon is not prioritizing most books and it may takes weeks to get it from them…Shop LOCAL. Independent bookstores need our help right now more than ever! Use BookStoreLink to find a bookstore near you or one that ships.

QOTD: What are you reading this weekend? Also, stay tuned…new giveaways (yep, GIVEAWAYS) coming soon!

I am struggling with reading lately. I am on week 5 of homeschooling and having kids home (and having ZERO quiet time or a moment to myself) and not gonna lie, it’s getting to me. I’m starting to get salty with the ones I love and snapping at my husband and kids, catching myself doing it, then feeling like a piece of garbage afterwards. Honestly, I think I just need a good ugly cry, a long walk with an audiobook, and maybe a glass of wine (or two) on days that have just gotten the better of me. I did stay up til 1am last night with my daughter watching “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” & “PS I Still Love You” on Netflix, I did have 2 small glasses of Cabernet, and just getting some alone, quiet time with her was nice! (And it DID help my mood, and the movies were cute, YA fluff, based on the books by Jenny Han.)

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! And as always, stay home, stay safe, stay sane. Now go wash your hands!