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Thriller Thursday Reviews: Not A Happy Family & The Perfect Family

 

Happy Thriller Thursday!   Sharon here, and this week’s theme is dysfunctional families LOL. Today I am reviewing Shari Lapena’s new book Not a Happy Family and Robyn Harding’s new book The Perfect Family and let me just say, I thought my family had some issues but compared to the families in these books, my family looks like The Brady Bunch 🙂

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Not A Happy Family & The Perfect FamilyNot a Happy Family Goodreads

Author: Shari Lapena

Publication Date: July 27, 2021

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

Shari Lapena’s newest novel Not a Happy Family follows the dysfunctional wealthy Merton family. Fred and Sheila Merton were brutally murdered in their home the night after a disastrous Easter dinner with their adult children, Catherine, Dan and Jenna. As the police begin their investigation, they obviously start with their children, who stand to inherit millions and who each had a motive for wanting their parents dead.

Catherine is the oldest and knew that she would be inheriting the family home one day, that is until their father announced at Easter dinner that he was selling the house.

Dan has never had a good relationship with his father. Dan expected to take over the family business one day, that is until Fred sold it because he didn’t think Dan would be able to handle running it. So now after a few bad investments Dan needs money and asks his father for a loan on the night of Easter only to have his father tell him in no uncertain terms No!

Jenna is an artist; she likes to sculpt images of women’s anatomy, much to her parents’ dismay. She gets a monthly allowance from her parents. But they have decided it is time to cut her off.

Fred was not the best father. He got great joy in causing emotional pain to his children. And Sheila was not a very comforting mother; she left that job to their housekeeper Irene. So, it was not very surprising that the children were not overly devastated by their parents’ death.  They all have alibis for the night their parents died, well according to each of their spouses they did.  But those alibis are soon unraveled.

The siblings are not extremely close, but when the police start narrowing their suspicions onto them, they do rally around each other. Even though they figured one of them was the killer and they could have easily thrown each other under the bus, they stuck together. They figured which ever one of them was the killer did them a favor by getting rid of their toxic parents and made them all rich at the same time. Okay it was a bit of a twisted way of thinking, but hey they are family and are sticking together.

I liked the perspectives we got from each of them and watching them sweat when the investigation got to close to one of them.

As the police keep hitting walls as they try and figure out which of the siblings is the killer, they get some help from Fred’s sister Audrey. She has never really liked Catherine, Dan and Jenna, so she is more than happy to spill all the family secrets. And the Merton’s have a lot of secrets.

I really cannot say much more because I don’t want to spoil anything, I will say this book was full of twists and turns that had me all over the place on who I thought did it. Every time I thought I had it figured out, a twist would happen to point me in a different direction. I was completely clueless when the killer was finally revealed.  And without giving anything away, I love how Shari Lapena ended this book.

If you like stories that center around dysfunctional families and that keep you guessing throughout, I recommend Shari Lapena’s Not a Happy Family.   4 stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Not A Happy Family & The Perfect FamilyThe Perfect Family Goodreads

Author: Robyn Harding

Publication Date: August 10, 2021

Publisher: Gallery Books

Robyn Harding’s newest novel The Perfect Family, is full of unlikeable characters and a train wreck of a family, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

The Perfect Family follows the Adler family, Thomas, a real estate agent; his wife Viv, an interior designer; their twenty year old Son, Eli; and seventeen year old daughter, Tarryn. Thomas and Viv have tried to create the image of a perfect family, from their jobs, their cars, their home, and their children. But their perfect world is about to come crashing down. One morning when they wake up, they find their house has been egged. Thomas insists that it is just teenagers. But then a smoke bomb is thrown at their house, their car tires are slashed, and someone has set fire to their hedges. The police cannot help them since they don’t know who is doing this and even the surveillance cameras they installed only show a shadowy figure in a hoodie. Why is someone targeting the Adlers? Well, the answer to that question lies in the secrets they each have.

I don’t want to give much away about what secrets they each have. Even though they are not real spoilers, I think it is still best to figure them out on your own because as each family member’s secret is revealed to the reader it adds more to the mystery to who is behind the attacks on the Adler family.  As each secret was revealed, I would switch my thinking on what I thought was going on and why.

The Adlers are such a dysfunctional family and none of them came across as sympathetic, even after their secrets were revealed. They are all so sure that their secret cannot be the reason the attacks are happening, that they are all quick to point the finger at each other. Tarryn had the finger pointed at her the most. Her parents were so sure that these pranks were the act of teenagers, so it had to be someone that she made mad at some point. When I learned each of their secrets all I could think of was “You are blaming Tarryn when you are hiding that?” They were all such hypocrites.

I love how Robin Harding slowly revealed bits of information, it wasn’t all just a big data dump. She had my attention fully as I couldn’t wait to find out more about each of the Adler’s secrets and what else was going to happen to them. And even though I don’t think any of the characters were very likeable, I love how Harding gave them each a voice. The book is told from each of their POV’s and I really liked getting into their thoughts and couldn’t wait to find out what they were hiding.

The Perfect Family was a suspenseful read, with many twists that will keep you guessing until the end. If you are a fan of Robin Harding, I think you will enjoy this as much as I did.  3 ½ stars

Reviews: THE PROJECT and THE UNWILLING

 

I know I said last week that we would be trying to do Thriller Thursday a couple of times a month, but even though I’ve had hardly any thriller review books for the past few months, somehow I ended up with two of them with February 2nd publication dates.  So I’ll be sharing those two ARC reviews today and Sharon will be back next week to share even more thrillers with you.  Thanks so much to all who gave her such a warm welcome last week. It was much appreciated. 🙂

 

Reviews:  THE PROJECT and THE UNWILLINGThe Project Goodreads

Author:  Courtney Summers

Publication Date: February 2, 2021

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Nineteen year old Lo Denham has been alone for most of her life.  Her parents died in a car accident when she was younger and her older sister, Bea, chose to abandon Lo to become a member of a special group called the Unity Project, a group known for their religious background and for their community outreach efforts.  Lo is suspicious about the Project.  Why would joining such a group make her sister choose to cut all ties with the only family she has left?  Lo becomes obsessed with learning as much as she can about the Project. As an aspiring writer, it is Lo’s goal to write an exposé on what she thinks the Project is…a cult.  When she meets and interviews the members of the Project and the founder, however, Lo gets way more than she bargained for and it becomes clear she’s in over her head in her pursuit of the truth.

I don’t really want to say anything else about the plot itself because I think following Lo’s journey and seeing it unfold without spoilers is the best way to fully appreciate it.  The Project is also hard to classify but it’s not exactly what I would consider a thriller.  There is definitely an element of mystery to it, but by and large, the story is an exploration of just how easy it is to get lured in by a cult.  It explores how a persuasive cult leader can get under your skin, by giving you precisely what you need emotionally and by making you feel seen.  This aspect of the book hit me hard because it’s so relevant today with groups like Q Anon.  You wonder how in the world someone can fall for something like that, but with The Project, Courtney Summers shows just how vulnerable we all can be.  The Project is a dark read and a sad, heartbreaking one at times, but a powerful read just the same.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE PROJECT and THE UNWILLINGThe Unwilling Goodreads

Author: John Hart

Publication Date: February 2, 2021

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I’m a huge fan of John Hart’s novels.  I love them because even though they’re thrillers, they’re always so much more than that.  The Unwilling is the sixth book I’ve read from Hart, and yes, it’s a thriller, but it’s also a coming of age story, as well as a story about a family torn apart by war.

Set during the Vietnam War, The Unwilling follows the French family.  They’ve lost two sons to the war, Robert, who was actually killed in action and Jason, who turned to heroin and ended up in prison.  Their youngest son, Gibby, is all Mr. and Mrs. French have left, and they are terrified of losing him too.  When Jason gets out of prison, they’re determined to keep him away from Gibby.  Gibby can’t resist the allure of hanging out with his big brother though and so he sneaks out to see Jason and to meet up with some girls.  When one of the girls turned up dead soon after and Jason is named as the prime suspect, both Gibby and Jason find themselves knee deep in a bad situation that could cost them both their lives.

I loved so many things about this book!  First, I just became so attached to the French family.  It was so heartbreaking to think of all the losses they have suffered and their grief is just so palpable throughout the story.  I was especially heartbroken for the father.  As a police detective, he’s in an impossible spot. He wants to believe his son is innocent but has to admit that he’s not sure, primarily because of his son’s past misdeeds.  He loves Jason but he is also desperate to protect what’s left of his family.

I also really adored Gibby.  Much of the story comes to us from Gibby’s perspective and it is through him that we get the coming of age element in the story.  Gibby is torn between not wanting to upset his parents and wanting to break free from this sheltered bubble they have him living in.  He wants to have a relationship with his brother, he wants to date girls, he just wants to grow up and is frustrated at every turn by his parents.  I was really rooting for Gibby to come into his own and was really impressed by his growth as the story progressed, especially when he decides he’s going to prove his brother is innocent. I admired his determination, loyalty, and bravery.

The thriller aspect of the story as it relates to the murder is amazing too. I don’t want to give anything away with respect to that, but wow, what a dark and twisted tale it is.  Also, be forewarned that Hart’s descriptions of the violent acts in the novel are vivid and gruesome.  I know I won’t be forgetting the images I read about anytime soon!

If you’re interested in a riveting thriller as well as a heartbreaking story about the effects of war on a family, definitely check out John Hart’s The Unwilling. 4.5 STARS.

Reviews: The Ghost Tree and You are Invited

 

Happy Thursday!  For those who read my 2021 goals post a couple of weeks ago, you may remember that I mentioned wanting to bring in a guest blogger.  Well, today is the day that goal is becoming a reality.  Sharon is one of my long-time best friends and she also happens to be an avid reader, particularly in the mystery/thriller genre.  Since I don’t review many thrillers, I thought it would be fun to have Sharon share some of the thrillers she has been reading and, in the process, start a new feature on the blog, Thriller Thursday.  We’re aiming for her to share reviews every other Thursday, but we’ll play it by ear depending on how busy her schedule is.  Anyway, please give Sharon a warm welcome and I hope you’ll find some new reads to add to your TBRs. 🙂

 

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Hi everyone! My name is Sharon and I would like to thank Suzanne for the opportunity to share some of my reviews on her blog. I like to read a bunch of different genres, thrillers, mysteries, YA, fantasy. But my go to are the mystery/thriller type books. And today I would like to share a couple of thriller/supernatural books I have just read. The Ghost Tree and You Are Invited.

 

Reviews: The Ghost Tree and You are InvitedThe Ghost Tree Goodreads

Author: Christina Henry

Publication Date: September 8, 2020

Publisher: Berkley Books

 

I really cannot say too much about The Ghost Tree because pretty much anything I say will spoil it. But I will say this was awesome. It is filled with witches, curses and haunted woods. It is a bit graphic at times when describing the murder scenes, so be forewarned.

Smiths Hollow is a small town and something evil lives in the woods and only comes out once a year. Or so everyone thought… But then Lauren’s father was found murdered in the woods and his heart was torn out. And then 6 months later the mutilated bodies of 2 girls were found. What is the evil that lives in the woods and why the sudden change in its pattern?

Even though her father was murdered in the woods, Lauren has never been afraid to go there. She has been going there with her BFF Miranda since they were little. Lauren also knows that the police won’t find the killer of the girls because they never found out who killed her father. In fact, they surprisingly never really did much of an investigation and everyone has seemed to moved on. Then Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging those girls through the woods and killing them. She knows that she cannot let it go and have them forgotten (as all the others before them have been), so she goes into the woods to find evidence to help the police find the killer. But she finds more than that, Lauren discovers that their small town is cursed, and it is up to her to fix it.

The book is told from many POV’s and has a lot of things going on besides the murders, but it never got confusing. Everything just flowed so well and all the characters meshed so well together. While the book had multiple POV’s, Lauren was the main focal character and I just loved her. I loved how she cared about her younger brother David (who is such a little sweetie). Even though she is 14 and he is only 4 she took the time to spend time with him, be it playing a board game or going to the local fair. I also loved the growth Lauren had. She goes from a 14 ½ year old who is still a child, to a teenager on the edge of womanhood. She learns a lot about the town’s history as well as her own and she faces them both head on.

The book takes place in 1985 and I loved all the 80’s references (it was like going down memory lane)

And even though we find out early on in the book what is wrong with the town, it does not take anything away from the story; in fact, it actually adds to the tension. And boy does the tension ramp up as the book goes on! By the end I was on the edge of my seat.    4 Stars

 

Reviews: The Ghost Tree and You are InvitedYou Are Invited Goodreads

Author: Sarah A. Denzil

Publication Date: September 11, 2020

Publisher: Self Published

 

Cath Fenwick is an author of fantasy books. She has a large following on social media, but Cath has always been a loner. She has no real friends, except from her social media followers and she suffers from schizophrenia but can keep the voices at bay with the help of her medication. When Cath gets an invitation from Irene Jobert to take part in The Event, a retreat of sorts for social media influencers, she jumps at the chance. Irene is the most famous influencer in the world and Cath will get to spend a month with her and 3 others (Jules, a famous blogger; Nathan, a gamer; and Daniel, a fitness guru) in an old Transylvanian Monastery. They will be live streamed to millions of people around the world and the subscribers can donate money to their favorite influencer.

On her way to The Event, Cath’s taxi driver tells her the story of the nuns that were murdered at the monastery years ago “There are those who claim the ghosts walking the corridors of Sfântul Mihail are not ghosts at all.”  And that may be true.  As the group is roaming around parts of the Monastery, their viewers notice a dark shape lurking in a corner.  Strange things start happening too.  There are wolves in the woods, there is a snowstorm coming, and one of the viewers keeps offering them one million dollars to kill one of the group.  Cath’s inner voices are also back.  Add all of that up and you have a group that is beginning to crack and become paranoid, all while being live streamed.

The book is told from the POV of Cath and she was not a very reliable narrator, which just added to the mystery and suspense of the book.

I loved the eerie gothic setting. I think the author did a great job of making the scenery jump off the pages. The beginning of the book had the most eerie/supernatural feel to it, gave me chills a few times. The eerie feel tapered off midway through the book when a couple of twists were added that took the book in a new direction.

The ending did feel a bit rushed to me, and there were a few things that were left unanswered.

Other than that, I really enjoyed the supernatural/mystery feel of the book. And also the live stream and followers interaction aspect of the book.   3 ½ stars