ARC Review: ALL YOUR TWISTED SECRETS by Diana Urban (2020)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Year Release: March 2020
Source: Edelweiss ARC

Read an ARC acquired via Edelweiss

Six students—star athlete, queen bee, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek—are invited to a scholarship dinner where they are presented with a bomb, a syringe, and a note saying that they choose one of them to die or they do.

This book delivers on all the tensions expected from a locked-room thriller. Urban expertly balances the stress in that room with the events of the year prior. Each revelations feeds into the next interaction. It is stressful from start to finish, but the teens feel so real, that the jokes amid the horror stick every landing. The author writes such relatable teen characters—and does a careful job not falling into the trope of cliques. I found myself both cringing and nodding along during the “before” segments because, wow.

There is not much I can say about the ending because when all the secrets come out, your jaw will be on the floor, and then you’ll have to read the book again with a new perspective.

Review: FOUL IS FAIR by Hannah Capin (2020)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Young adult contemporary
Year Release: 2020
Source: Audible audiobook

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings can be found on the author’s website

This book blew my mind. I had been seeing so much hype for this cathartic young adult retelling of Macbeth, I just had to jump in.

The hype was so real.

Elle goes out with her friends on her sweet sixteen. The night takes a horrible turn when untouchable, privileged white boys make her the target of their sick idea of “fun.” Instead of relying on any judicial system, Elle cuts off her hair, transforms into Jade, and takes justice into her own hands. She infiltrates St. Andrew’s Prep to get her bloody revenge on those golden boys.

Capin does not shy away from the horror of what had been done to Jade. The sharp prose only enhances the rage and venom seeping through the page. Jade’s scheming and voice are simply excellent, with the more stream-of-conscious narration working super well. In some places, the plot and descriptions become so over-the-top to the point of delightful. The murders are so intricately spaced out, keeping the tension tight from start to finish. I found myself cheering Jade on in her vengeance and in her manipulation of Mack in particular.

The fact that Capin included Jade’s parents who agreed to her transferring schools was, honestly, an unexpected touch. This novel leans deeply into its own dark revenge fantasy. No one tells Jade that her methods are questionable at best or tries to stop her, but that is part of the magic of this book.

Breath-taking, suspenseful, and delightfully violent, Foul is Fair is a perfect addition to books starring female rage like The Female of the Species and Sadie.

Review: THE WHISPER MAN by Alex North (2019)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Thriller
Year Release: 2019
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook

Trigger warnings: Child murder, blood, child abduction, alcoholism

Listening to this book on audio was certainly a choice. When I finish a long reading project like Kushiel’s Dart, I need a bit of a breather from long science fiction and fantasy. A contemporary thriller was such a great idea. And Christopher Eccleston did the audio? A bonus!

What a surprise of a novel this was. Equal parts police procedural and family drama, The Whisper Man is a spine-tingling time. In the village of Featherbank, Tom and his six-year-old son, Jake, seek a fresh start after tragedy strikes their family, only to find out that a copycat has been following the format of grizzly child murders which took place prior.

Where this book shines is its exploration of grief and family. So much time was spent going through the things lost to “smaller” tragedies and the ways that kids and adults deal with their problems. Jake has his imaginary friends, DI Pete turns to alcohol, and Tom has anxiety over trying his absolute best to be both parents. The way this novel handles its antagonist also fascinated me. Revealing the scoundrel at the very end could be tracked from start to finish, but this book is definitely more about the journey than the reveal.

Terrifying in times that left me suppressing screams, The Whisper Man is more about family than anything else, so definitely give this thriller a read.

Author to Author with Wendy Heard #TheKillClub

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Happy book day to The Kill Club! Wendy Heard’s sophomore book taking place in Los Angeles about a young woman who turns towards a secret murder group to get her younger brother out of the hands of their zealous foster mother. It’s intricate, it’s stressful, and it is so Los Angeles. Wendy answers some questions below about the research that went into this twisty thriller and the inspiration behind the story.

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