SUN DAMAGE by Sabine Durrant

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: June 2, 2022
Source: Purchased from The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★¼


The heat is intense.
The secrets are stifling.
She just needs to escape…

Nine guests arrive at a remote villa in the south of France.

They know each other well. Or think they do.

But at least one of them has plenty to hide — and nowhere to run.

Under the relentless sun, loyalties will be tested, secrets revealed, and tensions pushed to the point of no return.

I think the blurb for SUN DAMAGE is purposely vague, so I’m not going to say much about the plot. It’s set in the south of France, my favorite new thriller setting. Two con artists are working the beach resorts there, until things get a bit out of hand. And then…

Is summer gothic suspense a thing? Because that’s how I would describe this book. It’s an absorbing slow-burner with just the right amount of tension. I was really taken in by the rich descriptions of this place, like the yummy food, gorgeous scenery, and the stifling heat. The big twists at the end were brilliant.

THE SAFE PLACE by Anna Downes

Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: July 14, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★¾


In THE SAFE PLACE, main character Emily’s life is a wreck. She’s broke, unemployed, and days away from being kicked out of her apartment. So when Scott, her former boss, offers her a position as caretaker at his estate in the South of France, she simply can’t say no.

In theory, the job sounds like paradise, but in reality, Emily finds things a bit off. Scott’s odd wife and child live there permanently, isolated, and with strange rules for Emily to follow. No internet! Emily is soon convinced that something isn’t right with this seemingly perfect family…

This was a fast-paced and suspenseful thriller, set in a gorgeous, summery location. Poor Emily! She was so naïve, but I suppose she had to be for the set up of the story to happen. Her gullibility did frustrate me though, especially towards the end. The author created a good amount of tension as the story progressed, and I was surprised when the final big twist was revealed. I was convinced things were going in a different direction!

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

142 OSTRICHES by April Davila

Set against the unexpected splendor of an ostrich ranch in the California desert, April Dávila’s beautifully written debut conjures an absorbing and compelling heroine in a story of courage, family and forgiveness.

When Tallulah Jones was thirteen, her grandmother plucked her from the dank Oakland apartment she shared with her unreliable mom and brought her to the family ostrich ranch in the Mojave Desert. After eleven years caring for the curious, graceful birds, Tallulah accepts a job in Montana and prepares to leave home. But when Grandma Helen dies under strange circumstances, Tallulah inherits everything—just days before the birds inexplicably stop laying eggs.

Guarding the secret of the suddenly barren birds, Tallulah endeavors to force through a sale of the ranch, a task that is complicated by the arrival of her extended family. Their designs on the property, and deeply rooted dysfunction, threaten Tallulah’s ambitions and eventually her life. With no options left, Tallulah must pull her head out of the sand and face the fifty-year legacy of a family in turmoil: the reality of her grandmother’s death, her mother’s alcoholism, her uncle’s covetous anger, and the 142 ostriches whose lives are in her hands.

Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: February 25, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

★½

An ostrich ranch in the Mojave Desert is the unique setting in this beautifully written novel of self-discovery. The location drew me into the story, and the author did a wonderful job creating a sense of place. Did you know ostriches can grow up to nine feet tall and weigh over 300 pounds? I would be pretty nervous about taking eggs from their nests!

In 142 OSTRICHES, young 20-something Tallulah Jones begrudgingly inherits the family ranch from her grandmother who died under suspicious circumstances. Having lived and worked there since her early teens, she’s ready to make a quick sale and leave as soon as possible. But when the birds suddenly stop laying eggs, she’s forced to pause a moment and finally face decades of family dysfunction.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this book, but I ended up greatly enjoying it. The characters were realistic and flawed, and in the end I could sympathize with all of them, even the not-so-likable ones. I’d highly recommend this family drama set in the stunning California desert to readers looking for something a bit different.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

IN ANOTHER LIGHT by A. J. Banner

The death of a look-alike stranger leads a grieving woman down a troubling path in this riveting novel by A. J. Banner, bestselling author of The Poison Garden.

Three years ago mortuary cosmetologist Phoebe Glassman lost her husband in a tragic accident. No longer the hopeful wife and mother she once was, Phoebe is disappearing into her grief and into the quietude of her job — restoring to the dead the illusion of life. Then the body of a woman named Pauline Steele arrives in the mortuary, and for Phoebe, everything changes.

Pauline is unmistakably Phoebe’s mirror image and bears an alarmingly familiar tattoo. Even more startling is that among Pauline’s effects is a faded photograph of Phoebe. Aided by an eccentric colleague, her curiosity sparked, Phoebe investigates her doppelgänger’s life and death — and uncovers surprising clues to a shared past.

Phoebe’s emotional journey soon leads to shocking revelations about those closest to her…and even herself. When she’s driven to the brink, how much of what she discovers can she trust?

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

★★★★

What first drew me to this book was protagonist Phoebe Glassman’s job as a mortuary cosmetologist, someone who makes the decedent (new word for me!) look how they did in life. That’s something I could NOT do, but I find it fascinating. The funeral home where Phoebe works specializes in “green burials,” the eco-friendly alternative to traditional cemeteries, which is something else I’d recently discovered. Again, fascinating!

When the body of a woman looking exactly like Phoebe arrives at the mortuary, she ends up down a rabbit hole investigating this identical stranger’s past. This book is also about the heavy burden of her grief from losing her husband and daughter a few years earlier. IN ANOTHER LIGHT is a suspenseful mystery and journey of coming to terms with the past. It’s a very quick, engrossing, and emotional read.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.