THE BLOCK PARTY by Jamie Day #20booksofsummer23

Synopsis from the Publisher:

This summer, meet your neighbors.

The residents of the exclusive cul-de-sac on Alton Road are entangled in a web of secrets and scandal utterly unknown to the outside world, and even to each other.

On the night of the annual Summer block party, there has been a murder.

But, who did it and why takes readers back one year earlier, as rivalries and betrayals unfold — discovering that the real danger lies within their own block and nothing — and no one — is ever as it seems.

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: July 18, 2023
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: 3.75 Stars

My Thoughts:

An annual Memorial Day block party ends in murder, while the many hidden dark secrets and scandals of a group of well-to-do neighbors are brought to the surface. But who is dead, and who is the killer?

The events during the year leading up to the fateful party are told from two POVs, a mother and her teenage daughter. So much drama! There was a big cast of characters, and everyone had something to hide, and everyone was in someone else’s business.

Overall I thought this book was an entertaining family drama/mystery with some juicy twists, a few I suspected, and some that took me by surprise. None of the characters were particularly likeable, but I was pulled in by their dilemmas and curious to see how they were woven together. I felt the book was a bit too long, but it wrapped up with a satisfying ending. This would make a fantastic Netflix series!

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a digital review copy of this book. Opinions are my own.

ZERO DAYS by Ruth Ware

Synopsis from the Publisher:

The New York Times bestselling “new Agatha Christie” (Air Mail) Ruth Ware returns with this adrenaline-fueled thriller that combines Mr. and Mrs. Smith with The Fugitive about a woman in a race against time to clear her name and find her husband’s murderer.

Hired by companies to break into buildings and hack security systems, Jack and her husband, Gabe, are the best penetration specialists in the business. But after a routine assignment goes horribly wrong, Jack arrives home to find her husband dead. To add to her horror, the police are closing in on their suspect—her.

Suddenly on the run and quickly running out of options, Jack must decide who she can trust as she circles closer to the real killer in this unputdownable and heart-pounding mystery from an author whose “propulsive prose keeps readers on the hook and refuses to let anyone off until all has been revealed” (Shelf Awareness).

Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Publication Date: June 20, 2023
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss
Rating: 5 Stars

My Thoughts:

ZERO DAYS was a nail-biting rollercoaster ride, and I loved every minute! Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book because techno-stuff is not my thing at all. BUT, I trust Ruth Ware and she did not disappoint!

Jack (Jacintha) and her husband Gabe are “pen testers,” people hired by companies to break into their buildings to find security system weak spots. Jack is more of the “muscle” who does the breaking in, while Gabe is the tech-savvy one whose voice is in her earpiece guiding her along.

It’s after one of these security jobs that Jack comes home to find her beloved Gabe brutally murdered. With Jack being the prime suspect, she quickly finds herself on the run from police with very few resources and people she can trust. She has to figure out who murdered Gabe and why before the police close in.

I’m not a fast reader by any means, but I flew through this book in two evenings. Wow!! Jack was an amazing character, very strong, clever, and resilient. There were a few times that I was yelling at her about one thing or another, but I cut her some slack. The amount of stress she was under was incredible. I enjoyed learning about her relationships with the people closest to her, even though one had to end so tragically.

I think ZERO DAYS will end up being one of my favorite Ruth Ware novels. Plenty of tension to keep me turning the pages, and emotion to make Jack’s predicament compelling.

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for a digital ARC of this book. Opinions are my own.

RE: Book Covers — US cover on the left; UK cover on the right. I wanted to share the UK version because I love the teal.

Vintage Gothic Romance: PILGRIM’S END by Lena Brooke McNamara

Back Cover Blurb:

Established in the guest cottage at Pilgrim’s End on the pretext of painting the portrait of its aged mistress, artist Diana Adams had a method to her seeming kindness: she had to find the original deed to the estate, for it would prove, beyond doubt, that Diana was its rightful owner.

But the legacy she unearthed was a testament of terror, created by a master of evil to whom violent death was no stranger.

With her own life now at stake, there was only one man to whom Diana could turn. But would he believe her? And if he did, could he reach her in time?

Publisher: Ace Books
Publication Date: 1967
Rating: 3 Stars

My Two-Cents:

My copy of PILGRIM’S END was from the first printing in 1967. The cover shows a dark haired woman, and the blurb on the back calls the heroine “Diana.” However, within the story the heroine is a blonde named Diane. (Diane’s love interest in the book goes from being named Mark to Jim a couple of times. Same guy!) Needless to say, quality control was lax.

After the death of her parents, artist Diane Adams travels to the Pilgrim’s End estate in Virginia to stake her claim to the property, but first she must find the deed hidden somewhere within its walls. Diane is only there a short while to paint the current mistress’s portrait, and unfortunately she’s not the only one who wants Pilgrim’s End for themselves, which puts her life in danger. The story had a so-so build up to an exciting ending.

The author of this book was also an artist/painter, so you can tell she knew her stuff.

THE HOUSEMAID by Freida McFadden

Synopsis from Goodreads:

“Welcome to the family,” Nina Winchester says as I shake her elegant, manicured hand. I smile politely, gazing around the marble hallway. Working here is my last chance to start fresh. I can pretend to be whoever I like. But I’ll soon learn that the Winchesters’ secrets are far more dangerous than my own…

Every day I clean the Winchesters’ beautiful house top to bottom. I collect their daughter from school. And I cook a delicious meal for the whole family before heading up to eat alone in my tiny room on the top floor.

I try to ignore how Nina makes a mess just to watch me clean it up. How she tells strange lies about her own daughter. And how her husband Andrew seems more broken every day. But as I look into Andrew’s handsome brown eyes, so full of pain, it’s hard not to imagine what it would be like to live Nina’s life. The walk-in closet, the fancy car, the perfect husband.

I only try on one of Nina’s pristine white dresses once. Just to see what it’s like. But she soon finds out… and by the time I realize my attic bedroom door only locks from the outside, it’s far too late.

But I reassure myself: the Winchesters don’t know who I really am.

They don’t know what I’m capable of…

An unbelievably twisty read that will have you glued to the pages late into the night. Anyone who loves The Woman in the Window, The Wife Between Us and The Girl on the Train won’t be able to put this down!

Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: April 26, 2022
Source: Purchased (Kindle)
Rating: 5 Stars

Quick Thoughts:

Wow, this domestic/psychological thriller was amazing! It kept me glued to the pages until I found out what happened. Millie is unemployed and desperate for a job, when the perfect opportunity comes along — working as a live-in housekeeper for the very wealthy Winchester family. Well, it seems perfect, but what is it that Millie finds behind the keyhole?

THE HOUSEMAID totally lived up to the hype. The author did a fantastic job creating a tense and twisty (twisted!) story that had my stomach in nervous knots. I don’t want to say more about the plot to avoid spoilers. The ending was so satisfying. I loved this sinister and shocking tale, and I am very excited that there’s a sequel!


Synopsis from the Publisher:

The Plot meets Please Join Us in this psychological suspense debut about a young author at an exclusive writer’s retreat that descends into a nightmare.

Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement.

But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she’s desperate to discover the truth and save herself.

A claustrophobic and propulsive thriller exploring the dark side of female friendships and fame, The Writing Retreat is the unputdownable debut novel from a compelling new talent.

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication Date: February 21, 2023
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss
Rating: 2.5 Stars

Quick Thoughts:

It seems like most of my Goodreads friends loved this book, but unfortunately this debut thriller wasn’t for me. I was definitely intrigued by the premise. A famous author hosts a writing retreat at her remote mansion for five up and coming women writers under 30. Whoever writes the best novel during the short time they’re together will win a major publishing deal. However, with a snowstorm barreling down on them and mind games afoot, protagonist Alex and the other contestants learn all is not as it seems.

The first half of the book was pretty dull, but after the 50% mark it was somewhat entertaining and often downright bizarre. I loved the claustrophobic snowy setting, and also not knowing who was on which side of the game.

I found most of the characters to be annoying and childish, and some of their dialogue was painfully cringy. There was a “book written within a book” element that for me was boring and unnecessary. And some of what happened was just — strange. Demon sex? Yes, it’s in there. If strong sexual content is not your thing, please skip this.

From the blurb, I really thought I’d enjoy this one, but I guess you can’t love them all. Anyway, please check out the other reviews and decide for yourself!

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for the opportunity to read and review this book.