WOULD I LIE TO YOU? by Aliya Ali-Afzal

In this “total page-turner,” wife and mother Faiza is about to find what happens when you have your dream life and are about to lose it… but only if you’re caught (Sarah Pearse, New York Times bestselling author of The Sanatorium).

At the school gates, Faiza fits in. It took a few years, but now the snobbish white mothers who mistook her for the nanny treat her as one of their own. She’s learned to crack their subtle codes, speak their language of fashion and vacations and haircuts. You’d never guess, seeing her at the trendy kids’ parties and the leisurely coffee mornings, that her childhood was spent being bullied and being embarrassed of her poor Pakistani immigrant parents.
When her husband Tom loses his job in finance, he stays calm. Something will come along, and in the meantime, they can live off their savings. But Faiza starts to unravel. Creating the perfect life and raising the perfect family comes at a cost – and the money Tom put aside has gone. Faiza will have to tell him she spent it all.

Unless she doesn’t…

It only takes a second to lie to Tom. Now Faiza has mere weeks to find $100,000. If anyone can do it, Faiza can. She’s had to fight for what she has, and she’ll fight to keep it. But as the clock ticks down and Faiza desperately tries to put things right, she has to ask herself: how much more should she sacrifice to live someone else’s idea of the dream life?

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Published: February 22, 2022
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

★★★★½

Would I lie to you? Umm, yes, she did. Faiza’s plight in this book was so nerve-racking!

After her husband Tom is laid off from his job in banking, Faiza finds herself in a terrible predicament. Their £75,000 savings account is empty, all of it secretly spent by Faiza to keep up with their affluent friends and neighbors. Instead of confessing her financial infidelity, she tries to find ways to cover up what she’s done, but the hole she’s in just gets deeper.

As a British Pakistani woman married to a white man, Faiza feels immense pressure to fit in with the white moms in their social circle. She wants to protect her children from the racism she faced as the child of poor immigrant parents as much as possible. Does that excuse her lying and secret spending? I was rooting for her as she attempted to make things right.

Though this book is billed as women’s contemporary fiction, it had the page-turning suspense of a thriller — fast-paced and great tension throughout. I could NOT put it down! Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

BENEATH THE STAIRS by Jennifer Fawcett

In this spine-tingling, atmospheric debut for fans of Jennifer McMahon, Simone St. James, and Chris Bohjalian, a woman returns to her hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide at a local haunted house — the same place where a traumatic incident shattered their lives twenty years ago.

Few in sleepy Sumner’s Mills have stumbled across the Octagon House hidden deep in the woods. Even fewer are brave enough to trespass. A man had killed his wife and two young daughters there, a shocking, gruesome crime that the sleepy upstate New York town tried to bury. One summer night, an emboldened fourteen-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into the Octagon House. Clare came out, but a piece of Abby never did.

Twenty years later, an adult Clare receives word that Abby has attempted suicide at the Octagon House and now lies in a coma. With little to lose and still grieving after a personal tragedy, Clare returns to her roots to uncover the darkness responsible for Abby’s accident.

An eerie page-turner, Beneath the Stairs is about the trauma that follows us from childhood to adulthood and returning to the beginning to reach the end.

Publisher: Atria Books
Published: February 22, 2022
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss

★★★★½

I loved every creepy and unsettling moment of this book! BENEATH THE STAIRS is a haunting slow-burn, character-driven debut with a lot to unpack. Is there a way to break free from childhood trauma and years of guilt and regret?

In upstate New York, the small town of Sumner’s Mills has fallen on hard times. Storefronts are boarded, and the old factory walls are crumbling, but one building stands firm — the abandoned Octagon House deep in the woods. When a couple of young teen girls venture into its basement, their lives are changed forever by what they see. Twenty years later, the house calls them back with tragic consequences.

There were moments in this book when I was truly scared! The story takes place over multiple timelines where the disturbing history of the Octagon House is revealed. I was completely immersed in the story and the lives of the flawed characters. That creepy house wouldn’t let me rest until I knew its secrets! I’m excited to read more of this author’s work in the future. Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

WHAT’S DONE IN DARKNESS by Laura McHugh


Publisher: Random House
Release Date: June 22, 2021

WHAT’S DONE IN DARKNESS is a gripping dark mystery that made me super uneasy! I love that Laura McHugh sets her atmospheric thrillers in small towns around the Midwest, in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and now Arkansas — technically a Southern state, but close enough for me.

The main character is Sarah/Sarabeth, a young woman who has endured A LOT. As a teen her parents joined a fringe religious group and moved the family to a remote farm in Arkansas. She is stifled by the strict rules and dreams of escaping. Just before her 18th birthday, she’s abducted by a masked man, but found a week later. This horrific experience ends up being her ticket out, but she won’t easily shake the trauma. The police have no leads, and her case eventually fades to the background.

Fast-forward five years, and Sarah is still dealing with scars from the past, but doing her best to move on. She’s contacted by investigator Nick Farrow who’s working on another missing persons case similar to her own and needs her help. Of course that means going back to the family farmstead to face her past, but is she ready for what might be revealed?

Sarah’s story is gut wrenching and really put me on edge. Chapters alternate between Sarah in the present and Sarabeth in the past, so readers can experience what she went through. I was engrossed in the mystery and the many dark secrets that were gradually revealed.

WHAT’S DONE IN DARKNESS is another gritty, fast-paced, and enjoyable thriller from Laura McHugh. The situations of unreported missing girls from the hollers presented in this book are probably more common than we think. Eye-opening!

So, Nick Farrow’s character. I pictured him looking and acting like Detective Colin Zabel from Mare of Easttown. (Have you seen that show? If not, you must watch.)

I love the mention of Lambert’s Cafe! I’ve never been there, but I see the billboards when we drive to the Ozarks — “Home of the throwed rolls!” That’s so funny. I always wonder why someone would want rolls thrown at them in a restaurant. — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.