THE ANATOMY OF DESIRE by L. R. Dorn

For fans of riveting true crime docuseries a la Serial and Making a Murderer, The Anatomy of Desire is a modern tale of crime and punishment exploring unbridled ambition, blinding passion, and the dark side of desire

Ambition. Passion. Betrayal. Murder?

Claire Griffith has it all, a thriving career, a gorgeous boyfriend, glamorous friends. She always knew she was destined for more than the life her conservative parents preached to her. Arriving in Los Angeles flat broke, she has risen to become a popular fitness coach and social media influencer. Having rebranded herself as Cleo Ray, she stands at the threshold of realizing her biggest dreams.

One summer day, Cleo and a woman named Beck Alden set off in a canoe on a serene mountain lake. An hour later, Beck is found dead in the water and Cleo is missing. Authorities suspect foul play, and news of Cleo’s involvement goes viral. Who was Beck? An infatuated follower? Were she and Cleo friends or lovers? Was Beck’s death an accident…or murder?

Told in the form of an immersive investigative docuseries, L. R. Dorn’s brilliant reimagining of Theodore Dreiser’s classic crime drama, An American Tragedy, captures the urgency and poignance of the original and rekindles it as a very contemporary and utterly mesmerizing page-turner that will keep you guessing. Did she or didn’t she?

Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: May 11, 2021
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

After reading the blurb, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this book, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. It tells the story of the Cleo Ray murder trial, with Cleo being a popular fitness “influencer” on social media accused of killing her girlfriend.

THE ANATOMY OF DESIRE is like a true crime podcast/documentary, and I knew after seeing the format of interview transcripts that I should switch to audiobook. The audio was so well done! Even with 14 different narrators, it wasn’t difficult to tell the many characters apart. The performances made the characters seem very real.

A large part of this book is the courtroom drama and ensuing social media circus. Though not usually my thing, I found Cleo’s trial quite fascinating. I kept going back and forth over whether I thought she was innocent or guilty as the trial progressed. The ending took me by surprise, for sure. Recommended to fans of unique and thought-provoking mysteries.

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

THE VACATION by T.M. Logan


Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: July 21, 2020
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★½


In The Vacation, a captivating thriller from T. M. Logan, the bestselling author of Lies and 29 Seconds, four best friends on a dream vacation come face-to-face with an explosive secret.

It was supposed to be the perfect getaway: Kate and her three best friends, spending a week with their families in a luxurious villa in the south of France. Through the decades they’ve stayed closer than ever, and seven days of drinking crisp French wine and laying out under the dazzling Mediterranean sun is the perfect celebration of their friendship. But soon after arriving, Kate discovers an incriminating text on her husband’s cell phone.

A text revealing that he’s having an affair.

And that the other woman is one of her best friends.

But which one?

Trapped in paradise with no one to trust, Kate is determined to find out who has put her marriage—and a lifelong friendship—in jeopardy. But as she closes in on the truth, she realizes that the stakes are higher than she ever imagined. Everyone on the trip has secrets…and someone may be prepared to kill to keep theirs hidden.


Yikes, what a nightmare vacation! Kate has been friends with Rowan, Izzy, and Jennifer since university. To celebrate the year they turn 40, the four women head to an upscale villa in the South of France with husbands and children in tow. Yeah, not the best idea. Along with the families comes a tangled web of dark secrets ready to ruin their holiday paradise.

Not long after arriving, Kate finds some incriminating text messages on her husband’s phone, indicating that he’s having an affair with one of her three best friends. But which one? Poor Kate spends much of their week in France investigating and agonizing over who has betrayed her. But how far is the culprit willing to go to keep the secret hidden?

Wow, this group of characters! They’re all — a challenge. The adults were unlikable and the children were bratty.** This mystery/thriller is heavy on the family drama with no one communicating, unfortunately! While I was intrigued with the mystery surrounding the affair, the excitement didn’t get started until the last quarter of the book. It wrapped up with a surprising twist that I wasn’t expecting, though it was totally believable. The ending was quite satisfying.

** I listened to much of this book on audio (from the library), and I have to give a big shout out to the narrator Laura Kirman. Her performance voicing the big cast of characters with different ages, genders, and accents was amazing!

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

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

Thoughts on Books (#15): Turn of the Screw / The Peacock Summer / The Little Stranger / Her Pretty Face [Audiobooks]


The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Another ambiguous ending in this gothic fiction classic…

When a governess is hired to care for two children at a British country estate, she begins to sense an otherworldly presence around the grounds. Are they really ghosts she’s seeing? Or is something far more sinister at work?

Has the governess succumbed to madness? (If so, why?) Or are there really malevolent spirits out to get her young charges? In the end, it’s up to the reader to decide. I understand why authors do this, but sometimes it feels like a cop-out. Are there ghosts or not??

The writing was beautiful and descriptive, and there was definitely a strong creepy vibe throughout the story. I listened to this on audiobook, and Emma Thompson’s performance was amazing. Very passionate and entertaining.


The Peacock Summer
The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If she could reach back through the years and warn the person she once was, what would she say? What would she say to the ghosts who now inhabit her days? So many of those she has loved are now nothing but dust and memory.

I listened to this lovely and heartbreaking novel on audio last summer, narrated by Elisabeth Hopper. It was just the right blend of mystery, historical and Gothic fiction. Dark family secrets are hidden in the walls of Cloudesley. Can Lillian save granddaughter Maggie from her same fate? Wraps up with a bittersweet ending. Enjoyable ♥


The Little Stranger
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

I’ve had THE LITTLE STRANGER on my wish list for years, so I decided to use an Audible credit and listen to it in October. The audio was narrated by Simon Vance, and I enjoyed his performance very much. I love his voice – first heard him when I listened to BRING UP THE BODIES (which was wonderful!).

THE LITTLE STRANGER is a slow-burn, atmospheric novel of suspense. I thought it was beautifully written, quite absorbing, and downright creepy at times. It was a story that I looked forward to jumping back into. That said, I also thought it was a bit too long and drawn out, and the ending doesn’t wrap up with a tidy bow.

Set in the late 1940s, this book centers around an English physician’s relationship with a down-on-its-luck aristocratic family and their crumbling ancestral home called Hundreds Hall. Odd things are happening in the house, and family members suspect the cause is a malicious supernatural presence, but the doctor is not easily convinced.

Like I mentioned before, there’s no neat and tidy ending where everything is explained, which is a bit frustrating. I drew my own conclusions from the evidence given, and I suppose I’ll have to be satisfied with that.


Her Pretty Face
Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Awkward Frances doesn’t fit in with the snobby moms of elite Forrester Academy, so she’s surprised when the beautiful and perfect Kate wants to be her friend. The two women become very close. However, neither one knows that the other is harboring a dark secret, and one of them is a murderer.

HER PRETTY FACE is very much a slow-burner; there’s not a big mystery to figure out or fast paced suspense. The story alternates between past and present, and between three characters’ points of view: Frances, Daisy (Kate’s teenage daughter), and DJ (the wild card). Can criminal sociopaths change, and if so, should they be forgiven after serving their sentences? Do they deserve anonymity, or does society have the right to know who and where they are?

The subject matter is dark and disturbing, and according to other reviewers, this book was inspired by true events. I was hoping for a stronger mystery element, though the identity of DJ revealed at the end threw me for a loop. I listened to this on audiobook, with performances by Rebekkah Ross, Cassandra Campbell, and Kirby Heyborne. I’m already a fan of Ross and Campbell, and all three voices fit well with their character.

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


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THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#8): Every Single Secret / Then She Was Gone (Audiobook) / The Storm King


Every Single Secret
Every Single Secret by Emily Carpenter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Always us.” Daphne and Heath are an engaged couple, seemingly perfect for each other. Both have a dark, troubled past, and both are fine with keeping the secrets of their childhoods hidden from each other.

Their system works until Heath starts having terrible nightmares in which he becomes downright violent. Daphne begrudgingly agrees to go with Heath on a week-long retreat with an unorthodox psychologist. What could possibly go wrong in this remote mountain manor house cut off from the rest of the world? Daphne will soon find out…

EVERY SINGLE SECRET was a wonderfully creepy book that kept me on edge. The author did a great job creating suspense by gradually revealing these unsettling little tidbits, both in present day and also Daphne’s past. The ending was a whirlwind that I did not see coming!

I’ve read one other book by Emily Carpenter – Burying the Honeysuckle Girls – which I also enjoyed very much. She knows how to write compelling Southern Gothic Fiction.


Then She Was Gone
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, this was a brilliant and haunting and gut-wrenching thriller. To say it was gripping is an understatement! I listened to most of THEN SHE WAS GONE on audio, and I have to say first that narrator Helen Duff gave a stellar performance voicing the many characters in this book. Loved the audio. However, at about the 70% mark, I had to switch to the eBook so I could read FASTER!

Ten years after her teenage daughter Ellie disappeared, Laurel is still struggling with her loss. Not surprisingly, it took a heavy toll on Laurel’s life and relationships. Not long after new evidence is discovered that may lead to some sense of closure, she starts dating an intriguing man called Floyd, who has a precocious young daughter named Poppy. While Laurel is completely swept off her feet by Floyd, there’s something unsettling about Poppy that she can’t overlook…

This is the first book by Lisa Jewell that I’ve read, and I was totally riveted! Her characters and their reactions and interactions felt so real. I enjoyed how the mystery was more of a why/how situation and it kept me wondering how Laurel was going to fit all of the puzzle pieces together. The whole book was dark, emotional, and suspenseful, and yep, I’ll call it haunting again. Definitely a story that will stick with me now that it’s finished. Can’t wait to read more from Lisa Jewell!

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


The Storm King
The Storm King by Brendan Duffy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Storm King returns… Nate McHale left Greystone Lake 14 years ago, just after the disappearance of his high school girlfriend, Lucy. His sad and turbulent childhood led him and his small band of friends to punish those whom they felt had wronged them. But at what cost? How do your actions in the past ultimately affect other people? When human remains are found in the lake, Nate returns for the funeral only to find the tables have turned, and now someone is out for revenge on him and his band of vigilantes.

THE STORM KING is part coming of age story and part mystery/suspense. A rather complex mystery, at that. I do enjoy Brendan Duffy’s writing style — it’s descriptive and clever, and easily pulls the reader into the story. While the intertwining mysteries in this book had me curious, I felt like the plot moved too slowly and things were too drawn out. It was hard, too, because it was difficult for me to sympathize with any of the main characters or their motivations, which given Nate’s childhood tragedy, shouldn’t have been the case.

While this book didn’t grab me quite like his first, House of Echoes, I think readers who enjoy slow burn, atmospheric tales should give it a try. It definitely highlights the point that actions have consequences, even many years down the road.


“Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.” ― André Malraux