Thriller Poll

Hello readers!
Here is our poll for thriller, our next genre. As in the past, please check in with yourselves and the content of the options to ensure you don’t read something that will be overly distressing. Some of these books tackle some incredibly difficult topics, and it is always your right not to read or participate for any reason. I personally have read several of these, so if you have questions, I might be able to help.
Our genre after thriller will be mythology. We will have two polls for that month, with one containing Greek/Roman books and the other containing anything else. Please submit any recommendations you might have!
You will have until Sunday at midnight to vote. Our first meeting will take place April 23, and our second will be May 7.

The Push by Ashley Audrain

A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family–and a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for–and everything she feared.

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had.

But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter–she doesn’t behave like most children do.

Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well.

Then their son Sam is born–and with him, Blythe has the blissful connection she’d always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth.

The Push is a tour de force you will read in a sitting, an utterly immersive novel that will challenge everything you think you know about motherhood, about what we owe our children, and what it feels like when women are not believed.

Notable Review by Emily May

I’ve come here to give this to you.
This is my side of the story.

I’d been eyeing this book for a while when, earlier this week, I got a text from my thriller-loving brother asking if I’d heard of The Push by Ashley Audrain and saying I needed to read it. Needless to say, I cancelled all the social plans I didn’t have anyway.

I settled in to read what I imagined would be a psychological thriller. And, for a while, it was just that. Sinister, mysterious, with short punchy chapters that kept me on the edge of my seat. None of this prepared me, though, for what came later. I wasn’t expecting it to hurt so much.

I must have cried no less than five times whilst reading this book. It’s about mothers and motherhood and paranoia (maybe?) and stress. It’s feeling like you’re constantly being dismissed and undervalued. It’s getting to the point where you feel like you can’t trust your own mind. And it contains one of the most shattering portrayals of grief I’ve ever read.

It is a thriller, but also a multi-generational character study; a very complex portrait of a mother who is in turn a victim and her own worst enemy. Is she so deep in postnatal depression that she can’t be the mother her daughter needs? Or is she being wrongfully dismissed as “hysterical” because she is a woman and her instincts go untrusted again and again? It doesn’t matter if you “figure it out” because that’s not the point; either option is devastating.

This is the kind of book I love to discover: rich, layered, emotional without being overly sentimental. Blythe will stay with me for a long time.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

The gripping international bestseller about motherhood gone awry.
Eva never really wanted to be a mother – and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin’s horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

Notable Review by Jennifer

This book is just devastating … and devastatingly good. I’ve just finished it, and had a little cry on the balcony in the bright sunshine, thinking about my mom and motherhood and blame, self-recrimination, guilt and remorse and parental love and the painfully ambiguous, sometimes tortured complexity of it all.

And that is underselling it.

Suffice for now to say, you might not enjoy this if:

  • You believe that a lack of maternal instinct or feeling is a character flaw or a moral failing;
  • You come out soundly on the nurture either side of the nature/nurture continuum;
  • You believe parents always, at some point and for most things, need to be held accountable for their child’s behaviour;
  • You seek the anxiety-quelling solace that pat sociological and psychological theories and labels offer: post-partum depression, sociopathy, unconditional positive regard.

This novel should, I hope, blast through any of those preconceptions–some of which, at some times in my life, I’ve believed.

Shriver turns all of this on its ear, and twists some literary and plot conventions to her own purposes at the same time. She is steadfast and clear-eyed in her determination to dismantle the ‘blame the parents’ catechism that passes for analysis and explanation of that which is inexplicable, in this case a school shooting and the lives, events and choices that led to it.

To do so, she creates characters who are unlikeable, sometimes deeply so, but oh-so-human: even Kevin. Unless you’re a sociopath, which I think is one of her points, you cannot help but empathize with each of them at times; hate them at others; give them the benefit of the doubt frequently, too frequently perhaps, which is another.

Whether or not you are a parent (I am not), you cannot help but feel that you’ve been given a rare insight into someone’s worst nightmare, because you have — whatever angle you are viewing from — and there is nowhere to go to depersonalize or escape it.

Shriver sidles up to her characters, cycling through the subjectivity of a first-person narrative from a defense into a self-flagellation into an exposition. Though the jig was up half-way through for me in terms of one of the last plot twists, it didn’t matter and didn’t detract from the facility with which the author employed the epistolary style, and the emotional punch it levelled.

Eva’s retrospective self-analysis, through a lens tinged by tragedy, guilt and shame, gives us a perspective into events and motivations both in hindsight and as they unfold, retaining the immediacy and intensity that only a first-person account can provide. It happened but it is never past, because the telling makes it happen in perpetuity, which is exactly how trauma works.

Because of who she is, Eva is able to present with alarming clarity that which is unambiguously evil, and therefore that which remains ambiguous is doubly so. Shriver does not let anyone off the hook–these characters are so complex in their humanity, and yet they are also Boomer-upper middle-class shallow, which is never reduced to a cliche. She also never fails to produce horror–infused with the dark comedy to which only its victims or observers from a comfortable distance are entitled (and we are neither)–from sometimes mundane domestic details (an “eviscerated” 3-yr old’s birthday cake. An exotic pet, a clogged drain and a shaver with an inordinately large amount of hair in it. A glass-eyed antique doll given as a Christmas present.) Kevin’s rampage, like Shriver’s prose, is revealed in poetic detail.

I was sometimes shaking with anger while reading. I would have smashed the water pistol a half-dozen pages earlier, yet when Eva finally did, her remorse at her ink-stained yellow shoe left the justification for the act coloured with her materialistic shallowness and hypocrisy. This scene, one of so many, revealed character in a way that only an absolutely top-notch novelist can ever produce.

Have I said? The writing is brilliant. God is in the details in this novel, in which every page needs, probably, to be read a dozen times (not that I could bear it).

And there is substance to go with that style: Eva’s agoraphobic mother’s offer to fly to her after Thursday reduced me to tears, as one mother’s unconditional love and courage reflected on the other’s–in a mirror, or in relief? Hard to say.

There are no easy answers here, for Eva or for us. There is no clear truth or explanation why, a matter on which all sides, including the reader, must–against our human desire for explanation, order-out-of-chaos, resolution–reluctantly come to agree.

This review, now, is an incoherent ramble–unlike Eva’s self-confessional, bibliotherapeutic letters and the novel itself. It is still a fresh wound for me, and I will need to come back later when I’ve stanched the flow a bit.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Twenty years ago Claire Scott’s eldest sister, Julia, went missing. No one knew where she went – no note, no body. It was a mystery that was never solved and it tore her family apart.

Now another girl has disappeared, with chilling echoes of the past. And it seems that she might not be the only one.

Claire is convinced Julia’s disappearance is linked.

But when she begins to learn the truth about her sister, she is confronted with a shocking discovery, and nothing will ever be the same…

Notable Review by Chelsea Humphrey

I just want to start by saying I don’t want to list any spoilers here; I think this book was so powerful that I would hate to discourage someone from reading it because I took away from their experience before even beginning the book.

Wow! This book was heavy. I just can’t think of a better word to sum up how I feel after finishing this. I’m glad I spaced it out instead of devouring it like I wanted to initially. I’ve seen many people torn on this book and I understand why; it is EXTREMELY graphic and disturbing. Content and descriptions. I know some of the subjects are triggers for many people, especially women. For me, I felt the extreme graphic violence was necessary to put the power behind the punch of the storyline. I have felt lately that nothing really “shocks” me in a book anymore, almost like I’ve read too many graphic stories. This one was different.

The plot is connecting the stories of 2 young women who have gone missing decades apart- Julia Carroll and Anna Kilpatrick. Without giving too much away, the journey is told from the viewpoint of Julia’s two remaining sisters- Lydia and Claire, while inserting occasional diary entries from their father, Sam Carroll.

I loved the layout of how the story was told; the diary entries interwoven between chapters of the current storyline. I had to go back once to reread because it was so clever. I think we can all agree whether we like her brutal style or not that Karin Slaughter is an excellent storyteller and master of her craft. I’m an avid fan but am willing to admit that in her previous standalone, Cop Town while a great story, had a bit of excess descriptive fluff IMO. I was pleased to see this one didn’t seem to have that; I felt every word was needed. I found myself literally holding my breath and sitting upright at times.

I felt she did a good job relaying the anguish of a family who has lost a child. A loss this deep affects everyone and it literally tore them apart. I did feel it a little hard to connect with Lydia/Claire at times and I really would have liked to have seen a little more development with Rick and Dee. One of my favorite chunks of the book was near the end with Helen and Claire as we are reaching the climax of the action; I felt this was the most well written part of the entire book.

Overall, I wavered between giving this one 4-5 stars and ended up rounding up. I felt this book was extremely well written, the story kept my attention constantly-this is the definition of a suspenseful thriller. While the graphic violence was extremely disturbing, I felt it did not distract me from the story (personally) but can understand why it would have for anyone. Overall, if you are a Slaughter fan, I would HIGHLY recommend. If you are new to her as an author, I would recommend starting with Blindsighted in the Grant County series.

Verity by Colleen Hoover

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

Notable Review by Melissa

Bold. Unrelenting. All-consuming. Creepy. Unputdownable.

What I’ve come to appreciate most about Colleen Hoover’s work—whether it’s an emotionally charged love story or in this case, her first go at suspense—is her penchant for pushing boundaries. For telling the unexpected story.

“It’s got bad things in it. Bad words, bad people, bad scenes.”

Hoover preempted Verity’s release with a warning of sorts—although facetious and comical in delivery, it’s something sensitive readers should take to heart. This storyline is dark, and the lives of the characters that inhabit the pages are far from perfect—so, don’t kid yourself into thinking this is something it’s not. Verity is horrifying, maddening, and what-the-hell-inducing, but it’s also sustenance for that bibliophile looking to satisfy a craving for something different.

From chapter one, it’s blatantly obvious this comes from an entirely different side of Hoover’s psyche than her typical love stories. Blood spatter accompanies the all-consuming, addictive quality of her words. Storytelling with the power to crawl inside of your mind, take over, and demand your undivided attention.

Lowen’s life is literally in shambles—her mom just passed, she’s broke, on the brink of eviction and even though she’s a talented author, the crippling anxiety involved with marketing herself to fans has made her work less than popular.

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime that uproots Lowen from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan to the quiet Vermont countryside. Contracted by a publisher to ghostwrite the three remaining books in an uber-popular series after the author was involved in an accident, Lowen has a ton of work ahead. Research lands her in Verity Crawford’s home office, looking for anything that might indicate the direction the author wanted to take the series. Instead, she finds herself caught-up in Verity’s life. Living in her home, sleeping in her bed, and spending time with Verity’s husband, Jeremy, and their young son. Inescapable is the grief and pain marring it all.

Most surprising was the level of creepiness Hoover managed to incite. A level even some seasoned suspense writers fail to attain. From someone who reads in the genre consistently and watches horror, it’s quite the feat for me to feel this level of anxiety. For my stomach to be twisted in knots, in anticipation of what’s to come—but, it happened.

And that finale . . . stunning. I was so sure I’d pinpointed exactly what was happening and why, but I was wrong. So very wrong.

Hoover mentions in her Acknowledgements that this was an indie project she wanted to branch out and write on her own, which is commendable and exciting when you think about where her inner drive might take readers next. While there’s no denying her love stories are fierce, my hope is for more suspense. To be this taken with her first try, I can only imagine what that mind of hers might dream up next.

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice.

Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light.

Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power.

Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game…

Notable Review by daph pink

Ace of spades was interesting, to say the least. I usually don’t read synopsis so I was completely unprepared for what was going to come. I am in awe of this book, and it is one of the most phenomenal debuts that I have ever read.

[…]”The world isn’t ideal. This world, our world, the one with houses as crooked as the people in them. Broken people, broken by the way the world works.”[…]

 Two Black teens become the targets of an anonymous texter and they must work together to take them down.

I really appreciate how this book addressed a lot of heavy topics (racism, homophobia, elitism and white supremacy)in a short span of time all while staying within the interesting and dynamic plot line of a thriller. It doesn’t just discuss these themes but digs deeper and questions everything and it was compelling and downright chilling. And being an outsider I enjoyed reading about it, got to learn something new.

I also liked how the story explores how class adds another layer of privilege, and this is exemplified in how Chiamaka, who grew up and lives in a rich neighbourhood and how it insulates her, versus Devon, from a poorer neighbourhood, differently navigate and perceive society and the spaces that they occupy. It explores joy and beauty of being queer and as well as challenges which comes with it.

♠ Chimaka :- Nigerian-Italian, bisexual, popular, confident, unapologetic, logical, goal oriented girl who will take whatever it is to stay at the top of everything. I really enjoyed reading her chapters. Definitely a character which will live with me for a long time. I absolutely adored her. And she is polyglot, I can only Stan.

[…]”Besides, regardless of whether it’s me or someone else, there will always be a kingdom, a throne, and a queen.”

♠ Devon :- a black-american, gay, laid back , quiet student interested in music. He is like my precious baby who should be protected at all cost.

[…]”I’ve felt alone a lot in this world, filled with people and faces that don’t look like me.”[…]

Apart from main characters all the other characters were perfectly crafted as a piece of puzzls that’s fits perfectly in the story and give audience a perfect outcome.

The book is pitched as a thriller, though I figured out most of the book because it was advertised as gossip girls meets “GET OUT” so I figured out most of the things. But still the truth was major and dark enough for my liking.

The author has a flair of creating an atmospheric and intriguing story, she has this certain way with her words which keeps you hooked. And this is her debut novel, I can’t wait to read more of her work.

We are gonna take some time and consider the epilogue – seriously that was my fav part of the book. I had tears after reading the epilogue. A perfect ending.

The combination of the haunting story and formidable characters make this book absolutely stunning.

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

A couple’s fifteen-year marriage has finally gotten too interesting…

Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored.

We look like a normal couple. We’re your neighbors, the parents of your kid’s friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.

We all have secrets to keeping a marriage alive.

Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.

Notable Review by Deanna

Wow! What a read!

I had no idea what to expect after reading the description for this novel. However, I knew I had to read it, and once I started, there was no going back.

Dark, disturbing, and so very clever. This novel really was impossible to put down.

The book opens with a man approaching a woman in a bar. He slides his phone towards her, and she reads the message he has typed on it…

“Hello. My name is Tobias”

She is unsure why he is using his phone to speak to her, but his next message clears things up.

“I am deaf”

The woman is unsure whether or not she wants to engage with Tobias. She assumes he’s been turned down many times. He can sense her inner struggle.

Will she stay?

She has no idea just how important this decision is.

The husband and his wife, Millicent have been married for fifteen years. They have two teenage children. He teaches tennis and she sells houses. They may not be rich but they are comfortable. The family runs like a well-oiled machine thanks to “Millicent’s Commandments”. They always eat dinner together, and they have regular family movie nights. They seem like a very happy and normal family.

People will do many things to keep a marriage alive. The couple in this novel is no exception. But the ways they keep their marriage from getting boring? Well, those are VERY different.

“My Lovely Wife” was a diabolical, unique, and thrilling read with a fantastic cast of characters. Told from the husband’s point of view, the story was engaging and twisted. Full of secrets, lies, and surprises. I was riveted and couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next, what the characters were doing to do next.

“You didn’t think we were going to stop, did you?”

This was an incredible debut novel. I am very excited to see what Samantha Downing comes up with next!

I’d like to thank Berkley Publishing for providing me with a copy of this novel. All opinions are my own.

Vote Here

What shall we read next? (Choose 2)

  • The Push by Ashley Audrain (31%, 8 Votes)
  • My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing (23%, 6 Votes)
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (15%, 4 Votes)
  • Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (15%, 4 Votes)
  • Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter (8%, 2 Votes)
  • Verity by Colleen Hoover (8%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 13

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