Tag «psychological thriller»

Single Sundays: The Recipient by Dean Mayes

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for The Recipient (from the Publisher):
Casey Schillinge is a vivacious young woman on the verge of making her mark on the world. While backpacking, she is struck down by a tropical disease and suffers cardiac failure. But at the eleventh hour, Casey receives a life-saving heart transplant – and a rare second chance to begin again.

Three years later, Casey has become a withdrawn shell of her former self: she is estranged from her loved ones, afraid of open spaces and rides the line between legitimate and criminal work. The worst of her troubles come in the form of violent night terrors; so frightening that she resorts to extreme measures to keep herself from sleeping. When she can take no more, she embarks on a desperate search for the source of her dreams. In so doing, she makes a shocking discovery surrounding the tragic fate of the donor whose heart now beats inside her chest. As she delves deeper into the mystery of her donor, she realizes her dreams are not a figment of her imagination, but a real life nightmare.


Author: Dean Mayes
Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Psychological, Mystery
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: May 1, 2016
Source & Format: Publisher–eARC | Thanks so much Central Avenue Publishing!



Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I don’t usually read a lot of adult thrillers but when asked if I would be interested in reading this one, I jumped on the chance. As you may or may not know, I’m studying to be a part of the health care field as a Medical Laboratory Technologist. What’s that? Basically, I’m the person who does all the lab tests when you are at the hospital (it actually is much more complex than that but I’m keeping it simple!). So I think it goes without saying that I’m really intrigued by stories that focus on health-care or science–and organ donation is one of those very interesting topics.

The media package for this release claims this book is perfect for fans of The Girl on The Train–a novel I enjoyed though found very predictable. I was hoping The Recipient would be a strong suspense story with a mystery I couldn’t solve only a couple chapters in and be able to keep my attention. I also didn’t want it to be super creepy (ie I could sleep at night).

The Concept:

Dean Mayes is actually a pediatric nurse and it definitely shows in his writing that he is knowledgeable about the topics at hand (he definitely did his research). Not only was everything super accurate but it was also explained in a way that anyone–regardless of their medical knowledge–would understand. There is a great balance between the medical, the suspense and the character development so don’t think you are going to be reading endless pages about Casey’s organ transplant.

As for the concept itself–what a really cool idea! While organ transplantation is one of science and medicine’s greatest achievements, there is still a lot that is unknown (to a certain extent). In society we equate the heart with so many things, like life and love–so the idea that a donor’s heart could possible transfer a part of that person into the new recipient? Who knows? And I love how this novel plays with that idea.

The Plot:

You might think the plot revolves around Casey coping with the random memories of her donor and that is the “thrilling” part–like a scary movie. But it actually reads more like a mystery once the concept is unraveled a bit. I found the first part (less than 25%) a little dry because it’s establishing Casey as her character and her situation–but once the plot starts going, it really keeps going at an accelerated pace.

The mystery was great! I truly wasn’t able to figure it out until the big reveal and that always gets bonus points in my eyes. It’s high level suspense and danger that really kept me on my toes and engaged as a reader. It’s a well crafted story that makes a seemingly unrealistic idea (the idea a person’s memories are transferred during an organ donation) but makes it entirely plausible.

The Characters:

Casey kinda reminded me of Lisbeth from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. They have similar personality traits and interests and so I got very comfortable with Casey’s character quickly. She was intriguing and even if I didn’t agree with all her actions, I definitely understood her motivation. She’s a smart girl who is a little misunderstood and isn’t afraid to take big risks.

I almost want a sequel with Casey just because I loved her amateur sleuth style and I want to read more books about female protagonists that give it their all when it comes to solving crimes.

My Rating: 4/5


Simply put: I really enjoyed reading this book. Once everything was established, it was a fast and dangerous read that had me on the edge of my seat. Dean Mayes has definitely picked up a fan after this book!

Read if You Like: thrillers, high-stakes/dangerous reads
Avoid if You: dislike thrillers, psychological reads


  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Millennium Series #1)
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Dean Mayes
Dean Mayes is a Pediatric Intensive Care nurse who is fascinated by
the paranormal, so his stories weave an element of magical realism
with deep humanism. He grew up near Melbourne, Australia, the
setting for his new novel The Recipient, but now lives in Adelaide with
his family and dog, whom he loves with great passion along with
cooking, Star Wars and a good joke.




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Series Review: Nocte by Courtney Cole

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:


Synopsis for Nocte (from Goodreads):
My name is Calla Price. I’m eighteen years old, and I’m one half of a whole. My other half—my twin brother, my Finn—is crazy. I love him. More than life, more than anything. And even though I’m terrified he’ll suck me down with him, no one can save him but me. I’m doing all I can to stay afloat in a sea of insanity, but I’m drowning more and more each day. So I reach out for a lifeline. Dare DuBray. He’s my savior and my anti-Christ. His arms are where I feel safe, where I’m afraid, where I belong, where I’m lost. He will heal me, break me, love me and hate me. He has the power to destroy me. Maybe that’s ok. Because I can’t seem to save Finn and love Dare without everyone getting hurt. Why? Because of a secret. A secret I’m so busy trying to figure out, that I never see it coming. You won’t either.


SERIESous’ Top Picks: New Adult Fav 2015
Series: Nocte Trilogy
Author: Courtney Cole
# of Books: 3 (Nocte, Verum, Lux)

There is a novella published between Verum and Lux called Initium.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Dark, Romance, Suspense
Heat Rating: really warm (Noctum); warm (Verum & Lux)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating (Noctum); Single (Verum & Lux)
Publication Dates: November 2014 – October 2015
Source & Format: Provided by Author –eBook  |  Thank you Courtney Cole!



Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I really enjoyed Cole’s If I Stay and so I jumped on the chance to review this series. It promised lots of twists, a passionate romance and strong characters. I couldn’t wait to see what was happening to these characters and so I dove right in…

The Plot:

“A secret I’m so busy trying to figure out, that I never see it coming. You won’t either.”

That synopsis is so true. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what was happening but I was proven completely wrong. It positively floored me when everything was revealed. And the best part was that I could have figured it out if I had known what to look for in hindsight. Especially Nocte; I felt like it was executed flawlessly with respect to the mystery and that is what makes it a 5 star read.

Verum also had a great twist but I found it didn’t captivate me as much. I found it hard to be constantly told “I just can’t tell you, you have to figure it out yourself”. I don’t like when I am purposefully kept in the dark. It’s kinda like lying by omission: if I don’t know you aren’t hiding something, I’m cool with it because I don’t know better. But when I know that I could know and it simply isn’t being told to me, I get frustrated. I like where it went, I just didn’t like how I got there.

Lux was a book that left me with mixed feelings. I spent so much time confused out of my mind trying to figure out what was past/present/future/real and it was a little exhausting. In her author’s note, Courtney Cole writes that that was her purpose in her writting. She wants the reader to experience what Calla is reading and in that respect she succeeds. Once everything starts to get revealed though, I was totally on board and it was nice to see how everything came together.

Note on the Novella–Initium:

I read the novella, Initium, between Verum and Lux which is the order the books were given to me. That is probably the right order regardless and it isn’t too spoilery. It does a good job of getting your mind going and trying to link up everything you’ve learned in the previous books for the big reveal. But at the same time, but I almost wonder if it is better to read it after you finish Lux. There are a few things I think would have a bigger impact in Lux if you didn’t get that backstory you do in the novella. But even with my knowledge of what happened in Initium, I was still surprised by what happened in Lux so I think whenever you read it would be fine.

The Characters:

All these characters play their roles perfectly. They develop at a great pace but they all still have their secrets that make you want to get to know them more.

I liked Calla as a character. Her love for her brother really made me like her (as a sister myself, I understand that drive to protect your sibling). I didn’t love how she referred to Finn as “crazy” when she knows full well (and even understands) his illness but that is more of a personal issue for me (I don’t like the terms some people associate with mental illness). And at the same time, I understand how it worked for the story and the need for it. In short: Calla was an easy character to get to like and that made reading her story so addicting.

The Romance:

I really liked the romance. It compliments the story in a great way that you appreciate the more you read. I think it is more of a focus in Noctum than the other novels. The final two novels focus more on Calla trying to understand what is happening, including her romantic life but it definitely takes to the background.

Series Rating: 4/5

Nocte  5/5 | Verum 4/5 | (Initium 4/5)  |  Lux 3.5/5


If you enjoy books that make you think and distort reality, this is a great one for you to read! It keeps you on your toes and constantly has you guessing what is going to happen. But if you don’t enjoyed being toyed with, then I wouldn’t pick this one up. Overall, it is one of the most intriguing New Adult reads I’ve read in a while and I liked the suspense and mystery it brought to the genre.

Read if You Like: mindfucks, psychological thrillers, rebuilding the past
Avoid if You: don’t like mysteries, don’t enjoy distored realities, want a romance driven story


  • Unravel by Caila Reed
  • We Were Liars by E Lockhart
  • Fight Club by Chuck  Palahniuk
  • Forbidden by Tabitha Suzman
  • Black Iris by Leah Raeder
  • Ten Tiny Breaths by K A Tucker (Ten Tiny Breaths Series #1)
  • Hopeless by Colleen Hoover (Hopeless Series #1)




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Single Sundays: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for The Girl on the Train (from Goodreads):
A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories.


Author: Paula Hawkins
Genre: Adult, Thriller, Mystery
Heat Rating
: cold
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook


Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

There was no escaping this book this past winter. It was everywhere I looked–the library, online, GoodReads–thanks to the “Gone Girl phenomenon”. You know, the trend in popular culture when one book seems to be the next best thing and so every other book remotely similar is compared and/or you get a surge in published books that follow a similar style. It happened with Twilight, it happened with Fifty Shades of Grey and now it’s Gone Girl‘s turn. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing–it’s nice that a well crafted book is getting the spotlight for once, though I have yet to read Gone Girl. Truth be told, I probably won’t after seeing the movie now that I know what happens–it loses its mystery.

Anyways…back to The Girl on the Train. One of my good friends read this before me and said she had a hard time putting it down. And the comparisons to Gone Girl made me excited to read this one because I do love TV/movie thrillers yet haven’t really touched any literary thrillers that are of the adult variety.

The Concept / The World:

Like Rachel, I take a commuter train home from school and I totally people watch when I do. Without sounding completely creepy, I find it fascinating to watch people as they go about their business. Especially when you are on a commuter train because most of these people know each other since they travel together everyday or every week.

So, my point is, I found this book to be rooted in some deep realism because I’ve totally taken that train and thought, “hmm, I wonder what their lives are like” 😛

The Plot:

This book was exciting to read and I did find myself immersed in the story despite the fact that I had a pretty good idea how it was going to end early in the book. What I did like was that the book did have me second guessing my hypothesis until the big reveal which kept my attention on the story. I do feel like the book was 30 pages too long; however it wasn’t like I was bored reading it.

The mystery is interesting and I loved how interconnected everything was. Getting the three perspectives added an interesting dynamic to the story and kept the plot moving at its faster pace.

The Characters:

These characters were very well developed and always consistent. And I think consistency is super important in thrillers. There is nothing worse than having a character make a radical change to their approach/presentation halfway through the story for no reason. So while I might not list these characters as all time favourites, they definitely served their purpose even if they were a little stereotypical at times.

My Rating: 3.5/5


I really enjoyed The Girl on the Train. For a book that has a lot of hype I thought it lived up to it for the most part. I wish it was a little less predictable but it did keep my attention and have me second guessing my thoughts.

Read if You Like: psychological thrillers, fast paced books
Avoid if You: want more romance to your reads

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn




Book Review: Circle Nine by Anne Heltzel

Synopsis (from Goodreads.com):
Who was Abby then? Who is Abby now? An unsettling psychological thriller, seen through a lost girl’s eyes.

She knows only Sam, a mysterious teenage boy. He is her sole companion; her whole life. She was born, already a teenager, lying outside a burning building in soot-stained clothes, remembering nothing, not even her name. He showed her the necklace she had on, the one that named her: Abby. Sam brought her to live in his cavepalace, where he gives her everything she needs. He loves her. He protects her from the world outside, from everyone who wants to hurt them, like the denizens of Circle Nine, Dante’s deepest circle of hell. But even in a charmed, brand-new life like Abby’s, change will come. Sam falls ill. A new girl comes to stay, and Abby begins to question Sam’s devotion. With doubt comes emotional turmoil, changes in perception, and glimpses of her past identity. In this courageous psychological thriller, Abby tells the story of living her new life and discovering her old one, while grappling with an ever-changing reality.


I went into this book with high expectations. I like psychological books that have a mystery to them so this book seemed like it was right up my alley. I thought this book would make me think about what had happened to Abby–however the only thing it made me think was WTF is going on.

You know when someone tries to be really “deep” about a certain subject and they just can’t get there? Well that’s what happens here.

I have to admit that I have never read Dante’s Inferno (it’s on my list!) but I have studied the general gist of it through my university English classes so I know the ideas and purpose behind it. Perhaps if I knew more about it, I would get more out of this (but I doubt it). From what I can see, it doesn’t play a major role in the story other than providing some context with regards to Hell so if you are looking for a retelling or adaptation of Inferno, you aren’t going to get it!

This book was just a little too out-there for me (read: it was Weird). While I can appreciate the motivation to write this novel and I understand the message the author is trying to convey, I find it falls flat.

I think the worst part is the ending–it just happens so suddenly and I felt that there wasn’t any closure. I really think that the ending of the book is the perfect opportunity to accomplish the message the author set out to give and that she lost her chance to do so by ending it as she did. An epilogue or something would have been great. I can honestly say I don’t remember too much about this novel other than the fact that I HATED the ending.


Stay clear of this one! There are better amnesia stories out there if that is what you are looking for.

Rating: 2/5

Shorthand Stats:
Genre: Young Adult, Drama, Mystery, Psychological
Recommended for: 16+
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