Amanda Trivett

Hazel Severy isn’t a math person. While the rest of her adoptive clan revels in the art of quantum mathematics, Hazel would rather be running her beloved bookstore or reading F. Scott Fitzgerald. But when her grandfather, Isaac, dies under questionable circumstances, Hazel is thrust into a bizarre puzzle. Isaac has entrusted Hazel with his top-secret equation, one that could have a catastrophic impact if it falls into the wrong hands. Now Hazel must weed through the mathematics of Isaac’s clues—without any help from her genius family—to make sure her grandfather’s final wishes are honored before it’s too late.

As the Severy family mourns their patriarch’s death, each is in service of his or her own agenda. Why is Hazel’s police officer brother behaving suspiciously? What burden is Isaac’s professor son keeping from his wife and child? What is the motive behind Hazel’s estranged cousin’s extended stay? Most importantly, why are additional family members starting to die?

Each member of the charmingly odd Severy family is a work in (completely relatable) progress as they struggle to secure their place in the shadow of the legend that was Isaac Severy. Keeping up with their individual trials may seem daunting at first, but the effort is rewarded at the end of their respective dramas.

Debut novelist Nova Jacobs has plotted an elaborate riddle within a multifaceted exploration of family and identity. This genre-bending story will appeal to lovers of family dramas such as Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, as well as readers who prefer their stories full of intellectual suspense.

 

This article was originally published in the March 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Hazel Severy isn’t a math person. While the rest of her adoptive clan revels in the art of quantum mathematics, Hazel would rather be running her beloved bookstore or reading F. Scott Fitzgerald. But when her grandfather, Isaac, dies under questionable circumstances, Hazel is thrust into a bizarre puzzle. Isaac has entrusted Hazel with his top-secret equation, one that could have a catastrophic impact if it falls into the wrong hands. Now Hazel must weed through the mathematics of Isaac’s clues—without any help from her genius family—to make sure her grandfather’s final wishes are honored before it’s too late.

At a time when it seems like there’s a new psychological thriller released every other week—either in book or video format—it is increasingly difficult to find one that stands out in a refreshing way. Anna Snoekstra accomplishes that in her sophomore novel, Little Secrets. This is a must-read for fans of Lisa Gardner and Gilly Macmillan, and is sure to be enjoyed by most mystery lovers.

Best friends Rose and Mia know they are destined for bigger things than what the small Australian town of Colmstock has to offer. Once Rose’s journalism career takes off, they can say goodbye to their humdrum shifts serving beer at Eamon’s, the local police hangout, and move into the city. Until then, the two young women have front-row seats to the town’s most compelling happenings, as rehashed by Colmstock’s finest. When a series of fires ends in the death of a 13-year-old boy and suspicious dolls turn up on too many little girls’ doorsteps, the community is thrown into a tailspin. Rose seizes the opportunity to launch her journalism career by publishing an article about the supposed menace threatening the children of Colmstock. As suspicions grow and tempers rise, it becomes apparent that an ugly truth about the people of Colmstock will be revealed.

Like Snoekstra’s debut, Only Daughter, Little Secrets explores the desperation that can live inside of us—and what happens when individuals have opposing but equally desperate desires. Readers will grow to care about the fates of ambitious Rose and nurturing Mia, as well as the policemen working the case. In addition, readers will thirst to uncover who’s responsible for stirring up the community and heinously stealing the life of a child.

Despair makes for shocking choices, and no one makes it to the other side of this mystery unchanged.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

At a time when it seems like there’s a new psychological thriller released every other week—either in book or video format—it is increasingly difficult to find one that stands out in a refreshing way. Anna Snoekstra accomplishes that in her sophomore novel, Little Secrets. This is a must-read for fans of Lisa Gardner and Gilly Macmillan, and is sure to be enjoyed by most mystery lovers.

Sara Flannery Murphy’s debut novel, The Possessions, is an addictive, slow-burning mystery that fuses classic noir with the intrigue of speculative fiction. Controversial and unregulated, the industry for “bodies”—willing hosts to spirits—is in high demand, and Edie is one of the best. She excels at the evacuation of her body, making room for other souls in carefully metered-out sessions with her clients. But Edie’s careful decorum dissolves upon the assignment of a new client, Patrick, who is desperate to spend time with his deceased wife, Sylvia.

As Edie’s longing for Patrick grows, her desire to share more of her time and body with Sylvia reaches new heights. When Edie decides to investigate the supposedly volatile nature of Patrick and Sylvia’s marriage and her untimely death, major secrets are uncovered.

Inspired by Victorian spiritualism, The Possessions is recommended for lovers of speculative fiction, noir or gritty mysteries. With its focus on intriguing, beautiful women and the variety of tragedies that befall them, the novel also recalls Hitchcock. Murphy ensures compulsive page-turning until the past and future of each character is unveiled, and the crescendo of that reveal is heady and satisfying.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Sara Flannery Murphy’s debut novel, The Possessions, is an addictive, slow-burning mystery that fuses classic noir with the intrigue of speculative fiction. Controversial and unregulated, the industry for “bodies”—willing hosts to spirits—is in high demand, and Edie is one of the best. She excels at the evacuation of her body, making room for other souls in carefully metered-out sessions with her clients. But Edie’s careful decorum dissolves upon the assignment of a new client, Patrick, who is desperate to spend time with his deceased wife, Sylvia.

What do four girlfriends pushing 40, a collection of foregone dreams and need—that desire for something extraordinary and rejuvenating—become? The precursor for the horrors that unveil themselves in Erica Ferencik’s latest novel, The River at Night

Wini, Sandra, Rachel and Pia are the type of friends that remain close in spite of physical distance and ever-changing lives. Each year, the three take a vacation together. Adventurous Pia has finally convinced her three mates to face a new challenge: rafting the Winnegosset River. The foursome head into the Maine wilderness accompanied by a 20-something guide, Rory. Tension builds as some start to question Rory’s competency, and intensifies when Pia impulsively begins an intimate relationship with Rory. 

Despite the emotional chasm, cooperation is required in order to navigate the dangers of the river. Each bend and rush successfully maneuvered builds confidence. But when unexpected tragedy strikes, the remaining group must struggle to survive in the remote woods of Maine—injured and with limited supplies. Roaming for help, the group discovers potential salvation . . . but have they actually just revealed themselves to the most dangerous predator yet? 

Ferencik, no stranger to creating an effective blend of dread and horror (showcased in her novel Repeaters), continually surprises with as many plot twists and turns as the titular river itself. Following the influence that the various characters’ strengths, flaws, insecurities and determination have on the ultimate resolution is a captivating experience. This is a novel that will burrow in your memory well after its conclusion.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook

What do four girlfriends pushing 40, a collection of foregone dreams and need—that desire for something extraordinary and rejuvenating—become? The precursor for the horrors that unveil themselves in Erica Ferencik’s latest novel, The River at Night.

Most adults experience at least one great romantic love in their lifetime. Outcomes obviously vary, but not the initial devotion and desire. In Stephanie Gangi’s The Next, 46-year-old Joanna DeAngelis found her soul mate unexpectedly in Ned McGowan. Ned, a professor at Columbia, is 15 years Joanna’s junior. Despite the age difference, they were ablaze with passion from the moment they met. But after Joanna is diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer, Ned commits a deplorable act of betrayal.

As her daughters, Anna and Laney, care for her, Joanna spends her final days obsessed with Ned and his perfect new life, which she follows on social media. As Joanna takes her last breath, her singular focus is vengeance. So, what happens when one dies filled with such intense drive? Joanna becomes a ghost residing in “the next,” seen and felt by whomever she chooses. She is raw energy, and revenge is her only goal. 

In spirit form, Joanna is sultry, witty and as unrelenting as her combined lust and hatred for Ned. Anna and Laney take turns narrating the aftermath of their mother’s death, as does Ned himself. Each speaker’s voice and inner monologue beautifully captures the essence of that particular character while adding context to current and past events. 

In her first adult novel, Gangi has created deeply flawed characters that readers still care about a great deal. Her style is gritty and descriptive, with no subject considered taboo. The Next is a fast-paced ghost story, but it is also a story about the bonds between people: family, friends, lovers and survivors. How does one move past tragedy and injustice? Gangi has presented us with an unforgettable tale describing how one family does just that.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Most adults experience at least one great romantic love in their lifetime. Outcomes obviously vary, but not the initial devotion and desire. In Stephanie Gangi’s The Next, 46-year-old Joanna DeAngelis found her soul mate unexpectedly in Ned McGowan. Ned, a professor at Columbia, is 15 years Joanna’s junior. Despite the age difference, they were ablaze with passion from the moment they met. But after Joanna is diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer, Ned commits a deplorable act of betrayal.

In as little as 24 hours, your life can irrevocably change. Gilly Macmillan unflinchingly explores this reality in her second novel, The Perfect Girl. A year after publishing her bestselling, Edgar-nominated debut novel, What She Knew, Macmillan captivates readers with a story just as addictive as her first.

The titular “Perfect” girl is 17-year-old genius musician Zoe. Zoe and her mother, Maria, have been outcast from their former community after Zoe was found guilty of driving under the influence and killing three local teenagers, including her best friend. Maria has remarried into what is dubbed the “Second Chance Family,” which includes new husband Chris and his teenage son, Lucas, both oblivious to Zoe and Maria’s marred past. Their lives are intertwined with Sam, Zoe’s former lawyer; Tessa, Zoe’s aunt and Maria’s sister; and Richard, Tessa’s loving yet alcoholic husband.

The relationships in the “Second Chance Family” are fraught with secrets. Brooding Lucas is obviously carrying around the weight of his own past, while Maria maintains a precarious presentation of herself and Zoe to meet the expecations of suspiciously controlling Chris. When Maria is found dead, the thread holding everyone together unravels during the next 24 hours. Having already been institutionalized, Zoe fears she will become the prime suspect, but those closest to Maria and Zoe cannot be discounted as potential murderers.

Macmillan shines when exploring the intricacies of relationships, and the ties that bind this family are strained and complicated indeed. The story is told from the perspective of only three narrators: Zoe, Tessa and Sam. Yet through these lenses, we gain intimate insight into the other characters in whom we have become so invested. Macmillan adeptly demonstrates through her chosen method of storytelling that 24 hours can pass in what seems like a second—or a lifetime.

Macmillan has provided a follow-up novel possibly even better than her first, and fans of Tana French, Ruth Ware and Gillian Flynn will become completely entrenched in the unfolding details. 

In as little as 24 hours, your life can irrevocably change. Gilly Macmillan unflinchingly explores this reality in her second novel, The Perfect Girl. A year after publishing her bestselling, Edgar-nominated debut novel, What She Knew, Macmillan captivates readers with a story just as addictive as her first.

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