Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon Spotlight

NEVER COMING HOME

Author: Hannah Mary McKinnon

ISBN: 9780778386100

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Publisher: MIRA Books

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Twitter: @HannahMMcKinnon

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Author Bio: 

Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing, and is now the author of The Neighbors, Her Secret Son, Sister Dear and You Will Remember Me. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.

Book Summary:

Gone Girl meets Fargo in this deliciously sinister suspense novel about a man who plots his wife’s murder to cash in on her inheritance, only to have his brilliant plan turned around on him.

First comes love, then comes murder

Set to inherit his in-laws’ significant fortune, which would help him care for his ailing father, Lucas Forester decides to help things along by ordering a hit on his wife. (Michelle’s not exactly the most lovable person, anyway.) Everything is going according to his meticulous plan, until he receives a potentially recent photograph of Michelle. Frantic that his plan is being foiled, Lucas must find out if she’s alive, and silence her forever before she can expose him.

Excerpt

1

SUNDAY

The steady noise from the antique French carriage clock on the mantelpiece had somehow amplified itself, a rhythmic tick-tick, tick-tick, which usually went unnoticed. After I’d been sitting in the same position and holding my ailing mother-in-law’s hand for almost an hour, the incessant clicking had long wormed its way deep into my brain where it grated on my nerves, stirring up fantasies of hammers, bent copper coils, and shattered glass.

Nora looked considerably worse than when I’d visited her earlier this week. She was propped up in bed, surrounded by a multitude of pillows. She’d lost more weight, something her pre-illness slender physique couldn’t afford. Her bones jutted out like rocks on a cliff, turning a kiss on the cheek into an extreme sport in which you might lose an eye. The ghostly hue on her face resembled the kids who’d come dressed up as ghouls for Halloween a few days ago, emphasizing the dark circles that had transformed her eyes into mini sinkholes. It wasn’t clear how much time she had left. I was no medical professional, but we could all tell it wouldn’t be long. When she’d shared her doctor’s diagnosis with me barely three weeks ago, they’d estimated around two months, but at the rate of Nora’s decline, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise if it turned out to be a matter of days.

Ovarian cancer. As a thirty-two-year-old Englishman who wasn’t yet half Nora’s age I’d had no idea it was dubbed the silent killer but now understood why. Despite the considerable wealth and social notoriety Nora enjoyed in the upscale and picturesque town of Chelmswood on the outskirts of Boston, by the time she’d seen someone because of a bad back and they’d worked out what was going on, her vital organs were under siege. The disease was a formidable opponent, the stealthiest of snipers, destroying her from the inside out before she had any indication something was wrong.

A shame, truly, because Nora was the only one in the Ward family I actually liked. I wouldn’t have sat here this long with my arse going numb for my father-in-law’s benefit, that’s for sure. Given half the chance I’d have smothered him with a pillow while the nurse wasn’t looking. But not Nora. She was kindhearted, gentle. The type of person who quietly gave time and money to multiple causes and charities without expecting a single accolade in return. Sometimes I imagined my mother would’ve been like Nora, had she survived, and fleetingly wondered what might have become of me if she hadn’t died so young, if I’d have grown up to be a good person.

I gradually pulled my hand away from Nora’s and reached for my phone, decided on playing a game or two of backgammon until she woke up. The app had thrashed me the last three rounds and I was due, but Nora’s fingers twitched before I made my first move. I studied her brow, which seemed furrowed in pain even as she slept. Not for the first time I hoped the Grim Reaper would stake his or her claim sooner rather than later. If I were death, I’d be swift, efficient, and merciful, not prescribe a drawn-out, painful process during which body, mind, or both, wasted away. People shouldn’t be made to suffer as they died. Not all of them, anyway.

“Lucas?”

I jumped as Diane, Nora’s nurse and my neighbor, put a hand on my shoulder. She’d only left the room for a couple of minutes but always wore those soft-soled shoes when she worked, which meant I never heard her coming until she was next to me. Kind of sneaky, when I thought about it, and I decided I wouldn’t sit with my back to the door again.

As she walked past, the air filled with the distinctive medicinal scent of hand sanitizer and antiseptic. I hated that smell. Too many bad memories I couldn’t shake. Diane set a glass of water on the bedside table, checked Nora’s vitals, and turned around. Hands on hips, she peered down at me from her six-foot frame, her tight dark curls bouncing alongside her jawbone like a set of tiny corkscrews.

“You can go home now. I’ll take the evening from here.” Regardless of her amicable delivery, there was no mistaking the instruction, but she still added, “Get some rest. God knows you look like you need it.”

“Thanks a lot,” I replied with mock indignation. “You sure know how to flatter a guy.”

Diane cocked her head to one side, folded her arms, and gave me another long stare, which to anyone else would’ve been intimidating. “How long since you slept? I mean properly.”

I waved a hand. “It’s only seven o’clock.”

“Yeah, I guess given the circumstances I wouldn’t want to be home alone, either.”

I looked away. “That’s not what this is about. I’ll wait until Nora wakes up again. I want to say goodbye. You know, in case she…” My voice cracked a little on the last word and I feigned a cough as I pressed the heels of my palms over my eyes.

“She won’t,” Diane whispered. “Not tonight. Trust me. She’s not ready to go.”

I knew Diane had worked in hospice for two decades and had seen more than her fair share of people taking their last breaths. If she said Nora wouldn’t die tonight, then Nora would still be here in the morning.

“I’ll leave in a bit. After she wakes up.”

Diane let out a resigned sigh and sat down in the chair on the opposite side of the bed. A comfortable silence settled between us despite the fact we didn’t know each other very well. I’d first met Diane and her wife Karina, who were both in their forties, when they’d struck up a conversation with me and my wife Michelle as we’d moved into our house on the other side of Chelmswood almost three years prior. Something about garbage days and recycling rules, I think. The mundane discussion could’ve led to a multitude of drinks, shared meals, and the swapping of embarrassing childhood stories, except we were all what Michelle had called busy professionals with (quote) hectic work schedules that make forging new friendships difficult. My Captain Subtext translated her comment as can’t be bothered and, consequently, the four of us had never made the transition from neighbors to close friends.

Aside from the occasional holiday party invitation or looking after each other’s places whenever we were away—picking up the mail, watering the plants, that kind of thing—we only saw each other in passing. Nevertheless, Karina regularly left a Welcome Back note on our kitchen counter along with flowers from their garden and a bottle of wine. Not one to be outdone on anything, Michelle reciprocated, except she’d always chosen more elaborate bouquets and fancier booze. My wife’s silent little pissing contests, which I’d pretended to be too dense to notice, had irked me to hell and back, but when Nora fell ill and Diane had been assigned as one of her nurses, I’d been relieved it was someone I knew and trusted.

“I’m sorry this is happening to you,” Diane said, rescuing me from the spousal memories. “It’s not fair. I mean, it’s never fair, obviously, but on top of what you’re going through with Michelle. I can’t imagine. It’s so awful…”

I acknowledged the rest of the words she left hanging in the air with a nod. There was nothing left to say about my wife’s situation we hadn’t already discussed, rediscussed, dissected, reconstructed, and pulled apart all over again. We’d not solved the mystery of her whereabouts or found more clues. Nothing new, helpful or hopeful, anyway. We never would.

Silence descended upon us again, the gaudy carriage clock ticking away, reviving the images of me with hammer in hand until the doorbell masked the sound.

“I’ll go,” Diane muttered, and before I had the chance to stand, she left the room and pulled the door shut. I couldn’t help wondering if her swift departure was because she needed to escape from me, the man who’d used her supportive shoulder almost daily for the past month. I decided to tone it down a little. Nobody wanted to be around an overdramatic, constant crybaby regardless of their circumstances.

I listened for voices but couldn’t hear any despite my leaning toward the door and craning my neck. I couldn’t risk moving in case Nora woke up. Her body was failing, but her mind remained sharp as a box of tacks. She’d wonder what I was up to if she saw my ear pressed against the mahogany panel. Solid mahogany. The best money could buy thanks to the Ward family’s three-generations-old construction empire. No cheap building materials in this house, as my father-in-law had pointed out when he’d first given me the tour of the six bedrooms, four reception rooms, indoor and outdoor kitchens (never mind the abhorrent freezing Boston winters), and what could only be described as grounds because yard implied it was manageable with a push-along mower.

“Only the best for my family,” Gideon had said in his characteristic rumbly, pompous way as he’d knocked back another glass of Laphroaig, the broad East Coast accent he worked hard to hide making more of a reappearance with each gluttonous glug. “No MDF, vinyl or laminate garbage, thank you. That’s not what I’m about. Not at all.”

It’s in the houses you build for others, I’d thought as I’d grunted an inaudible reply he no doubt mistook for agreement because people rarely contradicted him. As I raised my glass of scotch, I didn’t mention the council flats I grew up in on what Gideon dismissed as the lesser side of the pond, or the multiple times Dad and I had been kicked out of our dingy digs because he couldn’t pay the rent, and we’d ended up on the streets. My childhood had been vastly different to my wife’s, and I imagined the pleasure I’d find in watching Gideon’s eyes bulge as I described the squalor I’d lived in, and he realized my background was worlds away from the shiny and elitist version I’d led everyone to believe was the truth. I pictured myself laughing as he understood his perfect daughter had married so far beneath her, she may as well have pulled me up from the dirt like a carrot, and not the expensive organic kind.

Of course, I hadn’t told him anything. I’d taken another swig of the scotch I loathed, but otherwise kept my mouth shut. As satisfying as it would’ve been, my father-in-law knowing the truth about my background had never been part of my long-term agenda. In any case, and despite Gideon’s efforts, things were working to plan. Better than. The smug bastard was dead.

And he wasn’t the only one.

Excerpted from Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon. Copyright © 2022 by Hannah Mary McKinnon. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Primal Animals by Julia Lynn Rubin

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Primal Animals

Author: Julia Lynn Rubin

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5

Diversity: Queen characters, Trans character, Bisexual MC, Adopted character

Recommended For…: young adult readers, thriller, mystery, LGBT, horror, summer camp

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Genre: YA Thriller Mystery

Age Relevance: 17+ (religion, religious trauma, sexual harassment, sexual assault, medical gaslighting, anxiety, parental death, child abuse, kidnapping, transphobia, homophobia, sexism, underage alcohol consumption, drug use, language, gore, violence, death, murder, romance, animal death, animal gore)

Explanation of Above: Religion and religious trauma are mentioned briefly in this book. There are mentions of sexual harassment and one mention of a sexual assault. The book shows some medical gaslighting, anxiety, and mentions parental death. There are also some scenes of child abuse via emotional abuse and one slight mention and scene of physical abuse. Kidnapping is shown once in the book. There are mentions of transphobia and homophobia in passing of what’s going on in Texas. There is also sexism shown in the book, as well as a LOT of underage alcohol consumption and some drug use mentioned. There is some cursing in this book, as well as vomit and blood gore and a lot of violence shown and mentioned. There is death and murder in this book. There is some very slight romance in this book. There is also a lot of animal death and gore in the book, occurring to moths, foals, deer, cockroaches, and flies. The animal gore in this book is extreme and I highly advise those sensitive to it do not read this book or go into it warned.

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 304

Synopsis: Protect the girls

Arlee Gold is anxious about spending the summer at the college prep Camp Rockaway—the same camp her mother attended years ago, which her mother insists will help give Arlee a “fresh start” and will “change her life.” Little does Arlee know that, once she steps foot on the manicured grounds, this will prove to be true in horrifying ways.

Even though the girls in her cabin are awesome—and she’s developing a major crush on the girl who sleeps in the bunk above her—the other campers seem to be wary of Arlee, unwilling to talk to her or be near her, which only ramps up her paranoia. When she’s tapped to join a strange secret society, Arlee thinks this will be her shot at fitting in…until her new “sisters” ask her to do the unthinkable, putting her life, and the life of her new crush, in perilous danger.

Review: I felt like this was a good book. I immediately connected with the main character because of our shared fear of bugs and I liked the idea of the secret society. I thought the book did good in the world building and I liked the premise of it. I also liked the overall feel of the book. It did well to be a thriller and keep a mystery atmosphere rather than a horror one that sometimes thriller books fall into.

However, I didn’t like the book that well. I thought the book had a lot of characters at the beginning and that made it really hard to keep everyone sorted out. The book had a lot of twists and turns and a lot of them weren’t well plotted out. The character development wasn’t there and I just felt like the book could have been better if more expanded and more explained. It just felt like everything was way too rushed.

Verdict: It was ok, just not for me.

Book Info:

Primal Animals by Julia Lynn Rubin

Genre: Young Adult Horror

Publishing Date: May 24, 2022

Synopsis:

Protect the girls

Arlee Gold is anxious about spending the summer at the college prep Camp Rockaway—the same camp her mother attended years ago, which her mother insists will help give Arlee a “fresh start” and will “change her life.” Little does Arlee know that, once she steps foot on the manicured grounds, this will prove to be true in horrifying ways.
Even though the girls in her cabin are awesome—and she’s developing a major crush on the girl who sleeps in the bunk above her—the other campers seem to be wary of Arlee, unwilling to talk to her or be near her, which only ramps up her paranoia. When she’s tapped to join a strange secret society, Arlee thinks this will be her shot at fitting in…until her new “sisters” ask her to do the unthinkable, putting her life, and the life of her new crush, in perilous danger. 

Content Warning: Blood, gore, mentions of Sexual harassment/assault

Book Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58724958-primal-animals

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1250757290/ref=x_gr_w_bb_sin?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_sin_ca-20&linkCode=as2&camp=15121&creative=330641

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/primal-animals-julia-lynn-rubin/1139985579?ean=9781250757296

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Primal-Animals-Julia-Lynn-Rubin/9781250757296?ref=grid-view&qid=1646931159558&sr=1-1

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/primal-animals-a-novel/9781250757296-item.html?ikwid=primal+animals&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=5bf2193da2f53ae3912a84b6652a5ec7 IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250757296

About the Author:

Julia Lynn Rubin lives the writer’s life in Brooklyn, where she finished an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults at The New School in 2017. For three years she served as a writing mentor for Girls Write Now, New York City’s premiere writing program for high school girls, and she continues to facilitate pre-K literacy programs throughout Brooklyn at libraries and family shelters.Julia has been writing books, poems, and stories since first grade, and loves reading about everything from film analysis (she’s a film nerd) to psychology and philosophy. Her short stories have appeared in publications such as the North American ReviewSierra Nevada Review, and The Lascaux Review, and she has written for a variety of online publications, including BuzzFeedThe Content StrategistFatherly, and Wetpaint Entertainment.

Julia is passionate about realism and diversity in teen literature. She hopes to one day own a French bulldog, pug, Boston terrier, or perhaps a mix of all three. She loves indie films, drag shows, and spending as much time as possible at the beach.​

She is represented by Lauren Spieller of Triada US Literary Agency

Author Links:

Website: https://www.julialynnrubin.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/julialynnrubin

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/swissbeauty/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17071577.Julia_Lynn_Rubin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julialynnrubin/?fref=ts

Tour Schedule:https://tbrandbeyondtours.com/2022/04/07/tour-schedule-primal-animals-by-julia-lynn-rubin/

Summer’s Edge by Dana Mele

Disclaimer: I received this arc and e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Summer’s Edge

Author: Dana Mele

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3.5/5

Diversity: Queer character and MC

Recommended For…: young adult readers, thriller, mystery, LGBT, paranormal, horror

Publication Date: May 31, 2022

Genre: YA Thriller Mystery

Age Relevance: 14+ (language, death, grief, involuntary committal, underage alcohol consumption, arson, murder, romance, animal death, animal gore, PTSD, suicidal ideation, sexual content, gore, drowning, violence, drugging)

Explanation of Above: The book contains some slight cursing and shows of death, arson, murder, drowning, and drugging. There is some slight blood gore and violence with fights. There is grief, PTSD, and involuntary committal shown and mentioned in the book. There is a lot of underage alcohol consumption. There is slight romance and slight mention of suicidal ideation. There is one scene that shows an animal death and blood animal gore, both to a rabbit.

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Pages: 325

Synopsis: Emily Joiner was once part of an inseparable group—she was a sister, a best friend, a lover, and a rival. Summers without Emily were unthinkable. Until the fire burned the lake house to ashes with her inside.

A year later, it’s in Emily’s honor that Chelsea and her four friends decide to return. The house awaits them, meticulously rebuilt. Only, Chelsea is haunted by ghostly visions. Loner Ryan stirs up old hurts and forces golden boy Chase to play peacemaker. Which has perfect hostess Kennedy on edge as eerie events culminate in a stunning accusation: Emily’s death wasn’t an accident. And all the clues needed to find the person responsible are right here.

As old betrayals rise to the surface, Chelsea and her friends have one night to unravel a mystery spanning three summers before a killer among them exacts their revenge.

Review: For the most part the book was pretty thrilling. The book reminded me a lot of Until Dawn and I Know What You Did Last Summer, but with a more horrific twist. The book had a lot of good twists and turns and for the most part it had a great premise. The world building was fairly well done and the book is definitely one that will keep you intrigued throughout.

However, I felt like the character development was very poor. The book didn’t explain everyone’s motives well and they just weren’t well formed. I also thought the book was confusing, which I think can be a good plot device, but wasn’t well executed in this book. While I know now about this friend group, in the beginning there are just too many things off about the group and it can deter readers from continuing the book. I think if the twist was shown earlier in the novel and then played with a bit more, than it wouldn’t have been so off-putting in the beginning. The book also had a great deal of an info dump at the end and I didn’t like that. I think if the flashbacks were scattered more throughout the book then it would have worked better.

Verdict: It was ok.

BOOK INFORMATION

TITLE:  Summer’s Edge

AUTHOR: Dana Mele

PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster
RELEASE DATE: May 31, 2022

GENRES: YA Thriller/Mystery
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