Cover Image: He Started It

He Started It

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Member Reviews

I find this quote the perfect way to start this review. “..there was a little thief inside of Portia all along. Just like there was an asshole inside of Eddie... And a liar inside of all of us.” I loved author’s other book, it kept me on my toes almost as much as this one and really had me wanting more of their books. I found this one to be an even stronger psychological thriller! 


Each character was extremely unreliable, which made me feel like I couldn’t trust anyone. There was a mix of good and bad in each. The personalities of each were definitely realistic in my mind. Everyone is complex, and I thought that was portrayed wonderfully. The family dynamics were something you could only see in books and movies, it really helped everything play out.


The story started getting less and less plausible in my mind, but ending up playing out really well. If you were a fan of this author’s last book I would highly recommend picking this one up. The humor was dark and made me laugh out loud multiple times.
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Dysfunctional family road trip – raise your hand if you are in!

Beth, Eddie, and Portia have lost their grandfather and are the recipients of his inheritance. All they have to do is repeat the road trip they all took together twenty years ago. How hard could that be, right?!

I enjoyed this road trip and the mystery of it all. We don’t know where they are going, what will happen along the way, and how this road trip will end. I really had no idea what was coming next and rather than trying to figure it out I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.

One of my favorite things about this book was all of their stops along the way. They stopped at some pretty interesting places making me wish I could venture across the country myself. Unfortunately, in case you haven’t heard, there is a pesky little virus out there keeping us rooted at the moment, but it did set my mind into motion about how fun it would be to hit the road someday! Although, no offense to my four siblings, I will not be taking them with me.

These siblings are seriously messed up! How did they get that way, my lips are sealed, you will have to read the book to find out!
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I didn’t think the author could up her game after My Lovely Wife but she managed to. This is a completely different but still a nail biting thriller. This dysfunctional family drove me bonkers in the best possible way!
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First line: You want a heroine.

Summary: When their grandfather dies, he leaves a dying wish. He wants his grandchildren to recreate and follow the same road trip they took together 20 years before. He wants his ashes taken with them and scattered in the desert where their trip ended.

Family road trips can be stressful. But made even more stressful when everyone is hiding a secret. However, in order to earn their inheritance, they must complete his request. Money is a motivator. So even with all the fighting and secrets they know they must finish the road trip at all costs.

My Thoughts: This book was messed up! It was one crazy twist after another. When you think you’ve seen it all you are proven wrong. At the end I kept flipping the page over because I couldn’t believe the book ended as it did. It was a wild ride. I did not like any of the characters. They treat each other terribly and most of the people they meet. It’s like watching a train wreck and you can’t look away. I had to know what was going to happen next. The one critique I had was the cigarette situation. It seemed so petty but that may have been the point. It made me dislike the characters even more.

I did like though that the sites they visit are real. Take a look. They are pretty neat actually. I would even add them to my next road trip.

FYI: Very dark, crazy read.
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I loved everything about this book until the ending. I shouldn't have expected it given the ending of My Lovely Wife, but this one frustrated me a bit more. There was so much build up to finding Nikki and the black truck and the woman with them that the ending just left me disappointed.
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Samantha Downing does it again with another nail-biting, heart pounding, edge-of-your-seat thriller! If you haven’t read this novel yet you definitely need to get your hands on a copy today!

I loved the entire premise of this book. A sibling road trip that is their late grandfather’s final wishes for them if they are to get their share of the inheritance. This should be a time for the siblings to bond and reminisce about their grandfather and the trip they took together all those years ago. What could go wrong? Well apparently a lot! I loved every page of this book as I flipped through the pages and followed the siblings on their roadtrip journey.

All the siblings have secrets and something they are hiding from everyone else. They all have their share of lies, secrets, darkness and betrayal . There is so much going on during this roadtrip together there is never a dull moment. You will find yourself flying through the chapters to see what will happen next. I enjoyed reading all of the different dynamics amongst the 3 siblings and their partners, and their different relationships with one another.

A thriller that you are sure to enjoy so grab your copy today!
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He Started It is a great example of a sophmore novel from Samantha Downing. This book has some great moments that definitely provide some shock factor, however, the book fell short for me because I felt that it dragged a bit throughout the road trip.
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I was really excited for this book but i just felt it was too slow of a slow burn. If that makes sense. I just felt it dragged and was a bit too repetitive. I enjoyed the witty banter and snarky humor. I just didn’t feel connected to the story. I think it was well written and had a lot of potential, i just don’t think I’m cut out for the slow burns.
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Samantha Downing takes us along on an adventure we will never forget in her book, He Started it.“Anyone who ends up in jail, who does not complete the trip or who deviates from the trip in any way, will get nothing.” Those were the conditions of the family trip Beth’s grandfather designed for Beth and her siblings, Portia and Eddie and was instructed to them in his will. This was the only way they would get the money he left for them. The trip follows the exact path their grandfather took them on when they were children. Along the way, crazy things start happening. They keep getting flats and they feel like someone is following them. Once, their grandfather’s ashes even disappear.

Downing really knows how to get into her character’s heads and shape them to be anything but average. Typically, there is a good and a bad (or more than one) character in a story. In Downing’s books, it is difficult to tell if a character is a hero or a villain. These siblings are not your typical “good characters.” We do not often get to see a book’s perspective from a bad character.

Throughout the book, readers get a look into someone’s journal. It is not entirely clear who is writing the journal and when. This just adds to the mystery of the book, keeping the readers engaged.

Each stop on their road trip seemed to get stranger and stranger. It made me wonder how Downing was able to think up some of these ideas. Through each state the family went through, the beginning of the chapter had the State Motto. This was such a unique touch on her part. You can really tell the amount of time spent researching this book.

I don’t know about you, but I would not want to be on this roadtrip!

Thank you NetGalley, Samantha Downing and Berkley for the DRC in exchange for an honest review.
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Fasts paced thriller with many twists and surprises. A story of three siblings on two road trips 20 years apart with an ending I didn’t see coming.
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Favorite Quotes:

That’s my husband, Felix, the pale one with the strong jaw and white-blond hair with matching eyebrows and lashes. In a certain light, he disappears.

Krista’s out of the car now, hands on hips and her back arched, which can’t be a good sign. She’s one of those suburban women who have never seen real trouble and think it only happens on the Internet.

Portia stands in front of me, her eyes unwavering, and I believe that she believes the truck is following us. In a movie, this would end with hillbilly cannibals, but we aren’t in a movie.

My Review:

This book was an arduous read and heaving with an appalling and vile cast of annoying characters doing dastardly things.  The entire family was exasperating, reprehensible, horrid, and despicable. They had been beastly as children during their first run of this peculiar choice of road trip and were three times as horrific as adults while they retraced their original trek.  I reviled and despised them all, yet their witty snark and shrewdly paced, intriguing, and mysteriously twisty tale kept me rapt to my Kindle and unable to stop reading.  

I was absolutely furious at the ending, stamping my little foot and turning the air around me blue with invectives.  Yet I must give this guileful and wily author her due, as her provocative missive was cunningly crafted, deviously clever, and cannily plotted. I would caution her neighbors to tread lightly, ply her with treats, never ask for favors, and always keep a sharp eye open.
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Where do we even begin? Let’s see. This is a road trip I thoroughly enjoyed watching from afar. And by enjoyed, I mean I loved every minute of this pathetic family and their mess. Secrets, lies, and a-holes, oh my. We have it all for you folks, compacted into one little car, but don’t forget grandpa is in the trunk and is the reason they are here, recreating the last road trip they took together as kids so they can all get their greedy little hands on gpa’s inheritance. 

What a wild ride. What a fabulous, unique concept. What a glorious way to make someone work for an inheritance. Note that this one is a slow burn, but it is really good and you just cannot put it down or look away as this group made their way through each destination continuing on to their final one. I had to know what was going to happen, and as awful as these people were, I was a little endeared to them at different times, mostly Beth. She is passive aggressive at its finest. And that ending? I could NOT. 

I highly recommend this one for all thriller fans. Definitely some trigger warnings in here so be prepared, but this was such a great read. Samantha Downing is now a must read author for me, loved both of her books, this one being my favorite!

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley for the egalley to review, and for asking me to be a part of the blog tour for this book!
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I absolutely loved Downing’s debut novel, MY LOVELY WIFE, so when I saw she had a new book coming out I knew I needed to pick it up ASAP. While I liked her debut just a little bit more, HE STARTED IT was just as addictive as a read and kept me guessing until the explosive ending. This one does start off with a slower build to it, but the author keeps you on the edge of your seat and keeps your curiosity piqued from start to finish. So many questions and you slowly get some answers that then lead to more questions. Little details are peppered in as we go from present day and back to their original road trip in 1999.

We see solely through Beth’s perspective with some journal entries sprinkled in. Beth and her two siblings, Eddie and Portia, as well as Beth and Eddie’s spouses Felix and Krista, are all on a roadtrip that will end in their inheritance from their grandfather. In his will he stated that they must repeat the roadtrip that they took in 1999 and at the end of it they will receive their portion of his enormous inheritance (just over one million each). The things people will do when money is a motivator. You would think this would be an easy trip, right? Well, when you have a strange truck following you through multiple states and the paranoia that comes with thinking someone is trying to sabotage you on top of a dysfunctional family dynamic, proves to make things more difficult than they imagined.

Plenty of secrets, not only from the spouses but within the family as well. Estranged siblings all reliving the roadtrip that changed everything for them. I don’t want to go into too much more detail and potentially ruin any twists or big reveals, but I will say that you really can’t trust any of these characters. Despite them all seeming to have a hidden agenda, some are really likable, at least I didn’t have any I was frustrated with. Overall, if you want a solid psychological suspense/thriller that has a consistent build to a crazy ending, then I highly recommend you pick this up. I think this helped solidify Downing’s position as a new auto-buy author for me!
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I've read both of Samantha's books and I absolutely love her writing!!  I know authors get a little nervous when there first book does as well as hers -- My Lovely Wife -- but Samantha has nothing to be nervous about.  I couldn't turn the pages fast enough and the ending blew me away just like her first book!!  She is an extremely talented writer and her books are so fun to read!!
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"Because I could. Because no one stopped me. Because it was easy. All the same answer, and it really means 'because I wanted to.'"

This is a story about family. Siblings. A long road trip with a promised huge inheritance at the end of the trek. They love each other, right -- but feelings can be like a seesaw because they each have their own agendas and they don't all have the same end goal. 

The Morgan siblings Eddie, Beth and Portia are about to recreate a trip they made with their grandfather 20 years ago. Eddie's wife, Krista, and Beth's husband, Felix, have also come along for the ride. Their grandfather's will is specific: "Go on the road trip. Scatter my ashes at the end. Once I'm in my final resting place, my estate will be equally divided between you." They all knew exactly where they had to go but there were a couple of stipulations -- "anyone who ends up in jail, who does not complete the trip, or who deviates from the original trip in any way, will get nothing." After a bit of research, they piled into the rental car and headed off. But this was never going to be a simple,  fun family road trip and each one is in for some shock and surprise. NO SPOILERS.

What a fast, fun read that I finished in one sitting as it was very hard to put down. Lots of twists and turns and a cast of characters that you will love to hate. The writing was great and I just had to find out what happened. This family kept some huge secrets and were very adept at lying and scheming. Just when you think you have it all figured out, this clever tale will make you extremely glad that your own family isn't like this one! Enjoy.

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing for this e-book ARC to read, review and recommend.
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This is the second time this week I've read the second book from a newish author and wondered if they could live up to their first book.  The answer? Yes she can.

The story seems innocuous enough, three siblings on a road trip to fulfill their grandfather's wishes per his will.  Actually, it is the same trip they took with their grandfather as children.  If you traveled as a child, you probably are thinking about a fun filled trip, well as the story goes on we learn it wasn't quite what one would expect to experience.  The crazy museums, dive hotels, and twists I did not expect.

"Because I could."

This line is spoken by multiple characters and while it seems like a harmless statement, it is not.  I can't remember how many of the characters said this line, but I remember at least two, maybe three.  It is a justification for their actions.

I think this whole family was twisted in one way or another. The family was raised playing the game Risk.  If you are not familiar with this game, it is one where you strategize, create alliances, and more to take over the world in the game. You may think you can trust your family, but when it came to this game, no one trusted anyone.

"As much as I hated it, that time lying was easier because you've got to pick your battles. That's a Risk thing. You can't fight everyone all the tie, you'll just lose your whole army.  Now that I think about it, maybe I am living pretty authentically. It's just the Risk version."

Beth is the narrator of this story and just when I thought I understood her she would throw a curveball and challenge what I thought I knew to be true. Along with her siblings on this trip are two spouses. Eddie's wife Krista and Beth's husband Felix.

I can't share too many details since I do not want to give away some of the plot twists, but just when I was settling into a groove with the story and characters, something would happen that would turn everything upside down.  Then there would be another plot twist, another unexpected action by the characters, and so forth.  The ending?  OMG, I did not expect that to occur.  I also wanted to throw my Kindle across the room because the author leaves you hanging wondering what the final outcome is with all of the characters.  I have my suspicions but the author truly does leave it up to the reader.

This author is one I will continue to read and I wonder what she might be working on next that will turn us on our ears.  We give this book 5 paws up.
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I adored My Lovely Wife, and this was no exception. I had to try to start reading it a few times to get into it - definitely a slow start - but man did it pay off. Downing is the queen of the twist, and I adored every minute I spent between the digital pages of this book. She is a new auto-buy author for me.
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Content Warnings: Physical violence/threat thereof, spousal abuse, gaslighting, blood, drugging

The premise of Samantha Downing's first novel, My Lovely Wife, about a husband and wife who kill together, was such an amazing concept that I knew I wanted to put it on my tbr right away. It had all the pings for a book I wanted: morally bwuh characters, will they or won't they get caught, and against the grain "who are we rooting for" plot.

When I was offered a spot on the He Started It blog tour by the publisher, I was very interested because Samantha Downing's second thriller sounds, if anything, even more curious and engaging that the first. There's a large inheritance that can only be secured under odd circumstances, estranged siblings, mysterious events of the past that only become more mysterious as we get crumbs revealed along the way.

I gobbled this book up within 36 hours. I can't wait to see what y'all will think because I could not stop shouting about it at the close. 😂


Likes


The setup of the novel is that the siblings (Eddie, Beth, and Portia) have to complete a road trip they once took with their grandfather in order to receive a significant inheritance (starts out at about $3m, turns out about $8m if I remember correctly). The stakes: HIGH. That alone, combined with the tension, lays out a gorgeous map of excitement. How will they ever get to the end, given that they, for all that we can tell, do not like each other? Trapped in a SUV for a cross country trip, even with millions up for grabs, is a lot.




The reality of the road trip was really neat. While, with the exception of national chains, the motels & restaurants were fictional, all of the attractions, tourist sites, and museums were real. That added another layer of interest to the plot, knowing that a) these characters were treading in places that, should the mood take you, you too could visit, and b) that these wild places were REAL. Given the reactions we are given by the characters, it seems almost impossible, but whoa!




Narrated by Beth, early on we are told certain things, primarily among them that she is not the heroine for very specific reasons. However, because she is the voice that the reader is receiving the story and their information from, it becomes almost a game to discover what can be trusted, either from her own perspective or our own. Going back and forth from the current, inheritance gathering road trip to the previous one that the siblings and their grandfather took, the reader can tell that there are hidden things. What are they? Are they true? Who is telling and who is keeping them?




Those secrets were one of my favorite thing because I didn't see them coming, even knowing that they existed. Reveals along the way just kept coming, right up until the END. Pages from the end and still they kept coming, right when you thought things were wrapped up!


Dislikes


There is one character that I thought could have used a little more development. When thinking about them compared to the other characters, they came across a little lacking for me. [I'm not revealing their name just in case it could be a spoiler.]


Conclusion


He Started It is a fantastic way to spend a day trying to answer the best question of a thriller: what happens next?
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The ending if this book absolutely shocked me but it also was a really fitting ending that was completelyperfect. 
Samantha Downing created the most unlikable family to go on this most bizarre family road trip that I loved. I really enjoyed how unlikable they all were. The idea behind the story was also unique which I really liked. The way she wrote the story was a really approachable way 
and left plenty of twists spread out throughout the book. I thought her first book My Lovely Wife was pure devious fun, which probably isn't a healthy way to describe a book about serial killers but it was exactly that. He Started it 
was also just as much devious fun as her first book if not more so. I was dying to read this and it was definitely worth the wait! Samantha Downing is definitely a must read author for me and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next!
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*Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest review.*

My review can be found here: https://aubreysangle8.home.blog/2020/07/28/review-he-started-it-by-samantha-downing/
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