Cover Image: Please Join Us

Please Join Us

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Member Reviews

Wow--this is the book that was on my most-anticipated list. And it didn't disappoint at all. 

I was hooked from the very first page and I was so impressed with the characterizations, fast-moving plot and it gave me the creeps. 

I would totally recommend this to all my thriller-loving book clubs!
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Please Join Us was such a fun book! Full of twists, turns and a few "what-the-heck-did-I-just-read??" moments!! Really well written and I just couldn't put it down until the very end! Thank you so much!
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“Life is all around you. The more you know about it, the more you can shape it to your will. Pick your target, learn everything you can about it, and then go in for the kill.”

“That’s the thing about obedience. it feels safe. But it’s only safe it the person has your best interest at heart.”


I’ve read four of McKenzie’s books now. They do have some language (this one had 29 f-words and 18 s-words), but I keep reading them when they come out so she must be doing something right.

This one had good suspense and I liked that the main character was smart.

There are some #MeToo and anti-patriarchy elements in this book so if you don’t like that, you might want to skip this one.


Brief Summary

Nicole is partner in a law firm and has just received a warning that if she doesn’t bill more hours she may lose her partnership.

It was perfect timing, then, to receive an exclusive invite to a special retreat in Colorado for corporate women who are tired of having to work so much harder to get the pay, promotions, and recognition that men seem to get so easily. This was a networking club to help put women in prominent places.

“Women helping women succeed the way men have for centuries.”

Nicole adds the super cheap cost of $5000 to her work expense report, ignores her husband’s suspicions that it’s a cult and joins this retreat. No internet. No phone. Just a harmless networking event with polar plunges, long hikes in the middle of nowhere, and promises to stay loyal to the group and help each other whenever someone asks.

Also, don’t ask questions.

“To be like men in the world. Not to question how or why we get things, because they never do.”

These women actually are in top tier jobs and have a lot of connections. What could be wrong with this?

Nicole soon finds out when she does the group a favor and takes on a court case they’re (all) involved with. The questions keep accumulating and when she’s forced to help dispose of a body, she wants out.

But that might be harder than she thinks…


The Panthera Leo

The group is called Panthera Leo and its symbol is the female lion:

“The female lion. Because she’s the one that gets things done in the pride. Without women, the men wouldn’t eat, they wouldn’t have the ‘lion’s share’ to take. That’s true for humankind too, but often unacknowledged, even today. ‘The woman behind the man,’ sure. But she’s supposed to be nice and polite. She’s not supposed to be primal. Gentle, not vicious. Only men are allowed those attributes.”

The nationwide group is broken into smaller prides of 5 women. The prides don’t interact with each other.

They are told really harmless sounding things like:

“Influence is everything.”

“You should trust your pride. Instincts can lead us astray.”

“focus more on yourself, to find the things that can make you happy.”

“Sticking together is what protects you. Don’t get separated from the Pride because otherwise, you might end up with your neck snapped.”


I was expecting the more common type of cult in this book but this was a corporate cult. You weren’t entirely cut off from your loved ones, but there was a certain type of hold on these women that trapped them in this group.

I thought this deviation was very compelling.

It’s kind of an interesting thing to think about if you’re a conspiracy theorist. It’s easy to speculate that people in top positions owe others some favors or had some help getting there. What if all these people are part of some sort of corporate cult?!

Honestly, it probably wouldn’t take much to convince me of that these days. I think I’m becoming more susceptible to conspiracy theories. Please don’t take advantage of me.


The Patriarchy

It does seem like a lot of books written in the last couple years with strong female leads go down the road of anti-men, the patriarchy, blah blah. I’m not a believer of that. And some books go too far and I find them nauseating to read. (Ahem, Two Nights in Lisbon)

I’m just going to throw this in because asking questions is a good thing. If everything is the patriarchy, do the stats actually reflect that when considering equal things?

Thomas Sowell, in his book Discrimination and Disparities, reveals that, for example, when looking at salaries of faculty members at universities:

“Male faculty members in general had higher incomes than female faculty members in general. But among similarly qualified faculty, women who never married earned higher incomes than men who never married.”

Just because we may see less women than men as CEOs does not mean there is discrimination or inequality. Equal outcomes is not the measure of equality. A lot of women do get married and prefer to work less hours. When we compare the right things we find out that maybe there isn’t actually inequality at all.


This is not to discredit all of the #MeToo power/control instances where men took advantage of women as a prerequisite to work-related things. That is a for sure a problem and for sure needs to stop.

I’m merely proposing that the whole ‘patriarchy’ thing may be a bit blown out of proportion.

Also, it is not lost on me how women who promote the patriarchy-cause often seem to promote that women need to be more like men. I don’t know what they mean by that, but it’s a little insulting to women if, in order for women to be ‘better’ we have to be ‘more like men.’

Shouldn’t we be proud to be women? Men and women ARE different. They look different, they’re built different, they think different, they process different. Ask any neurologist. But different does not mean superior to either gender.


I get that there are conversations to be had about gender differences and what is right and wrong, but I’m just tired of the world constantly telling me I’m generally disadvantaged because I’m a woman and I need to try to be like men, but not just like men, superior to men.


In Please Join Us, the Panthera Leo leaders make some strong statements:

“Putting men in charge of women’s companies is one of our specialties. Diversity this and diversity that and sensitivity training and you know what’s changed? Exactly nothing, that’s what. If you have a vagina then you’re handicapped. God forbid if you have a kid or show an emotion at work.”

“That’s part of what we’re about. Creating an environment where you don’t have to think like a woman. You don’t have to query why you got something or whether you deserve it. You can just be a man about it.”

I don’t necessarily think McKenzie wrote Nicole as someone who would go that far. After all, she is married to a man whom she loves and respects. They are both intelligent lawyers, who, though they had their struggles, remain committed to each other and respect each other’s voice and work.

I like that Nicole likes to ask questions. She is regularly scolded by the Pride for asking questions but she is not cowed by them. She is smart enough to recognize when something is off and secure enough to protest.

Here’s one of her wisdoms when the group is promoting changing their lives:

“I think that sometimes people change just for change’s sake. And that’s not necessarily a good thing. It’s easy to think that the grass is greener on the other side, but it isn’t always better, just different.”


Conclusion

If the swearing isn’t too much for you, I would recommend this book. I think I liked it better than a couple of her other ones. I talked a lot about the patriarchy stuff, but I didn’t feel like the entire book was a megaphone for modern feminists. It was largely relegated to the Panthera Leo and Nicole was largely resisting them.

The plot was driven by Nicole learning more about them and investigating why her life was falling apart because of them and how to overcome it.

It was a smart thriller and I appreciate that. I get tired of the insecure, easily controlled, unreliable female protagonist with attachment issues. Nicole was definitely not that.

It’s a quick and intense read, and though I said in a different review that I might not read any of hers anymore, I might have to take it back… I’m probably going to read the next one…


Oh wait, one more thing… the last page. WHAT?! I’m genuinely confused. And whenever I try to figure it out, I’m overwhelmed and I give up. Feel free to share your theories with me in the comments. But those will probably be spoilers, so other people should avoid reading them. Kthanks.


One last side note: If you are interested in the whole cult thing and how language is used to manipulate people, I would highly recommend Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism. It’s a great and entertaining read that will help you be able to see red flags in seemingly innocent (but prevalent) tactics people use to convince you to ‘join them.’


**Received an ARC via NetGalley**
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Soon to be 40 year old, Nicole, is approached by an exclusive, womens only, networking group. It sounds like the perfect solution to help Nicole boost her career. This network or women, quickly provides her with valuable contacts/clients, but is it too good to be true? When she is asked to cover a crime, she begins to question how well she actually knows these women.

Quick read with a interesting twist. Perfect for the mystery lover. Thank You NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the free e-galley.
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I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for an advanced readers copy of this book in exchange for a review.  Nicole Mueller is only 39 years old and her life is in a downward spiral.  She and her husband Dan will soon be forced to move out of their apartment.  In addition, her career is falling apart.  She is an attorney and one of the firm’s senior partners warns her that she is not doing well at all.  She is very troubled of course but she soon receives an email invitation from  Panthera Leo, a very exclusive career networking group for women only.  Nicole feels that the timing could not be better.  Dan, however,  is concerned that the group sounds more like a cult than anything else.  Nicole decides to accept the invitation and travels to a retreat in Colorado where the group is meeting.  When she arrives, she is impressed by the beautiful scenery.  At the initial meeting, they are introduced to their fellow attendees.  As they begin their assignments, Nicole feels that these activities are quite bizarre.  Although they are supposedly being coached to be strong and confident and to face their fears, something is not quite right.  These activities are questionable, not to mention dangerous.  She is beginning to suspect that Dan was correct regarding his theory of this group being a cult.  Nicole is very leery and is now concerned that Panthera Leo may actually be a cover up for something sinister.  I enjoyed this book very much.  It flowed well and it was well written.  I recommend this book.  It is thought provoking.
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If you are looking for a thriller with a feminist twist, Please Join Us by Catherine McKenzie is for you.  Successful lawyer Nicole is down on her luck.  Things at work are not going well, her marriage has hit a rocky patch, and she is about to lose the home she has grown to love.  Enter Panthera Leo, a women’s networking group inviting Nicole to join miraculously just as everything seems to be falling apart.  Seeing this as an opportunity at the right time, even though her husband is suspicious, Nicole joins up and attends a retreat in Colorado.  While there, she is introduced to other members of the group who are all incredibly successful women.  Women helping women.  Could this be too good to be true?
 
Alternating storylines between the past and the present, we find out at the beginning that Nicole and another member are implicated in a murder and in order to understand what and more importantly who is involved, each jump between the past and the present reveal answers. We begin to understand how the group works through the past and how involved they are in each other’s lives in the present.  What has happened and how did Nicole get in so deep?
 
The premise of this book really highlights what successful men do to reach the top and the double standard when women use the same advantages, connections, and actions to achieve success.  This story is set in current times so there is mention of the COVID-19 Pandemic.  I really loved how and why all of the storylines are so closely intertwined which is uncovered by the end of the book.
 
Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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2.5 rounded up.
I think this was an average mystery novel. I wouldn't categorize it as a thriller-- I think there has to be something scary or suspenseful for that classification, and I didn't see that here. One of my main issues with this book was the author's writing style. It had a great beginning and a great premise, but I got a little impatient with every single chapter ending with a line of ominous foreshadowing, and the random bullet point lists felt clunky. This was in addition to random technical errors (switching from past to present tense and back again in the same paragraph) and the occasional odd phrasing that had me rereading sentences 3 or 4 times to understand what was being conveyed.
Another weakness was the ending, which felt very bogged down with repeated explanations revolving around corporate litigation and stocks. I think I'm not quite the intended audience here, because I didn't find those aspects compelling.
Something I have to give the author credit for is her very meticulous planning leading up to the twist ending. I almost found myself buying into Panthera's ideas, thinking they had some points. Being in Nicole's head, it isn't hard to see how they were able to bring her into the fold.
Overall, I think it's worth a shot if you can get past the writing style. The plot is well thought out and it keeps you interested.
CW: moderately detailed discussion of past sexual trauma, brief animal cruelty
**I received a free Advanced Reader's Copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, NetGalley!**
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Wow! Please Join Us was an amazing ride of twists and turns in which nothing is quite as it seems.  A great read that will keep you up late reading to the last page.
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TW: Sexual Assault
 
Things are not looking good for Nicole Mueller, her job at her law firm seems to be heading in a downwards spiral and her and her husband Dan are being forced to move out of their apartment that have loved and cared for and made their home. One day Nicole receives an email invitation to join an exclusive women’s networking group known as Panthera Leo. Taking this as her opportunity to network and get back into her firm’s good graces, Nicole accepts their invite to their retreat in Denver where she is placed in a “pride” with four other successful women and friendships begin to form. Upon her return from Denver, Nicole begins to notice changes in her life, she is renting a luxurious apartment way out of her price range and she was just presented with a high profile client, all thanks to strings pulled by the women of Panthera Leo and its founders: Karma and Michelle. However, the deeper Nicole becomes in Panther Leo, the more questions arise and she begins to see something more sinister behind the façade of her supportive group.

•

I love the concept of this one, it was giving cult vibes and had me curious to see what was really going on with the seemingly perfect group of women who support other women. This one started out VERY slow for me, it eventually picks up a little the story goes back and forth from Nicole’s initial interaction with Panthera Leo and a current situation she is in until the two timelines ultimately come together and the story continues from there. The author also used lists throughout the book to sort of re summarize what was going on which I understand because there is A LOT to follow and it is easy to get lost, but I was not a fan of them. I would not consider this one a thriller, it read mainly as a mystery to me and I would recommend to follow closely, missing one small detail may throw you off as the ending gets a little complicated to follow.  Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion. This title is now available to purchase.
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This was such a unique thriller. It was so fast paced and kept me on my toes. I haven’t read a book like this. I devoured it, I could not put it down. The ending was *chefs kiss*. I normally don’t read synopsis before I read the book but I did with this and I’m glad I did. It didn’t set any expectations or give any details away. The twists in this book really threw me off! I loved it!
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When Nicole gets bad news at work and in her personal life, an email in her inbox catches her attention. It’s inviting her to join a private women’s organization that will help her get a leg up in the world, “just like men have been doing for years,” according to it’s founders. She attends an exclusive retreat and makes friends with the women in her new “Pride,” and everything goes well for awhile. Then, things begin to take a dark turn and Nicole wonders if the organization she joined is less of a networking organization and more of a cult.

I finished this one in about two days I think. This book really throws you right into the middle of the action right from the beginning of the story. I was super intrigued and wanted to know what was going on, so I dove right into the book and it never really let up, so I just kept going! I couldn’t stop! There’s so many twists and turns that I think I got a little bit of whiplash trying to follow everything. But it was really good!

This is one of those books that will give you chills as you finish it and leave you thinking about it after you finish it, wondering how things turn out. I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s a bit of an open-endedness that makes you wonder how things go off into the future. I was definitely creeped out a little as I finished up.

There’s also some good commentary to be made about revenge and how far you should take things - how far is too far? What does justice mean? I like books that make you think like that.

Overall, this is a great new release for 2022! Definitely one to put on your list!
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So they say men are cut throat and will do anything to get ahead in life. 

Here we have a group of women who are cutthroat and determined to get ahead at any cost.  This is a special woman's network as they call it.  Its name is Panthera Leo. 
Nicole is invited to join and wow something is just not right with these women!

A  sit on the edge of your seat mystery as you see how these women operate and what their motives are!

Thank you again NetGalley and the publisher. :)
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This simply moved too slow for me. I am all for complex, unlikable characters and twists. Something about this fell flat for me. I truly wanted to love it and would be willing to give the author another chance - this just didn't quite work for me.
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I went into this book blind - and that made it even more exciting to discover what it was all about. I loved the cult angle in a corporate world. The level of blackmail and planning this book took to be so well executed was something I enjoyed throughly. The writing was great - I have a new author to look out for. I, personally, don't enjoy twists on twists on twists and the ending of this was just that - which less than impressed me. That being said - I would pick up another Catherine McKenzie and I wish I'd prioritized this once I figured out what it was about.
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This book caught my attention and held it, page after page, until the very end. It’s an entertaining and compelling read, even if it isn’t the most original or revelatory story I’ve ever read. I took it with me to my doctor’s appointment today, then I read it while in line at the bank, and I read it while eating my burrito bowl from Chipotle after I got back home. I snuck in a food nap after the burrito bowl, but then it was right back to it, because I needed to find out what was going on and how this seemingly inextricable puzzle was going to be solved. 

Ostensibly, this book initially reads like a book where someone desperate for a way out of difficult situation finds themselves in a feminist cult, mixed in with a message for the MeToo movement. Luckily, it’s not as cut and dried as all that, which sets it apart from the norm in this genre of thrillers. While I enjoy a good MeToo vengeance tale as well as the next bloodthirsty female, I like them more when the vengeance is not by proxy (as it is in this book). What I did enjoy about this book’s take on “Call your dad, you’re in a cult” is that Nicole, our protagonist, was already a curious and inquisitive person by nature with a stable and loving marriage in place when she’s approached to join Panthera Leo (the “cult”) in question, so she is naturally resistant to falling straight down the rabbit hole and doesn’t completely lose track of who she is and what she holds dear. A lot of cult novels would break up her marriage, have her throw away all her core beliefs and values, and have her hit some kind of rock bottom before she found a way to crawl out of the ruins. Instead of taking that approach, McKenzie has Nicole use her sharp brain and puzzle-solving mind to pull together the disparate strings of the Panthera Leo web and see the big picture. 

It’s hard for me to admit that I like books where women don’t always look out for other women; or, if they do, it’s only to take advantage of their situation for personal gain. It’s hard to admit that I do often enjoy books where women fight and are enemies, bringing each other down and sometimes being really shady. But I do. I don’t think it’s realistic in any way to think women should or could always get along. There will always be competition for resources, no matter what those resources may be. And women have power struggles between one another too. It happens in other species, so it happens in humans. This book does contain that awful scenario where we have women wearing masks of friendship to disguise faces of selfishness and avarice. It makes you ask, “Why are the actors in our lives?”

I highly recommend the read if you’re looking for a feminist suspense thriller. That’s the best way to describe it. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for access to this title.
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Nicole feels like her life isn’t turning out as planned. She is losing her dream home and her career isn’t exactly what she hoped for. When she gets invited to a women’s networking group, it seems like it is full of professional women, but is it too good to be true? 
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Let’s be honest of course it’s too good to be true, but this was a fun ride and I enjoyed watching all the pieces come together in this one.
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Thank you @atria @letstalkbookspromo @berittalksbooks @thephdivabooks  @dg_reads and  for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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I LOVED THIS BOOK. I went into this with high expectations as this is one of my favorite authors. The pacing was on point. I enjoyed the characters and their layers. Everything here was perfection.
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Nicole Mueller has is all. A loving husband, a successful career, a beautiful apartment. So when she sees these things slipping through her fingers she jumps at the opportunity to regain control. 
Panthera Leo an exclusive, by invite only, “girls club in a boys club world” with a very impressive list of members. 
Nicole immediately starts reaping the rewards, but when it’s time to return the favor Nicole sees just how little control she has. 

This was a weird one for me. 
It is thrilling and fast paced, yet I found myself incredibly bored while reading it. 
Having said that, when I saw the massive web the author had woven for Panthera Leo, I was blown away and genuinely impressed.
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3.5/5 stars

Please Join Us is my fifth book by this author. I would categorize it as a combination of a thriller, and general fiction.

The book takes place in New York. The narrator is 39 year old Nicole (1st person POV). The book goes back and forth between THEN (June) and NOW (October). The past moves forward until it meets the present.

Nicole gets some bad news at her job (she is a lawyer). She then receives an invitation from an exclusive women’s networking group. This group is led by Karma and Michelle and includes a bunch of powerful women.

The beginning was interesting because I did not understand what was happening in the present. The middle was mostly just Nicole getting more and more involved with the women's group. I did become more invested in the story towards the end. And I was anxious to see how the story would play out. I'm not sure that I was totally satisfied with the last part of the book. I thought that the story was going in one way (that would have been amazing). But then it shifted. And when discussing the ending with some friends many of them thought something totally different than me!
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#PleaseJoinUs:⁣
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Tickity Tock, it’s cult o’clock y’all.⁣
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You know how on certain books another author will call a book, “explosive” and you just think, “what an interesting way to describe a book”. Well, say hello to a book that my personal blurb would just say: “explosive” ⁣
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I’m going to start off with high praise for audio. The audio was amazing. At first, I felt the story started pretty slowly and the pacing was off. Once the women made it to the compound, I felt the story really took off. I started the audio a little bit before this part, and I really felt like it helped me settle into the pacing. Also the reader, Joy Osmanski, just had it down. You could hear the resolve and confidence in Nicole. I don’t think this book was meant to be funny, but some of the sarcasm lines hit way too well to not have me laughing. ⁣
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There are so many twists, turns, red herrings that I felt like Lt. Mattias in Frozen 2. I swear I could hear McKenzie after the 4th bombshell, “but wait! There’s more!” They did not seem excessive or outlandish, they fit the plot well. I was a bit confused about the very last page, but other than that, I really enjoyed Please Join  Us!⁣
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Thank you so much @simon.audio for the gifted copy! Please Join Us just released 8/23!
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