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The Last Applicant

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Member Reviews

The Last Applicant by Rebecca Hanover is surprisingly not what I expected.

Will Audrey and Sarah come to terms with their roles in life?

This story caught me off guard completely. There are plot twists that I didn't see coming. Everyone has secrets, but this group of characters is like looking into a deep pool with sunshine bouncing off the surface and darkness hiding beneath. I was so caught up in the drama unfolding that I didn't see the dangers.

Audrey seems to have the perfect life, but does she? She makes a good living, has a lovely family, and a decent home by New York status, but her husband is a photographer. He is famous but not wealthy. Her children look good from the outside, but her daughter is stressing about her grades and keeping up with the demands of the prestigious private school.

I liked Audrey from the beginning, but I felt like she was forcing her happiness. She is happier than she was with her first husband or after their divorce, but is she really happy now, or is she trying to convince herself she is? Audrey spends too much time in her head trying to figure out other people's motives.

Oh, my, what to say about Sarah? She is desperate to get her son into kindergarten at the private school where Audrey works. It's almost like she is obsessed with the school. She seems like the perfect wealthy stay-at-home mom. But, like with Audrey, appearances can be deceiving.

I didn't like Sarah at the beginning. She is almost too needy. Sarah's husband didn't want anything to do with the school and voiced his opinion, but Sarah ignored it. Although, as we get to know more of the circumstances, some of it is understandable. I feel that she is going to need a serious shrink to get past it all.

Three Stars
I have read many thrillers, but this one is very different. At first, I felt trapped in the diaries of two wealthy women who lost touch with reality. These ladies are in or strive to be in a class that I am not part of nor have longed to be. The secrets get dark, and the consequences are drastic.

My rating for The Last Applicant by Rebecca Hanover is three stars. The author's writing style and plot twists are wonderfully done, but some of the characters' actions didn't resonate with me. However, I know some readers will enjoy this book. We learn something from every story we read.

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Thank you for dropping by! I hope you enjoyed this review of The Last Applicant by Rachel Hanover.

Until the next time,

If you would like to see other reviews like this one, check out Baroness Book Trove.

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If you're looking for a solid, enjoyable read, this book is definitely worth checking out! The plot is engaging and well-developed, and the characters are interesting.

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It was an intense domestic suspense/ psychological thriller with a twisty plot.

The story revolves around a lady, Audrey, who runs a very prestigious school’s admissions department. She feels powerful - she has a great life, a great family, a great job and she controls the rich when it comes to the school’s “family.” Until she gets a stalker, and things take a turn.

The stalker, is our other POV, Sarah. She is a desperate mom who wants to get her kid into the school. And she sees Audrey and her husband as a way in.. but things are darker than they seem, and her attention goes a bit sideways for not women.

If I tell you more - I’ll reveal the twists. So you should definitely go into this blind and figure out how these two women will revolve around each other and what both of them are hiding.

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The Last Applicant, just published and I don't know about you but I definitely did not want to miss out on this one.

boy oh boy does Rebecca Hanover, deliver.

I am not sure what I had expected when I begun but what I actually received after I concluded has left my head spinning right off my shoulders.

I was instantly teleported into a different realm. The chores would go unfinished, my husband would go hungry but I didn't care, I was in way to deep and no one was going to get me to put down my book.

Cue the jaw dropping twist! UMM HELLOOOOO?!?!? what was that?

Before I give anything away, I just want to advise you that you don't WANT this book, you NEED this book.

Check this out :

From award-winning author Rebecca Hanover comes an emotional thrill ride about two women whose lives take a dangerous turn in the high-stakes arena of private school admissions.

Audrey Singer revels in her position as the admissions director of an exclusive Manhattan private school. Parents cater to her whims and desires, desperate to give their children an edge. Audrey’s power is undeniable; privilege comes with the territory. Her perfect marriage completes the glossy picture of her life.

Until the arrival of the neurotic, vulnerable Sarah Price. Determined to get her son into the city’s most coveted kindergarten class, Sarah inserts herself into Audrey’s world, testing boundaries at every turn. For Sarah, everything Audrey has is a potential target: her job, her friends…even her marriage.

But what seems to be another ploy by an overachieving mother takes a dark and ominous turn. Sarah seems to be hiding secrets of her own. Are her designs on Audrey’s life purely about getting what she wants for her son?

Or is there something more sinister at play in this cutthroat game?

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“There is no handbook for how to prepare for a threesome.”

Two women hide their deepest fears-and darkest secrets-while striving to achieve the best for their children and themselves.

Oooh this was so deliciously dark and devious! I was swept away into this world of cut throat preschool admissions at a prestigious NYC school where the mothers make it their mission to ensure that their babies get the best of the best.

I went into this one blind and I highly recommend doing that if able. It made the twists all the more jaw dropping when they happened. I didn’t treat this one as a whodunnit so I just got lost in this story and went along with the wild ride @rebeccahanover had me on. I had a hard time putting this one down as it is just so compulsively readable. 10/10 man.

Thank you thank you to @mbc_books, @amazonpublishing, and the author for the #gifted copy. Grab yourself one and enjoy the ride!

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This review will publish Oct. 31, 2023, in multiple newspapers and magazines.

A season of reading: A dozen titles for your holiday basket

by Tom Mayer

The year-ending, pre-holiday book season is one bibliophiles wait for all year. October and November are traditionally the months we watch as names blockbuster (Grisham, King), rising (Gerritsen, Ward) or just heartwarmingly familiar (McCammon, Dugoni) descend from the upper echelons of ivy towers to the stacks of our local bookstores and online shopping carts.

This year is no different, though it is marked by a couple of significant deviations to the norm from two stalwart fall-release authors: Stephen King, who makes his own rules, gifted us with “Holly” in early September and Nicholas Sparks — almost unbelievably given his decades-long track record of releases — won’t have a new book for us this year (a fact I had to double check with his publicist, though when I spoke with Nicholas in 2022 about his wonderful book, “Dreamland,” he did promise something completely surprising and different for his next release. Give some grace, get some grace — surprising and different can take time.)

Still, October and November 2023 are filled with exciting and fresh titles, including a dozen that we’ll touch on here. Far from exhaustive and brief in scope, consider this a primer for the season we’re just dipping into.

I’ll be laser-focusing on some of these in pullout columns during the next few weeks — and adding more titles for November and December — but send me a quick note at if you want a link to those when they appear.

For now, happy holidays, book lovers.

‘One Last Kill’ (Thomas & Mercer, 379 pages, $16.99) by Robert Dugoni

The prolific Robert Dugoni gifts us with his 10th detective Tracy Crosswhite novel, and in this one the stakes are raised. Set in familiar environs, after 13 victims Tracy reopens the cold trail of Seattle’s Route 99 serial killer. Closure for the families and redemption for the Seattle Police Department are on the line, but if Tracy’s going to achieve either she’ll have to do it by partnering with an old nemesis: Captain Johnny Nolasco. Those who traveled with Tracy through her earlier thrillers know exactly what that means. New readers will soon find out.

‘Murder on the Christmas Express’ (Poisoned Pen Press, 272 pages, $24) by Alexandra Benedict

What’s the holiday season without a murder mystery to help pass the time? A sleeper train en route from London on Christmas Eve is buried in snow in a remote and isolated location. As a killer tries to pick off passengers one by one, a former detective, Roz Parker, decides to give the investigation a go. You’ve been here before, but this locked room puzzle both is and isn’t what you’ll expect. Bon voyage.

‘Long Past Dues’’ (Ace, 411 pages, $27) by James J. Butcher

Bringing us into volume 2 of The Unorthodox Chronicles, James J. Butcher now presents Grimshaw Griswald Grimsby as an auditor for Boston’s Department of Unorthodox Affairs. Tasked with enforcing laws about magic, the job sounds more glamorous than it is — which explains why Grimshaw steps outside of his role to take a special case for a friend. Werewolves and a journey to the bowels of Boston’s subterranean city ensue.

‘Weird Tales: 100 Years of Weird’ (Blackstone Publishing, 659 pages, $28) edited by Jonathan Maberry

Who doesn’t love a compilation of a century’s worth of stories from one of the world’s most storied publications? Coming from the hallowed halls of “Weird Tales Magazine,” this book is simply beautiful in style, substance and craft (pro tip: buy the hardcover; it’s a gem). Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the magazine, this volume contains 100 years of the most peculiar tales you’ll ever encounter or, as the periodical likes to boast, those “too strange to publish elsewhere.” A true reader’s delight.

‘The Exchange’ (Doubleday, 352 pages, $30) by John Grisham

You know you’ve been waiting for this one. Published 32 years after John Grisham’s “The Firm,” the king of legal thrillers picks up the thread of the lives of Mitch and Abby McDeere and family as they’re caught in an international kidnapping plot — and struggling to retain the normalcy they’ve worked 15 years to achieve since they exposed the crimes of the mob-related Memphis law firm of Bendini, Lambert & Locke. With just enough backstory to fill in the history of those unfamiliar with “The Firm,” Grisham crafts a credible and timely (though it’s set in the mid-2000s) story filled with his hallmarks: greed, crime, deception and more than a bit of heroics. A worthy successor and one, I should mention, completely unlike the 2012 TV series sequel to both the original novel and film adaptation.

‘The Spy Coast’ (Thomas & Mercer, 341 pages, $29) by Tess Gerritsen

The Martini Club continues in Tess Gerritsen’s “The Spy Coast” as former spy Maggie Bird is drawn from her bucolic Maine chicken farm life into a new thriller — something that tends to happen when the body that appears in your driveway is sent as a message from your former adversaries. The former spies, like Bird, may all be retired, but they’re definitely up for a fresh case, and especially a case that involves those who are bent on killing one of their own.

‘The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts: The true story of the Bondwoman’s Narrative’ (Ecco, 432 pages, $40) by Gregg Hecimovich with a foreword by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

In 1857, a woman escaped enslavement from a North Carolina plantation. Fleeing to a farm in New York, she found time to craft a manuscript about her trials. This important and groundbreaking book about the nation’s first Black female novelist comes from the biographer who first solved the mystery of her identity.

‘American Girl’ (Blackstone Publishing, 246 pages, $27) by Wendy Walker

This important thriller from best-selling author Wendy Walker introduces Charlie Hudson, an autistic teen with a desire to leave her small, Pennsylvania town as soon as she graduates. But first, when the owner of the sandwich shop at which Wendy works is found dead, the 17-year-old and her friends are drawn into a dangerous case with an unusual point of view: The story is told through the eyes of the protagonist.

'Let Us Descend' (Scribner, 320 pages, $28) by Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward is a two-time National Book winner, and “Let Us Descend” shows us why. This tale, a reimagining of American slavery, is a beautifully harsh read. The story comes to us from Annis, a slave sold south by her white enslaver father and her heart-wrenching journey is punctuated only by the fleeting comfort of memories of her mother and African warrior grandmother. An emotional narrative rich in description.

‘The Last Applicant’ (Lake Union Publishing, 317 pages, $29) by Rebecca Hanover

A deep dive into this ripped-from-the-headlines story by Rebecca Hanover takes us into the life of Audrey Singer, an admissions director of an elite private school in Manhattan. One overachieving mother will do anything — anything — to get her son enrolled, but as the ploys escalate it rapidly becomes clear that this might not be all she is after. Secrets are threatened to be revealed as this tale takes a deep, dark turn.

‘Seven Shades of Evil’ (Lividian Publications, 424 pages, $39.50) by Robert McCammon

You had me at, Robert McCammon. Literally, I would buy anything with this Alabama author’s name on it, but you’ll never go afield picking up a book involving Matthew Corbett. This volume of short stories, the ninth installment in that world, is the penultimate volume of the Corbett series — a tremendous set of historical thrillers that have been drawing legions of readers into Early America for more than two decades.

‘Robots through the Ages: A Science Fiction Anthology’ (Blackstone, 495 pages, $26) by Robert Silverberg (introduction) and Bryan Thomas Schmidt (editor)

OK, I’m cheating a bit by including ‘Robots’ in this list — it first published during the summer — but with the conflation of technology and well, our entire world, igniting in the form of AI at an exponential pace, this is one that more than a few readers would welcome under the tree. A vast and inclusive sweep of robot stories told through the ages (really, we begin the journey with “The Iliad”), this volume includes tales from the heroes of science fiction, including names such as Philip K. Dick, Seanan McGuire, Connie Willis and Roger Zelazny. A fascinating journey, “Robots through the Ages” is replete with prescient tales of today.

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I didn’t really have any firm expectations about this one before I started it, I just knew I wanted something suspenseful and the whole private school admissions vibes sounded like an ideal fall read. It definitely delivered on both the suspense and the fall vibes but it also surprised me by how twisty and addicting it was.

You get dual perspectives, Audrey who is head of admissions at Easton and Sarah who is beyond desperate to secure a spot for her son in Easton’s next kindergarten class. Sarah’s desperation causes her to develop an unhealthy obsession with not only the school itself, but with Audrey too and nothing in Audrey’s life is off limits. That’s all I’ll say but I loved how the author explored obsession and how not only was this a tense ride, there was an emotional complexity to the characters that sucked me in. I loved the creeping sense of dread that intensified as the book progressed, I loved the NYC setting and I loved the explosive ending. Definitely recommended as a really great fall suspense read.

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