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Friday, October 22, 2021

Review: The House of Tongues by James Dashner

The House of Tongues
by James Dashner
Narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner

Thanks NetGalley and Tantor Audio for this amazing gifted audiobook.

Publisher: Tantor Audio
Publish Date: October 21, 2021
12 hrs 22 min
Genre: Horror

There's no synopsis other than stating this is a new must-listen novel from the author.

My Review:

You'll know Dashner's name mostly from The Maze Runner series, which I enjoyed.. but the series that is still my favorite is The Mortality Doctrine and I HIGHLY recommend this trilogy - especially for those who loved Ready Player One. Anyhoooooooooooo....

When I saw THE HOUSE OF TONGUES was available through NetGalley and is only available on audio, I was SO happy that I finally could listen to audiobooks and thrilled to see something new by Dashner and boy does he deliver!!! And the narrator, Malcolm Hillgartner is AMAZING and truly brings this story to life.

Told through David Partner's eyes only, we go back and forth from 1989 to 2017 in South Carolina where at a young age he comes eye to eye with a killer and makes a decision he has to deal with for the rest of his life.  Fast forward, he's in his 40s with kids of his own.  The past has come to haunt him and he will do whatever he has to to protect his own.  Little does he know, there are some things you just cannot run from and some secrets you wish you never knew.

Y'all!!!  I can't express how much I LOVE the way this author writes.  Riddled with levity and family love - you can just feel how much he loves his children and he reminded me of my Dad with his humor and ways of showing his love.  I especially love his relationship with his best friend, Andrea. AND the story behind the story... well, somehow I was NOT expecting that but I was here for it!

You just can't seem to go wrong with anything by this author.  Go snag a copy ASAP!


Thursday, October 21, 2021

Review: White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson

White Smoke
by Tiffany D. Jackson

A huge thanks to BookSparks & Katherine Tegen Books for this gifted book.

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publish Date: September 14, 2021
384 Pages
Genres: Horror, Young Adult, Psychological Thriller

Marigold is running from ghosts. The phantoms of her old life keep haunting her, but a move with her newly blended family from their small California beach town to the embattled Midwestern city of Cedarville might be the fresh start she needs. Her mom has accepted a new job with the Sterling Foundation that comes with a free house, one that Mari now has to share with her bratty ten-year-old stepsister, Piper.

The renovated picture-perfect home on Maple Street, sitting between dilapidated houses, surrounded by wary neighbors has its . . . secrets. That’s only half the problem: household items vanish, doors open on their own, lights turn off, shadows walk past rooms, voices can be heard in the walls, and there’s a foul smell seeping through the vents only Mari seems to notice. Worse: Piper keeps talking about a friend who wants Mari gone.

But “running from ghosts” is just a metaphor, right?

As the house closes in, Mari learns that the danger isn’t limited to Maple Street. Cedarville has its secrets, too. And secrets always find their way through the cracks.

My Review:

I have such a soft spot for YA horror. As the second book I've read by this author (first being Allegedly which I also would highly recommend), I have already catapulted her into a favorite author spot. 

I couldn't figure out what this book reminded me of and then I realized that it delves into the same theme that Alyssa Cole's 'When No One is Watching' does: gentrification of a neighborhood/community and y'all, that truly is some scary shit and is so unfair in how it happens and really pisses me off. The horror part of WHITE SMOKE isn't necessarily from the shadows that follow you or the creaks and noises in the night.  The way things go missing. The fact that your new little sister has a new "friend" she blames everything on. Or even how Buddy (the dog) starts acting strangely.  The horror is in how unfairly the rich, White people are slowly killing a community that they can then renovate and make money from.  The horror is in planting drugs on people and sending them unfairly to jail.  The horror is in how Maribel needs to stop being treated as an addict and get some proper help for her severe anxiety and paranoia of bed bugs.

My heart went out to Maribel... and Sammy... and Buddy... and even little Piper.  Blending a family and moving to a brand new place where you know no one and having to start over... especially at their ages.  And Jackson does a great job in showing the dynamics that occur within.  I enjoyed seeing Maribel and Yusef's friendship blossom.  I loved the banter between Maribel and Sammy.  I hated Alec- ha.  And I certainly wasn't expecting that ending! 

There's a lot to unpack in this book.  I low key hope Jackson is writing another book so we know where this family goes from here because I felt like I got lit on fire and left to burn. 🤣.  It's always a good thing if a reader wants more though, am I right?

But also dammit... I live in NYC and the threat of bed bugs is real and now I'm going to be eyeing every single little thing and hoping like hell I'm just finding coffee grounds. UFFFFFFF

"Change is good. Change is necessary. Change is needed."


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Review: All These Bodies by Kendare Blake

All These Bodies
by Kendare Blake

Thanks to Go Spark Point for this gifted book.

Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Publish Date: September 21, 2021
Kindle Edition
304 Pages
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller, Horror

Sixteen bloodless bodies. Two teenagers. One impossible explanation. In this edge-of-your-seat mystery from #1 New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake, the truth is as hard to believe as it is to find.

Summer 1958. A gruesome killer plagues the Midwest, leaving behind a trail of bodies completely drained of blood.

Michael Jensen, an aspiring journalist whose father happens to be the town sheriff, never imagined that the Bloodless Murders would come to his backyard. Not until the night the Carlson family was found murdered in their home. Marie Catherine Hale, a diminutive fifteen-year-old, was discovered at the scene—covered in blood. She is the sole suspect in custody.

Michael didn’t think that he would be part of the investigation, but he is pulled in when Marie decides that he is the only one she will confess to. As Marie recounts her version of the story, it falls to Michael to find the truth: What really happened the night that the Carlsons were killed? And how did one girl wind up in the middle of all these bodies?

My Review:

Imagine living in a small town where you hear about a serial killer going around.. and then it shows up on your back door.  But in this case, there is a survivor - Marie... and she will only speak with Michael.  As her story unfolds, it's really up to him (and his journalistic aspirations) to find out what is true and what is not.  

Again I'm reading a more character driven book.  This starts off strong and I am immediately pulled in.  A teenage girl covered in blood.. none of it hers? The only "survivor" of a family gruesomely murdered? Who aided her? Why is it THIS time that we find someone alive at one of these kinds of scenes? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

I enjoyed the relationship between Marie and Michael... though this part did feel a bit slow at times.  It was annoying at times to see Marie give no real answers... and someone please just give her a damn pack of smokes already. Then we get to the end... and well, ambiguity is a real big hit or miss for me and in this case, it was a miss unfortunately.  I think had other things been explained a bit more, I wouldn't have minded it as much.  I wanted a sandwich and all I got was bread.  Where's my meat?!

Blake does deliver in giving us a real small town feel and a sense of ominous throughout.  I appreciate what she was trying to do here and I think it's going to be a love it/hate it kind of read for most people and I stem somewhere right down the middle. 


Review: Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

by Carole Johnstone
Narrated by Katie Leung

Thank you for this gifted listen.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publish Date: April 20, 2021
11 hrs 38 min
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

A thrilling work of psychological suspense with the startling twists of Gone Girl and the haunting emotional power of Room, Mirrorland is the story of twin sisters, the man they both love, and the dark childhood they can’t leave behind.

Cat lives in Los Angeles, about as far away as she can get from her estranged twin sister El and No. 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where they grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.

But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to the grand old house, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. No. 36 Westeryk Road is still full of shadowy, hidden corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues all over the house: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting...

A twisty, dark, and brilliantly crafted thriller about love and betrayal, redemption and revenge, Mirrorland is a propulsive, page-turning debut about the power of imagination and the price of freedom.

My Review:

Woah woah woah - another 5 star read from me?! Either I'm feeling very generous during these holidays (and Spooky Season is MY FAVE) or I'm just coming across some very good books.  And yet ANOTHER character driven novel.  WHO AM I?!

I tried listening to this a few months back but my brain wouldn't allow me the patience with the Scottish accent - my brain is weird.  But I finally went back and although I couldn't listen to it at warp speed like I can with other audiobooks, I'm here to tell you that the narrator truly makes this SUCH an enjoyable experience - look her up!! The voice became very mesmerizing and her performance is outstanding. Yeah, I'm a fan. 😊

This story. It's dark, moody, atmospheric and half the time I had no idea WTF was happening. Did I somehow end up in Mirrorland? Did Cat bring me with her in her insane journey? DID I LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT?! Ok ok let me back up. I love dark fairy tales and the presence of Mirrorland is in itself its own entity. A living, breathing character that was breathing down my neck and making the tiny hairs stand at attention. And these twins. W....T....F.... I thought my family had issues. 

Listen, there's a LOT to unpack from this story.  There's no levity at all in this read. It's harrowing and seeps right into your skin and you HAVE to pay attention or you'll easily get lost. I would highly recommend the audiobook for this because if I'm being honest - I'm not sure how reading this with my eyes would have gone. What I do know is that my ears are happy and I'm kicking myself for not listening to this sooner. Kids - don't put yourself in a position to where you'll need to kick yourself, k?


Monday, October 18, 2021

Review: The Savage Kind by John Copenhaven

The Savage Kind
by John Copenhaven

A huge thanks to Slice.Pr, Pegasus Books and the author for this gifted book.

Publisher: Pegasus Crime
Publish Date: October 5, 2021
352 Pages
Genres: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Queer

Two lonely teenage girls in 1940s Washington, DC, discover they have a penchant for solving crimes—and an even greater desire to commit them—in the new mystery novel by Macavity Award-winning novelist John Copenhaver.

Philippa Watson, a good-natured yet troubled seventeen-year-old, has just moved to Washington, DC. She’s lonely until she meets Judy Peabody, a brilliant and tempestuous classmate. The girls become unlikely friends and fashion themselves as intellectuals, drawing the notice of Christine Martins, their dazzling English teacher, who enthralls them with her passion for literature and her love of noirish detective fiction.

When Philippa returns a novel Miss Martins has lent her, she interrupts a man grappling with her in the shadows. Frightened, Philippa flees, unsure who the man is or what she’s seen. Days later, her teacher returns to school altered: a dark shell of herself. On the heels of her teacher’s transformation, a classmate is found dead in the Anacostia River—murdered—the body stripped and defiled with a mysterious inscription.

As the girls follow the clues and wrestle with newfound feelings toward each other, they suspect that the killer is closer to their circle than they imagined—and that the greatest threat they face may not be lurking in the halls at school, or in the city streets, but creeping out from a murderous impulse of their own.

My Review:

Femme fatale noir that's twisty and covers a variety of subjects and genres... two girls who meet, become sleuths, grapple with their own attraction to each other (in so many ways), cater to their darker side and EVERYTHING is unrealiable. SIGN ME UP. Oh hi.

I've found that while I used to be a more plot driven reader, lately character driven reads have really started to speak to me. Enter THE SAVAGE KIND. Yes there's a mystery that's intriguing but the stars are most definitely Philippa and Judy.  It's true, opposites do attract.

I related to Philippa a lot - always moving around from being in a military family and not always fitting into the popular/mainstream group.  And having that dark side that made me a magnet for those who may have seemed peculiar and/or dangerous.  Which got me in trouble a lot but I sure did have a lot of fun.  Being a military brat, you tend to change your personality to those around you to constantly fit in - a chameleon in human form. With Judy being the kind of girl I always wanted to impress and be around. Yep, RELATABLE.

Set in the 1940s, the author brings such atmosphere to this read. While some might find this slow paced, and at times it can be, it's necessary to see the transitions these girls (and some of the characters around them) go through.  I mean, who hasn't wanted to try and solve a mystery and then see if they could probably get away with a crime of their own.  Am I right? *wink*

I also thoroughly enjoyed my chat with the author (which you can find on my IG Live tab) which enhanced my reading experience and really made me see this story through a new lens.  There are more books coming that will span the 50s and the 60s so we get to see these characters grow immensely and I am here for it!


Saturday, October 16, 2021

Review: Shallow Waters by Anita Kopacz

Shallow Waters
by Anita Kopacz

Thanks so much to Atria/Black Privilege Publishing for this gifted book.

Publisher: Atria/Black Privilege Publishing
Publish Date: August 3, 2021
224 Pages
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Historical Fiction, African

Shallow Waters imagines Yemaya, an Orïsha—a deity in the religion of Africa’s Yoruba people—cast into mid-1800s America. We meet Yemaya as a young woman, still in the care of her mother and not yet fully aware of the spectacular power she possesses to protect herself and those she holds dear.

The journey laid out in Shallow Waters sees Yemaya confront the greatest evils of this era; transcend time and place in search of Obatala, a man who sacrifices his own freedom for the chance at hers; and grow into the powerful woman she was destined to become. We travel alongside Yemaya from her native Africa and on to the “New World,” with vivid pictures of life for those left on the outskirts of power in the nascent Americas.

Yemaya realizes the fighter within, travels the Underground Railroad in search of the mysterious stranger Obatala, and crosses paths with icons of our history on the road to freedom. Shallow Waters is a nourishing work of ritual storytelling from promising debut author Anita Kopacz.

My Review:

This debut novel is beautifully written and spans the genres of historical fiction, fantasy, mythology and African culture. When I read the opening where it appears a mermaid is emerging from her shell now with her legs, I knew instantly I was going to love this read.  

In this book, we see the world solely through Yemana's eyes.  She falls in love with Obatala when he releases her from a net and becomes punished for it.  From this point she is on a mission to find him. Slavery, Abolitionists, Quakers, Mers, Yoruba folklore, the Underground Railroad... all stories told throughout her travels towards him. While very lyrical, it is also very straight forward in its story telling and comes across like a young adult novel and I am here for it.

I think some people will want the story itself expanded in certain ways re the historical references but for me, I felt the 224 pages of Yemana's journey to find her love compelling, though at some times hard to read.  The descriptives of Yemana's power were fascinating and I became entranced in each part as she traveled and as she grew into her womanhood. I do wish there had been some more character development and little more information on why Yemana and Obtala's bond was so strong after such a brief meeting.  Overall I did really enjoy the journey.


Friday, October 15, 2021

Review: In Another Light by A.J. Banner

In Another Light
by A.J. Banner

Thanks so much to GetRedPr for this gifted book.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: October 5, 2021
Kindle Edition
252 Pages
Genre: Thriller

Three years ago mortuary cosmetologist Phoebe Glassman lost her husband in a tragic accident. No longer the hopeful wife and mother she once was, Phoebe is disappearing into her grief and into the quietude of her job—restoring to the dead the illusion of life. Then the body of a woman named Pauline Steele arrives in the mortuary, and for Phoebe, everything changes.

Pauline is unmistakably Phoebe’s mirror image and bears an alarmingly familiar tattoo. Even more startling is that among Pauline’s effects is a faded photograph of Phoebe. Aided by an eccentric colleague, her curiosity sparked, Phoebe investigates her doppelgänger’s life and death—and uncovers surprising clues to a shared past.

Phoebe’s emotional journey soon leads to shocking revelations about those closest to her…and even herself. When she’s driven to the brink, how much of what she discovers can she trust?

My Review:

My fourth Banner novel and by far my favorite.  Her books are quick reads at under 300 pages so it's easy to fly right through them.  This novel sheds light on the process of grief and we get to deep dive into Phoebe's ups and downs as she struggles to deal with the loss of her husband and young daughter.  I mean, if you worked in a mortuary and a woman shows up on your table looking almost identical to yourself and bearing a tattoo that you've seen on your husband's phone... well, wouldn't that get you spiraling? 

Doppelganger books are always fun for me because you just KNOW something weird is happening.  Secrets will be unleashed... curiosity doesn't just kill the cat.  When Phoebe really loses it in one part of the book, my heart just went out to her.  While love can make you do some crazy things, it has absolutely nothing on grief and I believe the author does a great job of showcasing that struggle. I definitely did not figure out certain parts of it and I certainly was unsure as to the credibility of what Phoebe was seeing.  I applaud her tenacity but also cringe at some of her actions.. while also still understanding them..

Really the only thing that didn't quite work for me was the ending - and not in the whole ending part but in a teeny, tiny romance part that I felt was just unnecessary.  I also felt like there were some plot holes but honestly, it didn't really take away from the read.  

Go hug your loved ones.


Saturday, October 9, 2021

Review: The Corpse Flower by Anne Mette Hancock

The Corpse Flower
by Anne Mette Hancock

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and for these gifted books!

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publish Date: October 12, 2021
336 Pages
Series: Kalda og Schafer #1
Genres: Nordic Noir, Thriller, Crime Fiction

A Danish journalist digs deep to uncover a web of lies that stretches back to a grisly murder, but knowing the truth might put an end to her story.

It's early September in Copenhagen, the rain has been coming down for weeks, and 36-year-old journalist Heloise Kaldan is in the middle of a nightmare. One of her sources has been caught lying, and she could lose her job over it. And then she receives the first in a series of cryptic and ominous letters from an alleged killer.

Wanted in connection with the fatal stabbing of a young lawyer three years earlier, Anna Kiel hasn't been seen by anyone since she left the crime scene covered in blood. The police think she's fled the country and have zero clues as to her motive. But homicide detective Erik Scháfer comes up with the first lead when the reporter who first wrote about the case is found murdered in his apartment. Has Anna Kiel struck again, or is there more than one killer at large? And why does every clue point directly to Heloise Kaldan?

Meanwhile, the letters keep coming, and they hint at a connection between Anna and Heloise. As Heloise starts digging deeper, she realizes that, to tell Anna's story, she will have to revisit the darkest parts of her own past--confronting someone she swore she'd never see again.

My Review:

Nordic noir thrillers are just gorgeous pieces of work - such great atmosphere and feels so much darker than other thrillers... but in such a subtle way.  It's hard to explain bt if you've read a few in this genre I think you'll know what I mean.  And this first in a series thriller most definitely fits the bill.

Is there such a thing as journalism procedurals? Because this felt like a police/journalism procedural - but even if you dont' like procedurals, don't let this deter you because it's not quite so bogged down by the details. I'm not even certain where to start with this one.  I decided to listen to this one and felt lost in certain sections as while the pacing was suspenseful, it also felt like there was a lot going on within.  Not gonna lie, I did enjoy learning about The Corpse Flower but by the second half had almost forgotten all about it.  And danggggggg... the build up to this one...

I really enjoyed getting to know Heloise.  She's tenacious and multi-layered and I'm happy this is going to be a series as I've love to see where she goes from here. And y'all... the ending to this.  The things she finds out.... this is when I truly paid full, 100% attention to it.  I don't know why I was making a face when listening to these parts as it's not like it's the first time I've read on this subject matter.  I think I was just so within Heloise's head that I FELT it when she went through it.  And Anna... phew girl.  But also Erik.  Yeah, ya'll... while nordic noirs aren't for everyone, I absolutely loved this one.  Sometimes you just need to tell someone's story for them... no matter how hard it hits you. 


Review: There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins - Book & Movie

There's Someone Inside Your House
by Stephanie Perkins

A big thanks to Penguin Teen & Dutton for this gifted book and being a part of the watch party for the Netflix adapted movie!

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: September 26, 2017
320 Pages
Genres: Young Adult, Horror, Thriller

It's been almost a year since Makani Young came to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, and she's still adjusting to her new life. And still haunted by her past in Hawaii.

Then, one by one, the students of her small town high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, Makani will be forced to confront her own dark secrets.

My Book & Movie Review:

Oh hello there.  Did you say young adult, horror and thriller? How could I EVER say no to this?  I'm not sure why I missed reading this when it first came out but am happy to have had the opportunity right before the Netflix movie watch with @PenguinTeen.  I literally finished the book 43 minutes before watch time! 🤣 And so... let me break it down for you...

The book was just ok for me.  It didn't feel like horror and more like a dark thriller with romance qualities.  Now, I get it's basically a slasher so I understand why it was put in the horror realm... it just doesn't ooze off the pages, if you know what I mean.  I felt it was less about the murders and more about Makani and Ollie - which I did enjoy their arc tbh.  And with this being centered, I also appreciated that their relationship wasn't instalove and didn't feel forced.  But going back to the murderous parts of the book... I enjoyed some of the scenes but once we got to the reveal and reasoning behind it... sorry but meh.  Did not work for me at all.

Now... the movie - this is a rare case where I felt the movie was much better than the book.  While a LOT of things deviated from the book (like A LOT), I enjoyed that it felt VERY YA but also was much creepier and definitely much more horror than the book allowed.  They could've at least given Ollie the pink hair he deserved though, y'all.  I mean, come on! But hell, what can I say... I love these kinds of movies so bravo, Netflix! 

What I enjoyed about both... the diversity.  Thank you for making a diverse cast and for it not being centered around the typical popular woe-is-me clique.  I actually wouldn't mind seeing Makani's background being made into a movie with what she went through.  I somehow was more interested than this than anything.. in the book anyways.

Honestly, take it for what it's worth.  If you want something light to read that defies logic at times, definitely take a stab at the book (see what I did there?) but if you want something a bit darker and a fun horror movie, grab some popcorn and turn it on.

Book: ★★☆
Movie: ★★★☆

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Review: The Mother Next Door by Tara Laskowski

The Mother Next Door
by Tara Laskowski

Thanks so much to Graydon House/HTP Books for this gifted book and stop on the Blog Tour.

Publisher: Graydon House
Publish Date: October 12, 2021
Kindle Edition
352 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense | Politics & Prose | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Target | Apple Books | One More Page | Kobo | Indiebound | Google Play

For fans of Lisa Jewell, Aimee Molloy, and Joshilyn Jackson, an upmarket suspense novel from a multi-award-winning author about a tightknit group of suburban mothers who invite a new neighborhood mom into their fold, and the fallout the night of the annual block party, when secrets from the past come back to haunt them…

The annual block party is the pinnacle of the year on idyllic suburban cul de sac Ivy Woods Drive. An influential group of neighborhood moms—known as the Ivy Five—plan the event for months.

Except the Ivy Five have been four for a long time.

When a new mother moves to town, eager to fit in, the moms see it as an opportunity to make the group whole again. This year’s block party should be the best yet... until the women start receiving anonymous messages threatening to expose the quiet neighborhood’s dark past—and the lengths they’ve gone to hide it.

As secrets seep out and the threats intensify, the Ivy Five must sort the loyal from the disloyal, the good from the bad. They'll do anything to protect their families. But when a twisted plot is revealed, with dangerous consequences, their steady foundation begins to crumble, leaving only one certainty: after this year’s block party, Ivy Woods Drive will never be the same.

From award-winning author Tara Laskowski, The Mother Next Door is an atmospheric novel of domestic suspense in which the strive for perfection ends in murder…

TARA LASKOWSKI is the author of
One Night Gone, which won an Agatha Award, Macavity Award, and Anthony Award, and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, Left Coast Crime Award, Strand Critics' Award, and Library of Virginia Literary Award. She is also the author of two short story collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders, has published stories in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Mid-American Review, among others, and is the former editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. Tara earned a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MFA from George Mason University and currently lives in Virginia. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, @TaraLWrites.

Website | Facebook | Twitter: @TaraLWrites | Instagram: @taralwrites | Goodreads

My Review:

Part Big Little Lies, Desperate Housewives and Gossip Girl vibes, this light 'thriller' is more neighborhood drama with a clique of mothers in a neighborhood I would never want to live in. 😏 I really wanted to like this book more than I did. It centers around a Halloween party (yay! My favorite time of year!), has lies, history amongst the women... in which the Ivy Five is actually four but have they found their new fifth in Theresa?

As someone who reads a ton of thrillers, this one felt a teeny bit repetitive of ones that I've read before. And trust me, I know that the amount of books I devour will lead to a lot of this... especially in this genre but bear with me! The chapters go back and forth with the different perspectives of some of the moms and there are occasional "Halloween" chapters that gives us a look into the past. I love a good full circle feel of a story. However, I could never get myself to really care about any of the characters... especially towards that end that may have stretched it a bit too far. Secrets can only get you so far... but I'll hush for now. And dangit, I also sure do love urban legends and this one has the Ghost Girl.

Personally, I think this was just a reader/book mismatch. However, if you like neighborhood drama with a touch of suspense, grab that popcorn and crack open your beverage of choice.




Ladies and gentlemen, skulls and boys: by the time our Halloween block party is over tonight, one of us will be dead.

And I don’t mean dead as in dull, or dead as in zombified. I mean dead as in gone. Dead as in expired. Killed.


You may be feeling distressed about this, knowing what you know about Ivy Woods—the great neighborhood it is, the sweet, loving families that live there. How could such a tragedy happen in such a wonderful place? You may have traveled here yourself, as a child or as a parent, lured in by the local fame of the street and its ghoulish decorations each year. The lights, the smoke, the gravestones, and the moaning. The witches, cackling and handing out candy. The swarms of little Frankensteins and cowboys and robots and ballet dancers lugging their pillowcases and plastic pumpkin buckets filled with sugar and junk.

But Ivy Woods isn’t perfect.

Far from it.

Look closer. Look under the makeup and the masks, look into the windows of the perfect houses. Dig under the surface of those freshly mowed lawns and you’ll find the worms. I’ve looked—believe me, I’ve looked. There’s something about this street. There are secrets. I know from watching through the windows, from hearing the hushed conversations, from lingering on their faces when they think everyone else has looked away.

Oh they think they are perfect. They pat themselves on the back for throwing such good parties, for raising such fine children, for living in such big houses.

But they are pretending.

They don masks on this one single night to dress up as someone or something else, but in reality they live their lives this way.

We all do.

We hate ourselves. We are too fat, or too thin. We should work hard, be smarter. We are lonely and depressed. We are worried about money. We are ashamed of the way that our friends and family treat us. But we lie about it all. We hide behind a protective façade, fragile glass figurines inside elaborate dollhouses designed to look like perfect, safe, happy places.

Tonight it will all shatter.

Watch closely and you’ll begin to see what I see. There’s trouble in the air, a cold wind blowing in from far away, and it’s settled on Ivy Woods Drive. The secrets and the lies we tell ourselves and others will emerge tonight like spirits of the dead. Lines will be drawn. Sides will be taken. Someone won’t make it out alive.

I can’t save that person, but I’ll tell the story. Turn over the rocks, expose the worms. Pull back the masks.

Because I know their secrets, secrets that will destroy them all.

If they don’t destroy themselves first.

Excerpted from The Mother Next Door by Tara Laskowski, Copyright © 2021 by Tara Laskowski. Published by Graydon House Books.