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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Review & Excerpt: Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison

Her Dark Lies 
by J.T. Ellison

Publisher: Mira
Publish Date: March 9, 2021
416 Pages
Genre: Thriller

At the wedding of the year, a killer needs no invitation

Jutting from sparkling turquoise waters off the Italian coast, Isle Isola is an idyllic setting for a wedding. In the majestic cliff-top villa owned by the wealthy Compton family, up-and-coming artist Claire Hunter will marry handsome, charming Jack Compton, surrounded by close family, intimate friends…and a host of dark secrets.

From the moment Claire sets foot on the island, something seems amiss. Skeletal remains have just been found. There are other, newer disturbances, too. Menacing texts. A ruined wedding dress. And one troubling shadow hanging over Claire’s otherwise blissful relationship—the strange mystery surrounding Jack’s first wife.

Then a raging storm descends, the power goes out—and the real terror begins…

My Review:

My 5th Ellison book! She truly knows how to entertain, y'all!  I enjoyed traveling to Italy to a clifftop villa that reeks of money, gorgeous views, hidden passages and statues.  Yes, please.  But with all of this, comes the Compton family ... and they require a few things from Claire before she's set to marry Jack.  They all have secrets... just how many of them will come to light and will Claire last longer than Jack's first wife did? 

Told through various POVs, these short chapters keep you invested and quickly turning the pages to see what's going to conspire.  While nothing ever really shocked me, I still was like, "OH NO.... whaaaaaat."  Haha.  Of all the characters, Claire surprised me the most.  I kinda want to hang out with her... and I also want the dogs, Romulus and Remus.  For some reason that campfire scene stuck with me.  SOMEBODY GET ME A GUARD DOG.  I will say there were a couple of moments towards the end that I side eyed a little bit... but who doesn't love a good side eye every once in a while.

Ellison is just a master story teller and I will always pick up anything she writes.  I would definitely recommend Lie To Me and Tear Me Apart along with this one if you're looking for something to binge.  Those short chapters get me every time!  



Jack did not talk about his dead wife. Nor did anyone in his family.

It struck me as strange, in the beginning. There were no reminiscences, no regrets. Certainly, no comparisons. He sat me down one night after dinner, three weeks after Elliot’s wed­ding, said, “I have something to tell you,” and recited the facts.

He’d been married before, the marriage was a short one, and had happened a decade earlier. She died only a few weeks in. He didn’t like to discuss it, but felt I should know, considering the path we were clearly on.

Then he kissed me, and as we joined together, I realized what he was actually telling me. I didn’t see then the lack of intimacy of the admission, nor feel any sort of fear or warning. What I took away from the conversation was this: He’d just declared his intent. He was planning a future with me.

I overlooked the fact that he didn’t tell me how she’d died, nor did I ask. Not then, at least. It was all very mysterious and speaking about it was completely off-limits. It felt…danger­ously romantic in a way. There was so much about him I did not know, and I clung to those mysteries like a child. I’d been disappointed by people so often in my life that I suppose I was just hoping he wouldn’t let me down.

No, in the beginning, none of it mattered to me. I’m a prac­tical woman, logical to a fault sometimes. I was only eighteen when Jack was so briefly married, in the throes of my own cat­aclysmic life earthquakes that I had no desire to revisit. I didn’t see the story in the news. Even if I had somehow come across it, why would I care about some gazillionaire’s missing wife?

I’ve learned not to look back. Never. That way lies madness.

Jack and I had a long life ahead of us. He’d talk about Mor­gan if he wanted.

If I was that curious, there was always the internet. The Comptons were a very public family, after all.

Katie thought I was crazy not to press Jack for every little detail. When I refused, she dug up everything she could, in­vited me out for coffee under the pretense of a catch-up, sat me down at the Frothy Monkey, and forced me to listen. This is what I learned:

Jackson Compton met Morgan Fraser at a cocktail party in Tiburon, California, at the house of a famed literary agent, a stunning arts and crafts renovation across the bay from San Francisco. Their courtship was brief and glamorous. Jack was a party boy then, on the circuit, dating models and actresses, in the gossip columns all the time. Most eligible bachelor, all that. Feckless. Wealthy. Fun.

Morgan, a well-educated former foster child who studied computer science on scholarship at Stanford, was the exact op­posite of the kind of woman Jackson Compton was attracted to, according to the salacious stories. There was nothing simple or easy about her. Her background was murky, her business in­terests bordered on the unethical, and she was clearly not inter­ested in settling down.

But she was a stunner. Breathtakingly gorgeous. Beautiful, and brilliant. The night they met, she was out celebrating. She had secured the first round of venture capital for an eponymous IT company that was making waves with a nanotech microcamera that would eventually change the way the security industry handled smart home technology. Heady stuff. The Comptons bought out her company and made her a small fortune.

 Jessica's Review:

I’ve been a big fan of J.T. Ellison since picking up LIE TO ME a few years ago, and I haven’t been disappointed since! We can expect complex and well-developed characters, plenty of suspense, and that we’ll be kept guessing until the very end. HER DARK LIES is like a locked in type mystery as our characters are stuck on a private island together as the body count rises. This one starts a little slower as we get the lay of the land and the scene is set, but then the pacing picks up and doesn’t let up until the very end.

This book has a great building mystery to it and, oh boy, talk about a body count! I couldn’t believe how many bodies were stacking up in this book, it was getting harder and harder to figure out who was the killer! I had seen a few other reviewers compare this to AND THEN THERE WERE NONE and I totally see it. I love Ellison’s writing style and I really enjoy the way she weaves these complex stories while keeping it so easy to follow. That being said, there were a couple times I mixed up which character we were reading in some chapters but then I was able to keep it straight. I can’t wait to see what she releases next and I highly recommend this to those that love locked room mysteries and very atmospheric suspense reads.

4 stars

Friday, March 5, 2021

Guest Post: Influences on Shelter for the Damned: Novels About Obsession by Mike Thorn

Shelter for the Damned:
Novels About Obsession
by Mike Thorn

Publisher: JournalStone
Publish Date: February 26, 2021
190 Pages
Genre: Horror

While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced.

But it isn't long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants something in exchange for the shelter it provides.

Shelter for the Damned is not only a scary, fast-paced horror novel, but also an unflinching study of suburban violence, masculine conditioning, and adolescent rage.

Influences on Shelter for the Damned: Novels About Obsession

Obsession is a primary driving force in Shelter for the Damned, as the novel’s protagonist, Mark, becomes intensely fixated on a shack he discovers in a suburban field. As the Shack begins revealing its weird sentience, Mark’s interest grows. His relationship to the Shack eventually becomes horrifically parasitic, evoking the nature of debilitating addiction.

While writing Shelter for the Damned, I was conscious of several other books focused on obsession and dependency. I was especially interested in novels that used first-person or quasi-omniscient style to depict their protagonists’ experiences. I have provided snapshots for some of the most overt influences on Shelter for the Damned below…

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, by Herman Melville (1851)

This cosmically ambitious novel seems to defy all rules of literary tradition. It reads somehow like pre-modern postmodernism, incorporating nonfiction tangents, verse, and a vast array of mythological, literary and religious allusions into its narrative. It might be the most essential American novel about the forceful power of obsession (which M elville describes throughout as “monomania”). Indeed, thanks to Melville, the term “white whale” is now a colloquial stand-in for the out-of-reach object of one’s obsession. I have always loved the way this novel evokes the titular mystic creature through its form. I tried to echo a little of that in my own humble, mere-mortal way. Earlier drafts of Shelter for the Damned included some iffy concrete poetry, in which I built the Shack’s shape through punctuation marks. Ultimately, I abandoned my wilder experimental ideas in favor of a leaner, more visceral plot.

The Killer Inside Me, by Jim Thompson (1952)

I was reading a lot of Jim Thompson while writing the first draft of Shelter for the Damned. I was intoxicated by Thompson’s clean, brutal prose style, and his penchant for folding experimentation and philosophy into works of genre fiction. Like the protagonists in many of Thompson’s novels, the central character in The Killer Inside Me is a violent, sociopathic individual. I was stunned by the way Thompson’s novel so convincingly conveyed this terrifying man’s perspective, offering an intimate look at the depravity underlying his polite façade. I was so taken with Thompson’s work that he became the namesake for one of the police officers in my novel.

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, by Yukio Mishima (1956)

I was about midway through my first draft of Shelter for the Damned when my friend Tomas Boudreau recommended The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Tomas had read some early chapters of my book, and he thought Mishima’s novel might be a useful point of reference. He was right. At the center of Temple is a young man named Mizoguchi, an outsider much like Mark in Shelter for the Damned. Mishima’s novel sees Mizoguchi becoming mesmerized by Kyoto’s famous Golden Temple, absolutely transfixed by its sublime beauty. However, as the novel progresses, Mizoguchi’s vision of the Temple becomes tainted, and he ultimately decides to commit a profane act of destruction.

The Room, by Hubert Selby Jr. (1971)

Published seven years after Hubert Selby Jr.’s devastating debut (Last Exit to Brooklyn [1964]), The Room is the most sustained and disturbing demonstration of first-person monologue I have ever read. Written in Selby’s trademark Joycean, rhythmic prose style, The Room is a horror novel whose movement is all interior, tracing the protagonist’s descent into the depths of his own sadistic revenge fantasies. I cannot think of a more demanding study of the human psyche at its most violent and corrosive. When I first discovered Selby’s work in my teens, it felt like a truly game-changing event. The encounter got me thinking, Wait … fiction can do this? Fiction can go there? Selby is, by far, one of my biggest and longest lasting creative influences. Also, like Thompson, he is the namesake for one of the police officers in Shelter for the Damned. 

Christine, by Stephen King (1983)

Like Shelter for the Damned, Stephen King’s Christine locates its horror in the experiences of young, suburban males. King’s novel has a lot to say about the masculinist psychology underlying American consumerism, which the author explores through the fetishization of the title car, a 1958 Plymouth Fury. Like the Shack in my novel, Christine’s car is the protagonist’s supernatural object of obsession, and its powerfully seductive force leads to violent consequences. In formal terms, this is quite an adventurous novel: the bookends are narrated in first-person by protagonist Dennis, but the body of the novel swerves into third-person quasi-omniscient style for narrative and thematic purposes. Like any dutiful student of the genre, I have read a lot of Stephen King, and I have tried to learn from all of it. In terms of thematic dealings with obsession, though, Christine had the biggest impact on Shelter for the Damned. 

The Cipher, by Kathe Koja (1991)

Kathe Koja’s classic debut novel The Cipher finds cosmic horror within banal spaces. Specifically, the locus of terror is a dark hole that materializes in the storage room of the apartment building inhabited by the protagonist, Nicholas. Devilishly nicknamed “the Funhole,” this mysterious void draws Nicholas away from the doldrums of his life as a jaded video store clerk, leading him and his girlfriend, Nakota, down a hallucinatory and destructive path. Koja’s voice is haunting, gorgeous, and undeniably distinct; in her first novel, she already displays a fully formed sense of character interiority, imagery, and atmosphere the likes of which most mature writers never quite achieve. She is one of the genre’s greatest writers of obsession, understanding monomania always as something equally alluring and harmful.

Zombie, by Joyce Carol Oates (1995)

Modeled quite explicitly after real-life American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, Joyce Carol Oates’s scarring novel Zombie occupies the headspace of Quentin P, who becomes possessed by the idea of turning some unsuspecting young man into his brainless sex slave. In search of the ideal “zombie,” Quentin abducts, tortures, and murders numerous victims. Oates locks the reader into Quentin’s point-of-view, transcribing his consciousness through stunted, almost childlike sentence structure. This book is slim but ferocious, immersing itself in the horribly deluded pathology of its protagonist without ever turning away.

Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours and the novel Shelter for the Damned (coming from JournalStone on February 26). His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon DigestThe NoSleep PodcastTales to Terrify and Prairie Gothic. His film criticism has been published in MUBI NotebookThe Film Stage, Seventh Row, Bright Lights Film Journal and Vague VisagesHe completed his M.A. with a major in English literature at the University of Calgary, where he wrote a thesis on epistemophobia in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Review: Too Good To Be True by Carola Lovering

Too Good To Be True 
by Carola Lovering

Thank you St. Martin's Press & Booksparks for this copy.

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: March 2, 2021
352 Pages
Genre: Contemporary


Skye Starling is overjoyed when her boyfriend, Burke Michaels, proposes after a whirlwind courtship. Though Skye seems to have the world at her fingertips―she’s smart, beautiful, and from a well-off family―she’s also battled crippling OCD ever since her mother’s death when she was eleven, and her romantic relationships have suffered as a result.

But now Burke―handsome, older, and more emotionally mature than any man she’s met before―says he wants her. Forever. Except, Burke isn’t who he claims to be. And interspersed letters to his therapist reveal the truth: he’s happily married, and using Skye for his own, deceptive ends.

In a third perspective, set thirty years earlier, a scrappy seventeen-year-old named Heather is determined to end things with Burke, a local bad boy, and make a better life for herself in New York City. But can her adolescent love stay firmly in her past―or will he find his way into her future?

On a collision course she doesn’t see coming, Skye throws herself into wedding planning, as Burke’s scheme grows ever more twisted. But of course, even the best laid plans can go astray. And just when you think you know where this story is going, you’ll discover that there’s more than one way to spin the truth.

My Review:

Ok, ok, OK! Wow, this was quite the addictive read!  What a mighty tangled web we weave. Burke, Skye and Heather.  We get to see this wicked story through each of their POVs.  I mean, really, how red do you like your flags to get before you start paying attention? 

This is one where I can't really say too much because it would give too much away and you're just going to have to let this story unfold to you chapter by chapter.  At one point, as I was flipping the page, I even said outloud, "ugghhhhhh, _________ us TERRIBLE."  I swear my eyebrows were pinched, my butt puckered... I was truly disgusted by some of the goings on that were happening.  And then *DING*, I thought, "But what if.... " and yes, I was RIGHT!  

Honestly, I had the BEST time reading this.  I will say that the ending was a bit.... too neat for my taste, but otherwise I'm still sitting here with the biggest grin on my face. I would definitely recommend this to readers looking for a good popcorn read... along with her debut, Tell Me Lies. While this is put into the thriller genre, I'd say this is more of a suspenseful contemporary read.  Either way, get yourself a copy and entertain yourself.


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Review: Limitless by Mallory Weggemann

by Mallory Weggemann
with Tiffany Yecke Brooks

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and TLC Book Tours for this copy.

Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publish Date: March 2, 2021
272 Pages
Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction, Autobiography

The Paralympic gold-medalist, world champion swimmer, ESPY winner, and NBC Sports commentator uses her extraordinary story to equip others to meet whatever challenges they face in life.

On January 21, 2008, a routine medical procedure left Mallory Weggemann paralyzed from her waist down. Less than two years later, Mallory had broken eight world records, and by the 2012 Paralympic Games, she held fifteen world records and thirty-four American records. Two years later a devastating fall severely damaged her left arm, yet Mallory refused to give up. After two reconstructive surgeries and extended rehab, she won two golds and a silver at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships. And perhaps most significantly, she found confidence, independence, and persevering love as she walked down the aisle on her wedding day.

Mallory's extraordinary resilience and uncompromising commitment to excellence are rooted in her resolve, perseverance, and sheer grit. In this remarkable new book, Mallory shares the lessons she learned by pushing past every obstacle, expectation, and limitation that stood in her way, including the need to:

redefine limitations;
remember that healing is not chronological;
be willing to fail;
and embrace your comeback.
Mallory's story reminds us that whatever circumstances we face, we have the capacity to face down whatever challenges, labels, or difficulties confront us--and to do so on our own terms. 

My Review:

I am always fascinated and so impressed with people who take the hard ingredients life throws at them and turns them into their favorite meals.  Terrible analogy but I'm sticking with it. (I shouldn't write reviews before coffee.)  

Weggemann is so inspirational.  She wakes up unexpectedly paralyzed from the waist down from a routine surgery.  She channels her competitive swimming spirit and breaks records in the Paralympic Games.  Then has to go through surgeries and rehab from damaging her arm and from there continues to win swimming competitions.  There's NOTHING that will hold her back.  She even ended up WALKING down the aisle on her wedding day.  Now, you would think this would sum up the book and to an extent it does.  But what you need to consider is just how hard it was to get through each one of these stages.  These lessons are hard learned but she let nothing stand in her way.  Thankfully she also had an amazing support system in her family.

I can't say much more about this other than it's a beautiful memoir.  Always swim towards the light.


Spotlight: In The Dark by Vikki Patis

In The Dark 
by Vikki Patis

Thank you Bloodhound Books for this review copy.

Publisher: Bloodhound Books
Publish Date: March 3, 2021
Kindle Edition
Genre: Thriller

Is a situation ever black and white?

Liv knows what kind of boy her grandson is. She knows Seb would never do anything to hurt his girlfriend Izzy. But could the shadow cast by his father be influencing the boy she loves?

Caitlyn, Izzy’s mother, is desperate to reach her daughter, but she only seems to push her further away. Can she help her daughter or are Caitlyn's own demons standing in the way?

When an inappropriate photo of Izzy is shared online, no one is prepared for the ripples that threaten to tear their lives apart. Will the truth come out before it's too late? Or is the damage already done?

Vikki Patis is the bestselling author of psychological thrillers In the Dark (2021), The Wake (2020), Girl, Lost (2020), The Girl Across the Street (2019), and The Diary (2018). Girl, Lost, a top 100 bestseller on Amazon, was later longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize 2020. She is represented by Emily Glenister at DHH Literary Agency and also writes historical fiction.

In 2016, she self-published Weltanschauung, a short story collection, and her BSc dissertation, I Ink, Therefore I Am, was published by Lambert Publishing in 2014. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, baking gluten free cakes, or walking in the Hertfordshire countryside. She lives with her partner, cats, and wild golden retrievers.

Vikki runs The Bandwagon blog, where she provides author services such as editing and web design as well as writing articles on a wide range of topics, and the Psychological Suspense Authors’ Association. She used to write for various websites, covering topics from living with a chronic illness to body positivity to feminism.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Review: An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn

An Unexpected Peril 
by Deanna Raybourn

Thank you Berkley Pub for this review copy.

Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: March 2, 2021
Kindle Edition
336 Pages
Series: Veronica Speedwell #6
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery

A princess is missing, and a peace treaty is on the verge of collapse in this new Veronica Speedwell adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

January 1889. As the newest member of the Curiosity Club—an elite society of brilliant, intrepid women—Veronica Speedwell is excited to put her many skills to good use. As she assembles a memorial exhibition for pioneering mountain climber Alice Baker-Greene, Veronica discovers evidence that the recent death was not a tragic climbing accident but murder. Veronica and her natural historian beau, Stoker, tell the patron of the exhibit, Princess Gisela of Alpenwald, of their findings. With Europe on the verge of war, Gisela's chancellor, Count von Rechstein, does not want to make waves—and before Veronica and Stoker can figure out their next move, the princess disappears.

Having noted Veronica's resemblance to the princess, von Rechstein begs her to pose as Gisela for the sake of the peace treaty that brought the princess to England. Veronica reluctantly agrees to the scheme. She and Stoker must work together to keep the treaty intact while navigating unwelcome advances, assassination attempts, and Veronica's own family—the royalty who has never claimed her.

My Review:

OH Veronica, how happy I am to, once again, be back in your crazy little world.  And now you're posing as a princess??? Oh what a fun story this was to read.  Y'all, if you love historical fiction and mysteries, you HAVE to read this series.  And while the mystery itself can be read as a standalone, I do recommend highly that you read this from the beginning so you can see the progression of Veronica and Stoker (how can you not love Stoker?!).

What I love best about these stories is just how snarky Veronica is.  This woman has got spunk and isn't afraid of a challenge.  *Though, Stoker, I may have to agree with you as to part of the reason why she keeps putting herself in these situations. 😉* Speaking of Stoker, at times I think I love him more than Veronica!  Their relationship is a perfect mix and when he jokingly "punishes" her by telling her she will need to clean his walrus, it is NOT a euphemism.  He actually has a dead walrus that needs cleaning.  That's right.

I'm not going to bore you with alllll the reasons why this series is so wonderful.  And this installment is definitely up as one of my faves.  If you love sassy protagonists, you will LOVE Veronica.  Travel back to 1889 and join them on a royal adventure.


Sunday, February 28, 2021

#ATBR2021 Review: The Minders by John Marrs

The Minders
by John Marrs

Thank you Berkley Books for these gifted copies.

Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: February 16, 2020
416 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Science Fiction

In this electrifying near-future thriller, five strangers guard government secrets, but only four can be trusted.

In the 21st century, information is king. But computers can be hacked and files can be broken into - so a unique government initiative has been born. Five ordinary people have been selected to become Minders - the latest weapon in thwarting cyberterrorism. Transformed by a revolutionary medical procedure, the country's most classified information has been taken offline and turned into genetic code implanted inside their heads.

Together, the five know every secret - the truth behind every government lie, conspiracy theory and cover up. In return, they're given the chance to leave their problems behind and a blank slate to start their lives anew.

But not everyone should be trusted, especially when they each have secrets of their own they'll do anything to protect...

My Review:

John Marrs is one of my all time favorite authors.  It's so rare that I've now read 6 of his books and every single one of them has been 5 stars.  What can I say, I'm fascinated with his mind.  He is a genius and noone can tell me different.  With The Minders, he brings yet another scary situation where some very special people get classified governmental information implanted into their minds. SAY WHAT.

One thing that I absolutely love is when an author references his other books.  There's that FEELING you get when recognize these and in The Minders, he definitely gives a nod to his other books - mostly with The One and Passengers and I couldn't have been happier to see that!  But fear not, you can read this just fine without having read those, though I highly recommend you go back because they're freaking amazing.

I'm not going to bore you with the endless things I loved about this read.  I'll just say that you'll want to read this.  Chock full of twisty little moments and (some) characters I hope to see again, this is a full on win and the best way to end my February reads.

Mr. Marrs - you have a fan in me and I can't wait to see what else you bring to the table.  I would love to pick your mind someday.

Readers - if you haven't read any of his work, I implore  you to do so now. 


Jessica's Review:

John Marrs has been an auto-buy author for me for quite some time. I've loved everything since THE GOOD SAMARITAN and he has not disappointed this time. THE MINDERS is another science fiction meets thriller and this is action packed from start to finish. More of a plot driven book than character driven and it worked really well. What I really enjoy about these futuristic plots is that they don't that far-fetched, like this doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility in the near future.

Would you want to be responsible for keeping all of the government's most protected information? Imagine having it all stored directly into your mind. Everything government lie and cover up, everything conspiracy theory that is actually true, classified information of all kinds. I don't think I could do it. It would be so hard to make sure nothing slips out in conversation or not being able to tell anyone. What I will always love about the books by Marrs is that they are so unique. There aren't any other thrillers out there, that I'm aware of, that are similar. This isn't the same kind of suspense plot or have the same tropes.

What I liked the most was that this was in the same universe as his other books, THE ONE and THE PASSENGERS. I would highly recommend reading both, because they're incredible, if you don't want the potential of things getting spoiled in those books. You don't need to read them in order to follow along and get this book as it is a standalone. Once again, John Marrs has cemented his place as an auto-buy author for me and I can't wait to see what he has in store for us next.

5 stars 

Review: You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes

You Love Me 
by Caroline Kepnes

Thanks to Random House for this free review copy.

Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: April 6, 2021
400 Pages
Series: You #3
Genre: Thriller

The highly anticipated new thriller in Caroline Kepnes's hit You series, now a blockbuster Netflix show...

Joe Goldberg is back. And he's going to start a family - even if it kills him.

Joe Goldberg is done with cities, done with the muck and the posers, done with Love. Now, he's saying hello to nature, to simple pleasures on a cozy island in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time in a long time, he can just breathe.

He gets a job at the local library - he does know a thing or two about books - and that's where he meets her: Mary Kaye DiMarco. Librarian. Joe won't meddle, he will not obsess. He'll win her the old fashioned way... by providing a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand. Over time, they'll both heal their wounds and begin their happily ever after in this sleepy town.

The trouble is... Mary Kaye already has a life. She's a mother. She's a friend. She's... busy.

True love can only triumph if both people are willing to make room for the real thing. Joe cleared his decks. He's ready. And hopefully, with his encouragement and undying support, Mary Kaye will do the right thing and make room for him.

My Review:

Joe lovers, don't kill me for this rating... I absolutely loved You, and Hidden Bodies was a fun sequel where I felt like Joe didn't particularly feel like *him* and if I'm being completely honest, and after much thought, I preferred the season two of the adaptation better than the read.  BUT, I also knew I had to continue the series so here I am. I couldn't help myself and read this one as soon as it showed up on my doorstep.

Unfortunately, it was fun to be in Joe's head for only a few minutes.  I enjoy his inner monologue that weirdly makes sense, even in his own twisted way.  But it seemed to take forever to get to any *fun* part of this read.  A lot of back and forth and repetition and well, it's exactly what you would expect.  More Joe doing what Joe does... in a new town, reminiscing over Love and Forty while concentrating on the new *love of his life*.  You can probably figure out what's going to happen because it's basically the same story in a new spot with a new woman and new people getting in the way.  I was hoping it would go completely sideways and kept waiting for that shoe to drop but instead... whatever dropped, I wasn't picking up. 

Listen, you cannot take away the sheer brilliance that is Kepnes and the way she brings you a story.  She's truly talented and I will read whatever she puts out there.  And yes, most likely will pick up the next in this series, if there is one.  Joe is like that ex-boyfriend you just can't shake, even when you start to think he's tired and not worth it. If you're a fan of his and love being in his head, you're gonna love this read.


Review: The Boy In The Woods by Scott Thomas

The Boy In The Woods 
by Scott Thomas

Thank you to Inkshares and Night Worms for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Inkshares
Publish Date: October 31, 2020
Kindle Edition
90 Pages
Genre: Horror

A disfigured boy must fight back when his camp counselors turn into blood-thirsty killers.

My Review:

Summer Camps seemed always equal parts fun and frightening. As someone who has been reading horror since I was a teeny little thing, I could put a scary tinge to just about anything.... and especially so to camp scenarios... and the more horror stories I hear/read about these camps, the happier I get that I never attended one. Thomas, who brought us Kill Creek and Violet, now brings us this novella about Camp Cottonwood, and let's just say it has helped to nudge the equal parts of fun and frightening to the more frightening scale.

Kids are mean, annoying, spirited, blunt, resilient and malleable. Eddie is bullied because of a disfigured face so staying another night at Camp because his parents couldn't make it to pick him up on time isn't the ideal scenario, but at least most of the kids are gone... right? Thomas does a great job of putting us inside Eddie's head and bringing us to the summer camp atmosphere. Which, quite frankly, is always fun to read because you knoooooow some shit is going to go down... and it certainly does here.

I won't go into too much detail as this novella only spans 90 pages, but I'll certainly remain phantom itchy for a while and wonder about that ending. 😉 With Cabin Fever vibes and damp forest smells, let Thomas transport you back to young summer nights and be extra careful when that sun goes down. Can someone please scratch my back for me?


Review: A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman

A House at the Bottom of a Lake 
by Josh Malerman

Publisher: This Is Horror
Publish Date: October 31, 2016
116 Pages
Genres: Young Adult, Magical Realism

Both seventeen. Both afraid. But both saying yes.

It sounded like the perfect first date: canoeing across a chain of lakes, sandwiches and beer in the cooler. But teenagers Amelia and James discover something below the water’s surface that changes their lives forever.

It’s got two stories.

It’s got a garden.

And the front door is open.

It’s a house at the bottom of a lake.

For the teens, there is only one rule: no questions. And yet, how could a place so spectacular come with no price tag? While the duo plays house beneath the waves, one reality remains:

Just because a house is empty, doesn’t mean nobody’s home.

My Review:

"What was it about the stars that, no matter how they lit up the night sky, they couldn't remove the night?"

I'm not entirely sure what I just read... but I think I liked it! I have such a love for Malerman's mind.... but I tend to find while I love most of his books for the majority, it's the endings I always have a hard time with. And this may be true for this as well... but I'm also intrigued and wondering about the symbolism of this house. It's a rare time where I'm wondering what I'm missing but love the vast interpretation you could put on it to suit whatever you need it to be. I think. 🤣

Remember your first butterflies, your first love, and that anticipation of the unknown? I LOVE their rules of not asking HOW or WHY when it came to "their house", which helped their bond of something so unique that they could just call their own. While there were some suspenseful moments, I didn't find this to be in the horror category but more in magical realism, which I absolutely think suits Malerman's writing style. I certainly became curious and more obsessed with the house as Amelia and James did.

While this novella won't frighten you or raise the hair on your skin, it is a fun and curious look into first love, secret bonding and adventure. Open your heart and your mind for this unique story. And while I may mention that this isn't the scary, horror book you may be expecting due to the author, it certainly doesn't help my fear of the unknown dark waters either.