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Friday, September 24, 2021

Review: The Barrens by Joe Goodglass

The Barrens
by Joe Goodglass

Thanks to the author for this gifted novella!

Publisher: Darkstroke Books
Publish Date: July 9, 2021
Kindle Edition
114 Pages
Genre: Horror

A young couple's weekend foray into the woods turns into a night of unimaginable terror…

When Jacob, a Princeton PhD student with an insatiable hunger for fame and fortune, convinces his best friend, Caleb, to shoot a documentary on the Jersey Devil for their DeBunkers YouTube Channel, the boys persuade their girlfriends, Hannah and Blake, to join them on a weekend getaway. The following morning, the group sets out for the Pine Barrens in search of the folk legend, bringing with them camping gear and recording equipment.

Upon their arrival, Jacob receives a text message from GenX-82, an anonymous member of a local film crew who had shot footage of the Jersey Devil six months prior. In exchange for an interview, GenX agrees to take them to the Blue Hole, the site where the entity was last seen. However, halfway through their hike, Caleb is seriously injured, and the group loses contact with the outside world.

With tension mounting as the night sets in, Jacob's trek through the Barrens soon becomes a descent into madness…

My Review:

Ok, Goodglass with the Goodstory!

I really wasn't sure what I was walking into with this horror novella but it delivered! The very beginning had me questioning just how much I may like this as it starts with 4 friends getting ready for their journey and Jacob already chatting with some girl on the internet that his girlfriend doesn't even know about.  Granted it's for their expedition, but that's also another thing that he's not fully upfront about.  Then they get to Pine Barrens and things start going sideways, upside down and no one (not even you, reader) knows what the hell is real and what isn't. GIMME MORE.

I think there could've been a little more work in editing and catching some typos here and there but this didn't bother me much.  Because of the many events that happen, there were times I needed to go back and figure out what just happened because I think I became just as confused as Jacob was for a while.  Which was probably the point, right? *wink*

The last half of the book is my favorite and honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed the ending! The Barrens gives me The Ritual/Midsommar vibes and I wolud 10/10 watch if this ever gets made into an adaptation (fingers crossed).  I can't wait to see what this author has for us next.


Thursday, September 23, 2021

Review: Mouth Full of Ashes by Briana Morgan

Mouth Full of Ashes
by Briana Morgan

Thanks so much to the author for this gifted book!

Publish Date: October 4, 2021
Kindle Edition
Genres: Horror, Vampire

Mourning the sudden loss of her sister, Callie Danoff wants nothing more than to embrace a fresh start in a new town, leaving the haunting memories of her sister’s death behind. But when her brother Ramsay drags her to a spooky boardwalk, the two become entangled with a local vampire gang and its enigmatic leader, Elijah. Callie refuses to accept their existence... until she and her brother unknowingly ingest vampire blood. Now, they only have three days before they turn into vampires themselves.

With her carefree summer thwarted, Callie must trust a group she barely knows in order to save her family.

My Review:

What a cool new take on the vampire genre!  Carnivals/fairs, etc. have always creeped me out.  I've always had dark thoughts about what could be happening in the underbelly of them (Us, anyone?😱) I also really wanted to be a vampire when I was a kid.  I'm basically allergic to the sun so I'm close! 🤞 Put all of this together and add one Briana Morgan and you just KNOW this is going to be a fun ride.  Hands up, everyone!  I thoroughly enjoyed Unboxed (if you haven't read that one, go get it now!) so was super excited to get an early copy of Mouth Full of Ashes. 🧛

I LOVE the homage to the Lost Boys - I once put this movie on as a "romantic" movie to watch with my guy and he just shook his head "Of course you would, Chandra". 🤣 #truestory  What I really loved about this story was Callie and Maeve.  It was fun to watch each of their progressions.  Maeve turned out to be my absolute favorite character! And I see you, Briana, with that very fun line you included. 😉

I really don't want to say too much so I'll stop here.  This novella has some bite to it.  Get bloody. 🩸 Excuse me while I go grab a milkshake and some fries. Bloody ashes.... 


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Review: The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

The Golden Couple
by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Thanks to St. Martin's Press & NetGalley for this gifted book.

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: March 8, 2022
Kindle Edition
320 Pages
Genre: Thriller

If Avery Chambers can’t fix you in 10 sessions, she won’t take you on as a client. Her successes are phenomenal--she helps people overcome everything from domineering parents to assault--and almost absorb the emptiness she sometimes feels since her husband’s death.

Marissa and Mathew Bishop seem like the golden couple--until Marissa cheats. She wants to repair things, both because she loves her husband and for the sake of their 8-year-old son. After a friend forwards an article about Avery, Marissa takes a chance on this maverick therapist, who lost her license due to controversial methods.

When the Bishops glide through Avery’s door and Marissa reveals her infidelity, all three are set on a collision course. Because the biggest secrets in the room are still hidden, and it’s no longer simply a marriage that’s in danger. 

My Review:

Well look at me actually reading an ARC way before the release date! *pats myself on the back* 🤣 Greer & Sarah really know how to engage the reader and I spent the majority of my evening last night sipping whiskey and reading 80% of the book.  Why didn't I finish it last night? Too much whiskey... oopsie.  I was glued to the pages though!

I don't think this book has the panache that their other works have but I appreciate this being more suspenseful and less in your face.  I'm not sure how ethical it is for a therapist (Avery) who has lost her license to continue to help people but I suppose if her clients know that she is unlicensed then who am I to judge?  This ten step program she has seems a bit odd as is her crossing boundaries she probably shouldn't.  BUT, I do love the idea of all of this.  I will say that there were far too many characters involved but I absolutely didn't see the final resolution coming.  Bow tied too neatly but still looks good, if you know what I mean.  

I definitely like Avery's character once I got to know her.  But my favorites were Bennett and Roman.  Once again these authors bring us an easy to read, well written book.  While this is slower paced than their other works, we still receive a layered, more character than plot driven story that I found very entertaining. Every marriage has secrets.  Every person has secrets.  What are YOU hiding?   Grab that popcorn, an adult beverage and a dozen roses, or a tin of nuts. 😉 This will have you looking at therapy in a new way.. and just might get you to go rescue a pet.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Review: The Serial Killer Cookbook by Ashley Lecker

The Serial Killer Cookbook
by Ashley Lecker

Thanks so much to Thriller Book Lover for this deliciousness!

Publisher: Ulysses Press
Publish Date: April 21, 2020
120 Pages
Genres: Nonfiction, Cookbooks, True Crime

The Serial Killer Cookbook: Last Meals pairs serial killer trivia with the recipes of the meals these killers ate during their final hours. With full-color photos, chilling true crime facts, and easy-to-follow steps, you’ll be cooking up killer meals in no time. This collection of recipes is both delicious and surprising, and spans breakfast staples to indulgent desserts, including:

 Seared Steak, Hash Browns, Toast, and Fried Eggs (given to but not eaten by Ted Bundy, serial killer) Chicken Parmesan and Alfredo Pasta (eaten by Ruth Snyder, murderer) Justice, Equality, and World Peace (eaten by Odell Barnes, murderer) Mac and Cheese (eaten by Gustavo Julian Garcia, murderer) And much more!

My Review:

Aren't you curious as to what killers will have as their last meal in prison?  I never knew I needed to know! ... and now I kinda wish I didn't. Who only wants ONE PITTED OLIVE as their last meal?  Ok, ok, we already know these killers (not all serial btw) are psychopaths but food is food y'all.  WTF. But hey, as a person who loves reading about this subject matter AND loves to cook - well, this just seemed like an absolute must have.  

Some of the recipes look great and others are beyond simple and there are a lot of ice cream recipes - not sure we needed every one of them or a recipe for MELTED ice cream.  Um.... Yeah.  I did enjoy reading about the different killers but there was nothing new to me that I didn't already know.  Except for their food orders, or non orders.  

So where do I stand with this one? I'm not really sure.  I'm going to try cooking most of these recipes but giving a harsh no to the pitted olive debacle. Needs more blood and less ice cream in my opinion.  Gonna just run it down the middle. 🤷


Monday, September 20, 2021

Review: The Endarkening by JT Ellison

The Endarkening
by JT Ellison

Published: June 27, 2017
Kindle Edition
109 Pages
Genre: Horror

A Dark, Sensual, Scary Tale

Art is her refuge, her passion—and her hell.

American art student Evie Williams is studying abroad in Edinburgh and having the time of her life—especially when she falls hard for Thomas MacBean, a sexy art dealer with a Highlander's brogue. But as Thomas and Evie’s romance heats up, so does Evie’s fascination with a special exhibit of dark art at a local gallery. Normally frightened by sinister subjects, sensitive Evie finds herself entranced by one painting in particular, and soon, can’t pull herself away.

Who, or what, has she really encountered?

My Review:

Well, I was never a big fan of art except for the macabre kind and this book won't deter me from my love of darkness but I certainly won't be going near a painting anytime soon nor going anywhere near a dude named Thomas. Short, deadly and bloody sweet, horror lovers.... come hither. 😉


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Review: Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

Summer Sons
by Lee Mandelo

Thanks so much to Tor Dot Com and Night Worms for this gifted book.

Publisher: Tor Dot Com
Publish Date: September 28, 2021
384 Pages
Genres: Horror, LGBT, Fantasy

Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six month later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom with bleeding wrists that mutters of revenge.

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble, letting in the phantom that hungers for him.

My Review:

I absolutely LOVE genre bending reads - and this is a mix of a few (?) of my favorites - horror, fantasy, coming of age, gothic, literary... and I'm loving seeing more queer reads! Also, Southern Gothic? I mean, Lee, did you write this for me?! 😉

Like with most gothic reads, this is a bit of a slow burn and is very atmospheric.  So prepare yourself to really dig into it.  As a fast reader, I did slow down to like a Mach 10 for this one. 😏 This is also a bit of a somber read as the characters throw themsleves into scenarios they aren't particularly prepared for.  The slow burn works in a way that you feel it as you read along.. that "WTF is happening" without the POP of your typical horror read.  After all, aren't we all afraid of what we don't know than what we do?  And how is this a coming of age since we typically associate that with the younger generation? Well, although these characters are older, they are still finding their own in oh so many ways.  

Now, you're probably wondering how I can keep stating it's a slow burn but now am going to say it's also full of action.  Well, you'll have to read it to completely understand why.  To be honest, the action scenes weren't my favorite and I could've done without so much car commentary.  But the main storyline, the queer representation, the atmosphere.... it more than makes up for it in my opinion.  But that's just my sole perspective.

This book definitely won't be for everyone.  At times it ran too slow for me.  At times the subject matter of grief/loss could be a bit stifling so prepare yourself.. and remember, you may think you know everything about your best friend but when it's all said and done, we all have our secrets - some are just darker than others. 


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Review: Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Her Perfect Life
by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Thanks so much to Forge and GetRedPR for this gifted cook.

Publisher: Forge
Publish Date: September 14, 2021
336 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Mystery

Everyone knows Lily Atwood—and that may be her biggest problem. The beloved television reporter has it all—fame, fortune, Emmys, an adorable seven-year-old daughter, and the hashtag her loving fans created: #PerfectLily. To keep it, all she has to do is protect one life-changing secret.

Her own.

Lily has an anonymous source who feeds her story tips—but suddenly, the source begins telling Lily inside information about her own life. How does he—or she—know the truth?

Lily understands that no one reveals a secret unless they have a reason. Now she’s terrified someone is determined to destroy her world—and with it, everyone and everything she holds dear.

How much will she risk to keep her perfect life?

My Review:

One thing I love about this author's books are that they are full of twists and turns that while you'll guess a few of them, you can't guess them all!! But this is also what keeps me in the middle of the road with the two books I have read by her.  

These characters made some very eye rolling decisions at times.  Considering their field, the lack of common sense at times was downright infuriating.  But... what kind of thriller would it be if we didn't follow along with these characters - it's kind of what makes it fun... even if you want to drop kick them every once in a while. This is moderately paced with a little bit of lulls here and there but overall and very quick read.  It's hard to go too much into this without spoiling anything but if you don't mind suspending some belief, definitely pick up this book.  The star of this particular story for me was Rowen.

I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for the next release from this author.


Saturday, September 11, 2021

Review: My Sweet Girl by Amanda Jayatissa

My Sweet Girl
by Amanda Jayatissa

Thank you so much to Berkley for this gifted book.

Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: September 14, 2021
384 Pages
Genre: Thriller

Paloma thought her perfect life would begin once she was adopted and made it to America, but she’s about to find out that no matter how far you run, your past always catches up to you…

Ever since she was adopted from a Sri Lankan orphanage, Paloma has had the best of everything—schools, money, and parents so perfect that she fears she'll never live up to them.

Now at thirty years old and recently cut off from her parents’ funds, she decides to sublet the second bedroom of her overpriced San Francisco apartment to Arun, who recently moved from India. Paloma has to admit, it feels good helping someone find their way in America—that is until Arun discovers Paloma's darkest secret, one that could jeopardize her own fragile place in this country.

Before Paloma can pay Arun off, she finds him face down in a pool of blood. She flees the apartment but by the time the police arrive, there's no body—and no evidence that Arun ever even existed in the first place.

Paloma is terrified this is all somehow tangled up in the desperate actions she took to escape Sri Lanka so many years ago. Did Paloma’s secret die with Arun or is she now in greater danger than ever before?

My Review:

Ok ok okkkkkkkkkkkkk, DEBUT! I love reading debut novels because most of the time, they are such a pleasant surprise and it's so nice to see authors really kick it out of the ball park. Welcome to a dual time-line shown in two different countries that starts with Paloma's roommate's death, the body disappearing and Paloma waking up on the floor by her neighbor.... again.  Jayatissa, you have got my interest!

Paloma is quite the unreliable narrator!  Sometimes it was so frustrating and eye rolling to be inside her head and yet at the SAME TIME, I was having so much fun looking through her lenses.  Admittedly, I did feel like after the first opening scene, it got a little stagnant but then it picks right back up and welcome to Twist City! Population, WHAT?!   I do think maybe ALL the twists weren't exactly necessary but honestly, who cares because the ride was just so much fun.  Throw your hands up and throw caution to the wind.  There's also more to the story than just the usual twisty thriller drama... so pay attention and you'll see what I mean 😉.  I appreciate the author incorporating some seriousness into the levity that is Paloma (at least she was for me!).  

Listen, absolutely an impressive debut.  I do think it'll be a bit of a hit or miss for readers as being inside Paloma's head can either be grating and draining or a bliss of pessimistic realism that I personally enjoyed ... most of the time.  😏 Will 100% be looking for her next release.


Review: The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell

The Night She Disappeared
by Lisa Jewell

Huge thank you to Atria Books for this gifted book.

Publisher: Atria
Publish Date: September 7, 2021
416 Pages
Genres: Suspense, Thriller

2017: 19 year old Tallulah is going out on a date, leaving her baby with her mother, Kim.

Kim watches her daughter leave and, as late evening turns into night, which turns into early morning, she waits for her return. And waits.

The next morning, Kim phones Tallulah's friends who tell her that Tallulah was last seen heading to a party at a house in the nearby woods called Dark Place.

She never returns.

2019: Sophie is walking in the woods near the boarding school where her boyfriend has just started work as a head-teacher when she sees a note fixed to a tree.

'DIG HERE' . . .

My Review:

Jewell is one of my absolute favorite thriller/suspense writers and this is my seventh read of hers.  One of my favorite things about Jewell is how intricate she is in her details and trails to figure out the mystery at hand.  Let's go find out what happened to Tallulah, shall we?

This is definitely a slow burner as we see through a few POVs and very close time lines - crazy isn't it how much can happen in such a short time?  And yet that short time can feel like FOREVER to some.  I admit it took me a little bit to get used to who was talking and when.  And while I stilll was entertained by this read and will continue to read EVERYTHING that is Jewell, I'm sad to say I'll be putting this one towards the bottom of my list of hers.  Understand, it's still QUITE entertaining and enjoyable but I think this one didn't quite keep my attention as I would have liked.  I also started this while traveling so couldn't one or two-sit read it like I do with most books.  Personally, I find myself enjoying books if I get to read them in a shorter amount of time than a longer one.  Thank goodness for being a fast reader, eh?  Just the way I work, and since this was pieced out a bit, I think maybe that may have had something to do with my overall enjoyment.

I did find the ending to be a bit far fetched but I don't mind suspending reality most of the time.  After all, this is a work of fiction.  Although this may not have been a favorite, it is still certainly a testament to Jewell and her ability to write the missing girl story in such a beautiful way.  I will most definitely be keeping an eye out for her next book.  In the mean time, if you like slow burn suspense novels, I will always recommend this author.  Always.


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Review: Boys in the Valley by Philip Fracassi

Boys in the Valley
by Philip Fracassi

Thank you Earthling  for this amazing gifted book.

Publisher: Earthling Publications
Publish Date: October 31, 2021
316 Pages
Genre: Horror

St. Vincent’s Orphanage for Boys.

Turn of the century, in a remote valley in Pennsylvania.

Here, under the watchful eyes of several priests, thirty boys work and learn and worship. They live their lives in a methodical way and get along despite different personalities and pasts. Peter Barlow, orphaned by a nighttime murder at his childhood home, has made a new life here. As he approaches adulthood, he has friends, a future…family.

Then, late one stormy night, a group of men arrive at their door, one of whom is badly wounded, his body covered with occult symbols carved into his flesh. Upon his death, an ancient evil is released that infests St. Vincent’s and the children within. Soon, boys begin acting differently, forming groups. Taking sides.

Others turn up dead.

Now Peter and those dear to him must choose sides of their own, each of them knowing their lives- and perhaps their eternal souls- are at risk.

My Review:

Locked-in orphanage horror? Take my money.  Priests, an ancient evil and creepy kids? Take ALL my money!  I couldn't help but want to read this one after I read the synopsis... though I was a little hesitant because sometimes these types of stories don't quite work for me.  Happy to find that this was more unique and, for me, felt like a cross of Lord of the Flies meet Children of the Corn meet the Exorcist.. you get the gist, no?

This is my first Fracassi and most definitely will not be my last.  His writing from first to last page is SO atmospheric... it felt ominous from the very first creepy smile. Fracassi gives us different POVs to where we see the struggle of the *priest potentials* not realizing they have a choice and then having to make one.  Faith, loyalty to God.... these are all tested here.  I will say that stories of faith aren't typically my thing and just because I'm me, I find myself feeling a bit meh during the parts where there's internal struggling of faith.  However, I do realize it's an essential part of the story and while I was riveted to the pages, I didn't realize how invested I was until I could breathe again after I turned that final page.

Also, can I just mention that I gave myself a paper cut turning a page and for just a teeny second thought the blood would resurrect some demon from the pages. Happy reading, folks!