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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Review: Stolen Things by R.H. Herron @RachaelHerron @duttonbooks

Stolen Things 
by R.H. Herron 

Thanks to Dutton books for this copy.


Publisher: Dutton
Publish Date: August 20, 2019
Kindle Edition
368 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Mystery


“Mama? Help me.”

Laurie Ahmadi has worked as a 911 police dispatcher in her quiet Northern California town for nearly two decades. She considers the department her family; her husband, Omid, is its first Arab American chief, and their teenaged daughter, Jojo, has grown up with the force. So when Laurie catches a 911 call and, to her horror, it’s Jojo, the whole department springs into action.
Jojo, drugged, disoriented, and in pain, doesn’t remember how she ended up at the home of Kevin Leeds, a pro football player famous for his on-the-field activism and his work with the CapB—“Citizens Against Police Brutality”—movement. She doesn’t know what happened to Kevin’s friend and trainer, whose beaten corpse is also discovered in the house. And she has no idea where her best friend Harper, who was with her earlier in the evening, could be.
But when Jojo begins to dive into Harper’s social media to look for clues to her whereabouts, Jojo uncovers a shocking secret that turns everything she knew about Harper—and the police department—on its head. With everything they thought they could rely on in question, Laurie and Jojo begin to realize that they can't trust anyone to find Harper except themselves . . . and time is running out.

My Review:


This story starts strong and never lets up on the pacing.  I felt like something new and WTF was happening at every turn. But it wasn't overly done and felt eerily real.  There's no one in this story without any guilt - well maybe except for a couple of characters... but like with humans in real life, we all have faults. There's an outstanding feeling of realness here - the family bonds.. how you think you really know someone and then you're forced to see a side you never knew was there.  Then to have to reconcile all of that and decide how you feel after.

Teenagers think they're so grown.  Parents think they're still kids.  Really, they're in between.  The protectiveness of parents towards their children.  ALL the things behind the scenes you never see and are shocked to find out.  I just really liked how the author put all these things together.

At first I thought this was going to just be your typical cop family with a kid who got the bad end of the stick and let's see how the mystery unfolds.  I got a LOT more than I was expecting.  Unfortunately with the political climate these days and with the (now more public) displays of police brutality and racial tensions that are rising, we see this across the board via live streaming, the news, via T.V. shows, movies, books... and this novel also touches greatly on police corruption.  So at times, this definitely felt heavy.  Almost reminds me of one of the latest episodes of 9-1-1 (one of my favorite shows) and for good reason - this is loosely based on the author's experience as a 9-1-1 dispatcher and it shows.  This is the reason you read author's notes, everyone.  Sometimes it can make you see the book in a different light then you did when you were actually reading it.

★★★★★

Review: The Regret by Dan Malakin @DanMalakin @bloodhoundbook

The Regret 
by Dan Malakin

Thanks so much to the author for this copy!


Publisher: Bloodhound Books
Publish Date: August 20, 2019
Kindle Edition
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Rachel Stone’s world was destroyed by a stalker, Alan Griffin. After he went to prison, she rebuilt her life.


Now she has a three-year-old daughter and is in a new relationship. But someone is stalking her again. Her phone, her emails and her social media are hacked.

Rachel believes it’s Griffin, out of prison and looking for revenge. She needs to find him and make him leave her alone. But as Rachel is drawn into a hunt, she realises that something even more horrific is happening - something that will make her confront the childhood that has lingered like a ghost, and will force her to face the truth about her new life.

Is Griffin the one ruining her life? Or is someone else, someone far more dangerous, responsible?

My Review:


I have a weird love for stalker/obsession type of books.  Rachel already had to deal with Alan once - now he's out of prison and things start to go awry again. It MUST be him, nothing else makes sense.  This triggers her paranoia and ongoing bout with anorexia and here we delve straight into her dark mind where even we don't know what's truly happening.

What I loved about this book is the terror in how easily it is for someone who is capable to take control of your life via technology.  Honestly technology, while wonderful in its own way, is absolutely terrifying to me.  Things are too easily hacked into and as someone whose identity has been stolen before, knows how much of a pain it is to rebuild ANYTHING once even the smallest breach happens.  I also enjoyed the depth he brought to Rachel and her battle with anorexia and how this propels her paranoia.  I don't think I've ever truly been in the mind of someone who had to deal with this - fictional or not.

While I did enjoy this fast-paced read, I did think that it could've used a little polish in the presentation.  Some things didn't flow quite as nicely as it could have and I felt myself a bit confused in certain areas.  Maybe the secondary characters needed a little more life in them to really round out the entire story.

In any matter, this was a fun (and scary) read of obsession gone cuckoo and I'm here for all the cocoa puffs.

★★★☆

Sunday, October 20, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: Pivot by L.C. Barlow @LCBarlowAuthor @rarebirdlit @jessmapreviews

Pivot 
by L.C. Barlow


Publisher: Rare Bird Books
Publish Date: October 15, 2019
Kindle Edition
Series: Jack Harper Trilogy #1
Genres: Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy


From the age of seven, Jack Harper is raised by the leader of a mystical cult, Cyrus Harper. Through Cyrus, Jack receives a full education in all usual subjects―economics, literature, mathematics, history―as well as one unique skill useful to a person in Cyrus's position: assassination. With the help of Roland James, a man incapable of dying, Cyrus hones Jack into the perfect weapon to use against all who oppose him.



It is not long, however, before Jack discovers that Cyrus and Roland are not the only ones living in Cyrus’s mansion. There, too, exists a mysterious creature in the depths of the house with supposed immortal magic. According to Roland, this creature is responsible for all the miraculous things Jack has witnessed throughout her childhood, including Roland’s resurrection. The creature, potent and powerful, only weakens in the presence of Cyrus’s red velvet box―a dark, enchanted tool that grants Cyrus his invincibility and ensures his reign.

Lonely and terrified by her life in the cult, under Cyrus's neverending watch, Jack desperately pursues the mysterious being. When they finally meet, her world is turned upside down, as he offers her more than she could have ever expected―the possibility of escape and her own secret, magical power.

My Review:


"Yes, yes, murder is poetry... and I have written chapters with knives."

What a unique and interesting story.  Opening chapter has a man teaching Jack, a seven year old, how to kill.  Instantly intrigued!  I know this has been published previously and after a cursory glance at the reviews after I finished, I wonder if I read the same book as those who read this years ago.  How much did they change as the things people pointed out and didn't like, I didn't catch.  How very curious.

What I loved about this is it has a bit of a sorrowful vibe from the get go.  A seven year old kid (named Jack and who I stupidly thought was a boy until 60% in), is primed by Cyrus to be a killing machine as he (Cyrus) works to transcend himself up and above humanity.  This isn't the work of God.  He is on the other side of the veil and his manipulation and cult like fascination due to certain *powers* he wields, brings forth a purpose with no real ending.  No real reasoning. And for this, I was utterly intrigued.

We see Jack through ten years.  We see how she interacts with Roland and Cyrus and how smart she  is in putting two and four together.  To be honest, the last quarter of the book, while still fascinating, did begin to lose a little bit of luster.  However, it did leave me wondering where does it go from there? But maybe that's a question that won't ever be answered and that's kind of the point. Seeing as this is the first in a trilogy, maybe I will get some answers... but I'm sure if I care to - and I don't mean that in a bad way. I'll certainly be side eyeing any red box that comes across my path and I certainly would be interested to see where this trilogy goes.

★★★★

Jessica's Review:


I know other reviewers have mentioned this as well, but man, talk about an opening to a book. Seven year old Jack is getting a life lesson, and that lesson is in killing. Jack is being trained into a weapon that Cyrus can use and keep at his disposal. Cyrus is the leader of a powerful cult and he has powers beyond Jack's imagination. 

There is plenty of violence to go around in this book, and I can see this not being for everyone. I also know that the first person perspective isn't a writing style most like - I'm not sure why - but that's always good to know before starting. This is a book where you need to suspend some reality, this falls into the paranormal/horror fantasy genre. I found this really absorbing and captivating. Barlow was able to keep the pacing up to where I kept saying to myself, "one more chapter", and that's always a positive! 

We go through a decade with Jack, from age seven to seventeen, and see the growth within the cult. How Cyrus is grooming her to be something she slowly realizes she doesn't want to be. She knows the secrets to Cyrus' powers and she is desperate to hold onto her humanity. Oh, I will mention, that I was 100% positive that Jack was a boy for a good portion of the book, oops. There were some questions and things were left open-ended, BUT you have to keep in mind that this is book one in the Jack Harper trilogy. I'm definitely curious to see where things will go from here and where Barlow will take Jack. 

4 stars



#ATBR2019 Review: The Poison Garden by A.J. Banner @jessmapreviews

The Poison Garden 
by A.J. Banner


Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: October 22, 2019
Paperback
208 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Suspense


Elise Watters seems to have it all—a blissful marriage, a gorgeous Victorian home surrounded by lush gardens, and a dream job running her late mother’s herbal boutique.


But on the eve of her first wedding anniversary, Elise makes a shocking discovery that turns her life upside down and casts doubt on everything she thought she knew—about her marriage, her friends, and even herself. As she treads into dangerous territory, Elise is forced to wonder: Is her whole future at stake? Or is paranoia getting the best of her?

If she is to believe what she sees, Elise has every reason to fear for her life…

My Review:


This is my fourth A.J. Banner book and I have rated them all exactly the same until this one. The other three were three star ratings and this one I knocked down a star because it was my least favorite. While still entertained, this one jumped the shark a bit and I kind of wish I had been dosed with some Juliet. *shrug*

Banner's books are what I call surface thrillers. She takes off at warp speed from the very get go and a LOT happens in just over 200 pages. A LOT. You HAVE to suspend reality. You HAVE to accept that you're not going to get any depth with the characters and just enjoy the ride. All of these characters are a bit ridiculous. The plot is a bit out there, but that's what I've come to expect and as such, my expectations have been fully met!

This one felt a bit more all over the place than the other books. My head felt a bit spinny after turning that last page. I was somewhat happy it was over with but at the same time, I thought "that's all?" Was I entertained? Yes, I actually was. I started thinking of this as a sordid Lifetime movie gone awry. And there ain't NOTHING wrong with that!

I can't help myself, I'll continue to read Banner's work because I find them fun for a light binge read.

★★

Jessica's Review:


This is my second book by A.J. Banner, my first being AFTER NIGHTFALL, and this one I didn't enjoy quite as much. THE POISON GARDEN was just over 200 pages, so this is definitely a binge read and one you can easily finish in one sitting or within an afternoon. So in that regard I found it really quick to get through and I enjoyed that!

Elise has the perfect life. A wonderful husband, great friends, a successful business in a herbal boutique, and a beautiful home. Of course, things aren't always as they seem. As she approaches her first wedding anniversary she discovers things that could unravel her entire life. Are things really coming undone or is her paranoia getting the best of her?

Things felt a little scattered at the beginning and I wasn't sure how all of these pieces were going to come together, towards the middle things started to fall into place and that really helped pick up the pacing. You really need to suspend some belief when picking up a suspense/thriller from Banner, which isn't always a bad thing! Prepare for some crazy paranoia and almost a feeling of whiplash by the end.

While I didn't love this as much as I was hoping to, I will continue to try out more from Banner in the future. I have a few others on her backlist to pick up that I've heard great things from! There are plenty of 5 star reviews for this one, so if you're looking for a really quick suspense read, then this will be perfect for you.

3 stars

Review: After The End by Clare Mackintosh @putnambooks @claremackint0sh #buddyreadstodiefor

After The End 
by Clare Mackintosh


Publisher: Putnam Books
Publish Date: June 25, 2019
Hardcover
400 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Contemporary

My Review:



The author had to make a very difficult choice twelve years ago and has wrote a book about the "what ifs". While this is a powerfully emotional book, it is also one that makes you know that you'll always wonder "what if" but an ending can also mean a new beginning. Life gives you several roads to travel... it's up to you to decide which one you'll take and then how you'll travel it. I couldn't put this book down and loved seeing the path of two different roads.
Be still my aching heart!


The author had to make a very difficult choice twelve years ago and has wrote a book about the "what ifs". While this is a powerfully emotional book, it is also one that makes you know that you'll always wonder "what if" but an ending can also mean a new beginning. Life gives you several roads to travel... it's up to you to decide which one you'll take and then how you'll travel it. I couldn't put this book down and loved seeing the path of two different roads.

While I cannot imagine what it would be like to have to make a choice such as this, I do, even presently, wonder where my life would be had I not had any miscarriages. How different my present and my future would be had things worked out differently. Is it better this way? Is this what fate has in store for me? Or was there something I couldn't done differently?

The fact is, there's always going to be in a time in your life where a hard choice will need to be made. The hard ones are hard for a reason and maybe that little question will always linger in your thought process... but it's important to know that things can be better and changed without losing something completely within. I hope no one ever has to go through what these characters, and the author, did. Life shouldn't be so hard... but I love the message that there can still be a light out there.

Yes, this is a heavy read and could potentially be triggering due to the subject matter. However, it is an important read and there is a message there that can resonate within everyone.




★★★★★


#ATBR2019 Review: Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren @gallerybooks @christinalauren @jessmapreviews

Twice in a Blue Moon 
by Christina Lauren 

Thanks so much to Gallery Books for these free copies.


Publisher: Gallery Books
Publish Date: October 22, 2019
Paperback
368 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Contemporary, Romance


As an adventurous send-off to her childhood, eighteen-year-old Tate Jones travels with her grandmother from their small town in Northern California to London. But the vacation of a lifetime is wonderfully derailed by the appearance of two charming Vermont farmers: grandfather Luther and his handsome grandson Sam.


Sam and Tate fall hard and fast. For two glorious weeks, the couple share their hopes, dreams, and secrets. Sam admits he suspects his grandfather is dying and that this could be the last trip they take together, and Tate reveals that she is the hidden daughter of one of the biggest film stars in the world—a secret she’s never told anyone before.

But when Tate is exposed by a crush of cameras and reporters, she knows she's been betrayed by the one person she thought she could trust. She is forced to decide whether she will return to her quiet life or embrace being in the public eye. So when Sam reappears in her world more than a decade later, can Tate forgive the past and rekindle the passion they shared on their magical trip abroad? And does she even want to?

My Review:


GAH! YOU GUYSSSSSSSSSS! Every time I go into a contemporary romance, I think "pshhh.. romance, *rolls eyes* whatever...." and then it's Christina Lauren and they KILL ME. EVERY. TIME.

Nothing is more of an emotional roller coaster than your first young love and heartbreak... until your first real adult love and heartbreak.  To get that second chance with that *perfect* person. Well, hell.  Thank you books for making me believe that maybe... just *maybe*, this could happen in real life.  I mean, don't we all need a Sam in our lives?  And Tate - how do you not fall in love with her too? 

What I love about this book too is the backstory, the screen writing peppered within of Milkweed.  Tackling that subject matter in such a dignified and beautiful way.  Bringing the story that both Sam and Tate go through and making you feel it with all of your everything.  DAMMIT.  I don't like to feel this much and YET I DO.  I keep thinking that THIS ONE isn't going to get to me but here I am, reading emails with Tate and feeling this weird wetness in my eyeballs. Great.  JUST GREAT.

Basically, read this book.  Read all their books! Just grab a tissue box, a cozy comforter and keep that glimmer of hope shining within.

★★★★★

Jessica's Review:


I almost never pick up anything in the contemporary romance genre, but when it comes to Christina Lauren, I know I won't be disappointed! There's something about their writing and their stories that just suck me to where I fly through the book. This is my third book by them and TWICE IN A BLUE MOON was all I was hoping it would be. 

Everyone remembers their first love, which usually ends up being your real first heartbreak. Sam and Tate had a whirlwind two weeks where they fell in love - sharing everything with each other. Years after they parted ways, their paths cross again on-set of Tate's newest film she's starring in. Is this the time for closure? Or is this the time for them to get a second chance at love?

We get two timelines, going back and forth between their time together when they first met and now, 14 years later when they meet again. I loved how quick this was - I didn't realize this was what I needed right now. Something light and fun, and who doesn't like believing in second chances? We get everything you look for in a contemporary romance - drama, struggles, love, obstacles, and of course, romance. If you're a fan of the writing duo that is Christina Lauren, then you'll really enjoy it! 

5 stars

Saturday, October 19, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski @graydonhouse @TaraLWrites @jessmapreviews

One Night Gone 
by Tara Laskowski 


Publisher: Graydon House
Publish Date: October 1, 2019
Paperback
352 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense


It was the perfect place to disappear...


One sultry summer, Maureen Haddaway arrives in the wealthy town of Opal Beach to start her life anew—to achieve her destiny. There, she finds herself lured by the promise of friendship, love, starry skies, and wild parties. But Maureen’s new life just might be too good to be true, and before the summer is up, she vanishes.

Decades later, when Allison Simpson is offered the opportunity to house-sit in Opal Beach during the off-season, it seems like the perfect chance to begin fresh after a messy divorce. But when she becomes drawn into the mysterious disappearance of a girl thirty years before, Allison realizes the gorgeous homes of Opal Beach hide dark secrets. And the truth of that long-ago summer is not even the most shocking part of all... 

My Review:


Precisely what I needed at this time.  This moderately paced suspenseful mystery of a read has a dual time line.  Allison in the present day, still getting over her divorce and public humility, trying to start over by house sitting in a small beach town.  Maureen in the past, a carnival "summer girl", who gets involved with the *rich* group - a terrible family home, making bad decisions and just trying to make things better.  Instead, she's in an endless loop of getting nowhere.

It didn't make much sense why Allison was SO involved in what happened to Maureen.  I get the curiosity but to make it her intention while away - well, maybe she just needed something to focus on.  Either way, she becomes entangled in this small town, their secrets and puts herself in danger along the way.

I loved the atmosphere the author creates and could almost feel that coldness - whether from the weather or from the people themselves.  The back and forth kept me intrigued and I found myself equally curious of both women.  The main theme seemed to be how men find women disposable.  They're selfish users who get what they want and if they don't - bye.  And yet the women use them in their own way as well.  Oh why do women get so emotionally attached to the men that don't treat them as they should?

Did this book give me a draw dropping ending? No.  I wasn't surprised. I wasn't wowed.  But I was pleasantly satisfied in the entirety of this read.

★★★★

Jessica's Review:


I've been stuck in a cycle of 3 and 3.5 star reads lately and this was the kind of thriller/mystery I needed! ONE NIGHT GONE by Tara Laskowski is one of those quick thrillers that you'll find yourself finishing in a couple sittings. Dual timelines, a missing woman in a coastal town, and plenty of secrets to go around. This is a solid mystery from Laskowski - I loved the atmosphere she created for us and how she intertwined the two timelines for us.

Maureen came to Opal Beach as a carnival girl and knew that she could make something better for herself here. Allison came to Opal Beach to be a house-sitter for the off-season months. Both women have their reasons for ending up in the coastal town, and Maureen's cold case disappearance is what brings them together. Allison hears about Maureen's disappearance and becomes obsessed with trying to solve it and learn what happened. Of course, you go poking around in a small town like this, you'll start to wear out your welcome as people try to keep their secrets buried.

The chapters were quick, the alternating timelines are something that I love, and I really enjoyed Maureen's character and her chapters. I think the author did a great job building these two women and weaving the story. Was I shocked at the ending? Not really. Does that mean I didn't enjoy it? Absolutely not. The author set the scene so well that I could really feel the change in atmosphere when the busy season started and the day it ended. Lively, fun, welcoming, and warm to a cold, empty, and almost foreboding environment once that season ends. I will definitely be picking up more from her in the future!

 4 stars

Friday, October 18, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix @quirkbooks @grady_hendrix @jessmapreviews

Horrorstor 
by Grady Hendrix


Publisher: Quirk Books
Publish Date: September 23, 2014
Paperback
248 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Horror, Paranormal


Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.



To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör comes packaged in the form of a glossy mail order catalog, complete with product illustrations, a home delivery order form, and a map of Orsk’s labyrinthine showroom.

Designed by Andie Reid, cover photography by Christine Ferrara

My Review:


I remember seeing this EONS ago when Horror sections were still prevalent in bookstores (PLEASE BRING THEM BACK) and always wondered why this Home Improvement/IKEA catalog book was among the masses.  Little did I know, and it took me way longer than I'm willing to admit *cough*, that is actually a horror fiction novel by someone who is quickly becoming a favorite. (Ok, ok, I admit, I own three books by Hendrix and finally have read my first - better late than dead right?)

First, let's discuss the formatting - while deceiving (shakes fist), it's delightful and genius.  I would actually hang the picture frames on the cover in my apartment - but check out the back page and eerie goodness awaits!  Also, each chapter beginning being an add for a piece of furniture that gets more and more horrorific made this all the more enjoyable.

Second, let's talk the story line. I (because I'm terrible about reading synopsis/blurbs and reveal that this was a total cover buy once my brain kicked into gear) thought this was going to a "when furniture attacks" kind of read. Boy, oh boy, did I get that wrong.  (It's ok - it's a place I'm used to being.) Instead we get Amy's story as she works for Orsk and decides to work an extra shift over night because she needs the cash and her boss, Basil, gives her an offer she can't really refuse.  Poor thing - I feel for her poor decision making, but she really didn't know what was going to happen.  No one did.

I love the parody of Ikea - I've actually never been into an Ikea store or have ever owned a piece of their furniture but if they're anything like Orsk, seems I dodged a bullet there. (PHEW)  But I have worked in retail so I understand the pain these employees go through.  I also love torture machines so as we progressed, my morbid fascination switch turned to on and.... Oh, I just loved this ride. **big toothy smile**

This is 248 pages of fun. I can't wait to read the rest of his books - highly recommend.

★★★★★

Jessica's Review:


Ah yes, FINALLY picking up a book from my long neglected TBR pile. I'm glad I decided to start with this one because its been looking at me from my shelves for years. HORRORSTÖR is my fourth outing with Grady Hendrix and I haven't been disappointed yet. I absolutely love how this book looks. The order form in the front, the map of the store, the store information, slogan, and mission, products and descriptions - I so appreciate all of these extra details!

So, if you've been to an IKEA then you know it can be a nightmare making your way through the store. Well, at ORSK, that takes on a whole new meaning. Amy takes on a night shift at the furniture giant and, of course, that wasn't the right choice. What ensues is a great and quick horror read. This has the same wit and dark humor I've come to love and hope for with a Hendrix novel! Plenty of creepy moments and more scares than I was anticipating, and I loved every second of it. 

I know for a fact this will be flashing through my mind whenever I end up at IKEA again. At 248 pages this one flies by and I would highly recommend giving this one a read. Here's to more from Grady Hendrix!

5 stars

Thursday, October 17, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Furies by Katie Lowe @jessmapreviews

The Furies 
by Katie Lowe

Thank you St. Martin's Press for these copies.


Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: October 8, 2019
Hardcover
368 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller

This page-turning, harrowing debut is the story of a girl trying to fit in, whose obsessive new friends and desperation to belong leads her to places she'd never imagined...dark, dangerous, and possibly even violent.

In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead.

She's posed on a swing on her boarding school's property, dressed all in white, with no known cause of death. Whispers and rumors swirl, with no answers. But there are a few who know what happened; there is one girl who will never forget.

One year earlier: a new student, Violet, steps on the campus of Elm Hollow Academy, an all-girl's boarding school on the outskirts of a sleepy coastal town. This is her fresh start, her chance to begin again in the wake of tragedy, leave her demons behind. Bright but a little strange, uncertain and desperate to fit in, she soon finds herself invited to an advanced study group, led by her alluring and mysterious art teacher, Annabel.

There, with three other girls--Alex, Grace, and Robin--the five of them delve into the school's long-buried grim history: of Greek and Celtic legends; of the school founder's "academic" interest in the occult; of gruesome 17th century witch trials. Annabel does her best to convince the girls that her classes aren't related to ancient rites and rituals, and that they are just history and mythology. But the more she tries to warn the girls off the topic, the more they drawn to it, and the possibility that they can harness magic for themselves.

Violet quickly finds herself wrapped up in this heady new world of lawless power--except she is needled by the disappearance of a former member of the group, one with whom Violet shares an uncanny resemblance. As her friends' actions take a turn for the darker and spiral out of control, she begins to wonder who she can trust, all the while becoming more deeply entangled. How far will these young girls go to protect one another...or to destroy one another?
 

My Review:




Hail to the Guardians of the Watchtower of the Struggle Bus! As a HUGE fan of the Craft it was hard NOT to do comparisons of this and as such, this is how the casting would've compared:
Robin is Nancy (hello crazy town).  Violet is Sarah (the new girl to complete the circle).  Alex is probably Rochelle and Grace Bonnie (but both characters felt a bit interchangeable).  Chris is Tom, Nicky is definitely Laura (but a little bit nicer) and The Furies are Manon.  We never get a beautiful butterfly scene but we do see the escalation as things play out.

Taking away from any comparisons, the beginning and middle of this book are slow going.  There's a lot of build up without a lot of bang.  HOWEVER, the last quarter of the book does make up for this somewhat as I did like where the author took us with the story.  I just felt disengaged at this point.  All the characters are terrible people, either doing terrible things or having terrible things done to them.  I wouldn't have minded if everyone died (and let's be clear, I actually don't mind feeling this way towards characters so this was all a plus in my book).  

I think those that love the slow burn with the witchy feel of a group of girls taking matters into their own hands will enjoy this read.  

★★

Jessica's Review:


When I heard people comparing THE FURIES to The Craft, I got really excited! This was a great debut for author Katie Lowe and I can see fans of the YA thriller genre loving it. I think going into this I wasn't necessarily anticipating a YA read, so that kind of threw me for a little bit. I also want to point out that this one is a slower moving book. So I would classify this less as a thriller and more of a suspense.

A murder at an all girls boarding school, witchcraft, secrets, and a group of friends all at the center of it. All elements that I love and the author did a great job setting up the atmosphere of the school and the surroundings. That prologue had me instantly intrigued and sucked in, but like a lot of other readers, the middle portion of the book really dragged for me. I found myself setting it aside a few times to pick up other books in between. The ending really picked up the pacing though and that helped a lot to end the book strong. I think some readers won't be happy with the way the book was left open-ended and up to the reader's interpretation. I personally didn't mind it.

I wasn't the biggest fan of any of the characters (not a bad thing) and only a couple really stood out in terms of their own voice and being developed. Overall, I loved the idea and premise of this book, there were just a couple things that didn't work for me as a reader. I would definitely still try more from this author in the future.

2.5 stars

BLOG TOUR & Review: The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters @crookedlanebks @jessmapreviews #TheDeadGirlsClub @DamienAWalters #atbr2019


The Dead Girls Club 
by Damien Angelica Walters

Thank you to Crooked Lane Books for this copy and stop on the Blog Tour.


Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publish Date: December 10, 2019
Hardcover
Standalone
Genres: Horror, Thriller

A supernatural thriller in the vein of A Head Full of Ghosts about two young girls, a scary story that becomes far too real, and the tragic--and terrifying--consequences that follow one of them into adulthood.



Red Lady, Red Lady, show us your face...

In 1991, Heather Cole and her friends were members of the Dead Girls Club. Obsessed with the macabre, the girls exchanged stories about serial killers and imaginary monsters, like the Red Lady, the spirit of a vengeful witch killed centuries before. Heather knew the stories were just that, until her best friend Becca began insisting the Red Lady was real--and she could prove it.

That belief got Becca killed.

It's been nearly thirty years, but Heather has never told anyone what really happened that night--that Becca was right and the Red Lady was real. She's done her best to put that fateful summer, Becca, and the Red Lady, behind her. Until a familiar necklace arrives in the mail, a necklace Heather hasn't seen since the night Becca died.

The night Heather killed her.

Now, someone else knows what she did...and they're determined to make Heather pay. 


Damien Angelica Walters is the author of The Dead Girls Club, forthcoming in December 2019, Cry Your Way HomePaper Tigers, and Sing Me Your Scars, winner of the 2015 This is Horror Award for Short Story Collection of the Year. Her short fiction has been nominated twice for a Bram Stoker Award, reprinted in The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror and The Year's Best Weird Fiction, and published in various anthologies and magazines, including the Shirley Jackson Award Finalists Autumn Cthulhu and The Madness of Dr. Caligari, World Fantasy Award Finalist Cassilda’s SongNightmare MagazineBlack Static, and Apex Magazine. Until the magazine’s closing in 2013, she was an Associate Editor of the Hugo Award-winning Electric Velocipede, and she lives in Maryland with her husband and two rescued pit bulls.

My Review:


Remember when you were a kid and you used to play the silly, scary games - Bloody Mary, using a ouija board, holding a seance?  Well, Walters brings us Red Lady and a group of girls, more precisely two, that took it just a little too far.

I enjoy the then and now perspectives in alternating chapters.  Heather is the main character and her adult self is spiraling after she starts getting clues that maybe her best friend, who disappeared, may not really be gone - but no one knows her secret but her... right? Her child self takes me back to those days where friendships easily collapse but the loyalty is still real and the sneaking out and doing creepy things are a part of the after school rituals.  No one is just sitting at home on social media. But then, we are back in a different era during her childhood and I AM HERE FOR IT (yes, I'm showing age).  There is definitely a little bit of a creepy factor when we're getting involved with the story of the Red Lady and after all is said and done - I see where the author was taking us in why this was SO important to Heather's best friend, Becca, and I applaud this reasoning.

The back and forth in timeline does give this book more of a YA than adult fiction feel (which I am not mad about).  I do wish there maybe was a little more on them as kids and seeing through more than just Heather's view.  Heather as an adult is madness.  Paranoia reigns supreme.  Some of her actions are extremely questionable but I am always ok with suspending some reality when reading a fiction novel.

I did feel a little bit let down by the ending.  I expected more after everything that was built up and was maybe hoping for something that made me go more than, "Oh."  I flew through the first half of this book and then was a little slower in ending as the feeling of the book shifted a little bit.  If we are going to keep this in a horror category, then I'd say it's definitely more on the lighter horror side.

Still a very entertaining read and I certainly will be picking up more from this author.

★★★☆

Jessica's Review:


When going into THE DEAD GIRLS CLUB by Damien Angelica Walters, make sure to keep in mind that this kind of falls more into the thriller category than the horror genre. Or I could see this being classified as a more light horror read. It does have some spooky aspects to it but there were parts that read more like a thriller to me - which definitely wasn't a bad thing!

This made me think about all the ridiculous things I did with my friends to scare ourselves. Did anyone actually say Bloody Mary three times into a mirror? I don't think any of us were able to, and who didn't try light as a feather, stiff as a board? So hearing about The Red Lady had me so intrigued and captivated. Decades ago, Heather and her friend Becca became obsessed with the Red Lady. A spooky story meant to scare you but Becca tries to convince Heather she's real and that she can prove it.

Becca goes missing and Heather knows more than she lets everyone believe. Thirty years go by and Heather receives something that tells her someone else knows her secret. Paranoia ensues and Heather is desperate to make sure her secret doesn't come to light. I really enjoyed the back and forth in timelines - I liked the past story line the best. It was fairly quick read and I think this would be perfect for those looking for a lighter horror or a thriller. Like other reviewers, I wasn't crazy about the ending but I will definitely be picking up more from Walters in the future!

3.5 stars

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Lying Room by Nicci French @tlcbooktours @wmmorrowbooks @jessmapreviews

The Lying Room 
by Nicci French

Thank you TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for these copies!


Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: October 1, 2019
Paperback
432 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Mystery, Thriller


In this thrilling standalone from the internationally bestselling author of the Frieda Klein series, a married woman’s affair with her boss spirals into a dangerous game of chess with the police when she discovers he’s been murdered and she clears the crime scene of all evidence.


One little secret between a married woman, her lover, and a killer.

It should have been just a mid-life fling. A guilty indiscretion that Neve Connolly could have weathered. An escape from twenty years of routine marriage to her overworked husband, and from her increasingly distant children. But when Neve pays a morning-after visit to her lover, Saul, and finds him brutally murdered, their pied-à-terre still heady with her perfume, all the lies she has so painstakingly stitched together threaten to unravel.

After scrubbing clean every trace of her existence from Saul’s life—and death—Neve believes she can return to normal, shaken but intact. But she can’t get out of her head the one tormenting question: what was she forgetting?

An investigation into the slaying could provide the answer. It’s brought Detective Chief Inspector Alastair Hitching, and Neve’s worst fears, to her door. But with every new lie, every new misdirection to save herself, Neve descends further into the darkness of her betrayal—and into more danger than she ever imagined. Because Hitching isn’t the only one watching Neve. So is a determined killer who’s about to make the next terrifying move in a deadly affair…. 

My Review:


I'm at a bit of a loss on what I fully think of this novel.  As an avid thriller reader and a lover of the domestic subgenre, I did enjoy the quick read and found it entertaining.  However, I did have some issues with certain parts.  

I needed more background on Mabel and why she was the way she was.  If I had acted like that with my mother... uff, I'd hate to think how she would've reacted.  I appreciated the realistic marriage in which both parties have become too comfortable and how marriages go through rough patches.  What can be forgiven, what can't - the unknowing of how you truly feel over all in a situation that you may not feel stuck in, but you're not also happy in.  Solid.  

And then there's the murder itself.  While I didn't figure out who the killer was until it was revealed, it didn't make a ton of sense to me.  Not in how Neve figured it out. Not in the reasoning why.  When we do get a little backstory, it still doesn't make more sense.  Maybe I needed this elaborated more so that it was a clearer picture in my mind.

Now, aside from all of the above, the authors did keep my interest piqued.  I did enjoy the group of friends and the longevity of their relationships.  The complications that come as you get older and your lives change from partying college friends to being more responsible in your daily actions.

I think for the readers who don't read a ton of thrillers, this may truly be your cup of tea as it's a fun ride into domestic drama.  Suspend some reality.  For those of us who read a ton of these books, the ending may be a bit underwhelming and it's not much new from what we've read time and time again.

As my first Nicci French book, I'm glad I found these authors and am curious to read another by them to see how that resonates for me.

★★★

Jessica's Review:



I’ve read a few books from Nicci French’s Frieda Klein series and really enjoyed them. THE LYING ROOM is a new standalone book and it was a really fun and twisty ride. The authors bring us on a crazy ride that shows us just how complicated the web gets once you start to lie. Weaving new stories, new explanations – one lie can spiral out of control.


Neve Connolly has a secret. She’s been having an affair with her boss, Saul. She’s been meticulous about keeping the details straight and not giving any hint to her busy husband or her children. Neve goes to meet Saul the morning after and she comes across a murder scene. Terrified that she could become a suspect and have her dirty secret come to light, she immediately begins to clean away all traces of herself from his life. After she leaves the scene she has that nagging thought in the back her mind – did she forget anything?

With DCI Alastair Hitching on the case they are brought to Neve’s front door. The lies continue and the web continues to grow more complicated. Can she keep her stories straight and spare her husband and children from knowing of her deception? This one moved really quick and I read it in two sittings. Lots of suspense and lots of twists. I would highly recommend this for your fall TBR.


4 stars