Social Media Icons

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell @atriabooks @jessmapreviews @lisajewelluk

The Family Upstairs 
by Lisa Jewell

Thank you Atria books for these amazing copies.

Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: November 5, 2019
352 Pages
Genres: Suspense, Mystery, Thriller

Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

My Review:

Told from three different points of view, we get Lucy, Libby and Henry, varying time lines and some twisty goodness.  Jewell has a way of making her reads immediately compulsive.  The tone is set at the very beginning and you keep turning page after page trying to figure it all out.

I found myself being initially more interested in Lucy's story line and not as intrigued with the rest but then that would switch to Libby and then to Henry as the chapters progressed.  Each story line becoming more clear with each page and that ending.... oh my.  I do love that dun dun dunnnnnn moment for sure.  I did feel the ending got a little bit  **too** convoluted as we see how the whole story unfolds.

Another excellent piece of work from this author, who is one of my faves.  Honestly, I didn't feel it ran as smoothly as prior novels I have read of hers.  I found myself immediately drawn in, then lost a teeny bit of interest in the middle but then it absolutely picked up speed and I couldn't stop reading.  While I did see some of the red herrings and figured out a few things, nothing came out completely shocking.

This felt like a blend of family drama/cultish/thriller mish mosh and I think will be a bit divisive within the thriller community.  I still can't wrap my head completely around how I feel about it but what I do know is that yes, I would recommend this book.  Yes, it's Jewell and she's an autobuy author for me and I love her brilliant mind. I highly recommend And Then She Was Gone and Watching You, but let's face it - if you like thrillers, you read Jewell.  End of story.


Jessica's Review:

Ever pick up a book and realize it was exactly what you needed? That's what THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS by Lisa Jewell was for me. A solid way for me to end the month of October - I doubt I'll be able to sneak in one more before the end of the month ;) This one was definitely different from her previous books. If you're a fan of Ruth Ware and that Gothic atmosphere, then you will love this one. She crafted this one and set the scene perfectly. 

So I feel like the synopsis gives you all of the information you need before going into this book. I couldn't believe how addictive this book ended up being. I just couldn't put it down and I needed to see how the story was going to unfold. We get multiple perspectives in this book and as everything pieces together we finally get the link between them all. The twists, the family dynamic, the dysfunction, the mystery, the character development, the ending - I loved it all!

This one is definitely my favorite from Jewell and I know I won't be the only one. If you're looking for a compulsive read and book that you can lose yourself in, then this needs to be on your TBR. I think this is a great one for those new to Jewell to pick up - and if you're already a fan, then you won't be disappointed!

5 stars

Monday, October 28, 2019

PUB DAY PARTY! The Dark Path by Kevin McManus @bloodhoundbook #kevinmcmanus

The Dark Path
by Kevin McManus

John Morrigan, a New York Detective, arrives on the scene of what at first appears to be a routine homicide in a botched armed robbery. However, as a key witness to the murder is herself violently killed less than 24 hours later, Morrigan discovers that a professional assassin is at work.

As the Detective follows his trail, it leads him into a tangled web of duplicity stretching from the heart of his police department all the way to the upper echelons of political power.

But as Morrigan is about to spring a trap to catch the killer, his own dark past emerges, and he is faced with the dilemma of dropping the case or face a prison sentence.

Will Morrigan make the right choice?
And can he solve the case before it’s too late?

Kevin McManus is an award winning crime fiction writer from Western Ireland. He is an active member of the CWA (The international Crime Writers Association).

In 2016 the author was awarded the Leonard Trophy for his writing and in 2017 and 2018 his novels Under the Red Winter Sky and New Blood were voted the best Crime Novels of the year out of 2000 nominated books.

He lives with his wife Mary and their dog Jack in rural County Leitrim. He graduated from University in 1998 with a Master’s Degree in History and a Higher Diploma in Education. For the last twenty years he has worked as a secondary school teacher.

Apart from writing, during his free time he enjoys listening to and playing music. He played in a number of bands since his teenage years and began writing song lyrics before progressing to prose. He is also a passionate supporter of Aston Villa FC.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett @Kim_Liggett @WednesdayBooks

The Grace Year 
by Kim Liggett

Thank you Wednesday Books and NetGalley for this copy.

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publish Date: October 8, 2019
Kindle Edition
407 Pages
Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian


No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between. 

My Review:

Ah, it's been a minute since I've read a YA Dystopian novel.  I do miss these types of reads so this was perfect for the mood that I was in yesterday and got to finish this morning.  I've seen cursory reviews that say this is like The Hunger Games.  Let me be the first (or not) to tell you that it isn't.  These teens aren't sent to some game place to kill each other off for one lone survivor. OK.. got that? Good. (don't let the braids fool you)

What we have is a place where the girls are sent at the age of 16 for a YEAR.  A year to survive... to burn the magic that is so evil within so they can come back, pure.  Come back... to the men who have *claimed* them for their wives upon their return (for the *lucky* ones).  Men, who can proclaim some type of magic towards a woman who defies them and ultimately sending them to their death so they can then get a new wife. Um. What. Not only do these girls have to survive this year, they have to do so among their own mean girls peers.  They are forced to lay, legs apart, eyes towards god, in marriages they may be so *lucky* to have as they are veiled by men/boys staking their claim.

This year they are gone are reminiscent to Lord of the Flies - all survival.  Someone taking the lead.  Dealing with the elements - only they know, if they survive, they'll be heading home.  Unless the poachers get them first.  Is it better to get skinned alive and bottled up for parts? WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE.

I love the concept of this novel.  I adored Tierney and everything she stood for.  The little things peppered within the read that you realize as Tierney does. Brilliant.  (I could've done without the instalove but hey, it's YA so it was BOUND to happen! *wink*).  Now I'm curious about what's happening in the rest of the world - or is it just the outer area as they proclaim it to be?  Is Garner County, The Grace Year's Gilead? 

A fantastic read.  I'm not quite sure what happened there at the ending completely. Not *quite* but I can say that I loved the entire concept around this book and how the author brings us into this world.  The crazy that ensues and how everything manifests within this crazy stew of a read.  While there are things I could probably nit pick on, over all, I don't care.  And I want more.  Hey Kim... is there more?? ❤


Saturday, October 26, 2019

Review: My Hungry Friend by Daniel Barnett @dbhfiction

My Hungry Friend 
by Daniel Barnett

188 Pages
Genre: Horror

When Mike Roberts kicks over a homeless woman's cup of change, she whispers a cryptic warning:

"Mind the cracks . . ."

Now the Boston he knows and loves is unraveling around him. But his life is not the only thing at stake. His mother, a once acclaimed writer lost in the late stages of Alzheimer's, depends on him to have a home. And then there's her caretaker, Cassie, who might want something more from Mike than the friendship they've long shared.

As his city balances on a razor's edge, Mike will have to hunt down the daughter of the woman he wronged and uncover their terrible family secret . . . or be plunged into a world of crawling horrors and unspeakable hunger.

A world from which no one has ever returned.

My Review:

They say that being nice doesn't cost you anything but being mean certain does.  Mike Roberts, dentist and caretaker of his own mother, learns this the hard way.  Sure, it's good to have good intentions to say you're sorry or try to make it up afterwards... but then why do it to begin with.  When does your temper snapping cause this ripple effect where you can not escape?!

Ok, let me just say that I have a thing about insects and creepy crawlies and arachnids and ...*shiver*.. I just got goosebumps even thinking about it and Barnett gives us these in spades.  Barnett serves up visuals that are so bright, colorful, dark and creepy that your imagination will have trouble keeping up.  Now, every time I feel like something is crawling on me but I find nothing, I'm going to think of this book.  I'm also now finding myself running my tongue along my gums periodically now too.  Great.  Thanks mister. *sigh*

But these are all signs of how good this book is.  I absolutely love where the title of this book comes from.  Wow.  While the main character isn't one you particularly care for at first, he does grow on you - in a magical fungus kinda way, not a wart kinda way.  His relationship with his mother and Cassie, the woman who helps periodically, gives him a real humanness.  His dive into this other world will also get you considering your sanity.

I'll certainly be taking extra care when walking past any homeless people on the streets - though I would never purposely kick a cup, I'm definitely accident prone so why take the chance? And whatever I do, I'll definitely "MIND THE CRACKS".


Friday, October 25, 2019

BLOG TOUR & Review: The Desire Card by Lee Matthew Goldberg @blackthorntours @fahrenheitpress @LeeMatthewG

The Desire Card 
by Lee Matthew Goldberg

Publisher: Fahrenheit Press
Publish Date: February 21, 2019
Kindle Edition
311 Pages
Genre: Thriller

Any wish fulfilled for the right price. That's the promise the organization behind The Desire Card gives to its elite clients - but sometimes the price may be more menacing than anyone could ever imagine. Harrison Stockton has lived an adult life of privilege and excess: a high-powered job on Wall Street fuels his fondness for alcohol and pills at the expense of a family he has no time for. Quite suddenly all of this comes crashing to a halt when he loses his job and at the same time discovers he almost certainly has only months left to live. Desperate, and with seemingly nowhere else left to turn, Harrison activates his Desire Card. What follows is a gritty and gripping quest that takes him from New York City to the slums of Mumbai and forces him to take chances, and make decisions, he never thought he'd ever have to face. When his moral descent threatens his wife and children, Harrison must decide whether to save himself at any cost, or do what's right and break his bargain with the mysterious group behind The Desire Card.

The Desire Card is a taut fast-paced thriller, from internationally acclaimed author Lee Matthew Goldberg, that explores what a man will do to survive when money isn't always enough to get everything he desires.

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE DESIRE CARD, THE MENTOR, and SLOW DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. The second book in the Desire Card series, PREY NO MORE, is forthcoming in 2020, along with his first Sci-Fi novel ORANGE CITY. His new endeavor will be as the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe Press and Fringe Digital, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, Cagibi, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at

 My Review:

What a very interesting read!  Imaging gorging yourself on alcohol, pills and sometimes women (who aren't your wife - oh the typical life of a high level exec or a man who has a lot of money and feels entitled...)... but your bad habits catch up with you, you get let go from your job and part of your severance is a card that also acts like a phone and is called 'The Desire Card'.  Not only is your work life kaput, your home life is beyond terrible and now you've found out you are going to die soon (all because of your own doing).  So what do you do? Why, use the card of course!

Oh poor, poor, rich Harrison.  How terrible your life has become and how thankful it is that you have enough money to potentially do something about it.  Oh his character is completely deplorable but I was riveted throughout the pages to see if he was ever going to veer in the right direction.  I was equally fascinated with The Desire Card and how any desire could be fulfilled... as long as you can pay the price.  The rich get richer, the poor are used and just wow.  It's a fine showing of the different classes and what people may go through. 

The detailed somber tone of the his trip to Mumbai was superbly written by the author.  Very harrowing. Very sad but the visuals the writing gave certainly made me FEEL. Uff.  And the subject matter the author touches on for the reasoning of the trip, is all too real of thing that happens.  It's terrifying and unfortunately a part of life that happens.  You'll have to read this to know what I'm talking about.  

In any matter - I really did like seeing Harrison's character go through everything that he did.  How his wife reacted towards him.  And honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed how it ended because I was going to be mad if it went in the direction I thought it was at first. Definitely would recommend this read.


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Review: Whatever It Takes by Paul Cleave @paulcleave

Whatever It Takes 
by Paul Cleave

Publish Date: August 8, 2019
Kindle Edition
424 Pages
Genres: Crime Fiction, Thriller

When seven-year-old Alyssa is kidnapped, Deputy Noah Harper decides he will do what it takes to find her – but that means crossing lines he can never come back from. Finding the girl safe, isn’t enough to stop Noah from losing his job, his wife, and from being kicked out of Acacia Pines. He’s told if he ever returns, he’ll be put in jail and left there to rot. Now, 12 years later, comes a phone call. Alyssa is missing again and her father wants him to honour the promise he made to her all those years earlier – that he would never let anything bad happen to her again. To find her, Noah is going to have to head back to the pines, and come face to face with the past… 

My Review:

Not only is this author one of the nicest people on the planet, he writes AMAZING thrillers too!  I have just found my new favorite from him.  Thank goodness for a slow work day so I could finish reading this today as this one is absolutely binge worthy and you'll be glued to the pages.

If something terrible happened that took you away from the town you grew up with and served, what would it take to bring you back over a decade later?  We live through Noah Harper throughout this novel.  He took unconventional ways to save a little girl's life and was sent out of town because of it.  Twelve years later, she has disappeared again and now he must keep his promise to her.  What he comes back to is beyond anything he (or anyone else) would have expected.

Now, Noah's got some issues.  That's for sure.  But damn do I love his character!  While he may not get things done in the prettiest manner, his heart is in the right place and damn it, I was rooting for him the entire time.  One thing is for sure - he is tenacious and once his mind is made up... there's no stopping him.  (Also, can I please have a cat named Lego?)  Cleave has given us this small town hero and brought in something bigger than him, or that town, to contend with.  I was NOT expecting some of what happened to come into play.  And that ending - I LOVED IT.  But also, WOW. I was halfway going YES - this is PERFECT to yelling NOOOOO... c'moooooonnnnnnnn!  Hey now, these are the types of endings I live for though.

I especially loved reading the acknowledgments and how he came up with this story and love that he mentions his "Evil Twin" as I have one of those as well.  This author needs be better known than he is amongst thriller lovers.  He needs to churn out more books because I need more.  I'd be pretty happy if Noah came back too.


#ATBR2019 Review: Full Throttle by Joe Hill @jessmapreviews

Full Throttle 
by Joe Hill

Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: October 1, 2019
480 Pages
Genres: Short Stories, Horror

In this masterful collection of short fiction, Joe Hill dissects timeless human struggles in thirteen relentless tales of supernatural suspense, including “In The Tall Grass,” one of two stories co-written with Stephen King, basis for the terrifying feature film from Netflix.

A little door that opens to a world of fairy tale wonders becomes the blood-drenched stomping ground for a gang of hunters in “Faun.” A grief-stricken librarian climbs behind the wheel of an antique Bookmobile to deliver fresh reads to the dead in “Late Returns.” In “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain,” two young friends stumble on the corpse of a plesiosaur at the water’s edge, a discovery that forces them to confront the inescapable truth of their own mortality . . . and other horrors that lurk in the water’s shivery depths. And tension shimmers in the sweltering heat of the Nevada desert as a faceless trucker finds himself caught in a sinister dance with a tribe of motorcycle outlaws in “Throttle,” co-written with Stephen King.

Featuring two previously unpublished stories, and a brace of shocking chillers, Full Throttle is a darkly imagined odyssey through the complexities of the human psyche. Hypnotic and disquieting, it mines our tormented secrets, hidden vulnerabilities, and basest fears, and demonstrates this exceptional talent at his very best.

My Review:

I had read Into the Tall Grass and Twittering from the Circus of the Dead ages ago when I had purchased them as singles. I did enjoy both stories. It took me 3 tries to get through the adaptation of Into the Tall Grass and overall didn't care for it too much - the story is definitely the way to go in my opinion. But that's true most of the time anyways.

Like with most short story collections, some were great, some not so great. I enjoyed the nods to other novels such as to Manx from Christmastland in Dark Carousel. These always make my reader heart happy. I've said this before, and I'll say it again - I know how difficult it is to write a short story but I just don't think it's my favorite place to be. When they work, THEY WORK, but I find that they do for me few and far between. Do I enjoy them? Sure. But I'm always a bit middle of the road. I keep trying them though - especially in the horror genre because man, when it does work, I LOVE.

What can I say? I like what I like. and I'm a big fan of Joe Hill.

Jessica's Review:

When it comes to short stories, I know it can be hit or miss for most readers. I feel you like you either love them or you aren't a fan. I definitely fall into the first category. I really enjoyed Joe Hill's STRANGE WEATHER a couple years ago, and overall I did enjoy FULL THROTTLE, but not as much. As with all short story collections, there are always the standouts and then the ones you don't really care for, I feel like there were a few more of the latter in this one.

I think I might be one of the few that hadn't read IN THE TALL GRASS prior to this short story collection. I knew I needed to read it before I watched the new adaptation on Netflix. I was not disappointed - this was a brutal one and I'm curious to see how the adaptation turns out (I've heard mixed things on this one). I was also excited to be able to read DARK CAROUSEL because I heard great things about the vinyl that had been originally released. These two were definitely front runners for me throughout this collection. Another one I really liked, LATE RETURNS, was less on the horror side and was more of a ghost story about book lovers. Who doesn't love a story about books, librarians, or book lovers?

Overall, this was a mixed bag for me. I loved a few, liked some, and didn't really care for a few others. If you're a fan of Joe Hill, I definitely recommend picking this one up. I feel like there's a few stories for everyone within this book and it's worth checking out. I'll be keeping an eye out for the next book from Hill!

3 stars

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
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
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

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
208 Pages
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
400 Pages
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
368 Pages
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