Social Media Icons

Friday, July 31, 2020

Blog Tour Spotlight: Playdate by Alex Dahl

by Alex Dahl

It was meant to be your daughter's first sleepover.
Now it's an abduction.

Lucia Blix went home from school for a playdate with her new friend Josie. Later that evening, Lucia's mother Elisa dropped her overnight things round and kissed her little girl goodnight.
That was the last time she saw her daughter.
The next morning, when Lucia's dad arrived to pick her up, the house was empty. No furniture, no family, no Lucia.
In Playdate, Alex Dahl puts a microscope on a seemingly average, seemingly happy family plunged into a life-altering situation. Who has taken their daughter, and why?

Alex Dahl is a half-American, half-Norwegian author. Born in Oslo, she studied Russian and German linguistics with international studies, then went on to complete an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University and an MSc in business management at Bath University. A committed Francophile, Alex loves to travel, and has so far lived in Moscow, Paris, Stuttgart, Sandefjord, Switzerland, Bath and London. Her first thriller, The Boy at the Door, was a Sunday Times Crime Club star pick and was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger.


Sandefjord, 19 October 2018

I’ve had the day off, cramming all the things I never normally have time for into the afternoon – highlights and a trim, nails, a half-hearted hour at the gym, and I’m almost late for pick-up. First, I got stuck in bad traffic by the E18 motorway exit, and then Lyder decided to throw a fit when I picked him up from nursery, dropping to the floor like a slab of meat, flopping around in my arms and rolling his eyes back as I shoved his limp limbs into his winter suit.

‘Stop it,’ I hissed, pushing his stockinged feet into his sheepskin boots before grabbing his lunch box, an enormous cardboard artwork and his nursery folder in one hand, my other hand half-dragging my son out the door. ‘Come on!’

In the car, Lyder whines about the fact that I haven’t brought him a snack.

‘Everyone else gets raisins after nursery,’ he wails. ‘Or carrots. Or biscuits. Carl gets biscuits, the kind with chocolate bits in them, it isn’t fair…’ I block out his thin voice droning on and on. It’s been a long week and I feel the beginnings of a headache at the back of my skull. I press my finger to the spot that hurts, staring at a red light taking forever. Three minutes left until pick-up time. Four minutes before Aud, the sour-faced woman running the after-school club starts stabbing my phone number with her long acrylic nails.

The light turns green and I drive fast down the last few quiet suburban roads to Korsvik School, making Lyder giggle nervously in the back seat at the squeal of the tires. I pull up in front of the school and hand Lyder my iPhone, his face breaking into a surprised smile. It’s 4.29 – I made it.

‘I’ll be right back,’ I say, and hurry across the school yard to the brightly lit red wooden building.

‘Mamma!’ squeals Lucia and runs towards me. She jumps into my arms and I kiss her soft golden hair. ‘You’re late.’

‘No, I’m right on time, actually.’

‘Can I go home with Josephine?’

‘Who’s Josephine?’

‘She’s a new girl in my class. Can I? Please?’

‘Not today, sweetie. You know we have to arrange playdates ahead of time, it’s just easier.’

‘Her mom said it’s fine. They’re waiting, in the cloakroom.’


‘Please, Mamma.’ Lucia points through the open doorway to the changing area shared by first- and second-graders.

I sigh and go through with her. A little girl wearing a beautiful pink quilted Moncler jacket and moon boots sits on the bench in the far corner, next to an equally chic-looking mother.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Review: Craigslist Confessional by Helena Dea Bala @helenadeabala @gallerybooks

Craigslist Confessional 
by Helena Dea Bala

Thank you so much to Gallery and the author for this amazing free copy.

Publisher: Gallery Books
Publish Date: July 7, 2020
256 Pages
Genres: Nonfiction, Biography Memoir

What would you confess if you knew it would never get back to your spouse, your colleagues, or your family? What story would you tell about your life if a stranger was willing to listen with no judgement, no stigma, and no consequences—just an unburdening and the relief of confession?

After graduating from law school, Helena Dea Bala was a lobbyist in Washington, DC, struggling to pay off her student loans. She felt lonely and unfulfilled but, after a chance conversation with a homeless man she often saw on her commute, she felt…better. Talking with a stranger, listening to his problems, and sharing her own made her feel connected and engaged in a way she hadn’t in a long time. Inspired, she posted an ad on Craigslist promising to listen, anonymously and for free, to whatever the speaker felt he or she couldn’t tell anyone else. The response was huge—thousands of emails flooded her inbox. People were desperate for the opportunity to speak without being judged, to tell a story without worrying it would get back to friends, family, or coworkers—and so Craigslist Confessional was born.

The forty confessions in Craigslist Confessional are vivid, intimate, and real. Each story is told in the confessor’s voice; they range from devastating secrets (like addiction, depression, and trauma), to musings on lost love and reflections on a lifetime of hard choices. Some confessions are shocking, like the husband who is hiding his crippling sex addiction from his wife. Others are painful, like the man who is so depressed he rarely leaves his hoarder apartment. Some give us a glimpse into a brief chapter of someone’s life—like the girl who discovered that her boyfriend was cheating on her with a mutual friend, or the college student who became a high-end call girl. Others are inspiring, such as the woman who lost her son too young, but sees his memory live on through the people who received his donated organs.

Every confession presents a point of view not often seen, not often talked about. Craigslist Confessional challenges us to explore the depth of our empathy and it’s a call to listen to one another.

My Review:

I read the introduction and already knew.  So I grabbed a box of Kleenex, a bottle of whiskey and settled in to pay close attention to these pages for the next few hours.  

This is split into 5 categories:  Love, Regret, Loss, Identity, and Family.  And I found a little of myself in each of these categories.  The author listened to a cornucopia of humans and it was hard to read some of these very human revelations.  It's one thing to read these types of experiences in a fictionalized tale... it's completely a different feel when you know these are real people telling their own truths.  I legit cried through a few of these and realize I could probably use a confessional myself.  Don't we all have a story or two we keep close to the chest? My heart is a bit heavier now.  The good part is that this makes me realize even more so to not be so quick to judge.  That there is probably way more going on behind the scenes than we could ever imagine and showing some compassion is a kindness that is easy to dole out.

Some people might find this to be too somber of a read or want some kind of reconciliation at the end of each very personal story.  But no one goes to confessionals to talk about all the good things going on.  They're looking for a release for the things that are bothering them the most.  And the author provided them an outlet and I think that's a remarkable thing. 


#ATBR2020 Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno- Garcia @jessmapreviews

Mexican Gothic 
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Publisher: Del Rey
Publish Date: June 30, 2020
320 Pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Gothic, Horror

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find - her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

My Review:

By now, I'm sure you've heard of Mexican Gothic - and for good reason.  This is a very atmospheric, slow burn of a "light" horror read.  So for those looking for a big scare, you're not going to get that.  But for those who are looking for that tense build up that keeps you in a goose bumpy kind of way, this will be a good one to pick up.

I'm super torn with this book.  There are elements I absolutely loved and others that just didn't quite work for me.  The atmosphere of High Place with Ouroboros motif being a part of much of the house really gave my mental image a fun place to be in.  Some of the things Neomi went through were written very poetically and I could feel the creepy crawlies coming through from her VERY vivid dream and sleep walking sequences.  This is where the book shines.  We get a very hypnotic feel during these parts and it really brings the gothic portion of this read to life.

Considering the time period, the author brings about a big metaphor for colonialism - the ruling class and mentions of the "inferior race", which, if I'm being honest, brought about a lot of "ugh, are you fucking serious" feelings... but that are true to the times so let us continue on.... 

This book is full of suspicion and darkness but it wasn't *quite* dark enough for my taste.  I truly loved Noemi as a lead character.  And when we get this type of gothic read, we surely know there are many secrets within these walls.  I do think this was a bit slow and I felt myself putting this down a couple times while waiting for something to happen.  And when it does happen, IT HAPPENS.  The last 30% really gets you there, so don't give up on this read.

If you like light horror novels with a suspense build that includes gothic style writing, this is an amazing read.  These are hit or miss for me and while the last part truly hit, the beginning left me wanting a bit.  Regardless of my mixed feelings, the author is a writer I'm keeping my eye on and I most certainly will be looking into her backlist as this was only a stepping stone for me.  Definitely give this one a go.


Jessica's Review:

It feels like it's been awhile since I've picked up a really good gothic novel. MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia has been one all over Bookstagram and I've been hearing all kinds of great reviews - that's always the tricky part before starting it. You don't want to build it up too much in your mind before beginning, but the hype is so well-deserved. The writing is so enchanting and the descriptions so vivid. Moreno-Garcia set the scene and the eerie atmosphere instantly and it transports you straight into the 1950's alongside Noemí Taboada.

Let me start out by saying, this is more of a slower burning and character driven novel. So I think that's good to know before starting - I tried to go in without knowing really anything but I would have loved knowing that. The first part felt really slow moving for me but once it picked up, then I couldn't put it down. So I highly recommend sticking with it if you have that same issue in the beginning. Don't get me wrong, I loved meeting our lead Noemí and her arriving at High Place to find her cousin, Catalina.

After receiving a very concerning letter from Catalina, Noemí's father tells her that she is to go check on her cousin and report back to him as to her mental state and if they need to intervene. Catalina had abruptly married an Englishman, Virgil, and then she was whisked away to his family's estate in the countryside of Mexico. Upon her arrival, things don't seem quite right and Noemí quickly finds herself mesmerized with the old and mysterious house, High Place.

There is something about the way that the author writes that is just so alluring. Despite the small pacing issue I had at the beginning, it was the way she was telling the story and the striking descriptions that kept me invested. An eerie tone throughout the novel, and some truly creepy moments that will send that chill down your spine that brought out the horror element. Overall, this book has earned the hype and buzz around it and I'm already looking up Moreno-Garcia's backlist of books to add to the TBR.

4 stars

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Blog Tour & Review: Behind the Red Door by Megan Collins

Behind the Red Door 
by Megan Collins

Thank you Atria for this copy and stop on the tour.

Publisher: Atria
Publish Date: August 4, 2020
320 Pages
Genres: Psychological Suspense, Thriller

How well do you trust your memories? When Fern Douglas sees the news about Astrid Sullivan, a thirty-four-year-old missing woman from Maine, she is positive that she knows her. Fern’s husband is sure it’s because of Astrid’s famous kidnapping—and equally famous return—twenty years ago, but Fern has no memory of that, even though it happened an hour outside her New Hampshire hometown. And when Astrid appears in Fern’s recurring nightmare, one in which a girl reaches out to her, pleading, Fern fears that it’s not a dream at all, but a memory.

Back at her childhood home to help her father pack for a move, Fern purchases a copy of Astrid’s recently published memoir, which the media speculates has provoked her original kidnapper to abduct her again. With the help of her psychologist father, Fern digs deeper, hoping to find evidence that her connection to Astrid can help the police locate her. But when Fern discovers more about her own past than she ever bargained for, the disturbing truth will change both of the women's lives forever.

Exploring the murkiest realms of the human psyche and featuring Megan Collins’s signature “dark, tense, and completely absorbing” (Booklist) prose, Behind the Red Door is an arresting, heart-stopping psychological thriller that will haunt you long after you turn the last page.

My Review:

As an avid fan of psychology and mental gymnastics, this book took on some very interesting things that had my mind running in circles.  I was absolutely fascinated about what was happening in these pages.  Make no mistake, the synopsis is just a teensy look into what this book is about.  What we receive is a whole lot more and I'm still trying to process it all.

Ok... I'm mad.  What the actual hell?! Let me explain.  Abuse is abuse.  Mental and emotional abuse is just as harmful as physical abuse - the bruises and fractures are just on the inside.  Collins brings this through the pages and while horrified, I was absolutely in it.  Like with The Winter Sister, I find this a hard one to review.  What I liked about this is the pacing and the spiraling that was happening with Fern... though at times she was a constant annoyance to be honest.  But that stems from a multitude of things, as we learn.

While the majority of this book was highly predictable, the journey was frustrating because sometimes you wonder why the characters don't see things as clearly as you do... but then what would be the fun in that, right?  There was a reveal that I did NOT see coming and I'm still unsure how I feel about it.  I actually sighed loudly and rolled my eyes because no... just no.  HOWEVER, I do love it when a book elicits such emotions from me.

This book hits on some very dark themes but I still would consider it in a bit of a lighter thriller category.  While I'm still highly frustrated with it, I'm also happy I read it.  I think. I believe this will be a bit of a divisive read and I'm always here for that.  


Megan Collins is the author of The Winter Sister and Behind the Red Door. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University. She has taught creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Central Connecticut State University, and she is the managing editor of 3Elements Review. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Off the CoastSpillway, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Rattle. She lives in Connecticut.

Blog Tour & Review: He Started It by Samantha Downing @smariedowning @BerkleyPub #ATBR2020 @jessmapreviews

He Started It 
by Samantha Downing

Thank you Berkley for these copies and my blog tour date.

Publisher: Berkley 
Publish Date: July 21, 2020
384 Pages
Genre: Thriller, Suspense

Beth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan haven't all been together in years. And for very good reasons—we'll get to those later. But when their wealthy grandfather dies and leaves a cryptic final message in his wake, the siblings and their respective partners must come together for a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish and—more importantly—secure their inheritance.

But time with your family can be tough. It is for everyone.

It's even harder when you're all keeping secrets and trying to forget a memory—a missing person, an act of revenge, the man in the black truck who won't stop following your car—and especially when at least one of you is a killer and there's a body in the trunk. Just to name a few reasons.

But money is a powerful motivator. It is for everyone.

My Review:

Well well well, Downing, what have you done to me?!  I USED to like road trips. 🤣  Beth, Portia and Eddie... and ALL THE SECRETS.  Now, I don't have siblings but I have been on many a long trip and siblings or not, your companions will, at some point, get on your last nerve.  People are just not meant to be in confined places for numerous hours.  Especially if they know how to push all your buttons.

What's interesting is how this book is entirely told via Beth's POV.  I think some readers will get frustrated with how this all seems like it's told, rather than shown.  I didn't really have much of an issue with it though as I felt like my claustrophobia within her complex mind really made me feel like I was sitting with them on their way.  You better believe I was thankful for some reprieve once in a while ... but I didn't get it - because I kept wondering WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON!  I will admit that I did think some things dragged on a bit too long.  HOWEVER, I think it was well done as it really gives you that road trip feel.

Now listen, you might think you know what you know but you don't really know, you know? I couldn't have foreseen that ending coming if my life depended on it. 😉 I turned that last page and the word "WHAT" came out of my mouth.  I kept turning thinking maybe they missed a couple pages? No? HELL YES!!  Absolutely loved that ending.  Seriously.  Well done, Downing. 👏


Jessica's Review:

I absolutely loved Downing's debut novel, MY LOVELY WIFE, so when I saw she had a new book coming out I knew I needed to pick it up ASAP. While I liked her debut just a little bit more, HE STARTED IT was just as addictive as a read and kept me guessing until the explosive ending. This one does start off with a slower build to it, but the author keeps you on the edge of your seat and keeps your curiosity piqued from start to finish. So many questions and you slowly get some answers that then lead to more questions. Little details are peppered in as we go from present day and back to their original road trip in 1999.

We see solely through Beth's perspective with some journal entries sprinkled in. Beth and her two siblings, Eddie and Portia, as well as Beth and Eddie's spouses Felix and Krista, are all on a roadtrip that will end in their inheritance from their grandfather. In his will he stated that they must repeat the roadtrip that they took in 1999 and at the end of it they will receive their portion of his enormous inheritance (just over one million each). The things people will do when money is a motivator. You would think this would be an easy trip, right? Well, when you have a strange truck following you through multiple states and the paranoia that comes with thinking someone is trying to sabotage you on top of a dysfunctional family dynamic, proves to make things more difficult than they imagined.

Plenty of secrets, not only from the spouses but within the family as well. Estranged siblings all reliving the roadtrip that changed everything for them. I don't want to go into too much more detail and potentially ruin any twists or big reveals, but I will say that you really can't trust any of these characters. Despite them all seeming to have a hidden agenda, some are really likable, at least I didn't have any I was frustrated with. Overall, if you want a solid psychological suspense/thriller that has a consistent build to a crazy ending, then I highly recommend you pick this up. I think this helped solidify Downing's position as a new auto-buy author for me!

4 stars

Monday, July 27, 2020

Review: The House That Fell From The Sky by Patrick Delaney #nightwormsbookparty

The House That Fell From The Sky 
by Patrick Delaney

Thank you to the author for this copy! And to the Night Worms for the book party. 

Publisher: Oblivion Publishing
Publish Date: September 1, 2020
532 Pages
Genre: Horror

When twenty-nine-year-old Scarlett Vantassel comes to the conclusion that her life doesn't resemble any of the things she actually wanted for herself, she drops out of school and moves back home, attempting to reconnect with the people she left behind. But a shadow falls over her return one early October morning when a sinister house miraculously appears in the center of the city, sparking a media frenzy that attracts attention nationwide.

Soon after the newspapers label it, "The House that Fell from the Sky," Scarlett's childhood friend Hannah becomes obsessed with the idea that the house holds the key to discovering whether there really is life after death. Undeterred by her friends' numerous warnings, Hannah becomes increasingly consumed with the desire to enter the house, convinced it would allow her to reconnect with her recently deceased mother.

Despite a series of escalating events suggesting that the house may be more dangerous than anyone ever thought possible, a privately owned company seizes control of the property and hosts a lottery to lure the city's residents, promising the winners a large cash reward if they dare to enter the house.

To Scarlett's horror, Hannah uses her vast wealth to secure a spot among the winners to gain access to the house. Now, it's up to Scarlett, her older brother Tommy, and her friend Jackson to face their fears and journey into a place where nothing is ever quite as it seems, and decide if they can help a friend in need, or if Hannah truly is lost.

My Review:

With the title of The House That Fell From The Sky, I wanted more of the house!  For a book that's a little over 500 pages, we finally get this unknown in all its glory around the 300 page mark.  I feel the book would've benefited had we had this sooner within the read.  HOWEVER, the opening with the house arriving was a great intro and it's looming presence even within the first 300 pages and how it affects each of the characters over time simply by being there, with tiny movements that keep the neighborhood on their toes is a nice touch.  Maybe if certain parts had been condensed a bit, it would've kept the pace and tenseness at a higher level.

Once we do get into the house, I do wish that we still had more of it!  While we get vast descriptions that were fun, there were a lot of flashbacks riddled within.  And don't get me wrong, I understand why the author did this, but I think maybe the over descriptions and too many things in between just took away from the continuity in feel of the atmosphere.

Honestly, this was a fun read for me.  Though the characters are in their late 20's/early 30's, this reads like a YA novel.  Personally, it didn't bother me at all.  While I might have forgotten what age bracket these characters were supposed to be in, who cares?  Maybe the dialogue felt a little juvenile at times but hell, I'm 45 and have some conversations that don't feel so "adult" all the time. *shrug*  I liked this unique take on a see if you can survive the night in a house that wants to eat you alive.  I mean, if a house just landed in your neighborhood one night, wouldn't YOU be curious?  I certainly would be....especially if it was a potential to a promise I really wanted.


BlogTour & Review: Someone's Listening by Seraphina Nova Glass

Someone's Listening 
by Seraphina Nova Glass 

Thank you Graydon House for this copy and stop on the blog tour.

Publisher: Graydon House
Publish Date: July 28, 2020
Kindle Edition
352 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Suspense

She wrote the book on escaping a predator… Now one is coming for her.

Faith Finley has it all: she’s a talented psychologist with a flourishing career, a bestselling author and the host of a popular local radio program, Someone’s Listening, with Dr. Faith Finley. She’s married to the perfect man, Liam Finley, a respected food critic.

Until the night everything goes horribly wrong, and Faith’s life is shattered forever.

Liam is missing—gone without a trace—and the police are suspicious of everything Faith says. They either think she has something to hide, or that she’s lost her mind.

And then the notes begin to arrive. Notes that are ripped from Faith’s own book, the one that helps victims leave their abusers. Notes like “Lock your windows. Consider investing in a steel door.”

As the threats escalate, the mystery behind Liam’s disappearance intensifies. And Faith’s very life will depend on finding answers.

My Review:

Welllllll, I really wanted to like this one but this wasn't the right read for me.  However, there are a ton of amazing reviews for this so definitely go take a look at those.  I seem to definitely be in the minority on this one.  Now let me explain why.

As someone who reads a ton of thrillers, I think I may just be over the woman who is grieving her husband's disappearance, then drinks a lot and takes pills and everyone is a suspect and then the reveal comes and by the time that happens, my interest is pretty much gone.  Faith isn't an easy character to like and despite her profession, makes a slew of rash and terrible decisions to try and clear her from the suspect pool.  There were also a couple of loose ends that I would've liked answers to and felt the pacing was a just a bit too slow for my particular taste.

I do appreciate the concept of this read.  Faith's history into why she went into her business.  The spiral downward as things escalate as the villain is driving her a bit crazy.  Being in the public eye which makes things even harder when dealing with personal issues (but also increasingly frustrating to see the actions she was taking because of this as well).

I don't know, readers.  This isn't a bad thriller by any means and may be better suited for those who don't read a ton of thrillers that are similar.  Take a read and then let's discuss as I'd love to talk about this and see different perspectives.


Seraphina Nova Glass is a professor and Playwright-in-Residence at the University of Texas-Arlington, where she teaches Film Studies and Playwriting. She holds an MFA in playwriting from Smith College, and has optioned multiple screenplays to Hallmark and Lifetime. Someone's Listening is her first novel.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

#ATBR2020 Review: The Bright Lands by John Fram @Hanover_Square @johnsfram @jessmapreviews

The Bright Lands 
by John Fram

Publisher: Hanover Square Press
Publish Date: July 7, 2020
480 Pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, LGBTQIA+, Horror

The town of Bentley holds two things dear: its football, and its secrets. But when star quarterback Dylan Whitley goes missing, an unremitting fear grips this remote corner of Texas.

Joel Whitley was shamed out of conservative Bentley ten years ago, and while he’s finally made a life for himself as a gay man in New York, his younger brother’s disappearance soon brings him back to a place he thought he’d escaped for good. Meanwhile, Sheriff’s Deputy Starsha Clark stayed in Bentley; Joel’s return brings back painful memories—not to mention questions—about her own missing brother. And in the high school hallways, Dylan’s friends begin to suspect that their classmates know far more than they’re telling the police. Together, these unlikely allies will stir up secrets their town has long tried to ignore, drawing the attention of dangerous men who will stop at nothing to see that their crimes stay buried.

But no one is quite prepared to face the darkness that’s begun to haunt their nightmares, whispering about a place long thought to be nothing but an urban legend: an empty night, a flicker of light on the horizon—The Bright Lands.

My Review:

Police corruption, small town secrets, peer pressure, homophobia, racism and misogyny - these are a few topics you can expect to be brought up in this wonderful debut novel by Fram.  This suspenseful thriller with light horror undertones is one to put on your TBR.  Don't let the page count dissuade you - each page is necessary to tell this enthralling tale set in a small town in Texas.

This book hooked me right from the beginning, then tapered off while building its suspense and then explodes at the end.  There's quite a cast of characters and I enjoyed being in the minds of all of them.  Well, maybe enjoyed isn't the right word for some of these minds because I found myself flinching at quite a few scenes.  For the majority of the read, I was wondering why this was even considered horror at all - we get a hint in certain parts but it doesn't really show its horror face until a certain part.  Personally, I would've liked to have seen more of this throughout the read rather than placed mainly just in one spot.  HOWEVER, take that with a grain of salt because the horror in this novel isn't just contained within that part of the storyline.

With loads of mystery and an ending you won't be expecting, I'm duly impressed that this is a debut novel.  Fram is an author to watch out for - I highly recommend adding this to your reading list.  I'll certainly be looking for his next release.


Jessica's Review:

Another incredible debut author for 2020! John Fram's THE BRIGHT LANDS brings us a suspenseful thriller with a hint of horror. I will admit, the page count (almost 500 pages) had me apprehensive, mainly because most thrillers stick to around the 300ish page mark. However, when I saw all of the rave reviews I knew it definitely should be worth it! 

A small Texas town that is borderline obsessed with their high school's football team is where our story takes place. I feel like this is something a lot of readers can relate to - change football to hockey and that was my high school in Minnesota (let's be real, as soon as you could skate it was an obsession for some parents). We are introduced to a wide array of characters and all are so well-developed. When you have multiple POVs there are times where some characters get lost in the background, but Fram gives us such authentic and relatable characters throughout the book. 

In most of the book, the suspense continues to mount and culminates into one hell of an ending that I wasn't expecting! The last part of the book I finished in one sitting because I had to know what was going to happen next. I was expecting a little more horror elements to it, but they are definitely present in certain parts and there was an overall creepy/eerie vibe. 

I'm anxious to see what Fram releases next and I highly recommend adding this to your TBR. Don't let the page count deter you like it almost did for me. I'm so happy I listened to Chandra (and others) and moved this to the top of the list once I got my hands on it. 

4 stars

Review: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender @kacencallender @harpercollins

Felix Ever After 
by Kacen Callender

Publisher: HarperCollins
Publish Date: May 5, 2020
368 Pages
Genres: LGBTQIA+, Romance, Contemporary, Young Adult

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle....

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.

My Review:

What an absolutely beautiful story.  I stayed up late to finish it last night and then stayed up later processing the entirely of it all.  Remember when you were a teenager and pining for that first kiss and to just fall in love for the first time?  Well imagine all of that AND still trying to figure out your identity.  That's a LOT to take on as a seventeen year old.  And on top of THAT, you feel pressure to get a scholarship for college because otherwise, you wouldn't be able to go.. AND you're being bullied.  Felix is complex, talented and oh so lovable, even if he doesn't think that he is.

I went through the gauntlet of emotions while reading this.  Fury at the bullying Felix had to endure.  Elation at Felix coming to a lot of realizations.  Happiness for the relationships that endured and grief for the ones that did not.  How do you NOT feel in this quest for self-discovery?  I learned a LOT from this book.  Thank you, Callender.

I absolutely loved reading the author's note at the end where they talk about how Adam from Degrassi finally made them feel like they were being seen.  I hope that books like these and shows like Pose become safe spaces for others who are trying to find themselves to be seen.  We all need representation and while there is still obviously a LOT of work to be done, I hope more people will finally see that humans are HUMAN and deserve to be their true selves ALWAYS without fear.  You best believe I'm checking out their backlist!