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Thursday, November 18, 2021

Review: True Crime Story by Joseph Knox

True Crime Story
by Joseph Knox

Thanks so much to Sourcebooks Landmark for this gifted book.

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: December 7, 2021 (first published June 17, 2021)
320 Pages
Genres: Crime, Thriller

What happens to all the girls who go missing?

The thrilling story of a university student's sudden disappearance, the woman who became obsessed with her case, and the crime writer who uncovered the chilling truth about what happened...

In 2011, Zoe Nolan walked out of her dormitory in Manchester and was never seen or heard from again. Her case went cold. Her story was sad, certainly, but hardly sensational, crime writer Joseph Knox thought. He wouldn't have given her any more thought were it not for his friend, Evelyn Mitchell. Another writer struggling to come up with a new idea, Evelyn was wondering just what happened to all the girls who go missing. What happened to the Zoe Nolans of the world?

Evelyn began investigating herself, interviewing Zoe's family and friends, and emailing Joseph with chapters of the book she was writing with her findings. Uneasy with the corkscrew twists and turns, Joseph Knox embedded himself in the case, ultimately discovering a truth more tragic and shocking than he could have possibly imagined...

Just remember: Everything you read is fiction.

My Review:

Uff, it pains me to write this review.  Isn't it so hard to write an unfavorable review for an author you really like? MEEP.  OK, here goes nothing.

TRUE CRIME STORY is FICTION but written like a ... well, true crime story.  It is written in email and interview format mostly, which I was fine with for about the first 100 pages and then just kinda got bored with it altogether.  I'm not entirely sure if it's the format or just the story itself though.  I LOVE the idea behind this read and I certainly did find it intriguing.  What DID happen to Zoe?!

Unfortunately the characters were all just so terrible - they're terrible people.  The whole lot.  Not that I don't have my own issues but wow.... and I loved hating on them.  But I needed more Zoe and less of their own drama. Le sigh... maybe I just wasn't in the right mood for this one.  When we finally do get to somewhat of a conclusion, I was more creeped out about what a certain person was hoarding than I was about any crime itself.  IYKYK!

Ultimately, while I appreciated what the author was doing, it just didn't quite work for me and I found myself losing interest too fast.  But it's Knox so I had to finish ... plus I really did want an answer.  I'm just not sure I'm entirely happy with what I found. I have a feeling that reviews on this are going to be love it or hate it.  Me... I'm sticking with his Aidan Waits thrillers because those definitely make my black heart beat faster.


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Review: The Woods are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins

The Woods are Always Watching
by Stephanie Perkins
Narrated by Renna Dutt

Thanks to PRAudio for this gifted audiobook.

Publisher: Listening Library
Publish Date: August 31, 2021
7 hours 9 minutes
Genres: Young Adult, Horror

A traditional backwoods horror story set–first page to last–in the woods of the Pisgah National Forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Two girls go backpacking in the woods. Things go very wrong.

And, then, their paths collide with a serial killer.

My Review:

Um.  Well, I think I can safely say that this may not be the author for me.  I didn't particularly care for 'There's Someone Inside Your House' though I did enjoy the Netflix adaptation... and THE WOODS ARE ALWAYS WATCHING... well.... yeah, it's a no for me.

Now, I do enjoy backwoods horror such as Wrong Turn, which this had some slight feels of, but these girls.... uffffffffff.  Where do I even begin?  The beginning of the book was just them kind of whining at each other.  They decide to go hiking, which they've never done before, and are not very well prepared for this new adventure.  THEN BAM.  Things did take a turn and start to get interesting.  Let's just take any plausibility out of the situation.  This made it a bit better once I decided that these girls basically have super powers (they don't, I'm making it up) and a pain threshold I can only wish for. 

Enter villains with Appalachian accents (this was mentioned quite a few times so it is quite drilled in my head). FINALLY.  I was rooting for them the whole time. KILL THESE GIRLS PLEASE. 😈 And then that ending... what the actual..... anyways......... And don't come at me saying that this is YA so what should I expect because I have read some fantastic YA horror.  BUT, I will say that I did find myself intrigued and wanted to see what was going to happen, no matter who I was rooting for!  I did find it quite entertaining once I decided not to get so nit picky.  I didn't find this creepy or scary in the slightest but I did enjoy the romp that it is to a certain extent.  For now, I'll wait for the adaptations because if this comes to film, I'm definitely watching.


Monday, November 15, 2021

Review: Nanny Dearest by Flora Collins

Nanny Dearest
by Flora Collins

Huge thanks to MIRA books for this gifted book.

Publisher: MIRA
Publish Date: November 30, 2021
Kindle Edition
336 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Domestic Suspense

In this compulsively readable novel of domestic suspense, a young woman takes comfort in reconnecting with her childhood nanny after her father's death, until she starts to uncover secrets the nanny has been holding for twenty years.

Sue Keller is lost. When her father dies suddenly, she's orphaned in her mid-twenties, her mother already long gone. Then Sue meets Annie. It’s been twenty years, but Annie could never forget that face. She was Sue’s live-in nanny at their big house upstate, and she loved Sue like she was her own.

Craving connection and mothering, Sue is only too eager to welcome Annie back into her life; but as they become inseparable once again, Sue starts to uncover the truth about Annie's unsettling time in the Keller house all those years ago, particularly the manner of her departure—or dismissal. At the same time, she begins to grow increasingly alarmed for the safety of the two new charges currently in Annie's care.

Told in alternating points of views—Annie in the mid-'90s and Sue in the present day—this taut novel of suspense will keep readers turning the pages right up to the shocking end.

My Review:

OoOoOOoO this debut domestic suspense novel has been wanting to REALLY like it but finding myself a bit puzzled on how I actually feel overall.  The first half is pretty slow but had my interest enough to see where it was going to go... and I already had a feeling, which turned out to be right, so at a certain point it was a matter of seeing HOW we were going to get there.

I love obsession, bat shit crazy, domestic reads and this one is definitely that.  But the crazy one isn't just the antagonist here.  Now, I've said it over and over again... I loooooove to hate on some characters.  But uff, I just couldn't get into what was happening or WHY Suzy was acting as she was.  I did enjoy the dual timelines and the slow showing of the how and whys... even if they didn't *quite* make a whole lot of sense. BUT, I also kinda like how wicked it was and how this very interesting relationship affected Suzy so much.  Hrm... I question everyone in this dang book except for maybe the taxi driver at the end. Maybe.  

I suppose what the book really is touching on is how nurture, in any form, can absolutely make a difference in a child's life.  And how grief is such a hard emotion to roller coaster through.  Who is really dependent upon who and why is everyone around that knew what was going on just so damned complacent? I HAVE FEELINGS ABOUT ALL OF THIS.

Very mixed feelings here but I can say that I'm a Collins fan and can't wait to see where her writing goes from here.  As a debut, I like it! Let's see what else she was for us readers - I really can't wait.


Review: You'll Be The Death Of Me by Karen M. McManus

You'll Be The Death Of Me
by Karen M. McManus

Thanks so much to PRH Audio and Listening Library for this gifted audiobook.

Publisher: Listening Library
Publish Date: November 30, 2021
10 hours
Genres: Young Adult, Light Thriller

From the author of One of Us Is Lying comes a brand-new pulse-pounding thriller. It's Ferris Bueller's Day Off with murder when three old friends relive an epic ditch day, and it goes horribly--and fatally--wrong.

Ivy, Mateo, and Cal used to be close. Now all they have in common is Carlton High and the beginning of a very bad day.

Type A Ivy lost a student council election to the class clown, and now she has to face the school, humiliated. Heartthrob Mateo is burned out--he's been working two jobs since his family's business failed. And outsider Cal just got stood up . . . again.

So when Cal pulls into campus late for class and runs into Ivy and Mateo, it seems like the perfect opportunity to turn a bad day around. They'll ditch and go into the city. Just the three of them, like old times. Except they've barely left the parking lot before they run out of things to say . . .

. . . until they spot another Carlton High student skipping school--and follow him to the scene of his own murder. In one chance move, their day turns from dull to deadly. And it's about to get worse.

It turns out Ivy, Mateo, and Cal still have some things in common. They all have a connection to the dead kid. And they're all hiding something.

Now they're all wondering--could it be that their chance reconnection wasn't by chance after all?

My Review:

Ferris Bueller's Day Off with MURDER? SIGN ME UP! But um, yeah, no.  I didn't feel really either of those things nor would I consider this a "pulse-pounding thriller".  I thoroughly enjoyed One of Us is Lying but sadly, YOU'LL BE THE DEATH OF ME didn't quite work for me and here's why...

Despite the snippet of a synopsis being a bit misleading, I was hoping this trio would still get me interested in their lives, ditching a day of school, finding a fellow student dead... there's so much that could've worked here.  And quite honestly, I'm not sure if it's maybe the audio that made it worse for me as I, unfortunately, didn't like it much at all. 😐 The dialogue felt a bit stilted and I found that while there were three different narrators for each of the main characters, when one of would do the voice of Ivy, or any other female, it all sounded very valley girl-ish and exactly the same across the board.  I just couldn't with that.

There were also some additions to the storyline that I couldn't figure out the point of - a couple of things could have definitely made it more interesting but once introduced... just kind of faded away so um... yeah. I also didn't care much for the ending or maybe I just really wasn't all that interested enough by that point that it wouldn't have mattered.  This is definitely a formulaic young adult VERY light thriller.. more drama.. and while I really don't mind this kind of story at times.. sometimes they just don't quite hit the mark.

McManus definitely has a following and is skilled in telling this type of story as can be seen from her prior releases.  I just felt like this one didn't feel any different or new.  I certainly will continue to read her as I do enjoy where her mind tends to flow and I am a lover of YA thrillers.. I just need them to be thrilling.


Friday, November 12, 2021

Review: Everything Within and In Between by Nikki Barthelmess

Everything Within and In Between
by Nikki Barthelmess

Thanks to Wunderkind PR and HarperTeen for this gifted book.

Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: October 5, 2021
336 Pages
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

For Ri Fernández’s entire life, she’s been told, “We live in America and we speak English.” Raised by her strict Mexican grandma, Ri has never been allowed to learn Spanish. What’s more, her grandma has always pushed Ri away from the neighborhood they call home and toward her best friend’s world of mansions and country clubs in the hopes that it’ll bring Ri closer to achieving the “American Dream."

In her most private thoughts, Ri has always believed that her mother, who disappeared when she was young, would accept her exactly how she is. So when Ri finds a secret unanswered letter from her mom begging for a visit, Ri decides to reclaim what her grandma kept from her: a language and a mother. But nothing goes as planned. Her mom isn’t who Ri imagined she would be. And Ri’s struggling to navigate the different interweaving threads of her mixed heritage that make her who she is. Nobody has any idea of who Ri really is—not even Ri, herself.

Everything Within and In Between is a new deeply honest story about the bonds between families and defining who you are for yourself from acclaimed author Nikki Barthelmess. 

My Review:

What an absolutely adorable and relatable contemporary young adult book! Ri is quite the character and I'm so happy to have gotten to know her.  She's half Mexican and half White... and as a White passing girl, her grandmother wants her to tap into that so that she can be more successful and go through "less pain" and doesn't understand why Ri wants to tap into her Mexican side more.  

This story cuts deep.  The author takes us on a journey discovering stereotypes, microaggressions, heritage and oh so much more.  Not only from the prospective of strangers being assholes but how even friends and family have their own racism and colorism within that can be even more harmful than helpful - no matter if it stems from somewhere they think is good.  Oh how I feel this so much.  And it also shows in how Ri acts towards her own friends, especially her best one.  It's so easy to take aggression out on those closest to you but wow some of the scenes in how she treats Brittany are so annoying.

While I didn't love everything about this book, I absolutely appreciate the way the author shows the struggle within a biracial girl who is being pulled in too many directions.  I had to remind myself at times that Ri is a teenager and as such is prone to make the mistakes and bad decisions as she did... and that I wasn't going to like everything about it. Haha. Ah Ri - I am happy with how it ended and wish nothing but the best for her.


Monday, November 8, 2021

Review: The Passing Storm by Christine Nolfi

The Passing Storm
by Christine Nolfi

Thank you Lake Union and Booksparks for this gifted book.

Publisher: Lake Union
Publish Date: November 1, 2021
318 Pages
Genre: Contemporary

A gripping, openhearted novel about family, reconciliation, and bringing closure to the secrets of the past.

Early into the tempestuous decade of her thirties, Rae Langdon struggles to work through a grief she never anticipated. With her father, Connor, she tends to their Ohio farm, a forty-acre spread that itself has enjoyed better days. As memories sweep through her, some too precious to bear, Rae gives shelter from a brutal winter to a teenager named Quinn Galecki.

Quinn has been thrown out by his parents, a couple too troubled to help steer the misunderstood boy through his own losses. Now Quinn has found a temporary home with the Langdons—and an unexpected kinship, because Rae, Quinn, and Connor share a past and understand one another’s pain. But its depths—and all its revelations and secrets—have yet to come to light. To finally move forward, Rae must confront them and also fight for Quinn, whose parents have other plans in mind for their son.

With forgiveness, love, and the spring thaw, there might be hope for a new season—a second chance Rae believed in her heart was gone forever.

My Review:

This is the story of Rae.  She lost her mother in a storm and then the daughter she had at a young age to a terrible accident.  Her grief overwhelms her as she lives on the farm with her father.  This is also the story of Quinn, who has terrible parents who treat him like shit, had a friendship with Rae's daughter that Rae contemplates from time to time and feels like he belongs nowhere.  Forces bring the two together and their unlikely alliance heals them both.

PHEW.  These characters.  This is a fairly somber read.  There's some levity, mostly between Rae and her father... which is an absolute pleasure to read.  My heart goes out to the family at their losses even years later.  My heart also goes out to Quinn, who is misunderstood and trying to make do in the best way possible.  As the pages turn, we see them grow from grieving, surly mother and shy, unloved teenager to a family that neither of them had ever expected.

The journey throughout this read has depth, layers, love, friendship, small town secrets along with growth and second chances.  I do think that it lulled in certain areas but I think that may just be the atmosphere of the book at times.  It's not easy to read through some of the things any of these characters went through.  I absolutely fell in love with Rae and Quinn for different reasons, but the author brings them to life with such humanity that it's hard not to be rooting for them and flinching at certain scenes.

Sometimes closure is needed, sometimes it brings about more questions really and other times, it takes someone walking back INTO your life to get it.  Would definitely recommend this.


Review: Noor by Nnedi Okorafor

by Nnedi Okorafor
narrated by Dele Ogundiran

Thanks to Daw Books and for this gifted audiobook.

Publisher: Daw Books, Tantor Media, Inc.
Publish Date: November 9, 2021
7hrs 10 min
Genre: Science Fiction

Anwuli Okwudili prefers to be called AO. To her, these initials have always stood for Artificial Organism. AO has never really felt...natural, and that's putting it lightly. Her parents spent most of the days before she was born praying for her peaceful passing because even in-utero she was wrong. But she lived. Then came the car accident years later that disabled her even further. Yet instead of viewing her strange body the way the world views it, as freakish, unnatural, even the work of the devil, AO embraces all that she is: A woman with a ton of major and necessary body augmentations. And then one day she goes to her local market and everything goes wrong.

Once on the run, she meets a Fulani herdsman named DNA and the race against time across the deserts of Northern Nigeria begins. In a world where all things are streamed, everyone is watching the reckoning of the murderess and the terrorist and the saga of the wicked woman and mad man unfold. This fast-paced, relentless journey of tribe, destiny, body, and the wonderland of technology revels in the fact that the future sometimes isn't so predictable. Expect the unaccepted. 

My Review:

My second books by Okorafor.  The first being REMOTE CONTROL, which I absolutely loved.  NOOR is a fantastic story of AO who is basically part machine.  She has to leave home and in her journey, meets DNA, and the story then takes off with their adventures as they get to know each other and she starts to find her way. 

There's absolutely something about Okorafor's writing that is just gorgeous.  This story delves into what we still see today with consumerism, classism, racism, artificial intelligence, going to space... while also delving into the human side of relationships and learning that there are shades of grey to any and all things.

The narrator is fantastic and I would absolutely recommend listening to this story. While this is science fiction, I do wonder about own voices readers and their thoughts on the prosthetics and disabilities of AO.  AO's character herself is fascinating and multilayered and I enjoyed her relationship with DNA.  I think they learned a lot from each other and allowed readers to learn of the culture within.

While I may not have loved this as much as Remote Control, I certainly would recommend this and I most definitely will be picking up more from this author.


Sunday, November 7, 2021

Review: The Legend of the Christmas Witch by Aubrey Plaza & Daniel Murphy

The Legend of the Christmas Witch
by Aubrey Plaza (author & narrator)
& Daniel Murphy (contributor)

Publisher: Listening Library
Publish Date: November 16, 2021
40 minutes
Genres: Childrens, Holiday, Fantasy

From 'Parks and Recreation' star Aubrey Plaza and creative partner Dan Murphy comes the long lost tale of the Christmas Witch, Santa Claus's much misunderstood twin sister.

Gather 'round the fire to hear a Christmas legend that has never been told before...until now. Each year a mysterious figure sweeps into town, leaving behind strange gifts in the night. No, not Santa Claus, but his sister...

The Christmas Witch.

Her story begins many, many years ago when her brother was torn away from her as a child. Raised alone by a witch of the woods, Kristtōrn's powers of magic grew, as did her temper. Determined to find her long lost twin, she set out on a perilous journey across oceans to find him. But what she found instead was a deep-seated fear of her powers and a confrontation that would leave the fate of Christmas hanging in the balance.

From award-winning producer and actress Aubrey Plaza and her creative partner Dan Murphy comes a holiday story unlike any told before. With all the richness of classic folklore, they've woven a tale of bravery, love and magic. Whatever you thought you knew about Christmas...think again.

My Review:

This audiobook was so much fun! With lots of sounds, it's a theatrical production for the ears.  Come music, whisles, birds chirping and ominous tones at times, meet Kristtorn, Santa's twin sister and the one who eventually became The Christmas Witch.

I have always admired Aubrey Plaza's very strange and creative mind and this book showcases the darker side of the holiday and you know me... I always love the darker things in life.  Folklore vibes and fantasy chimes... this holiday children's book really needs an adaptation of some kind.  While I would've loved it to be a little darker, I have to remember this is a children's book.  I'll have to get the physical copy at some point so I can see the illustrations.  If they are as fun for my eyes as the audio was for my ears, I'm sure I will absolutely love it.

Sometimes even if you're naughty AND nice, you don't get any reward. Coal or otherwise.  Kristtorn, I do hope to see more of you.


Thursday, November 4, 2021

Review: Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Cloud Cuckoo Land
by Anthony Doerr
Narrated by Marin Ireland & Simon Jones

Thanks so much to Simon & Schuster Audio and for this gifted audiobook.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publish Date: September 28, 2021
14 hrs 52 min
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy

Set in Constantinople in the 15th century, in a small town in present-day Idaho, and on an interstellar ship decades from now, Anthony Doerr’s gorgeous third novel is a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring story about children on the cusp of adulthood in worlds in peril, who find resilience, hope - and a book. In Cloud Cuckoo Land, Doerr has created a magnificent tapestry of times and places that reflects our vast interconnectedness - with other species, with each other, with those who lived before us, and with those who will be here after we’re gone.

Thirteen-year-old Anna, an orphan, lives inside the formidable walls of Constantinople in a house of women who make their living embroidering the robes of priests. Restless, insatiably curious, Anna learns to read, and in this ancient city, famous for its libraries, she finds a book, the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky. This she reads to her ailing sister as the walls of the only place she has known are bombarded in the great siege of Constantinople. Outside the walls is Omeir, a village boy, miles from home, conscripted with his beloved oxen into the invading army. His path and Anna’s will cross.

Five hundred years later, in a library in Idaho, octogenarian Zeno, who learned Greek as a prisoner of war, rehearses five children in a play adaptation of Aethon’s story, preserved against all odds through centuries. Tucked among the library shelves is a bomb, planted by a troubled, idealistic teenager, Seymour. This is another siege. And in a not-so-distant future, on the interstellar ship Argos, Konstance is alone in a vault, copying on scraps of sacking the story of Aethon, told to her by her father. She has never set foot on our planet.

My Review:

What in the holy Cuckoo did I just finish listening to?! 😲 5 different characters and POVs with timelines that ping pong back and forth through various times with these characters.... wooooo buddy, I had no idea what was going on for the first part but I was interested enough to stick with it and damn, I'm glad that I did.  Though if I'm being completely honest, had I read my physical copy rather than listening to the audio, it could very easily have become a DNF.  The beginning feels extremely all over the place that I had to keep looking at my phone to make sure my audio didn't take me to a different book altogether. I can see this being a love/hate kind of read for the masses but I'm happy to report that it absolutely worked for me but it took me getting to the end for it to all make sense and for me to go *light bulb* - BRILLIANT.

This is basically a really long love letter to books and the passage of time. Interweaving the past, present, future, mythology, fantasy, science fiction, literary fiction... I mean, it's a LOT but it really works and I didn't see how it all came together until the very end.  That might be because I was legitimately confused for at least the first half of my listen though. 🤣

It truly is the ending that does it for me.  I love how it all interconnects.  I'll be honest and say that I may not 10000% fully understand it all.  Maybe it didn't come together as cohesively as it should have.  Maybe my brain was still trying to get certain parts to actually finish because I was left hanging.. if you know, you know.  But in the end, as I sit here and let it all marinate, I can't help but give it all the stars.  It's beautiful and lets us know that together we will always be, no matter in which timeline.

"We are all beautiful even as we are all part of the problem, and that to be a part of the problem is to be human."


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Review: Trashlands by Alison Stine

by Alison Stine

Thanks to Booksparks & MIRA for this gifted book.

Publisher: MIRA
Publish Date: October 26, 2021
384 Pages
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopia

A few generations from now, the coastlines of the continent have been redrawn by floods and tides. Global powers have agreed to not produce any new plastics, and what is left has become valuable: garbage is currency.

In the region-wide junkyard that Appalachia has become, Coral is a “plucker,” pulling plastic from the rivers and woods. She’s stuck in Trashlands, a dump named for the strip club at its edge, where the local women dance for an endless loop of strangers and the club's violent owner rules as unofficial mayor.

Amid the polluted landscape, Coral works desperately to save up enough to rescue her child from the recycling factories, where he is forced to work. In her stolen free hours, she does something that seems impossible in this place: Coral makes art.

When a reporter from a struggling city on the coast arrives in Trashlands, Coral is presented with an opportunity to change her life. But is it possible to choose a future for herself?

Told in shifting perspectives, Trashlands is a beautifully drawn and wildly imaginative tale of a parent's journey, a story of community and humanity in a changed world.

My Review:

TRASHLANDS is a somber story fighting for your family in a place dubbed Scrappalachia, home of Trashlands, a "dance club" owned by a very evil man. But the evil here is in which they have to use plastic as currency while living in basically a large trash dump.  The cost to stay living there? Oh... just one child. As they have the tiny hands that can sort and pick through plastic easier than the large hands of the adults.

Uff.  Y'all.  This book is extremely well written.  For me, it was a bit of a trudge to get through as the slow pacing, multiple POVs and ping ponging between past and present and the subject matter had zero levity within. I'll tell ya though, this is a wake up call to what we as a society are doing to our planet.  I couldn't imagine living in a trash dump or ever even consider plastic being something of a commodity and to which they use to barter/buy.  Everything is outdated and younger generations will never know of... well, I suppose the nicer things in life. It is scary to think that this world could actually progress in this manner. 

With dystopia you always have the good and the bad, the will to go on and to also just give up entirely. This is more character than plot driven and I do wish there was a little more to the world building or at least more detail as to how we came into this situation... but I think we can, as readers, make a pretty solid freaking guess.

Go into this one knowing you'll get quite the story.  It's grim and raw and won't be for everyone.


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Review: Hell House by Richard Matheson

Hell House
by Richard Matheson

Publisher: Tor Books
Publish Date: April 1, 2011 (first published 1971)
Kindle Edition
302 Pages
Genre: Horror

Rolf Rudolph Deutsch is going die. But when Deutsch, a wealthy magazine and newspaper publisher, starts thinking seriously about his impending death, he offers to pay a physicist and two mediums, one physical and one mental, $100,000 each to establish the facts of life after death.

Dr. Lionel Barrett, the physicist, accompanied by the mediums, travel to the Belasco House in Maine, which has been abandoned and sealed since 1949 after a decade of drug addiction, alcoholism, and debauchery. For one night, Barrett and his colleagues investigate the Belasco House and learn exactly why the townfolks refer to it as the Hell House.

My Review:

Holy hell! 😈 I can't believe it's taken me this long to read this classic horror book.  This was the #BuddyReadsToDieFor October choice and just perfect for the Halloween month - Spooky Season is ALL year for this macabre loving ghoul and Hell House is an amazing setting to let my mind wander through for 302 creepy pages.

Would you stay in a haunted house for one week if you were paid $100,000? Personally, since Dr. Barret is a billionaire, that seems like chump change but who am I to say - I think that I would! Probably to my detriment but hey, YOLO and all that jazz. 

I sometimes can find haunting stories to be a bit too slow for my taste but the atmosphere is hard not to take a taste of so I usually try to meander through.  Luckily Hell House is written in a way that the slow creepiness that builds night by night goes at a moderate pace, thus keeping my attention from beginning to end.  Definitely lots of sexual scenes but I didn't mind them... the weirder shit got the more I was fascinated, nose deep into my kindle - which seems weird but you get what I'm saying here. 

Overall this is a very satisfying read and I'm pretty happy with it from beginning to end.  Strap yourself in and get ready to feel the creepy vibes crawl on your skin. It's absolutely worth it.  Apologies to the reading group as I had some great intentions but with these being holiday times it's been madness trying to sort anything - like herding cats, I have failed.  However, I'm still definitely going to try and watch the adaptation, The Legend of Hell House as Matheson also wrote the screenplay!


Sunday, October 31, 2021

Review: Everything We Didn't Say by Nicole Baart

Everything We Didn't Say
by Nicole Baart

Thank you Atria for this gifted book.

Publisher: Atria
Publish Date: November 2, 2021
368 Pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Juniper Baker had just graduated from high school and was deep in the throes of a summer romance when Cal and Beth Murphy, a childless couple who lived on a neighboring farm, were brutally murdered. When her younger brother became the prime suspect, June’s world collapsed and everything she loved that summer fell away. She left, promising never to return to tiny Jericho, Iowa.

Until now. Officially, she’s back in town to help an ill friend manage the local library. But really, she’s returned to repair her relationship with her teenage daughter, who’s been raised by Juniper’s mother and stepfather since birth—and to solve the infamous Murphy murders once and for all. She knows the key to both lies in the darkest secret of that long-ago summer night, one that’s haunted her for nearly fifteen years.

As history begins to repeat itself and a dogged local true crime podcaster starts delving into the murders, the race to the truth puts past and present on a dangerous collision course. Juniper lands back in an all-too-familiar place with the answers to everything finally in her sights, but this time it’s her daughter’s life that hangs in the balance. Will revealing what really happened mean a fresh start? Or will the truth destroy everything Juniper loves for a second time? Baart once again brilliantly weaves mystery into family drama in this expertly-crafted novel for fans of Lisa Jewell and Megan Miranda. 

My Review:

My second novel by Baart and danggggggggg, she can tell a story! This one has dual timelines, a lot of characters and a mystery that unravels in the last 20% that is worth the first 80. 

While I did feel that the story lulled in certain areas, I was ever so intrigued in what was going to happen.  Juniper is quite the interesting character and her personal relationships with several of the other characters were jarring at times, emotional at others and a whisper of hope for some. When each link starts interlocking, we see everything come together in quite a surprise.  

Small towns, big secrets - this combination is one I somehow never tire of.  The way Baart tells her stories in such a beautiful way - well, you just can't help but feel you're right in that town, a fly on the wall, chasing Juniper around from past to present.

While I did enjoy this story, I did feel it was a bit slower paced than I typically like and have questions on some things ... HOWEVER, that ending left me fully satisfied so it's fine. It's FINE. haha - I'll definitely continue to pick up everythign Baart writes - and you should too.


Review: My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

My Monticello
by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson

Thanks so much to for this gifted audiobook.

Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publish Date: October 5, 2021
7 hrs 36 min
Genres: Short Stories, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

In a daring and fierce debut work of fiction - the likes of which comes along once in a generation - Virginia's landscapes, emblems, and Thomas Jefferson's historic plantation set the. stage for a cast of unforgettable characters fighting for their right to exist in America.

A young woman descended from Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings driven from her neighborhood by a white militia. A university professor studying racism by conducting a secret social experiment on his own son. A single mother desperate to buy her first home even as the world hurtles toward catastrophe. Each fighting to survive in America.

Tough-minded, vulnerable, and brave, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s precisely imagined debut explores burdened inheritances and extraordinary pursuits of belonging. Set in the near future, the eponymous novella, “My Monticello,” tells of a diverse group of Charlottesville neighbors fleeing violent white supremacists. Led by Da’Naisha, a young Black descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, they seek refuge in Jefferson’s historic plantation home in a desperate attempt to outlive the long-foretold racial and environmental unravelling within the nation.

In “Control Negro," a university professor devotes himself to the study of racism and the development of ACMs (average American Caucasian males) by clinically observing his own son from birth in order to “painstakingly mark the route of this Black child too, one whom I could prove was so strikingly decent and true that America could not find fault in him unless we as a nation had projected it there.” Johnson’s characters all seek out home as a place and an internal state, whether in the form of a Nigerian widower who immigrates to a meager existence in the city of Alexandria, finding himself adrift; a young mixed-race woman who adopts a new tongue and name to escape the landscapes of rural Virginia and her family; or a single mother who seeks salvation through “Buying a House Ahead of the Apocalypse.”

United by these characters’ relentless struggles against reality and fate, 'MY MONTICELLO' is a formidable book that bears witness to this country’s legacies and announces the arrival of a wildly original new voice in American fiction.

My Review:

This review is going to be super short because all you need to know is that YOU NEED TO READ THIS.  The audiobook is outstanding with the various narrators that pull you straight in to each and every story that is told.  Beautifully told prose that tackles the very serious subject of racism -  I could feel the emotions thoroughly. If there's one book you need to add to your TBR, this is definitely it.


Friday, October 29, 2021

Review: Human Tenderloin by Craig Wallwork

Human Tenderloin
by Craig Wallwork

Thanks so much to Underbelly Books for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Underbelly Books
Publish Date: September 15, 2021
Kindle Edition
226 Pages
Genres: Horror, Short Stories

A prematurely ageing girl learns to fly during the end of the world. A husband makes the ultimate sacrifice for his dying wife. Two brothers endure a rainstorm that lasts five years. A father tries to save his daughter from a sleeping epidemic. A man books into a hotel where the guests check in but never check out. A group of fine-dining cannibals worry where their next meal will come from. And a grieving mother goes in search of ghosts in a haunted house.

Human Tenderloin is a collection of horror stories with heart. Some will goose the skin. Others will leave you bloated with terror. But each one will stay with you.

My Review:

As most of y'all probably know, anthologies and short story collections are such a hit or miss for me that for a while I wasn't reading any.  I felt it always landed in the middle area as some stories within the pages I loved and others not so much.  But sometimes you see a cover and title and you just can't say no. And so here we are and I'm so glad.

Horror covers a variety of genres and Wallwork hits a lot of them in this collection. Favorites: Farewell Valencia, Human Tenderloin and Rosemary and Time.  Honorable mentions: Dollhouse and They Were Born Without Faces.  Though if I had to choose an absolute favorite of them, it would definitely be Farewell Valencia. I'm going to be looking at everyone's shoes from now on.

Regardless of whether I loved the story or was just meh about it, there's no taking away from the brilliant way in which Wallwork writes.  It's almost as if I could feel the pages palpitating. The stories within just as beautiful and creepy as the cover that holds them.

Want gruesome and bloody horror? Want the subtle fear and weary dread of what's to come? Paranormal your jam? It's all in here.  There's bound to be a story or seven you're going to love. So get on it, but you may want to keep the lights on.


Thursday, October 28, 2021

Review: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

The Plot
by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Narrated by Kirby Heyborne

Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publish Date: May 11, 2021
10 min 43 min
Genres: Thriller, Psychological Suspense

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written—let alone published—anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that - a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?

My Review:

Slurp slurp... oh excuse me.  This soup is delicious but erm....

Haha - omg y'all.. I LOOOOVED this book so dang much.  Jake is... something. But I get him in a weird way.  Who doesn't want to be successful.  Who, after a taste of success and subsequent downfall, doesn't want it again.. isn't jealous of those around who are making it?  Who then stumbles along something that while might not be the best idea, surely couldn't really hurt anyone? I mean, his asshole student is dead now so it's not reaalllllly stealing. 

AHHHHHHHH - ok, I just loved the way this whole story unfolded.  Screw Evan, GO JAKE. But also Jake was sometimes so damned annoying. I almost welcomed these harassing messages he was getting. I was here for the journey he had to go on to figure out what the hell was actually going on and why.  At a certain point, I was like, "maybe.... this this and that"... and BOOM - my neighbors probably wondered why I was like "I KNEW IT!!" - especially loud since I had my ear plugs in. Oh happy smile. I loved the ending. Like a lot. 

The narrator was fun.  And I think one of my favorite characters was Mike - although a tertiary character, he made an impression and I needed that giggle.  Why haven't I read this author before?? Kicking myself a little for waiting so long on this one. 


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Review: Ski Weekend by Rektok Ross

Ski Weekend
by Rektok Ross

Thanks to SparkPress for this gifted book.

Publisher: SparkPress
Publish Date: October 26, 2021
280 Pages
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller

Six teens, one dog, a ski trip gone wrong . . .

Sam is dreading senior ski weekend and having to watch after her brother and his best friend, Gavin, to make sure they don’t do anything stupid. Again. Gavin may be gorgeous, but he and Sam have never gotten along. Now they’re crammed into an SUV with three other classmates and Gavin’s dog, heading on a road trip that can’t go by fast enough.

Then their SUV crashes into a snowbank, and Sam and her friends find themselves stranded in the mountains with cell phone coverage long gone and temperatures dropping. When the group gets sick of waiting for rescue, they venture outside to find help—only to have a wilderness accident leave Sam’s brother with a smashed leg and, soon, a raging fever. While the hours turn to days, Sam’s brother gets sicker and sicker, and their food and supplies dwindle until there isn’t enough for everyone. As the winter elements begin to claim members of the group one by one, Sam vows to keep her brother alive.

No matter what.

Filled with twists, secrets, and life-changing moments, Ski Weekend is a snow-packed survival thriller featuring a diverse cast of teens that will appeal to fans of One of Us is Lying and I Am Still Alive.

My Review:

This isn't a terrible story and as much as I love YA and YA thrillers, there's just not enough thrill for me.  And when the Asian girl in the story who is studying during this entire epic trapped in a car in the middle of a blizzard thing says she won't eat her friends but isn't above eating the dog... well, that was just too much for me and so I DNF at the halfway mark.