Social Media Icons

Thursday, April 29, 2021

#ATBR2021 Review: Later by Stephen King

by Stephen King

Thanks to Thriller Book Lover for this gifted book. Squeeeeee!

Publisher: Hard Case Crime
Publish Date: March 2, 2021
248 Pages
Genre: Horror

The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine - as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.

Later is Stephen King at his finest, a terrifying and touching story of innocence lost and the trials that test our sense of right and wrong. With echoes of King's classic novel ITLater is a powerful, haunting, unforgettable exploration of what it takes to stand up to evil in all the faces it wears.

My Review:

At 248 glorious pages, this is basically a short story from the horror King. 😏 I'll be the first to tell you how much King has shaped my reading from a very young age but how OMG could he BE any more overly detailed? 🤣 And then here's Later... a wonderfully told tale of Jamie that is NOT overly detailed but exactly what I didn't know I needed. 

I do believe that Jamie Conklin has over taken the role of my favorite kid to see dead people.  That's right.  Move over Danny Torrance and Cole Sear... there's a new kid in town.  I loved this journey from his childhood to when he became a bit older.. more aware... and less innocent.  For a moment, I thought this was going to be extremely light horror... and to an extent it is.  But after the first half, there are some "eep" moments.  Are they scary? Not in the skin crawling way but I weirdly imagined one of the characters as the Jackal from Thirteen Ghosts.  I shouldn't have.. but I did. 🤷 And definitely found myself making a few faces towards the end with a couple reveals.  

I became very endeared with Jamie and his relationship with his Mom.  I found myself getting really angry with one particular character but I'll stop here as I certainly don't want to spoil anything.  I just thoroughly loved this story through and through.  For anyone who didn't want to try a chonker of a story from King or one that I would say is an easier read than some of his past work, this is a good way to go.  Happy reading!

Later. 😉


Jessica's Review:

It’s no secret that I love the Hard Case Crime series, and as a big King fan, it was really exciting to see a new one releasing with HCC. LATER is a quick little crime fiction read with a hint of supernatural elements to it that only King can bring us. Part coming of age, part mystery, and a dash of horror come together seamlessly for a memorable story.

I don’t want to give away anything, especially with it being around only 250 pages. Our narrator and main character, Jamie, is a young boy that can see the dead. This is a gift his mother has told him to keep to himself, the less people that know the better, right? When his mom’s ex-friend, a not-so-clean cop, picks him up to use his power to help her benefit, his life changes forever.

I think that this would be perfect for those that want to start reading Stephen King but don’t want anything too scary. This is more crime fiction than horror, but of course there are some moments when it comes to Jamie’s abilities. For such a short book, King was able to give us such fully formed characters that you could connect with almost instantly. Definitely a fun little read from King that I highly recommend!

4 stars

Review: Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo #WhereWeReadAsianLit #ATBR2021

Last Night at the Telegraph Club
by Malinda Lo

Publisher: Dutton Book for Young Readers
Publish Date: January 19, 2021
404 Pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, LGBT, Romance

Acclaimed author of Ash Malinda Lo returns with her most personal and ambitious novel yet, a gripping story of love and duty set in San Francisco's Chinatown during the Red Scare.

“That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other.” And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: “Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

My Review:

A young adult, queer historical fiction, Asian-American character driven novel? FINALLY! Thank you, Lo, for this beautiful story.  Set in San Francisco's Chinatown, we are introduced to Lily.  As a Chinese American during the Red Scare time, there is real fear of being deported.  On top of that, she's realizing her feelings for other women and is trying desperately to be the "good Chinese girl" that she's supposed to be but also trying to find a way to seek out her actual desires - not just in her sexuality but also in continuing her education and finding her true self along the way in all aspects.

Lo certainly has done her research and it shows throughout the pages.  Lily's experience as an Asian American and daughter of immigrants resonated greatly for me. And even when she finds her space within the Telegraph Club, she's still shunned by other lesbians due to her Chinese ethnic background.  She can't seem to turn around without having something against her and it's an extremely scary time for her and for her family.  

I don't even know how to properly put my thoughts down on this one.  There's no doubt that Lo is an amazing writer.  The racism and homophobia happening in the 1950s is unfortunately still rampant in the present day... especially so with the pandemic and anti-asian hate going around.  It is nice though, to see how a community finds a way to make a safe space, the Telegraph Club.

This is a novel that we need out in the world.  It is extremely character driven, which did at times flow a bit slow for me but that's just a me thing and not taking anything away from this novel.  What I focused on was Lily, her fight within the means she was given and then foraging her own path.  The relationships we see are extremely well written and I really just wanted to reach in and hug them all.


Jessica's Review:

Are you looking for a historical fiction YA book with a queer Asian-American lead character? Well, look no further because Malinda Lo's LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB has everything you desire. A more character driven novel set in San Francisco's Chinatown in the 1950's during the Red Scare. I will start by saying that Lo did an incredible job with her research for this and it shines through in this novel. I think that's what I love about historical fiction, when the author puts in that extra effort, you can be transported straight into this time and place and potentially learn about events or people in history.

Lily is our lead character and she's just a Seventeen-year-old girl trying to find her place in world, but it's not as simple as you might think. When she meets Kathleen her whole world changes when they go to the Telegraph Club together. Despite finding some comfort here, the rest of lesbian community at the Telegraph Club seems to turn her away due to her Chinese ethnicity. 

Seeing Lily grow and find her place in this book was the best. A truly character driven novel and the author puts you right in her mind. A teenage girl trying to navigate pleasing her family and doing what is expected, taking control of her sexuality and pursuing her relationship with Kathleen, and on top of all of that she needs to deal with the paranoia of the Red Scare, racism, and homophobia. While the Red Scare has come and gone, unfortunately, the racism and homophobia are still very much present in our society. The only real issue I had was that the pacing felt off in a couple spots but I think it was more so me and getting out of a reading funk! Highly recommend and I definitely need more from this author. 

4 stars

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Review: Untamed Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia #ATBR2021 #BuddyReadsToDieFor

Untamed Shore
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Publisher: Agora Books
Publish Date: February 11, 2020
Kindle Edition
339 Pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Noir, Suspense

Baja California, 1979. Viridiana spends her days watching the dead sharks piled beside the seashore, as the fishermen pull their nets. There is nothing else to do, nothing else to watch, under the harsh sun. She’s bored. Terribly bored. Yet her head is filled with dreams of Hollywood films, of romance, of a future beyond the drab town where her only option is to marry and have children.

Three wealthy American tourists arrive for the summer, and Viridiana is magnetized. She immediately becomes entwined in the glamorous foreigners’ lives. They offer excitement, and perhaps an escape from the promise of a humdrum future.

When one of them dies, Viridiana lies to protect her friends. Soon enough, someone’s asking questions, and Viridiana has some of her own about the identity of her new acquaintances. Sharks may be dangerous, but there are worse predators nearby, ready to devour a naïve young woman who is quickly being tangled in a web of deceit.

My Review:

Historical fiction? Domestic noir suspense? Amazing book covers? Sign me up! This is my second by this author and I'm surprised I haven't seen it everywhere to be honest.  My love for historical fiction has grown and the noir genre can be hit or miss for me and here's why:  Typically noir books are extremely atmospheric and (in the few I've read in this genre) seem to be more character than plot driven and can be a little bit slower for my normal taste.  I got all of this from Untamed Shore.  

I did think this was a bit of a slow start.  We learn of these characters that all seem to live in shades of gray morality and centered with our protagonist, Viridiana (I love this name and kept saying it outloud every time I ran across it on the page 🤣).  She is a talented eighteen year old who gets swept away by tourists who she thinks may be able to point her in a direction for something bigger and better in her life (she certainly doesn't want to do her mother's wish of getting married and settling down like a good girl should 😒). Someone dies and then *voila*.. my oh my how things change and this is where things start to get messy... and I like messy!

These characters aren't the best in making great decisions but watching Viridiana change in ways that were unexpected, you really couldn't help but cheer her on... at least I couldn't! The pacing of this story starts to pick up towards the last third but I was still holding judgment.  I was *just* intrigued enough to want to continue but needed something more.  Maybe this was too character driven for me?  Maybe I wanted a bit more action?  Either way, I was addicted to the vivid scenery.  And then the ending.  Sigh. I LOVE.  And it's a testament to Viridiana and her journey from page to page. Get your noir on, V!

If you love atmospheric, very character driven reads within the noir genre, absolutely pick this up.


Jessica's Review:

Another unique and mesmerizing story from Silvia Moreno-Garcia in UNTAMED SHORE. I'm so happy this was our #BuddyReadsToDieFor selection because it had originally flown under my radar. More domestic suspense, some historical fiction, and a dash of a coming-of-age story is what you'll find inside the pages of this book. While this started out a little on the slower side the ending completely made up for it - oh man was that an ending! 

In the small town of Desengaño, we meet a young woman named Viridiana who is desperate to get out of this little tourist area. During the tourist season she can make some money as a translator and guide but otherwise the days go by in monotony. Until one day she finds out that three American tourists have requested a translator and assistant. Why not take the job? She could make some good money and possibly learn a few things from them. Things really start to get interesting when someone turns up dead.

This book is definitely more character driven and I think that's why the pacing feels a little slower at the beginning. However, we really get into Viridiana's mind and it's so fun watching her grow as the story continues. What I loved about MEXICAN GOTHIC is how mesmerizing and captivating Moreno-Garcia's writing is and how she just creates an incredible atmosphere with memorable characters. I highly recommend pushing through the slower beginning because once it does pick up you won't want to stop reading. I can't wait to read more from this author ASAP.

4 stars

Friday, April 23, 2021

Review: Shiver by Allie Reynolds

by Allie Reynolds 

Thanks to Thriller Book Lover for this review copy.

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publish Date: January 19, 2021
400 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Locked-Room Thriller

In this propulsive locked-room thriller debut, a reunion weekend in the French Alps turns deadly when five friends discover that someone has deliberately stranded them at their remote mountaintop resort during a snowstorm.

When Milla accepts an off-season invitation to Le Rocher, a cozy ski resort in the French Alps, she's expecting an intimate weekend of catching up with four old friends. It might have been a decade since she saw them last, but she's never forgotten the bond they forged on this very mountain during a winter spent fiercely training for an elite snowboarding competition.

Yet no sooner do Milla and the others arrive for the reunion than they realize something is horribly wrong. The resort is deserted. The cable cars that delivered them to the mountaintop have stopped working. Their cell phones--missing. And inside the hotel, detailed instructions await them: an icebreaker game, designed to draw out their secrets. A game meant to remind them of Saskia, the enigmatic sixth member of their group, who vanished the morning of the competition years before and has long been presumed dead.

Stranded in the resort, Milla's not sure what's worse: the increasingly sinister things happening around her or the looming snowstorm that's making escape even more impossible. All she knows is that there's no one on the mountain she can trust. Because someone has gathered them there to find out the truth about Saskia...someone who will stop at nothing to get answers. And if Milla's not careful, she could be the next to disappear...

My Review:

Debut novel, my ass! What a fantastic and fun locked-room thriller from Reynolds.  This story of snowboard competitors, their various entanglements and the vivid stench of competition leaps off these pages.  I felt like I was freezing with them on top of the mountain.  I MISS snowboarding! Though I could barely carve properly and I already know I would never be cut out to be their kind of athlete.  Holy smokes, y'all.... 

I legit thought after a few chapters that I knew exactly who the culprit was and how it went down and was so smug and proud of myself.  But nope, I was entirely wrong.  Absolutely 10000% WRONG.  First, Saskia is the most selfish, undermining, relentless character.  The things she does to 'succeed' are disgusting and yet it seems she's a person you love to hate and hate to love.  But then Milla really isn't much better and this group of "friends" are intertwined in so many ways it made my head spin.  AND I LOVED EVERY MINUTE.

Locked-room thrillers are a hit or miss for me and when they work, they really work!  Shiver is told in two time lines - present day and then a decade ago when they were all competing and training together.  Phew. I really loved both and the suspense really ramps up chapter by chapter.  The ending may have been just a teeny bit too much but honestly, it was exactly what I needed at this moment.  Crazy upon crazy and I live for crazy.  I can suspend all kinds of reality for this one. 


Monday, April 19, 2021

Review: Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer

Hummingbird Salamander
by Jeff VanderMeer
Narrated by Lisa Flanagan

Thanks to and Blackstone Publishing for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publish Date: April 6, 2021
11 hrs 35 min
Genre: Science Fiction

From the author of Annihilation, a brilliant speculative thriller of dark conspiracy, endangered species, and the possible end of all things

Security consultant "Jane Smith" receives an envelope with a key to a storage unit that holds a taxidermied hummingbird and clues leading her to a taxidermied salamander. Silvina, the dead woman who left the note, is a reputed ecoterrorist and the daughter of an Argentine industrialist. By taking the hummingbird from the storage unit, Jane sets in motion a series of events that quickly spin beyond her control.

Soon, Jane and her family are in danger, with few allies to help her make sense of the true scope of the peril. Is the only way to safety to follow in Silvina's footsteps? Is it too late to stop? As she desperately seeks answers about why Silvina contacted her, time is running out--for her and possibly for the world.

Hummingbird Salamander is Jeff VanderMeer at his brilliant, cinematic best, wrapping profound questions about climate change, identity, and the world we live in into a tightly plotted thriller full of unexpected twists and elaborate conspiracy. 

My Review:

I'm going to keep this review short.  I'm utterly fascinated with this author's mind.  Annihiliation hurt my brain in both book and movie form.  I still don't know what happened in that book/movie and I can't get that time back, ever. 🤣  BUT, I know how brilliant this author is so I had to try this one - plus look at that cover! (Shiny thing).  

Again, I leave with my brain hurting and feeling dumb.  I'm so confused again as I walk away from this story as well.  Jane gets a weird cryptic message ith a taxidermied hummingbird with clues leading to a taxidermied salamander.  WHAT.  There's more to the story of course but the plot moves with Jane and I cannot for the life of me see where she comes up with some of her logic and conclusions.  I did enjoy the lesson I think I was supposed to take away in re to our ecosystem and our future on this planet.  Maybe I'm just not smart enough for this author's work. 🤷

I think I realize that I'm just not the right audience for this author's work and that's ok.  While it would be nice if we liked every book and every author we try, that just isn't realistic. 


Review: The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen

The Venice Sketchbook
by Rhys Bowen

Thank you Lake Union Publishing and TLC Book Tours for this copy.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: April 13, 2021
412 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Love and secrets collide in Venice during WWII in an enthralling novel of brief encounters and lasting romance by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and Above the Bay of Angels.

Caroline Grant is struggling to accept the end of her marriage when she receives an unexpected bequest. Her beloved great-aunt Lettie leaves her a sketchbook, three keys, and a final whisper…Venice. Caroline’s quest: to scatter Juliet “Lettie” Browning’s ashes in the city she loved and to unlock the mysteries stored away for more than sixty years.

It’s 1938 when art teacher Juliet Browning arrives in romantic Venice. For her students, it’s a wealth of history, art, and beauty. For Juliet, it’s poignant memories and a chance to reconnect with Leonardo Da Rossi, the man she loves whose future is already determined by his noble family. However star-crossed, nothing can come between them. Until the threat of war closes in on Venice and they’re forced to fight, survive, and protect a secret that will bind them forever.

Key by key, Lettie’s life of impossible love, loss, and courage unfolds. It’s one that Caroline can now make right again as her own journey of self-discovery begins.

My Review:

I am thankful that Bookstagram has pointed me in the direction of finding love for historical fiction as this was a genre I typically stayed away from.  Even after, I stayed away from WWII hisfic because it's not a time period I'm particularly interested in... but in my quest to continue trying new things, I wanted to give this one a go for a couple of reasons: 1. I've only heard the best things about Bowen's books and 2. I absolutely LOVE Venice and would love to travel back again now that I'm older and can appreicate it more. So off to Venice I go via the years 1928 and 2001,

Unfortunately I think WWII hisfic just isn't for me.  As with most dual timelines, I prefer one over the other and I was definitely more invested in Juliet's story over Caroline's.  It just felt more compelling.  Bowen does an amazing job in making you feel like you are in Venice.  It was like being shown around by a tour guide with infinite facts of the city... and vast descriptions of the food (I'd give my left leg for a proper Venice feast).

The story itself is fine.  I think maybe some of the descriptives took over the story telling and while I didn't mind them, there's a reason why history was my least favorite subject in school.  Definitely tag yourself in if you like a good romance story during this time period.  I'm happy that I gave this a go.  The author is clearly extremely talented.  I think I'm just the wrong reader for this.


Sunday, April 18, 2021

#ATBR2021 Review: Malice by Heather Walter

by Heather Walter

Thanks so much to Del Rey for these amazing copies!

Publisher: Del Rey
Publish Date: April 13, 2021
496 Pages
Malice Duology #1
Genres: Retelling, Young Adult, LGBTQIA+

A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” true love is more than a simple fairy tale.

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.

You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.

Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again.

Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—

I am the villain.

My Review:

Well ok then!  No princes saving the girl... instead we have an 'evil' Alyce who is completely misunderstood due to her powerful (albeit dark) powers.  This dark retelling of Sleeping Beauty is simply fantastic.  While I'm not usually much of a retellings kinda gal, I do enjoy them when they are on the darker side.  Now, don't mistake that to mean we get this super dark, crazy story.  That is not the case.  Instead we get Alyce, while outcasted as a 'monster', is simply a girl misunderstood who loves hexes and curses (Hi Alyce,  an we be best friends?!)  You guessed it, the 'good' people in this story are entitled, materialistic and utterly annoying.  Did anyone else get inklings of other fairy tale elements included?  I felt a little bit of Cinderella in here, maybe? 😉  Who cares, right? Because in any case, it's all a bit twisted from what we normally know of fairy tales and I'm here for it.

Thank you, Walter, for making the love story feel realistic and not all instalove. PHEW.  While we always expect the romantic entanglements that come with these kinds of tales, what's brilliant here is that it's not fully focused on that.  This story really is more on Alyce and her finding comfortability in who she is and the power she contains.  At the end of the day, it was simply a fun story to read.  Some tiny plot holes were noticed... however, I'm thinking it'll all come together in the next book of this duology.  Best believe I'll be reading that one too!


Jessica's Review:

It’s no secret that I love retellings, plus the darker and more twisted the better. I love Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent, so when I saw this included Princess Aurora and a dark sorceress I knew I needed to pick it up. It’s always refreshing when retellings blur the stark lines between good and evil that their well-known counterparts create.

Alyce is the only Dark Grace in Briar and the last to have Vila blood. The Graces are half-fae women born with golden blood that can be added to elixirs and potions to enhance beauty and other desires. Alyce has the green blood of the Vila, a race that was thought to have been completely eradicated, and she creates hexes and curses for her customers. Cruelly nicknamed Malyce by one of the Graces, she seems to try and embrace the dark character they have made her out to be.

Then Alyce meets Princess Aurora. There is just one more year until Aurora’s curse will come to pass – bestowed upon her by the same dark magic that courses through Alyce’s veins. After a relationship begins to form between them, she begins to wonder if there is anything she can do with her gifts to end the curse. Who needs a Prince when she has an evil sorceress?

I was captivated almost immediately. I love being in Alyce’s head and she is such a complex character. You really feel what she’s experiencing when it comes to her isolation from the other Graces, being labeled a monster and villain, and then the hope that comes with her budding romance. While there were a couple things here and there that didn’t completely work for me, they weren’t enough to take away from the reading experience. Give me all the villain retellings!

5 stars

Friday, April 16, 2021

Review: Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman

Whisper Down the Lane
by Clay McLeod Chapman

Thanks so much to Quirk Books for this amazing copy.

Publisher: Quirk Books
Publish Date: April 6, 2021
304 Pages
Genre: Horror

Inspired by the McMartin preschool trials and the Satanic Panic of the ‘80s, the critically acclaimed author of The Remaking delivers another pulse pounding, true-crime-based horror novel.

Richard doesn’t have a past. For him, there is only the present: a new marriage to Tamara, a first chance at fatherhood to her son Elijah, and a quiet but pleasant life as an art teacher at Elijah’s elementary school in Danvers, Virginia. Then the body of a rabbit, ritualistically murdered, appears on the school grounds with a birthday card for Richard tucked beneath it. Richard doesn’t have a birthday—but Sean does . . .

Sean is a five-year-old boy who has just moved to Greenfield, Virginia, with his mother. Like most mothers of the 1980s, she’s worried about bills, childcare, putting food on the table . . . and an encroaching threat to American life that can take the face of anyone: a politician, a friendly neighbor, or even a teacher. When Sean’s school sends a letter to the parents revealing that Sean’s favorite teacher is under investigation, a white lie from Sean lights a fire that engulfs the entire nation—and Sean and his mother are left holding the match.

Now, thirty years later, someone is here to remind Richard that they remember what Sean did. And though Sean doesn’t exist anymore, someone needs to pay the price for his lies.

My Review:

Well well well... hello Satanic Panic and the devastating repercussions that came from that crazy time in the '80's.  I was just a kid then but still full of horror loving so even as a tiny human I was fascinated and remember reading up on it later on as an adult.  If y'all aren't familiar, go google it... while I don't think it's a necessity to read this book based on these true events, I do think it'll give you a better appreciation for the story within.

Chapman introduces us to Sean and Richard - both the same person but Sean is a child back in the 80's and Richard is Sean, all grown up with repressed memories that start to surface as he takes on his new family consisting of his wife and soon to be adopted son.  I was definitely more riveted to Sean's part of the story because WOAH. To be quite honest, this part of the story kept me riveted to the pages. (I did find myself going glazy eyed over some of Richard's parts... oops).  However, both are obviously very necessary.  We see how the past comes to disrupt the present and Chapman does keep us on the edge of our seats... because both the child and the man he becomes aren't easy characters to get behind.  But how can you blame a kid ... kids are easily coerced and when reading the his interviews with Kinderman made me so damn angry.  I HATE adults who question kids in a way that persuades them to answer in a particular way. Don't even get me started here....

I think anyone expecting this to be full on gory, graphic horror will be disappointed - it is not that, though there are a couple of animal brutality scenes that we do get.  This is more a psychological suspense as we see how Richard starts falling a part.  I really don't know how I feel about the ending though.  I kinda get it because well.... it's a reflection of what actually happened during those times but I still also felt a bit wanting.


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Review: Little Pieces of Me by Alison Hammer

Little Pieces of Me
by Alison Hammer

Thank you GetRedPR for this amazing copy.

Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: April 13, 2021
400 Pages
Genre: Contemporary

When Paige Meyer gets an email from a DNA testing website announcing that her father is a man she never met, she is convinced there must be a mistake. But as she digs deeper into her mother's past and her own feelings of being the odd child out growing up, Paige begins to question everything she thought she knew. Could this be why Paige never felt like she fit in her family, and why her mother always seemed to keep her at an arm's length? And what does it mean for Paige's memories of her father, a man she idolized and whose death she is still grieving? Back in 1975, Betsy Kaplan, Paige's mom, is a straightlaced sophomore at the University of Kansas. When her sweet but boring boyfriend disappoints her, Betsy decides she wants more out of life, and is tired of playing it safe. Enter Andy Abrams, the golden boy on campus with a potentially devastating secret. After their night together has unexpected consequences, Betsy is determined to bury the truth and rebuild a stable life for her unborn child, whatever the cost.

When Paige can't get answers from her mother, she goes looking for the only other person who was there that night. The more she learns about what happened, the more she sees her unflappable, distant mother as a real person faced with an impossible choice. But will it be enough to mend their broken relationship?

My Review:

My heart has been taking a beating this year with my reads (happily so, but uff).  Little Pieces of Me is a roller coaster of emotions.  As a 40-something childless woman, I understand her behavior and relationship with her mother.  I am also SUPER close to my Dad so I couldn't imagine losing him and then finding out a couple of years later that he's not tied to me by blood. Cue tears! 😭

I'm a sucker for a dual timeline and various POVs.  Not only do we get to see from Paige's view but also from her mother and the person she never knew was her biological father.  I think something this books does that I really enjoy is how it reminds us that while we are obviously living in our own little worlds and dealing with our own issues - sometimes selfishly so as is human nature - is that those who raised us or those older than us that we put into these little boxes... are actually very complex people.  They were their own individuals before they became your parents and if you stop to really listen and learn, you'll find that they just tried their damndest to do the best that they could.

What can I say? This is an amazing story.  There were a couple of times it felt a bit slow but other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed it and quite frankly, it really makes me miss my parents.  Definitely will read more from Hammer.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

#ATBR2021 Review: Near The Bone by Christina Henry

Near The Bone
by Christina Henry

Thanks to Berkley for this gifted review copy.

Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: April 13, 2021
336 Pages
Genre: Horror

A woman trapped on a mountain attempts to survive more than one kind of monster, in a dread-inducing horror novel from the national bestselling author Christina Henry.

Mattie can't remember a time before she and William lived alone on a mountain together. She must never make him upset. But when Mattie discovers the mutilated body of a fox in the woods, she realizes that they're not alone after all.

There's something in the woods that wasn't there before, something that makes strange cries in the night, something with sharp teeth and claws.

When three strangers appear on the mountaintop looking for the creature in the woods, Mattie knows their presence will anger William. Terrible things happen when William is angry.

My Review:

I absolutely love Christina Henry.  This is my fourth book, and new favorite, by her.  I started this last night and finished this morning and I'm glad work took some of my attention after I was done so that I could sit with this for a bit.  

As with all books I intend to read, I steer clear from reading any reviews so that I'm not influenced in any way with how I may feel.  I can imagine that some people wanted more monster from this read and at first, I did too... but then I realize that there is PLENTY of monster throughout this read.  But let me go back a little bit.

Mattie is young, isolated and living in a constant state of fear.  Not from some new monster that seems to have come to her part of the mountain.  But from her asshole of a husband who repeatedly beats her and has a desperate need to "plant his seed" (uff, I hate this terminology) and get some sons, as God supposedly demands of him.  But this new creature that shows up, while absolutely terrifying and unlike anything they would ever encounter, could also be her salvation because now others have come and maybe... just maybe... she'll be saved.

So look, I was hooked from the get go.  There's something about this type of story that just sits on my heart.  I would've loved some more creature feature moments, but ultimately, I found myself ridiing right along with Mattie - suffering through her memories, hair prickled at the thought of either monster, hope for the potential escape.  Even at the end when I noticed the pages were thinning and the story was about to close, I wanted MORE.  But when I truly think of this, this isn't so much about these monsters, but about Mattie and her character.  And that final scene when she looked back and saw those eyes.  Well, it got me.  And quite frankly, I was rooting for more than just her.  Well done, Henry.  

Yeah, somehow this got to me emotionally and I would recommend not going into this expecting this blood and gore creature horror novel... and instead let the suspense and foreboding get to you while putting yourself straight into Mattie's thick longjohns and petticoats.  But don't get me wrong, there's still plenty of bloody goodness to suit you too.


Jessica's Review:

I have loved Christina Henry’s books ever since I picked up LOST BOY and she hasn’t disappointed me yet! The newest one, NEAR THE BONE, is a suspenseful and atmospheric read that has some great creature horror in it as well.

This book reminds us that not all monsters are creatures hiding in the woods, but the people around us. Mattie is a young woman living in a cabin on a mountain with her abusive and controlling husband. William is all the worst things you can imagine and this is the only life Mattie has ever known. However, when a new evil is found in the woods she has to wonder which monster is worse.

This new creature attracts strangers in search of it and Mattie fears what William could do to the intruders. With the appearance of these outsiders Mattie has the smallest glimmer of hope that she could find a way to escape her abusive husband. You just immediately feel for Mattie and the horrible situation she’s in and just have a seething hate for William and what he claims God is telling him to do.

If you’re hoping for only a creature horror read then you may be a tad disappointed, however this will have you on the edge of your seat. I won’t lie, I kept an eye on the treeline when I was letting the dogs out at night while reading this 😂 the atmosphere, the tension, the characters, the monsters, I loved it all! Christina Henry remains an auto-buy author for me!

5 stars

Monday, April 12, 2021

Review: Howls From Hell

Howls From Hell

by M. David Clarkson, Amanda Nevada DeMel, S.E. Denton, Justin Faull, Quinn Fern, Solomon Forse, Shane Hawk, B.O.B. Jenkin, Thea Maeve, P.L. McMillan, Christopher O'Halloran, Joe Radkins, Lindsey Ragsdale, Joseph Andre Thomas, Alex Wolfgang and J.W. Donley

A huge thank you to HOWL Society Press and Night Worms for this gifted book.

Publisher: HOWL Society Press
Publish Date: May 18, 2021
304 Pages
Genres: Horror, Short Stories

Spacefaring researchers disturb an ancient horror. An enchanted object curses a grieving widow. A haunted reel torments a film student. A murder trial hinges on a chilling testimony.

In Howls From Hell, sixteen emerging horror writers pave the way for the future of the genre. Fans of dark and macabre fiction will savor this exhibition of all-original tales born from one of the fastest-growing horror communities in the world: HOWL Society.

With a foreword by Grady Hendrix, this anthology unveils the horror writers of tomorrow with spine-tingling stories from P.L. McMillan, J.W. Donley, Shane Hawk, Christopher O'Halloran, Alex Wolfgang, Amanda Nevada DeMel, Lindsey Ragsdale, Solomon Forse, Justin Faull, M. David Clarkson, B.O.B. Jenkin, S.E. Denton, Thea Maeve, Joseph Andre Thomas, Joe Radkins, and Quinn Fern.

My Review:

In my quest to continue to try new things, I decided to give short story collections/anthologies another go and what better way to go than with a collection titled HOWLS FROM HELL.  I typically stay away from these collections as it always ends the same - some I love, some I don't and so collectively, I end up almost always rating them down the middle.  While these can be a great sampling of new authors to consider, I am just that person who likes to read a full novel over the short story to determine that.  But that's just MY preference. 

Over the weekend, I opened this up and the first story just caught my attention.  Short it was and absolutely devious - I was just instantly transported back into my horror loving tingles and then kept runing page after page.  I'd devour 3 or 4 stories, then go about my business and then come back. I'd really like some more Casual Encounters 😉.  The stand outs for me were Junco Creek, It Gets In Your Eyes and Red And The Beast.  I also liked Possess and Serve but it also gave me the willies because having an officer take over a person's body to deescalate a situation sounds like about the last thing I'd ever want a cop to do.  **SHIVER**  I'll also be checking any and all bills I get out of an ATM due to A Fistful of Murder.

This collection was a lot of fun.  Maybe because it's been a while since I've truly immersed myself in a collection.  Maybe because these authors are so talented.  Maybe because this gloomy weather was just oh so suitable for these reads.  In any manner, I did find that like with all collections, I loved some, liked some and meh about some.  But instead of doing my usual down the middle rating, I'm giving it an extra star because YES.  If you are a fan of horror collections, grab a copy and run.  Try not to get a paper cut though - who knows what will happen if any blood gets on these page. 😈


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Review: Rattlesnake Road by Amanda McKinney

Rattlesnake Road
by Amanda McKinney

Huge thank you to Smith Publicity for getting me to try a new(ish) genre!

Publish Date: May 4, 2021
423 Pages
Genre: Romance, Suspense

Everyone hits rock bottom, only the brave escape.

Welcome to 1314 Rattlesnake Road.

A quaint two-bedroom log cabin nestled deep in the woods of the small, southern town of Berry Springs—the perfect hideaway to escape your past.

Tucked inside thick, mahogany walls lay mysterious letters, forgotten and untouched for decades. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame breathtaking views of jagged cliffs, deep valleys, and endless lies. Mature oak trees, tall enough to touch the clouds, carry the whispers of the haunted, of stories untold

Inside sits Grey Dalton, emotionally battered and bruised, her only wish to pick up the broken pieces of her life. But outside, await two men, one a tattooed cowboy, the other a dashing businessman.

One will steal her heart, the other, her soul.

Rattlesnake Road is a standalone mystery romance about love, loss, hitting rock bottom, and clawing your way to the other side.

Your escape awaits…

My Review:

When I was first approached with this book for review, I was hesitant... based on the cover alone, it's not the type of book I usually read.  But I did promise myself I'd try some new things and this small-town mystery romance was exactly what I expected.. but also a lot more.

The first chapter really hit home for me as, unfortunately, there was a lot I could relate to with what Grey was going through.  Then that scene happened where she did what a lot of us would love to do - and that is to speak our very raw mind - now, maybe in not quite that public of a setting and with that much alcohol running through the veins but hey, I thoroughly enjoyed that scene to the fullest!

I think the issue I have with some romance heavy books are the women needing to be saved by the men storyline that drives me batty.. but I think it's not necessarily in being saved but finding that person - and most people would love to have that person who fully accepts them and their flaws and adds to their lives rather than completing them.  Does that make any sense? Hahaha - Grey has been through a lot and if I could move to a small town after leaving my cheating husband just to have two gorgeous (and completely different from each other) men coming after me while finding a friend in Etta and my new feral cat named Moonshine... well, sign me up!  (Also, can we just talk about Etta and how she's my favorite character!)

Yes, this was pretty predictable but I had a damn good time following Grey.  We all go through our ups and downs and the downs can be pretty vicious.. it's all in how we come out the other side, isn't it? I'm honestly surprised that I enjoyed this so much - McKinney sure knows how to write and I'd be happy to read her again.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Review: One Two Three by Laurie Frankel

One Two Three
by Laurie Frankel
Narrated by Emma Galvin, Jesse Vilinsky, Rebecca Soler

Thanks to & Macmillan Audio for this advanced gifted copy.

Publsiher: Macmillan Audio
Publish Date: June 8, 2021 (first published April 27, 2021)
14 hrs 59 min
Genre: Contemporary

How do you let go of the past when the past won't let go of you?

Everyone knows everyone in the tiny town of Bourne, but the Mitchell triplets are especially beloved. Mirabel is the smartest person anyone knows, and no one doubts it just because she can’t speak. Monday is the town’s purveyor of books now that the library’s closed—tell her the book you think you want, and she’ll pull the one you actually do from the microwave or her underwear drawer. Mab’s job is hardest of all: get good grades, get into college, get out of Bourne.

For a few weeks seventeen years ago, Bourne was national news when its water turned green and was declared unfit for use, but it was too late for its residents, and the girls have come of age watching their mother’s endless fight for justice. But just when it seems life might go on the same forever, the first moving truck anyone’s seen in years pulls up and unloads new residents and old secrets. Soon, the Mitchell sisters are uncovering mysteries buried longer than they’ve been alive and taking on a system stacked against them. And in a town where nothing ever changes, suddenly everything does.

My Review:

Meet the Bourne sisters - Mab (One), Monday (Two) and Mirabel (Three) and their mom, Nora.  Frankel keeps each chapter alternating from One, Two and Three respectively and it's nice to be inside each of these teenager's heads as they all have a very unique perspective.   Bourne has suffered under a chemical plant that has poisoned their water supply and Nora has relentlessly been trying to put together a class action law suit... because not only were her daughters affected, but the whole town has... look around and you can pick up on all the clues.

This story touches on a variety of very important issues.  While we are getting the views of the triplets, we are also intertwined with the town history, corporations contaminating a small town, birth defects, illness, legal battles, determination... a town torn between needing the factory and dying from it.  Luckily, there was some bits of levity thrown in to help alleviate such a glum (albeit important) storyline. 

I wonder if I may have enjoyed this better in print over audio.  While I do believe the narrators (there are 3) did an amazing job... if the chapters weren't headed to let us know who was speaking, it may have gotten a bit confusing as to which teenager we are listening to.  Which was really distinct at times and totally lost on me in other moments.  I also think that maybe this was a bit long.  It seemed a bit repetitive in nature.  I also feel like the *romance* part was kind of glossed over when it should've been a more important part considering.... but I'll leave that there.

You certainly won't ever forget these girls - they have such amazing personalities and their disabilities are really just a norm throughout this town and their individual genius and perseverence while still battling their hormones is pretty well done.  I did feel a little let down towards the end.. only in the fact that for so many chapters we get engaged and then it all kind of neatly sums up in a very short manner... though I was still happy with the results.  Mab, Monday and Mirabel will be staying with me for a very long time.... Monday may be my favorite. Shhhh.. don't tell the others.


Review: The Secret Talker by Geling Yan

The Secret Talker
by Geling Yan

Thanks to HarperVia and NetGalley for this copy.

Publisher: HarperVia
Publish Date: May 4, 2021
160 Pages
Genre: Contemporary

Beautiful, diligent, and passive, Hongmei is the perfect wife to Glen, an intelligent and caring college professor. But her quiet life in Northern California fractures when a mysterious person begins e-mailing her, pulling her into an enthralling and frightening game of cat-and-mouse. Who is stalking her? And how does this mysterious stranger know her deepest, darkest secrets?

As Hongmei is forced to confront her own dark past in China, the façade of her idyllic life is laid bare. Increasingly desperate and self-destructive, her one hope is to turn the tables on her tormentor. Investigating the stalker’s own secret history may irrevocably tear her marriage and her world apart—a risk she must take to regain control of her life.

My Review:

I absolutely love the premise of this story.  Hongmei is bored and unhappy in her marriage to Glen, her American husband who provides for her but somehow she feels never SEES her.  Then a mysterious e-mail comes her way and now she gets involved and eventually obsessed about the person obsessing about her.  Got that?

I really wanted to like this story... I really did.  I even put it down at 66% through and while I usually never pick up books I put down, I realized this was a novella and I may as well finish ... plus my interest was piqued to see where Hongmei's journey would take her.  Here are some issues I had: this is marketed as a thriller, but the thriller aspect is hard to really find here.  Sure we have an anonymous person stalking Hongmei but as she continues to engage this person and basically turn the tables, the lack of fear and only sleightened increase of paranoia does not lend to that thriller atmosphere.  However, I do find that the thriller aspect in most translated books tend to be more subtle and not in your face, which can lend a very tense atmosphere... but alas, that's not found here either.  I also felt like this story was a bit incomplete... the entirety of setting up to the final *explanation* felt lacking.

What I did like is that in learning more and more of Hongmei as she opens up to her "admirer", we get a pretty compelling character.  While I didn't agree with some of her actions, I could understand needing that excitement in her life.  The cultural aspect of American and Chinese clashing a bit playing into her dissatisfaction is relatable and in learning of her past experiences lends to why she is acting the way she is now.  

Overall I feel like this could've been fleshed out a bit more.  Don't go into this expecting the standard thrilling thrills you'd expect from a thriller...  you won't find it.  But you will find an intricate story of Hongmei, who is worth getting to know.