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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Review: Hairpin Bridge by Taylor Adams #ATBR2021 #BuddyReadsToDieFor

Hairpin Bridge
by Taylor Adams

Huge thanks to William Morrow for these review copies and setting up the IG Live with Taylor Adams - we had SUCH a blast speaking with him!


Publisher: William Morrow 
Publish Date: June 15, 2021
Hardcover
306 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Suspense, Mystery

Three months ago, Lena Nguyen’s estranged twin sister, Cambry, drove to a remote bridge sixty miles outside of Missoula, Montana, and jumped two hundred feet to her death. At least, that is the official police version.

But Lena isn’t buying it.

Now she’s come to that very bridge, driving her dead twin’s car and armed with a cassette recorder, determined to find out what really happened by interviewing the highway patrolman who allegedly discovered her sister’s body.

Corporal Raymond Raycevic has agreed to meet Lena at the scene. He is sympathetic, forthright, and professional. But his story doesn’t seem to add up. For one thing, he stopped Cambry for speeding a full hour before she supposedly leapt to her death. Then there are the sixteen attempted 911 calls from her cell phone, made in what was unfortunately a dead zone.

But perhaps most troubling of all, the state trooper is referred to by name in Cambry’s final enigmatic text to her sister: Please Forgive Me. I couldn’t live with it. Hopefully you can, Officer Raycevic.

Lena will do anything to uncover the truth. But as her twin’s final hours come into focus, Lena’s search turns into a harrowing, tooth-and-nail fight for her own survival—one that will test everything she thought she knew about her sister and herself...

My Review:


Ok Taylor, you got me.  I'm hooked.  I am one of the very few people who haven't read NO EXIT yet and I have no excuse.  Clearly I have it .. but like with a lot of readers, you buy a book, you add it to your shelf and feel the longing gaze from it from your shelves for the next few months (or years)... it's a struggle.  HOWEVER, I DID read HAIRPIN BRIDGE and was fully engaged within the first few chapters.

Now, I did think there were a LOT of coinky-dinks happening throughout the read and felt a bit of a lull in the middle until we get to the part where shit starts to go down and then my focus was fully back into the storyline.  There was a part of me that wished Cambry's chapters were directly from Cambry in flashbacks rather than as Lena writing Cambry's story as a book. BUT, then the author explained that once people die .. that's it.  We don't get a chance to actually speak to them again and we can only put together the pieces the best that we can and as such, Cambry doesn't get that voice.  Legit appreciate this view on it!

You'll definitely need to suspend some reality on this maniacal bridge and at some of the reveals that we get towards the end.  Yes, it's madness at its finest.  Yes it takes place stricly through the hours of one action packed night.  Grab that popcorn, sit your ass and put on your seatbelts.  

★★★★

Jessica's Review:


I read, and loved, NO EXIT by Taylor Adams, so the bar was set kind of high for HAIRPIN BRIDGE. There were zero disappointments here and I already can't wait for his next book. There's just something about thrillers that take place in a single location and a single day or short amount of time. I think that the inclusion of the other formats to tell the story really added another layer to it. 

Lena receives a message from her twin sister Cambry: "Please Forgive Me. I couldn’t live with it. Hopefully you can, Officer Raycevic." When Cambry’s body is found from an apparent suicide, Lena isn't buying it. She knows there must be something else that happened and she is determined to figure it out by going to the man mentioned in her message, Officer Raycevic. 

The last 100 pages of this book were insane. Everything culminates in one hell of a climax and I couldn't put it down. I liked the author's approach to the chapters of Cambry, despite them not being from her direct POV and being told through Lena, they still filled in a lot for the story and helped us understand her better. What led her to Hairpin Bridge? What really happened that night? I highly recommend adding this to your TBR if you want something quick and action packed!

4 stars



Review: What If You & Me by Roni Loren

What If You & Me
by Roni Loren

Thanks so much to Libro.fm and Dreamscape Media, LLC for this #giftedaudiobook.

Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC
Publish Date: July 12, 2021
Audiobook
9 hrs 16 min
Series: Say Everything #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance

The world can be a scary place. At least, that's what Andi Lockley's anxiety wants her to believe. It doesn't help that she narrowly escaped a dangerous man years ago, or that every relationship since has been colored with that lingering fear. But things are better now―she's channeling everything into her career as a horror novelist and true crime podcaster, and her next book may be the breakthrough she needs.

If only her grumpy new neighbor would stop stomping around at all hours of the night.

Former firefighter Hill Dawson can't sleep. After losing part of his leg in a rescue gone wrong, he's now stuck in limbo. He needs to figure out what he's supposed to do with his life, and he can't let himself get distracted by the pretty redhead next door. But when someone breaks into Andi's place, Hill can't stop himself from rushing in to play the hero. Soon, a tentative bond forms between the unlikely pair. But what starts out as a neighborly exchange quickly turns into the chance for so much more...if Andi can learn to put aside her fear and trust in herself―and love―again.

My Review:

A horror writer/true crime podcaster female protagonist in a contemporary romance book? Hi Loren, I'm just going to assume you wrote this book for me. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Andi and Hill are both amazing characters and I fell in love with both of them in this very cute but steamy story of two people who are dealing with their own very personal issues that bleed into every part of their lives.... and how maybe by learning to trust each other, they can start to trust themselves again.

Ok - first, I had no idea this was a second in a series book... but fret not, readers!  I haven't read the first one but I did go take a peek at it and it seems these are completely separate stories and can be read as standalones.  Second, I had no idea this book was going to get as steamy as it did! ๐Ÿ˜ˆ But what I really loved about this story is how the author brings very big subjects of dealing with mental health and disabilities in such a beautiful way.  Uff, my heart.  Plus the banter between these two is just plain adorable.  PLUS, as a horror/true crime fan myself, I love that there are mentions of horror movies, books and some unexpected background that I wasn't expecting. The only part that kinda fell a little flat for me was it felt a bit repetitive in the lesson learned and some of the dialogue felt weird during these parts but very minimally and that's just me being stupid picky so let me stop there. ๐Ÿคฃ

In any case, this is a fantastic read and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good contemporary romance ... especially if you also love horror and maybe need a little hope that even in the scariest part of your mind, you are loved.

★★★★


Monday, July 26, 2021

Review: Unsympathetic Victims by Laura Snider

Unsympathetic Victims
by Laura Snider

Thanks so much to the author for this advanced copy.

Publisher: Severn River Publishing
Publish Date: July 27, 2021
Kindle Edition
342 Pages
Series: Ashley Montgomery #1
Genre: Legal Thriller

When successful public defender Ashley Montgomery helps acquit yet another client, people in small-town Brine, Iowa are enraged. Following the verdict, a protest breaks out — and the hated defense attorney quickly finds her life in danger.

But little does Ashley know, things are about to get worse — much worse. One of her clients turns up dead, and Ashley is arrested for his murder. As local investigators Katie Mickey and George Thomanson dive into the case, they start to suspect that Ashely is being framed — but by whom?

With Ashley’s freedom at stake, Katie and George are desperate to find out the truth. And soon, they uncover a sinister plot born of corruption, greed, and misplaced loyalty that will leave the whole town reeling — and questioning their faith in the people they trusted most.

My Review:


Brine, Iowa. Two protagonists: Ashley (public defender) and Katie (cop).  Ashley isn't well liked due to her clientele... and when some of them begin to turn up dead, she starts getting the blame.  She's definitely goinig to need Katie's help here!

For those that hesitate at legal thrillers, fear not!  Even if you have the most minimal knowledge of law, you'll be able to follow along easily and this is quite the page turner as we get to know these characters.  I had a few small issues with Katie and Ashley and their enemies to besties friendship - I did like their friendship, but it felt a little too quick to roll from one to another so quickly.  There's plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your tippy toes and while some felt a bit over the top, it definitely made for an interesting read.

You can definitely feel Snider's experience as a lawyer seeping through the pages.  This legal thriller will be fun for any thriller lover.  You'll find the ending a bit abrupt but giving you that thirst for the next book.  While you may have to suspend a bit of reality for certain situations, have fun and keep on guessing on what's going to happen because as soon as you think you know... you don't. *wink*

★★★★


Sunday, July 25, 2021

#ATBR2021 Review: Just One Look by Lindsay Cameron

Just One Look
by Lindsay Cameron

Thanks to Ballantine Books for these review copies.

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: July 27, 2021
Hardcover
304 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Thriller, Suspense

A young woman's escalating obsession with a seemingly perfect man leads her down a dangerous path in this novel of suspense brimming with envy, desire, and deception.

Eyes aren't the windows to the soul. Emails are.

Cassie Woodson is adrift. After suffering an epic tumble down the corporate ladder, Cassie finds the only way she can pay her bills is to take a thankless temp job reviewing correspondence for a large-scale fraud suit. The daily drudgery amplifies all that her life is lacking--love, friends, stability--and leaves her with too much time on her hands, which she spends fixating on the mistakes that brought her to this point.

While sorting through a relentless deluge of emails, something catches her eye: the tender (and totally private) exchanges between a partner at the firm, Forest Watts, and his enchanting wife, Annabelle. Cassie knows she shouldn't read them. But it's just one look. And once that door opens, she finds she can't look away.

Every day, twenty floors below Forest's corner office, Cassie dissects their emails from her dingy workstation. A few clicks of her mouse and she can see every adoring word they write to each other. By peeking into their apparently perfect life, Cassie finds renewed purpose and happiness, reveling in their penchant for vintage wines, morning juice presses, and lavish dinner parties thrown in their stately Westchester home. There are no secrets from her. Or so she thinks.

Her admiration quickly escalates into all-out mimicry, because she wants this life more than anything. Maybe if she plays make-believe long enough, it will become real for her. But when Cassie orchestrates a "chance" meeting with Forest in the real world and sees something that throws the state of his marriage into question, the fantasy she's been carefully cultivating shatters. Suddenly, she doesn't simply admire Annabelle--she wants to take her place. And she's armed with the tools to make that happen.

My Review:

I LOVE obsession stories and goodness does JUST ONE LOOK show just how much we actually reveal about ourselves in emails, on social media, how easily someone an be manipulated based on the information they put out there and how there is probably at least one person out there obsessing about you and you have no idea. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

For me, this starts off a bit slow and took a little bit for me to get into.  Cassie is quite the interesting character and I did enjoy following her down her bat shit crazy path.  As the chapters progressed, I found myself so very curious on how things were going to unravel.  But oh my.  She is her own very unreliable narrator, binge drinking, not knowing entirely how some things occurred bc of said drinking and, as we know, completely obsessed with Forest.  Where it starts to unravel for me, is towards the end.  Things blow up as we expect but the *news flash* that comes with it seemed a bit abrupt and rushed.  I did groan a bit at this piece and roll my eyes because after all this build up,.. well, why did it need to go that far?  Also the epilogue felt a bit much though I did enjoy where it landed, even if slightly predictable.  

My first Cameron and will definitely be keeping an eye out for her next release.

★★★

Jessica's Review:


I'm all about stories of obsession but at the same time they freak me out. Some of these books make you realize how easy it truly can be for people to find out anything about your life thanks to the internet. Doesn't matter how private you think you have everything, there's always some way for a determined admirer to find the information they desire. JUST ONE LOOK by Lindsay Cameron shows us how a simple email can spiral into a full obsession for Cassie. 

Starting a new temp job, Cassie is tasked with going through files and emails for a large fraud suit. While it seems boring and monotonous Cassie stumbles across an email between husband and wife and she's immediately drawn to them. Forest and his wife, Annabelle, are everything Cassie wishes she was and could have. She knows it's wrong to read through personal emails but she can't stop herself.

While the pacing was a little on the slow side to start there was just enough craziness happening to keep me interested. How far was Cassie going to take this obsession? Is she going to cross more lines than just reading personal emails? While this didn't completely work for me, this will not be the last book by Cameron that I pick up! 

3 stars



Tuesday, July 20, 2021

#ATBR2021 Review: The Good Lie by A.R. Torre

The Good Lie
by A.R. Torre

Thanks to Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for this gifted book.

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publish Date: July 20, 2021
Paperback
356 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Six teens murdered. A suspect behind bars. A desperate father. In a case this shadowy, the truth is easy to hide.

Psychiatrist Dr. Gwen Moore is an expert on killers. She’s spent a decade treating California’s most depraved predators and unlocking their motives—predators much like the notorious Bloody Heart serial killer, whose latest teenage victim escaped and then identified local high school teacher Randall Thompson as his captor. The case against Thompson as the Bloody Heart Killer is damning—and closed, as far as Gwen and the media are concerned. If not for one new development…

Defense attorney Robert Kavin is a still-traumatized father whose own son fell prey to the BH Killer. Convinced of Thompson’s innocence, he steps in to represent him. Now Robert wants Gwen to interview the accused, create a psych profile of the killer and his victims, and help clear his client’s name.

As Gwen and Robert grow closer and she dives deeper into the investigation, grave questions arise. So does Gwen’s suspicion that Robert is hiding something—and that he might not be the only one with a secret.

Six teenagers dead. Finally, the killer behind bars. But are the games just beginning?

My Review:


My second Torre novel (though admittedly I still have her Deanna Madden series on my kindle that I swear I'll get to in the very near future-ish!)... and I knew I should've listened to Jessica ages ago about picking this author up. Torre delivers Dr. Gwen Moore, a psychiatrist specialized in the most depraved of killers, and Mr. Robert Kavin, a defense attorney whose son was killed by a serial killer but doesn't believe the person who confessed is actually guilty. Um, what the what?! YESSSSSSSSSSSS.  Sold.  TAKE. MY. MONEY.

I'm fascinated with the human mind and considered criminal psychology in college (among the many other majors I considered but let's not go there....).  My insane fascination with serial killers and what drives a human to take another's life... it seemed destined.  But PHEW, Dr. Moore... I don't know if I could do her job at the end of the day.  And certainly, Kavin shouldn't be involved in this case/investigation - definitely too close to it.  As a matter of fact, there were a number of weirdly unprofessional things happening... though subtly which felt odd throughout the read. 

The volleying between Moore and Kavin was genius.  As they size up everyone around them, they also size each other up in the process.  They felt very human too.  Torre has a way of bringing characters to life where they are extremely relatable and this is how you end up being fully engaged in the story.  With THE GOOD LIE, this popcorn of a thriller read will keep you entertained.  Prepare to suspend a little belief but believe the journey is worth it.

★★★★

Jessica's Review:


I've loved AR Torre since flying through her Deanna Madden series (THE GIRL IN 6E) and I've read everything of hers since! THE GOOD LIE is another fast paced thriller that I finished in about a 24 hour period. You can expect short chapters, plenty of tension and suspense, and enough twists to throw you off and keep you guessing.

It's going to be hard to talk about this one without potentially spoiling it, so I'll stick to the basics. Dr. Gwen Moore is a successful psychiatrist and her specialty is those with violent tendencies and predators. With a clear fascination with killers, it's the opportunity of a life time to be asked to create a psychological profile on the most notorious serial killer, the Bloody Heart Killer. His seventh, and most recent, victim managed to escape and has identified his captor, and Gwen gets to interview him to see if he fits her profile based on the evidence.

Robert Kavin's son was the sixth victim of the Bloody Heart Killer and to the shock of everyone, he steps forward to be the defense attorney of the man arrested for the murders. He believes in his innocence and that things about the escape don't add up. And so begins the all the efforts to untangle this web of lies and secrets to find out who the killer is. 

I loved every minute of this book! I didn't figure out the ending and I was so happy when the reveal came. Torre knows how to weave together all the pieces so perfectly without it feeling too perfect, if that makes sense. The dynamic between Gwen and Robert was tense and I enjoyed seeing it all unfold. I highly recommend this book and anything else by her. Now the wait begins for her next book. 

5 stars 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

#ATBR2021 Review: For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing

For Your Own Good
by Samantha Downing

Thanks so much to Kaye Publicity, NetGalley and Berkley for this gifted book.

Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: July 20, 2021
Hardcover
384 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Suspense, Thriller

Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the esteemed Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest.

He says his wife couldn't be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.

Teddy really can’t be bothered with the death of a school parent that’s looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is on pushing these kids to their full academic potential.

All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way.

It's really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.

My Review:


Oh the troubled life of academia and the entitlement of the rich... how I do love to read about thee....

The teacher who would do *anything* for his students.  The parents who will go one too many steps too far to ensure their child is the elite of the elite.  The student who observes and may not be quite as innocent as you think.  The mindset of the very interesting - who are only doing any of this... for your own good. ๐Ÿ˜‰

This is my 3rd Downing book and just solidifies my love for her writing.  One of my favorite things about her novels is the dark humor and campy fun that comes with a suspenseful read that keeps you on your tippy toes.  Our very psychotic friend, Teddy, is such a fun character to get to know. So unapologetically himself and being inside his head is a treat. But we also get the POVs of several other characters, and I always enjoy being inside the heads of many.  Everyone is in a pressure cooker of their own making - when one blows up, who are the ones who actually get hurt in the process? 

FOR YOUR OWN GOOD doesn't quite nail it for me like Downing's two previous books did.  We still get the deviously, brilliant mind of the author with addictive short chapters and a storyline that moves at a quick pace... however, I think the ending didn't quite satisfy me like the others had and it almost got a bit too campy in its feel for my mood at this particular time.

There's no mistaking that Downing is one of my favorite thriller authors and if you haven't read her yet, I highly encourage you to pick up any of her books.  Maybe this wasn't my favorite of the three I've read so far, but I still had such fun with all these characters in all their sociopathic glory.

★★★☆

Jessica's Review:


To say this was one of my most anticipated releases would be an understatement. I’ve absolutely loved what I’ve picked up by Samantha Downing and my expectations were high when I picked up FOR YOUR OWN GOOD. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed! Another binge worthy thriller with memorable characters, questionable morals, plenty of twists, short chapters, and lots of suspense.

Teddy is the Teacher of the Year at the prestigious private school, Belmont Academy. His mission was to put the students first, and it didn’t really matter to him how it was accomplished. Some of these entitled kids needed more help than others, but be wasn’t going to give up on them. At a school event a parent collapses and is later pronounced dead – a freak accident or was there foul play? When others at the school are also killed by the same means, the students, teachers, and parents are all one edge. Who is the killer?

I don’t want to give away anything and potentially spoil the fun, but this book was so much fun. Who knew the world of private schools was so cutthroat? I certainly didn’t! Downing gives us the POVs of students and teachers as the mystery unfolds. The layers slowly peel back to reveal more questions and revelations. I loved Zach’s POV and Teddy was just someone I loved to kind of hate. The pressure on the students and faculty is immense and now add in some murder to make the semester even more stressful.

I cannot recommend her books enough to people, and this just firmly cemented Samantha Downing as an auto-buy author. If you want a quick, smart, and addictive thriller, then this is the author for you. FOR YOUR OWN GOOD gives us a glimpse into the dark side of world of private schools and academia.

5 stars



Thursday, July 15, 2021

Review: Only the Stains Remain by Ross Jeffery

Only the Stains Remain
by Ross Jeffery

Thanks so much to Night Worms and Cemetery Gates Media for this gifted book.

Publisher: Cemetery Gates Media
Publish Date: July 20, 2021
Kindle Edition
120 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Horror

Only The Stains Remain is the haunting story of Jude and Kyle, two brothers whose lives are destroyed when, following the death of their mother, their three abusive uncles Dwight, Lucius, and Lenny move in to the family home. But whilst Jude suffers to a degree, Kyle is the one who takes the brunt of their attention, submitting himself to preserve his younger brother’s innocence.

As a grown man, Jude’s mind turns to vengeance for what they have endured. He has waited a long time, but now he is strong enough, and cold-hearted enough, to do the deed. Enacting one harrowing revenge after another, Jude’s dark quest to punish the wrongs of the past will show that after all is said and done, only the stains of the past will remain.

My Review:

"They hit me so much that I split, both physically and mentally."

WoOooooOOoOoooah!  I need a shot of happy juice and a long, tight hug please.  What in the child abuse did I just read?! Uff, y'all.  Horror can bring us all the monsters in the world (and outside of it) but nothing will ever hit harder than the human monsters out there.  Especially those who prey on the children they should be protecting. Jeffery tells the story of Kyle and Jude and the terror they went through at the hands of their own father and uncles.  They lost a mother and gained terror and unrelenting pain.

Obviously this isn't a feel good read and if you can't stomach child abuse, you should probably steer clear from this story.  But dang... the writing is impeccable. 120 pages of pure, raw emotion that will leave you as broken as the children. I appreciate greatly how the author approached such a bleak and tragic subject.  He treated these boys with the respect they never received from their families.

Grief, abuse, survival and revenge - a harrowing and powerful novella that is absolutely worth the read... if you can stomach the subject matter.

★★★★★



Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Blog Tour & Review: The Magic of Found Objects by Maddie Dawson

The Magic of Found Objects
by Maddie Dawson

Thank you TLC Book Tours and Lake Union for this gifted book.

Publiher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: August 1, 2021
Paperback
366 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Contemporary, Romance

Phronsie Linnelle was conceived at Woodstock in a serendipitous liaison between a free-spirited hippie and a farmer’s son and was born with magical wonder flickering in her DNA and rationality knit into her bones. All her life she’s been torn between the two. But now that she’s been betrayed by both love and the mother she once idolized, her rational side is winning.

So when her best friend from childhood proposes that they give up on romance and marry each other, Phronsie agrees. Who better to spend your life with than your best friend? Maybe the connection they already have is love. Maybe there’s no falling to be done. But immediately after they announce their engagement, she encounters someone who makes a very charming and compelling argument for revisiting romance.

While her even-keeled stepmother argues for the safety that comes with her new engagement and her mother relays messages from the universe to hold out for true love, Phronsie must look to her own heart to find the answers that have been there all along. 

My Review:


Have you ever made a deal with a friend that if you reached such and such age, and both of y'all were still single, that you'd just marry up and be done with it all?  Sounds romantic, eh?  Haha -but I do understand the tiredness of dating "later in life" (*ahem*).  And don't we want our partner to be our best friend?! Honestly, I really did like Phronsie and Judd's friendship and he was some nice pragmatic comedic relief.  I couldn't find much flaw in his reasoning! ๐Ÿคฃ

I also liked learning about Phronsie and Hendrix's parents - their hippie, eccentric mother and their farmer father - two people who couldn't be more different from each other.  But the heart wants what it wants and while *love* can't conquer all, what are you willing to compromise to get to where you *think* you should be in life.  Goodness!  The lesson I took away is that just because you're not living your life the way other people may... it doesn't mean you're living it wrong.

It's pretty obvious where this book is going and as a contemporary romance, you get what you expect to get.  While I enjoyed the story overall, I wasn't wowed by it.  I'm not sure exactly what didn't quite mesh for me... but I'm with Phronsie, fireworks are necessary..

★★★


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Blog Tour & Review: The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix #ATBR2021

The Final Girl Support Group
by Grady Hendrix

Thanks to Berkley for this free review copy.


Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: July 13, 2021
Kindle Edition
352 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Horror

In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized—someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.

My Review:


If you're a horror lover and especially love slasher movies, then you are probably all too aware of the final girl and what she stands for.  Big respect to them as I surely know I'd be one of the first to die if ever in this type of situation (unless I had a butterfly knife or some deadly chopsticks in my hair or whatever, but I digress).  Hendrix is one of my fave horror authors... he brings a bit of campy fun to his stories which I absolutely adore.  He does the same here... but it missed the mark for me a bit unfortunately.

Hendrix introduces us to final girls that we are familiar with... but flips the script a bit so that we know what he's talking about without it being a straight steal from the books/movies.  Personally, I found this a lot of fun but we never really get any type of dive into these characters outside of some transcripts/notes so we know which one they were.. make sense?  And our protagonist is Lynnette, who lives a life of paranoia, is determined to try and save her final girl "sisters" as they get picked off one by one... again.

The premise of this is fantastic.  The slasher/final girl lover in me loooove the references and had quite a bit of amusement in their particular stories.  I do think it got a bit convoluted with all the red herrings bleeding everwhere and lack of actual suspense/terror that you may expect.  Sadly, not my favorite Hendrix but not hateful either.  

★★★

Jessica's Review:

It's no secret that I've loved Grady Hendrix's novels in the past and that I have yet to be disappointed, well that streak continues! THE FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP is such a fun read. The references alone are worth picking this up and seeing the similarities between our characters and their film counterparts was great. I think that avid horror fans will really enjoy all the nods to the classic horror Final Girls and the observations made about each series/franchise involved. It was fun guessing which one was similar to Friday the 13th, Scream, etc. I'd like to think I could make it to the end of a horror movie, but hopefully we'll never find out.

Lynette is our narrator and one of our Final Girls - we usually only see the final girl triumph over the monster in the movie and walk away (with a few injuries) but we never see the aftermath. The media storm, the constant harassment from reporters and fans, movie franchises, books, and then the emotional scarring that goes with it. For over a decade, she meets with four other real life final girls and a therapist for a weekly support group. When one of them misses their meeting everyone fears the worst. Lynette goes back into survival mode and they must discover who is starting to target them again - will they survive or will there be one woman standing?

I loved the inclusion of different transcripts, newspaper clippings, movie reviews, diary entries, etc - this will always be a style of writing that makes me happy because it brings in some outside perspective. The only real drawback for me was that some parts got a little confusing and could have been shortened up, but those are small things. Hendrix has such a fun writing style for horror and they're so addictive. While it's not my absolute favorite of his books, it definitely top three! If you love horror and the popular final girls of the genre, then definitely give this one a read.


4 stars

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Review: Petrified Women by Jeremy Ray

Petrified Women
by Jeremy Ray

Thanks so much to the author for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Infinite Ray Publishing
Publish Date: May 14, 2021
Kindle Edition
92 Pages
Standalone
Genre: Horror

Harley has the perfect boyfriend. Why can’t her best friend see that? He’s nothing like the others, especially the one who still haunts her memories. She’s finally picked a “keeper” with Aiden.

Sure, he’s a bit eccentric. His wood carving hobby is a little odd. His need for isolation while he carves his life-size female figurines is strange. And maybe his obsession with pranks, or "scares" on Harley goes a little too far. But what do you expect? Aiden’s an artist.

Harley has finally picked the perfect boyfriend. That’s why this year, Harley ignores all her best friend’s warnings. She has the ultimate surprise planned for Aiden’s birthday, one that’s going to help her get even in their battle to out-prank each other.

She hides in his apartment, excitedly waiting to pull off the scare of a lifetime…

But then he comes home, and Harley witnesses a different side of her boyfriend. The side that exists behind closed doors when he doesn’t know anyone’s watching.

Is this just one of his scares? Or is there something more sinister lurking behind his playful nature? Harley’s about to find out.

My Review:


I am NOT a fan of scare tactics or pranks (done on ME anyways ๐Ÿ˜‰) nor am I a huge fan of art and Aiden with his pranks and weird wood women...  yeah, no thank you! What I appreciate the most about this story is the author's story and how he came about writing this and his dedication which states: "This is dedicated to all the survivors:  I see you.  Your strength can't be described in words  Thrive." ❤

Harley is quite an interesting character.  Always seems to date the wrong guy.  Has trauma from a past violation that will stay with her forever.  I clap for her ability to be ok with Aiden's prankster ways.  Personally, it would drive me absolutely bonkers and I'd be paranoid about everything all the time.  That's a big nope for me, sir!  The author builds such suspense in such a short amount of time.  I could visualize everything and while I had already assumed the book was going to go in this direction, that last scene was quite the vision... and I liked it!

What I can tell you is that Jeremy is a hell of a story teller. This is my second novella by him and while I enjoyed The House Plant a bit more than this one, I already know that if Jeremy is writing it, I'm gonna read it!

★★★☆


Friday, July 9, 2021

Blog Tour & Review: A Tiger Mom's Tale by Lyn Liao Butler

A Tiger Mom's Tale
by Lyn Liao Butler

Thanks to Berkley for this free book and stop on the blog tour.

Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: July 6, 2021
Kindle Edition
352 Pages
Standalone
Genres: Contemporary, Asian Lit

When an American woman inherits the wealth of her Taiwanese family, she travels to confront them about their betrayals of the past in this stunning debut by Lyn Liao Butler.

Lexa Thomas has never quite fit in. Having grown up in a family of blondes while more closely resembling Constance Wu, she's neither white enough nor Asian enough. Visiting her father in Taiwan as a child, Lexa thought she'd finally found a place where she belonged. But that was years ago, and even there, some never truly considered her to be Taiwanese.

When her estranged father dies unexpectedly, leaving the fate of his Taiwanese family in Lexa's hands, her safe life in New York City is no longer enough. She is faced with the choice to return to Taiwan and claim her place in her heritage . . . or leave her Taiwanese family to lose their home for good.

Armed with the advice of two half sisters (one American and the other Taiwanese, who can't stand each other), a mother who has rediscovered her sexuality, and a man whose kisses make her walk into walls, Lexa finally confronts the person who drove her away from Taiwan all those decades ago. As the truth of the last fateful summer in Taiwan slowly unfolds, Lexa must stand up for herself and open her heart to family and love, or allow the repercussions of her family's choices to forever dictate the path of her life. 

My Review:

This is such a cute story and it's a breath of fresh air to see more bi-racial representation where I can relate to SO MUCH MORE.  Completely understand being half white and half Asian and not being fully accepted in either country.  Butler also touches on the fetishization of Asian women and those scenes rang all too true unfortunately. And I certainly remember my mom wondering where the other 3 points went when I got a 97 on a test once. I HEAR YOU, Lexa & Hsu-Ling! 

This debut really teaches a few lessons and was relatable on so many levels.  I did find a few things that didn't *quite* work for me.  I felt that Lexa and Josh are eye rolly - too much too fast for how long they "knew" each other. Sometimes the dialogue didn't feel very natural and it could veer too much on the side of after school special.  I also don't care for men who continually questions if a woman actually doesn't want to have children when they say they don't... but I get it a little bit in this case.  Still made my butt pucker a bit.

What is absolutely FANTASTIC about this book are the lessons within.  I love, love, LOVE understanding so much how Lexa felt in Taiwan as that's how I feel in Korea all the time.  I love that there is queer and disabled represenation within this read. I love the dual storylines and the atmosphere the author gives us while we travel to Taiwan. Absolutely looking forward to the next book from this author.

★★★☆  



Thursday, July 8, 2021

Blog Tour & Review: No More Words by Kerry Lonsdale


No More Words
by Kerry Lonsdale


Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: July 6, 2021
Kindle Edition
327 Pages
Series: No More #1
Genre: Contemporary

Forced to choose between abortion or adoption, Olivia Carson’s younger sister, Lily, runs away from home. Sixteen and pregnant, she never returns. But she writes. Once a year, Lily mails a picture of her son, Josh, to Olivia until his thirteenth year. Then it’s Josh himself who arrives at Olivia’s house, alone, terrified, and in possession of a notarized declaration from Lily. It begins, “In the event I go missing…”

Josh has difficulty talking. He can’t read or write, but he’s a prolific artist, exhibiting skill beyond his age. His drawings are as detailed as they are horrific. Olivia soon realizes Josh’s artwork tells a story. There’s more to his arrival and to Lily’s untimely disappearance than it seems. Using the drawings as a road map, Olivia traces Josh’s path back to his mom. Each drawing sheds light on Lily’s past and reveals a darkness that forces Olivia to question everything she thought she knew about her family.

Win a copy here: a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Review:


I'm embarassed to say that I've had the Everything trilogy by Lonsdale for AGES as I had heard nothing but good things about it and now, after reading NO MORE WORDS, I understand why people rave about her writing. And OMG, THE FAMILY DRAMA.  This feels like a light contemporary domestic thriller... and kind of exactly what I needed at this moment.  The Carson family has got a lot going on!  What would you do if your 13 year old nephew, whom you had never met, showed up at your door all of the sudden?  He also has difficulty communicating so much patience is needed and the quest to find your sister (who ran away at 16) begins... but in this quest is a deluge of family secrets and we get to learn about them all.

Olivia is a fun character.  She definitely resonated with me in certain ways and I enjoyed watching her and Josh's relationship grow.  You just can't help but fall in love with Josh too - my heart. I'm not going to say much more as I think you should just read this and find all the goodies layered within.  This is a page turner and a great way to lose yourself for an evening.  A fantastic first in a series novel that has me very curious where it will go from here.

★★★★


Kerry Lonsdale is the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Amazon Charts bestselling author of Side Trip, Last Summer, All the Breaking Waves, and the Everything Series (Everything We Keep, Everything We Left Behind, and Everything We Give). Her work has been translated into more than twenty-seven languages. She resides in Northern California with her husband and two children.


Inspiration for No More Words with Kerry Lonsdale


One summer night years ago I awoke at 2:00 am to glass shattering followed by the horrible sound of metal on metal. The acrid scent of burnt rubber reached me through the opened window I’d gotten up from bed to look out. Parked across the street was my neighbor’s ex-husband’s truck, the side door and panels looking more worse-for-wear than they had when I’d gone to bed. The sudden squeal of tires drew my attention to my next-door neighbor’s driveway where I watched in stunned horror as a green sedan shot across the street and t-boned the truck. The sedan backed up and rammed the truck again. Then again and again until the sedan’s front end crumpled, the bumper scraping the asphalt, the windshield cracking. 


My neighbor’s ex-husband charged from the house in boxer shorts and a sleeveless undershirt hollering at the woman behind the wheel to stop. She didn’t, not until she’d pushed his truck up the sidewalk and onto the front lawn. Not until both vehicles were totaled. Not until the police arrived and convinced her to stop. And not until her face was so bloodied from hitting the steering wheel with each impact that she could no longer see. This was before airbags, and her eyes had swollen shut. An ambulance took her away from the scene.


Over the next few days, I learned that the woman behind the wheel was his girlfriend, and she wasn’t the least bit happy he was spending the night at his ex-wife’s house. She’d driven four hours, arriving in the dead of night, to show my neighbor’s ex-husband exactly how unhappy she was. She was also intoxicated. But the real tragedy was his daughter. He’d spent the night at his ex-wife’s house (on her couch) because he’d come to celebrate her eighth-grade graduation. And after the police left and ambulance drove off, I saw her standing on the porch dressed in pajamas, clutching her favorite stuffed animal. She’d witnessed the entire debacle. 


I’ve often thought about her, the daughter, that is, wondering how that traumatic event affected her in the long run. There were others too. I wondered how they changed her relationship with her father. Did she pick up his habits as she aged, his boozing and gambling? Did she ever have a chance at a normal life, or did her childhood doom her to live with secrets and pain?


At the heart of the No More series I explore intergenerational trauma through the Carsons, the family featured in the series, and try to answer that exact question: Does a parent’s dysfunction prevent the younger generation from having a normal life, or have circumstances fated them to live with their trauma? From summers of neglect, lies and betrayal, teenage pregnancy, and serving time in juvenile hall, the Carson siblings have their share of baggage, thanks to parents who aren’t ideal. Dwight and Charlotte Carson’s parenting style leaves something to be desired, and of course, their actions lead to the tragic event at the center of the series that splits apart the Carson siblings. 


I believe we experience and understand the world through our parents. We mimic their behaviors and habits. And in cases where abuse and neglect are involved, we forge coping mechanisms that aren’t necessarily ideal or healthy. We see this happen with Olivia, the protagonist in No More Words, and the oldest Carson sibling. She is in denial that she and her brother Lucas were treated differently by their parents than their younger sister Lily, who the parents often emotionally abused and neglected. Haunted by her past, betrayed several times over, Olivia has closed off her heart. Her trauma dictates her behavior and actions. 


But despite this, I also believe that even though our past experiences can leave us fractured and flawed, we can rise above it, control it rather than letting our past control us. Through therapy, love, and acknowledgement, we can stop the cycle of intergenerational trauma. And we see this happen as Olivia works through her issues, taking ownership of the role she played in her family’s dysfunction and the disappearance of her younger sister Lily who she hasn’t seen since she ran away from home, sixteen and pregnant. 


This makes me believe that the thirteen-year-old girl on the porch all those years ago has been living a rich, normal life that isn’t ruled by her childhood.


No More Words Excerpt

 

She glances back at Josh. He’s halfway down the hall looking at the framed photos on the wall. He makes a noise. 


“What is it?” she asks, miffed. She thought he was right behind her. 


He points at a photo and tries to speak, but the words stick to his tongue like wet sand on a damp bathing suit. He punches the air and roughly points at the photo, begging her to understand. Olivia motions with her hands for him to be quiet, glances back at her parents’ bedroom door, and makes her way over to him and studies the family portrait that has his attention. The photo was taken Olivia’s senior year in high school during Dwight’s third and last campaign. She was seventeen, Lucas fifteen, and Lily twelve-and-a-half. Big brown eyes fill Lily’s face. Braces hug her teeth. A flat chest doesn’t deter from her budding beauty. 


Josh squeezes his eyes shut and bangs his head with his fists. He’s literally trying to beat the words out. 


Familiar with his signs of distress, Olivia gently touches his shoulder. “Look at me. Josh, hey,” she says, urging him to come with her outside before Charlotte hears them. The fresh air and openness will calm him down. They can return later. 


His eyes snap open and he makes a grab for the photo. “Shh. Don’t do that,” Olivia loudly whispers. She slaps a hand to the frame so the photo remains mounted. “Take a breath, Josh. Relax and talk your way through this. What’s wrong with this picture? Are you looking for your mom? She’s right here, see?” She prompts him like she’d read about for people with aphasia. Spell out the words. Give them the chance to speak. 


His face reddens and a word pops from his mouth like a truck backfiring. “Bad.” 


“The photo or the people in it?” Olivia’s gaze rakes over the family portrait. Charlotte had wanted a magazine spread when SLO Life featured her as a top real estate broker in the county. California Living used the same photo when the publication featured a sneak peek inside their custom-built home during Dwight’s campaign. Taken in the backyard, Dwight and Lucas wore tuxedos. They looked dashing in black with their silk ties. Charlotte, along with Olivia and Lily, wore champagne gowns with all the sparkle and glitz found at an Oscars after-party. Their dresses shimmered in the golden hour sunlight. Wind cut across the yard at the perfect moment, ruffling Lucas’s hair and lifting her cinnamon locks and Lily’s long auburn tresses off their shoulders the moment the photographer snapped the shot. A glamorous pose that rivaled that of any family of status. The photographer won a coveted award for the photo. Dwight posted the image on the About Us page of his corporate website. The photo, along with the accompanying articles, cemented the Carsons as a family to watch, much to Charlotte’s delight. How I wish my daddy could see me now, Olivia recalls her mom remarking on more than one occasion about the grandfather Olivia had never met. 


If people could see them now. 


What a mess the Carsons have become. 


“Bad.” Josh jabs at the glass. The photo swings on its hook. 


“Careful.” Olivia fixes the frame. There’s a larger version of this photo above the living room fireplace, but Charlotte will still have a conniption if anything happens to this one. It’s her favorite of all the portraits in the hallway. 


“Bad.” Josh knocks her shoulder, pushing her back. 


“Hey.” She stumbles against the wall. 


“Bad. Bad.” He yanks the photo off the wall, ripping out the nail along with. Drywall dust sprinkles to the floor like snow. 


Charlotte comes out of her room, tucking a pale-blue blouse into cream slacks, her makeup partially applied. Only one cheek has been rouged. Her lips are unadorned, making the color above her eyes stand out. She looks waifish, like a model in a designer label ad. “What’s going on?” She stops when she sees Josh. “Why’s he here?” 


“Bad,” he yells, showing Charlotte the photo. 


“Put that down,” Charlotte roars, her face deathly pale. 


Her reaction sends a ripple of fear through Olivia. Where’s this coming from? 


Olivia grips Josh’s arm. “We need to go.” 


He shakes her off. “Bad. M-m-man!” He spits the word. Rage fills his eyes. Something else churns there, too. 


Heart pulsating in her throat, Olivia looks at the photo. There’s only one man in the picture because Lucas is just a kid, not much older than Josh: her dad.