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Monday, January 31, 2022

Review: The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks #BuddyReadsToDieFor #ATBR2022

The Wasp Factory
by Iain Banks

January's Buddy Reads To Die For Choice and auto-All The Book Reviews read.  Let's go horror!

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: July 2, 2013; first published 1984)
Kindle Edition
194 Pages
Genre: Horror

Meet Frank Cauldhame. Just sixteen, and unconventional to say the least:

Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different and more fundamental reasons than I'd disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more or less on a whim.

That's my score to date. Three. I haven't killed anybody for years, and don't intend to ever again.
It was just a stage I was going through.

My Review:

Well..... meh.  Dammit.

Ok, so hear me out.  Maybe reading extreme horror has weakened and/or strengthened my mind (depending on how you see it) to any torture porn-esque fuel.  Yes, I realize torture porn is a bit excessive of a term for the going ons within these pages but whatever.  For some reason, nothing really bothered me within these pages.  Cool, you like to kill.  You say you're never gonna do it again. Twas just a phase.  Sure... uh huh.. okay... it's like me putting myself on a book ban - you damn well know I'm going to buy (probably) more books than on normal terms.  BUT in this weird way, I totally felt for Frank.  Despite being a psychopath and just plain off in so many ways... the author made him relatable. **shrug** Maybe it's just horror-me!

Had I perhaps read this back when it was first published in the 80s, the ending would've been much more of a shocker.  Instead, I'm left perfectly meh about the whole situation.  Definitely wasn't expecting that though - my mind had already created a zillion other scenarios.  All this did was remind me of a particular movie that I can't name for fear of spoilage.  My favorite, favorite scene was the kite scene. Y'ALL! That one is a rib sticker and I hope someone puts this on screen one day. 

I know I'm in the minority with this one.  Maybe my mood is off.  At times it felt a bit like horror comedy.  All this word salad I'm making is trying to say is that it just didn't quite work for me. Meep.  Thanks to everyone who read this with us for our #BuddyReadsToDieFor #bookclub. 


Jessica's Review:

So I've had this on my TBR for awhile and was very excited to have this be our #BuddyReadsToDieFor choice (always the best excuse to read these older books). I went into this not knowing a whole lot about the book and I'll say right away, this will not be for everyone. There's plenty of violence and gore (against people and animals alike) used to help illustrate the true nature of our main character. Who could have guessed you could feel for or relate to this kind of killer?

I'm really still trying to get all my thoughts straight on this book. There are some scenes that I won't be forgetting anytime soon and that ending. I wasn't expecting that at all. Like of all the possible scenarios I could have come up with, that wasn't one of them. I love when a book can do that and I think that's why the higher rating is deserved here. Here's to more books that make you go "what the f did I just read?" 

4 stars

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Review: Joan is Okay by Weike Wang

Joan is Okay
by Weike Wang

Thanks so much to Random House/Random House Audio for these #giftedbooks.

Publisher: Random House Audio
Publish Date: January 18, 2022
8 hours
Genres: Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Cultural:China

Joan is a 30-something ICU doctor at a busy New York City hospital. The daughter of Chinese parents who came to the United States to secure the American dream for their children, Joan is intensely devoted to her work, happily solitary, successful. She does look up sometimes and wonder where her true roots lie: at the hospital, where her white coat makes her feel needed, or with her family, who try to shape her life by their own cultural and social expectations.

Once Joan and her brother, Fang, were established in their careers, her parents moved back to China, hoping to spend the rest of their lives in their homeland. But when Joan’s father suddenly dies and her mother returns to America to reconnect with her children, a series of events sends Joan spiraling out of her comfort zone just as her hospital, her city, and the world are forced to reckon with a health crisis more devastating than anyone could have imagined.

Deceptively spare yet quietly powerful, laced with sharp humor, 'JOAN IS OKAY' touches on matters that feel deeply resonant: being Chinese-American right now; working in medicine at a high-stakes time; finding one’s voice within a dominant culture; being a woman in a male-dominated workplace; and staying independent within a tight-knit family. But above all, it’s a portrait of one remarkable woman so surprising that you can’t get her out of your head.

My Review:

Despite what it looks like, no... I was not the large hand stand-in on that Seinfeld episode. 🤣

Ok, now that that's out of the way... let's chat about Joan, but I'm gonna keep this short because at 224 pages, we get a lot but nothing that I want to spoil.  This is definitely a character over plot driven novel and I simply love Joan.  She is not only relatable but I also get her sense of humor completely.  While my struggles being Asian American differ from hers in certain ways, I completely understand that pull between two different cultures and how to find a true balance within yourself. Amen.

Wang touches on many important subject matters such as racism, misogyny, family responsibilities and what is expected of you etc. Watching Joan navigate through it all was like listening to her tell you her story. While she was so relatable, she also was hard to understand in certain instances.. but hey, she's complex like all us humans and I loved this about her.  What's especially brilliant about this novel is the introduction of pandemic issues towards the end.  When you read this, and you should... really pay attention to this part.

 The slightly abrupt ending has me itching for more.  While I wasn't flying through the pages, I am definitely invested in Joan and would like to see more of her in the future.  But if not, then I'm happy I got to know her for a short time. 


Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Review: The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf #ATBR2022

The Overnight Guest
by Heather Gudenkauf 

A huge thanks to Park Row for this gifted book!

Publisher: Park Row
Publish Date: January 25, 2022
352 Pages
Genres: Suspense, Thriller

She thought she was alone

True crime writer Wylie Lark doesn’t mind being snowed in at the isolated farmhouse where she’s retreated to write her new book. A cozy fire, complete silence. It would be perfect, if not for the fact that decades earlier, at this very house, two people were murdered in cold blood and a girl disappeared without a trace.

As the storm worsens, Wylie finds herself trapped inside the house, haunted by the secrets contained within its walls—haunted by secrets of her own. Then she discovers a small child in the snow just outside. After bringing the child inside for warmth and safety, she begins to search for answers. But soon it becomes clear that the farmhouse isn’t as isolated as she thought, and someone is willing to do anything to find them.

My Review:

I was so stoked to get this book as Gudenkauf is one of my absolute favorite authors.  It all started with NOT A SOUND that I randomly picked up and read while I was visiting a friend overseas and completely fell in love with.  From that point on, I was a huge Gudenkauf fan.  This is my 5th book by her and while it may not have been *perfect*, I absolutely LOVED it and gave it all the stars because of how invested I became in the characters - mainly the kid, of course.  

This is the second book in a row that has been placed in Iowa and it makes me want to visit this state about 0%... but really, I live in NYC and SO SO many psychopaths live here so really I'm spitting nonsense.  But ANYWAYS.......... we basically have one past and two current day scenarios.  I knew they were all going to intersect at some point and make sense (because duh, that's what books do), but I was dying to try and figure out just exactly HOW.  I was so involved with the idiosyncrasies that when I figured it out RIGHT before it was revealed my mouth pretty much stayed in a perpetual 'O' shape... though I definitely get why I didn't see one particular part happen.  And I do feel it's because something else was thrown in that I'm not sure was necessary but did keep me on my toes. Sometimes epilogues can kill the entire book but this time I was happy to see it included as I really did want to know where the survivors may have ended up in life. (I recommend lots and lots of therapy!) 

One of the best things about this author's writing is just how atmospheric it is.  I could feel myself getting frostbite.  I felt the blood splatter.  There was VERY few mentions of corn (that I remember) and I appreciated that so much compared to the last book I read 😉 #ifyky.  I just couldn't put this one down and almost ran into walls in my apartment because of it.  And for that, I give you full stars.


Jessica's Review:

Ever since reading BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND, Heather Gudenkauf quickly became an autobuy author for me. I enjoyed THIS IS HOW I LIED and THESE HIDDEN THINGS, but unfortunately her newest one, THE OVERNIGHT GUEST just didn't quite hit the mark for me. This had all the hallmarks of a solid thriller - multiple story lines and timelines, an isolated setting, mysterious circumstances for taking in strangers during a storm, and plenty of suspense. However, I really found myself only engaged with one of the timelines (present day)

I just have to say that, as a Minnesotan, I can't believe how unprepared she was for this blizzard. But if you're not used to the weather conditions then I can give it a pass for the character. The questions surrounding Wylie's unexpected guest - a child she found in a snowbank near her cabin she was renting - kept the present day timeline tense as things slowly unraveled as the storm raged on outside. There were parts that were fairly predictable and I had some issues with the pacing in two of the timelines but it didn't take me out of it enough to not continue. I don't want to give away much more than the synopsis so I don't risk spoiling it, but I think if you go into it expecting more of slower paced thriller/suspense then I think you'll enjoy it a lot more! Not every book by a favorite author will be a hit, but I will continue to pick up whatever I can from Gudenkauf.

3 stars

Monday, January 24, 2022

Review: The Fields by Erin Young

The Fields
by Erin Young

Thanks so much to Flatiron Books for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publish Date: January 25, 2022
352 Pages
Series: Riley Fisher #1
Genres: Thriller, Police Procedural, Crime Fiction

Some things don't stay buried.

It starts with a body—a young woman found dead in an Iowa cornfield, on one of the few family farms still managing to compete with the giants of Big Agriculture.

When Sergeant Riley Fisher, newly promoted to head of investigations for the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office, arrives on the scene, an already horrific crime becomes personal when she discovers the victim was a childhood friend, connected to a dark past she thought she’d left behind.

The investigation grows complicated as more victims are found. Drawn deeper in, Riley soon discovers implications far beyond her Midwest town.

My Review:

Holy cornfields!  This first-in-a-series, debut crime novel, from Erin Young starts off gritty and dark.. and y'all know how I love it this way - the grittier and darker the better!  So let's meet Sergeant Riley Fisher.  Newly appointed head of investigations and her first crime scene unfortunately stars a childhood friend.  Let's go!

This is definitely a darker thriller and we all know corn fields can be quite scrumptiously creepy.  Unfortunately I did have some issues.  It is definitely clear that this is set in Iowa and touches a lot on the Big Agro, or whatever, and that (for me) got to be too much.  My eyes glazed over a lot during these parts.  And at times it almost felt like two different stories and I just wanted to chop this part out.  I don't think it took completely away from the rest of the story and I understood (kinda) why there was so much of it.... it just didn't quite work for me. 

What I love about this book is the writing.  I would definitely pick up book two and hope for less... politicalness? *shrug*  I also wouldn't mind never seeing the word corn again.  But I'm easily annoyed (y'all remember my Bunny rant(s)?) haha.  In any case, I definitely see this author as one to watch.  I have a feeling we're going to see some amazing books by Young with some very dark crimes that Riley will need to solve.  Can't wait to see what comes next.


Friday, January 21, 2022

Review: Cinema 7 by Michael J. Moore


Cinema 7
by Michael J. Moore

Thanks so much to Blackthorn for this gifted book and stop on the blog tour.

Publisher: Hellbound Books Publishing LLC
Publish Date: September 25, 2021
Kindle Edition
445 Pages
Genre: Horror

Something has taken a liking to the children of Mount Vernon, Washington. Its eyes are orange, and glow like fire. Its hissing voice is the autumn wind.

It hovers over them at night, casting snake-like shadows that dance on the walls. It laughs and taunts as they cry in their beds. It says it wants to take them trick-or-treating.

Halloween is in a week.

Kyle McIntosh is hardly aware when the first four kids are abducted, their families slaughtered. Though news-vans litter the streets, his 16-year-old heart has just been broken. Night-after-night, more children are taken. More bodies are left behind.

When Kyle’s little brother claims an orange-eyed monster has been visiting him at night, ignorance ceases to be an option – because their family might just be next.

My Review:

OH hi.  Creepy kids? Yes, please.  Probably one of my favorite types of genres to read are CREEPY KIDS.  Kill them and then have them come back with glowing eyes, weapons and they must kill their own family? SIGN ME UP! 

The opening scene in this book is fantastic and I wanted more and more of this... which probably says a lot about me but um... ahem. Haha.  There were certainly some spooky scenes that could absolutely lend to nightmares.  The visuals I had in certain moments will definitely stick with me for a while.  I will say that I was a little bit disappointed with the love story within.  I could've done without it altogether. And at times, it was hard to tell how old any of these kids were based on their actions and/or dialogue, which could be distracting at times.  And I found the reasoning behind what was happening a little bit... underwhelming. This story could probably have been shorted by 50-100 pages to be honest. Due to these factors I'm going down the middle in my rating here.

What I did enjoy about this read was the fluidity and the concept... again, killer, creepy kids! At times it gave me little Children of the Corn, NO4A2 creepy kid vibes (but this story is completely different then both.... just go with me here!).  If you like this type of horror as much as I do, come and get it.  And watch your kids and/or younger siblings closely. 😉


About the Author

Michael J Moore’s books include :

  • After the Change (published by MKM Bridge Press), a horror novel placed on the Bram Stoker Preliminary Ballot 2019 for Superior Achievement in a Novel

  • Highway Twenty (a horror novel published by HellBound Books)

  • Secret Harbor (a thriller, published by HellBound Books).

His work has appeared in Blood Moon Rising Magazine, Horrorzine Magazine, Schlock Magazine, Minutes Before Six, Terror House Magazine, Siren’s Call Magazine, Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine, HellBound Books anthology “Ghosts, Spirits and Specters”, The Electric Press, Dissections The Journal of Contemporary Horror, Soteira Press Anthology “What Monsters Do For Love”, The Point Magazine, The Huffington Post, Carecovidartresource, has been adapted for theater and produced in the Seattle area, is used as curriculum at the University of Washington and has received an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest.

Michael also has short stories released by Rainfall Books, Horror Tree – Trembling with Fear, Transmundane Press, The University of Chicago, Awakenings Review, Fox Hollow Stories and Scribe Magazine.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Review: Find Me by Alafair Burke #ATBR2022

Find Me
by Alafair Burke
narrated by Kathleen Early

Thank you Harper for these gifted books!

Publisher: Harper/Harper Audio
Publish Date: January 11, 2022
8 hrs 57 min
Series: Ellie Hatcher #6
Genres: Mystery, Thriller

Some pasts won’t stay forgotten....

She calls herself Hope Miller, but she has no idea who she actually is. Fifteen years ago, she was found in a small New Jersey town thrown from an overturned vehicle, with no clue to her identity. Doctors assumed her amnesia was a temporary side effect of her injuries, but she never regained her memory. Hope eventually started a new life with a new name in a new town that welcomed her, yet always wondered what she may have left behind - or been running from. Now, she’s leaving New Jersey to start over once again.

Manhattan defense lawyer Lindsay Kelly, Hope’s best friend and the one who found her after the accident, understands why Hope wants a fresh beginning. But she worries how her friend will fare in her new East Hampton home, far away from everything familiar. Lindsay’s worst fears are confirmed when she discovers Hope has vanished without a trace - the only lead a drop of blood found where she was last seen. Even more ominously, the blood matches a DNA sample with a connection to a notorious Kansas murderer.

With nowhere else to turn, Lindsay calls NYPD homicide detective Ellie Hatcher, the daughter of the cop who dedicated his life to hunting the Kansas killer. Ellie has always believed there was more to the story of her father’s death 20 years earlier - and she now fears that Hope’s recent disappearance could be related.

In pursuit of answers, the women hunt for the truth beneath long-buried secrets. And when their searches converge, what they find will upend everything they’ve ever known.

My Review:

Welcome to the sixth book in the Ellie Hatcher series. I never would've even known as I don't think she played much of a part in FIND ME, and this book is focused on Lindsay and Hope.  So, I *think* you could read this as a standalone!

This is my second Burke book and FIND ME is just as binge worthy as The Better Sister was!  Burke has a way of writing that keeps you interested in the storyline.  I listened to the audiobook and found the narrator to be fun and was impressed with the quick roll over from accent to accent! For some reason this really stood out to me.  

FIND ME is definitely a plot driven book with many characters.  I'm not sure I'm entirely sold on the entire plot to be honest and wasn't particularly thrilled with the ending.  I did enjoy the courtroom drama parts and found Lindsay's tenacity quite enjoyable.  For Hope being the missing woman, I felt particularly nothing for her. 🤷  I dunno, y'all, something just didn't seem "seamless" here.  However, this was a fun, binge of a read and I'm really glad I listened to this while running errands, etc.  If you like light thrillers that are plot driven, this is definitely a book for you.  


Jessica's Review:

This is my third book by Burke and I’ll always be amazed at how well she can craft together a suspenseful thriller each time. FIND ME is actually book six in the Ellie Hatcher series, which I wasn’t aware of until I read a few reviews upon finishing the book. So if you’re a fan of her series, then this is one you’ll definitely want to pick up, and that also makes it quite apparent that you don’t need to have read the series in order to enjoy this book!

In the thriller genre, the amnesia plot can be overdone and feel extremely repetitive and very predictable. I’m happy to report that this wasn’t the case with FIND ME. While some things didn’t completely work for me as a reader there were still plenty of twists and pieces that I hadn’t seen coming. I was entertained from start to finish and I felt that the pacing was perfect to keep you flipping those pages and there weren’t any lulls. Definitely recommend and will be looking for my fourth book by Burke very soon!

3.5 stars

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Blog Tour & Review: The Secretary by Britney King

The Secretary
by Britney King

Publisher: Hot Banana Press
Publish Date: January 20, 2022
Kindle Edition
242 Pages
Genre: Psychological Thriller

The job comes with a lot of perks. A mysterious new boss is one of them. His deep pockets don’t hurt.

In her first week, Gillian finds a note on her desk with two boxes and a question: Will you have dinner with me?

Check yes or no.

It was easily the best night of her whole young life. 

The second note arrived looking very much the same, only different.

Do you have what it takes to be in my world?

Gillian has been asked to handle a lot of tasks in her work.

But covering up a murder might be the strangest one yet.

Check yes or no. 

She can check yes and face prison time. Hypothetically.

No, and she finds out why the job was vacant in the first place.

Tautly paced, The Secretary is an unnerving and electrifying psychological thriller about illusion, passion, and the dangerous places ambition can take you. Full of enough tension and twists to make even the most seasoned suspense reader break out in a cold sweat, it keeps you guessing until the very last page.

My Review:

Did you like this book?  Check Yes or No.

I am a long time King fan and will continue to read whatever she throws out into the reading world.  Her stories are binge worthy and just thrillery goodness from start to finish.  Sadly, The Secretary didn't quite work for me as well her past books have... but this was bound to happen considering the volume of her work that I have read.

At just 242 pages, your fingers will FLY through these pages.  I am instantly enthralled with Gillian and her terrible decision making but if she made good ones then the story would not have been as much fun. *wink*  And I do love that King incorporated the silly notes we used to get as kids where we had to check yes or no if we liked someone... however, put this in a "professional" setting from the main man, the big boss himself... well, I'm not sure if that wouldn't be the first red flag.  And then she "volunteers" for the what and the why and the HOW?! Yeah, that's a hard pass for me - hahahah but I hold nothing against Gillian, though I wanted to shake her repeatedly at times.

For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed this read and the fast pacing.  However, I do think that's happened at an incredibly too fast of a pace that there were parts that needed expanding.  I wanted more about Ellis, about the company, about Gillian and her past. If you a quick popcorn thriller of a read you can devour in one short sitting, grab yourself a copy and go into it for pure entertainment.


Sunday, January 16, 2022

Review: The Mirror Man by Lars Kepler

The Mirror Man
by Lars Kepler

A huge thanks to Knopf Publishing, Abby of @crimebythebook and PRH Audio for these gifted copies.

Publisher: Knopf Publishing
Publish Date: January 18, 2022
400 Pages
Series: Joona Linna #8
Genres: Thriller, Crime Fiction, Nordic Noir

In the latest internationally best-selling installment of the Killer Instinct series, Detective Joona Linna is on the trail of a kidnapper who targets teenage girls and makes their worst nightmares a reality.

Seventeen-year-old Jenny is abducted in broad daylight and taken to a dilapidated, isolated house where she is chained and caged along with several other girls. Their captor is unpredictable, and as wily as he is cruel: he foils every one of their desperate attempts to escape . . . and once caught they rarely survive their punishment.

Five years later, Jenny is found dead in a public park, and the police are scrambling to find a lead among the scant evidence. But Detective Joona Linna realizes that this murder has an eerie connection to a death that was declared a suicide years before. And now when Mia, a seventeen-year-old orphan, goes missing, it becomes clear to Joona that they are dealing with a serial killer—and the murderous rampage has just begun.

As the police close in on the killer, Mia and her fellow captives are plunged into ever greater danger, and Joona finds himself in a seemingly impossible race against time to save their young lives. 

My Review:

Joona Linna is BACK! Installment 8 in the series brings us more bloodshed and horror - more action over suspense and I am here for every single bloody drop.  I was lucky enough to be able to speak with the authors (if you didn't already know, there are two authors that write this series and they're married!) earlier today on Knopf Publishing's IG Live - head over to their page and check it out if you like! 

One of the things discussed was the way Linna finds a connection with the villains in the stories - that there is that humanity we get a glimpse of that makes these killers relatable to some extent... like a balance to the flaws in Linna as well.  These are my favorite things about this series honestly.  So... welcome to THE MIRROR MAN.  He's kidnapping teenage girls and keeping them in cages.  Any punishment doled out is extreme, graphic and brutal (personally I live for these kinds of things so yay!).  Just wait til you understand the full meaning of.... haha, almost fooled you eh? No spoilers here!  

The only thing that stopped me from the full 5 stars is I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the reveal re the villain.  I absolutely cannot say more as I don't want to ruin anything but I'd like to see a character like this just NOT be a villain for once.  However, keep in mind that it's just my own personal preference and maybe a source of reading so many thrillers and is absolutely not a slight on the authors.

Fast paced and bloody brilliant, if you're a fan of nordic noir, crime fiction and amazing heroes/villains, then I absolutely recommend this series. If you're like me and like to read series books in order, fear not - these can definitely be read as standalones.  So go get your thrill on.  You know you want to.


Saturday, January 15, 2022

Review: Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins #ATBR2022

Reckless Girls
by Rachel Hawkins

Thank you St. Martin's Press for this gifted book.

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: January 4, 2022
Kindle Edition
320 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Suspense

When Lux McAllister and her boyfriend, Nico, are hired to sail two women to a remote island in the South Pacific, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. Stuck in a dead-end job in Hawaii, and longing to travel the world after a family tragedy, Lux is eager to climb on board The Susannah and set out on an adventure. She’s also quick to bond with their passengers, college best friends Brittany and Amma. The two women say they want to travel off the beaten path. But like Lux, they may have other reasons to be seeking an escape.

Shimmering on the horizon after days at sea, Meroe Island is every bit the paradise the foursome expects, despite a mysterious history of shipwrecks, cannibalism, and even rumors of murder. But what they don’t expect is to discover another boat already anchored off Meroe’s sandy beaches. The owners of the Azure Sky, Jake and Eliza, are a true golden couple: gorgeous, laidback, and if their sleek catamaran and well-stocked bar are any indication, rich. Now a party of six, the new friends settle in to experience life on an exotic island, and the serenity of being completely off the grid. Lux hasn’t felt like she truly belonged anywhere in years, yet here on Meroe, with these fellow free spirits, she finally has a sense of peace.

But with the arrival of a skeevy stranger sailing alone in pursuit of a darker kind of good time, the balance of the group is disrupted. Soon, cracks begin to emerge: it seems that Brittany and Amma haven’t been completely honest with Lux about their pasts––and perhaps not even with each other. And though Jake and Eliza seem like the perfect pair, the rocky history of their relationship begins to resurface, and their reasons for sailing to Meroe might not be as innocent as they first appeared.

When it becomes clear that the group is even more cut off from civilization than they initially thought, it starts to feel like the island itself is closing in on them. And when one person goes missing, and another turns up dead, Lux begins to wonder if any of them are going to make it off the island alive.

My Review:

Color me tan and pour me all the wine - Oh, Susannah - don't you cry for me Meroe Island! Do I sound messy... well, welcome to last fourth of this binge popcorn thriller of a read.  POP POP!

My second Hawkins read and, even if this one didn't quite do it for me as well as The Wife Upstairs did, I can plainly say that I will always pick up Hawkins.  Always.  There's just something about her writing style that just pulls me right in.  The obsessive need to know what's going to happen next.  The moderate to quick pacing with short chapters - I mean, once you pop, you just can't stop! 

4 people head to what is supposed to be an isolated island, clear of people and only full of history and potential creepiness set in a gorgeous beach with much to explore.  But, to their disappointment, two other people are already on there.  Things escalate when a seventh person shows up later and then right towards the end, we take a sharp turn left at Albuquerque.

I really enjoyed the "locked island" feel of this thriller.  Getting to know each character and their backgrounds was educational and you find yourself not rooting for any of them... and yet, I was also extremely fascinated with them.  Just taking off on a whim, taking chances, falling so easily in love and friendship. The creepy, suspenseful feel was engaging and I loved the tone.  There were even a surprise or two that I don't know how I didn't see coming but I do love it when that happens.  But allllll of this leading up to an end I just couldn't compute? And an epilogue that was unnecessary and all too often done. A solid 4 star for me right up until this ending.  One of the rare times I think I would've preferred an ambiguous ending.


Jessica's Review:

A stunning cover for a fun little binge read thriller! I haven’t picked up Hawkins’ other book yet but after reading RECKLESS GIRLS I’ll have to bump it up the TBR for the year. This has all the qualities of a locked room thriller but it’s on a shored boat and an abandoned island instead.

This was a pretty quick one overall but I feel like the pacing might be a little on the slow burn side for some thriller fans. I’m a little confused as to why the synopsis calls it gothic suspense because I wasn’t getting that vibe at all. I would consider this more of a popcorn thriller, just super quick to get through and plenty going on to keep your attention.

Plenty of drama, twists, and all on a remote island with a dark past – because what kind of abandoned island would it be if there wasn’t some dark history behind it? The mix of characters all have their own secrets and all is slowly revealed while quickly jumping between POVs. A solid introduction to the author for me and I’ll be looking for more in the future. All in all, a good start to the year!

3.5 stars

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Review: Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung

Cursed Bunny
by Bora Chung
translated by Anton Hur

Publish Date: July 15, 2021 (first published 2017)
Kindle Edition
187 Pages
Genres: Short Story Collection, Horror, Sci-Fi, Magical Realism

Cursed Bunny is a genre-defying collection of short stories by Korean author Bora Chung. Blurring the lines between magical realism, horror, and science-fiction, Chung uses elements of the fantastic and surreal to address the very real horrors and cruelties of patriarchy and capitalism in modern society.

My Review:

I have gone from not wanting to read any anthologies/short story collections to saying f*ck it, let's do this sh*t.  I can't remember which Bookstagrammer posted about this but it caught my attention and I just HAD to get it... even if I did swear off all things *BUNNY* a while back. 🙄 But alas, here I am and even better that I get to support a Korean author! Full transparency, I had no idea this was a short story collection until I started reading it. 😄

The opening story was NOT what I was expecting and I instantly knew this was going to be a quite unique collection and then story after story after story, I was mesmerized... even in the ones that I didn't like as much as the others (as often happens in collections/anthologies).  And I LOVE that Chung brings us a mix of genres: horror, sci-fi, magical realism.... YES PLEASE.  But each story, whether horrific or fable-like, holds a lesson to be learned.  I believe Embodiment was my favorite in this collection - and this particular story expresses the stigma around unwed mothers.  I honestly can't stop thinking about this one, y'all. 

Throughout the stories, I definitely had that Korean feeling of "han", which is hard to describe but touches on resentment and rage.  Consider Parasite and Squid Game in terms of social commentary and that is basically what is sprinkled throughout this entire read.

Turns out, I was right, some people really are pieces of shit. #iykyk 💩

And I'll leave you with this: "Once you experience a terrible trauma and understand the world from an extreme perspective, it is difficult to overcome this perspective.  Because your very survival depens on it."


Review: A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham #ATBR2022

A Flicker in the Dark
by Stacy Willingham

Thank you to Minotaur Books for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Minotaur
Publish Date: January 11, 2022
368 Pages
Genres: Thriller, Suspense

When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, Chloe’s father had been arrested as a serial killer and promptly put in prison. Chloe and the rest of her family were left to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.

Now 20 years later, Chloe is a psychologist in private practice in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. She finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to get. Sometimes, though, she feels as out of control of her own life as the troubled teens who are her patients. And then a local teenage girl goes missing, and then another, and that terrifying summer comes crashing back. Is she paranoid, and seeing parallels that aren't really there, or for the second time in her life, is she about to unmask a killer?

In a debut novel that has already been optioned for a limited series by actress Emma Stone and sold to a dozen countries around the world, Stacy Willingham has created an unforgettable character in a spellbinding thriller that will appeal equally to fans of Gillian Flynn and Karin Slaughter.

My Review:

I just LOVE a good debut novel, don't you?  Let me introduce you to Willingham and her baby, A FLICKER IN THE DARK.  In this suspenseful thriller, we meet Chloe - who at 12, saw her father arrested as a serial killer. Not traumatizing at all, right? But she's finally happy.  Successful career, planning her wedding - couldn't get any better! But then murders start again that are similar to her past and the memories come rushing back to her.

Overall I found this to be a fun read.  I think as a person who reads a ton of thrillers, this wasn't something completely new to the genre.  However, it's a storyline I always have fun reading.  Feel me? I did find that I figured out the mystery quite early on ...  but the author did have me questioning myself a couple of time! 🤣 As such, I don't have a ton to say about this read other than that I enjoyed it and am always impressed with a good debut.

Grab your fishing rod to catch all the red herrings and enjoy seeing if you can figure out the mystery before it's revealed.  Isn't that the most fun of thrillers?  And even if you do figure it out, how the author splays out the story can make all the difference.  I am liking Willingham's writing style and eager to see what else she comes out with as I most definitely will be reading it.


Jessica's Review:

Imagine being a twelve year old girl, already trying to navigate life and find your place, then add the stress of numerous teenage girls disappearing in your town. What could make it worse? Well, your dad being arrested as the serial killer that was tormenting your community. This is Chloe’s reality and the life she desperately wanted to leave in her past. Can you ever truly leave something so horrible buried away?

Fast forward to the present day, 20 years later, she's successful and preparing for her wedding when eerily similar disappearances start happening. All the memories begin rushing back and now she must figure out if this is another killer or if she is being consumed by her paranoia and trauma and only imagining these parallels.

The paranoia and suspense that follows brings us on a fun ride filled with red herrings to try and throw you off the trail. While I did figure out the mystery fairly early on I still enjoyed it from start to finish. A FLICKER IN THE DARK is a solid debut for Stacy Willingham and I can't wait to see what she comes out with next. 

3.5 stars

Monday, January 10, 2022

Review: Wrong Girl Gone by Audrey Wilson

Wrong Girl Gone
by Audrey Wilson

Thanks so much to the author for this gifted copy.

Publish Date: April 18, 2021
273 Pages
Genre: Contemporary, Domestic Suspense

It's late in the summer of 1989 and the body of twenty-two year-old Jay Elliot Larson is about to be discovered on the bank of Kawanee River.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

As a young mother living in her small hometown of Jasper, Mississippi, Joy lives paycheck to paycheck with her son, Jerry, and alcoholic husband, Carl.  After enduring years of Carl's abuse, Joy reaches her breaking point when she discovers a large stash of money he's been keeping from her.  With the encouragement of her twin sister, Joy takes the money, packs up Jerry, and goes on the run, determined to get as far away from Carl as possible.  But Joy is not alone.  Someone is following her.  And it's only a matter of time before Joy will have to fight for her son... and her life.

My Review:

One of the best things about the Bookstagram community is just how much we all tend to support each other, and by virtue, those that we know.  Dana @danafraedrich reached out about her friend, Audrey, whose debut novel, WRONG GIRL GONE, is right in the wheel house of books that I read.  We all know how much I LOVE a good debut novel!

Wilson's novel speaks greatly on domestic violence and the somersaults of emotions women go through when in a less than desirable situation.... especially when a child is involved.  While it may look like an easy decision on the outside, or maybe people just see and believe what they want to, the internal struggle never goes away.  Joy is determined and when she finally does go... well, there's secrets other than her own she'll have to grapple with as she trudges along.

This is moderately paced and kept my interest from beginning to end.  I do have one small gripe and that is when names are too similar - in this case, the two male adults that are prominent are Carl and Clay.  Maybe it's my pea brain but I felt confused for a while in the back and forth on who was who.  I know, I know, it's such a small thing but it has always irked me.  I also felt that some things felt just a teeny bit amiss and I would've liked a tad more background to really engage with the characters.  HOWEVER, as a debut novel, impressive!  

I would absolutely pick up Wilson's next release.  She's a delightful inspiration and I encourage you to pick this book up and indulge in your domestic suspense needs.


Friday, January 7, 2022

Review: One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite

One of the Good Ones
by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite

Thank you to Inkyard Press/Harlequin Books for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Inkyard Press
Publish Date: January 18, 2022
352 Pages
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary


When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.

One of the good ones.

Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again.

My Review:

What a powerful and poignant read.  My first into the sisters Moulite's writing and I will certainly be looking forward to more from these two.  In this young adult, contemporary read, we are faced with Kezi, who died following an arrest during a social justice rally.  The authors take us into the days before and after through the POVs of four different characters.

The authors do a sensational job of touching on such important topics such as racism, internally, outwardly and systemic, grief, coming out, Black history and police brutality.  There's a LOT to unpack within this story.  But with these very serious tones, we also get a balance of joy, which is something I feel is necessary these days.  That while the heavy subject MUST be addressed, so should the joy that is within.  I hope that I'm making sense here as proper/better words seem to allude me at the moment.

I will say that I was NOT a fan of the twist for several reasons but I'll keep my mouth shut so as to not spoil anything for anyone.  However, after reading the Authors' Note, I understand better as to why they took the story the direction that they did. This is why I always say to read these notes as they may make a difference in how you see the story after you first turn that last page.

The title is powerful enough in what it stands for and how society and the system works... how people see each other... but I have to agree with the authors.... "shouldn't being human be enough"?  Yes, it absolutely should be.