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Friday, April 29, 2022

Review: Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor

Hotel Magnifique
by Emily J. Taylor
Narrated by Suzy Jackson

Thanks so much to PRH Audio for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Penguin House Audio Publishing Group
Publish Date: April 5, 2022
10 hours 39 min
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Decadent and darkly enchanting, this lavish YA fantasy debut follows seventeen-year-old Jani as she uncovers the deeply disturbing secrets of the legendary Hotel Magnifique.

All her life, Jani has dreamed of Elsewhere. Just barely scraping by with her job at a tannery, she’s resigned to a dreary life in the port town of Durc, caring for her younger sister Zosa. That is, until the Hotel Magnifique comes to town.

The hotel is legendary not only for its whimsical enchantments, but also for its ability to travel—appearing in a different destination every morning. While Jani and Zosa can’t afford the exorbitant costs of a guest’s stay, they can interview to join the staff, and are soon whisked away on the greatest adventure of their lives. But once inside, Jani quickly discovers their contracts are unbreakable and that beneath the marvelous glamour, the hotel is hiding dangerous secrets.

With the vexingly handsome doorman Bel as her only ally, Jani embarks on a mission to unravel the mystery of the magic at the heart of the hotel and free Zosa—and the other staff—from the cruelty of the ruthless maître d’hôtel. To succeed, she’ll have to risk everything she loves, but failure would mean a fate far worse than never returning home.

My Review:

It's been a while since I've delved back into YA Fantasy but if I'm gonna do it, it may as well be HOTEL MAGNIFIQUE - the hotel that is well known, moves around all the time... and MAGIC.  Sign me up!  But alas, some of the shiny lost its luster and I found my attention waning and wish I could wave my hands and make it something *more*.  Whether it was my mood, or whether it just didn't quite work for me, I still very much enjoyed the premise and the sister bond between Jani and Zosa.

I love books like these in the fact that we get all this magical fun while chasing the unknown and knowing that there's something sordid behind the walls.  It's this kind of adventure I always find myself drawn to.  I do wish there was something more with the hotel.  I wish the pacing had been more fluent and I wish the ending wasn't as abrupt as it was after everything we went through to get there.

As a debut novel, very impressed.  I will absolutely be reading Taylor's next novel and see if that one works just a bit better for me.  Lots of potential here.


Saturday, April 23, 2022

Review: I'll Be You by Janelle Brown

I'll Be You
by Janelle Brown
Narrated by: Julia Whelan & Kate Rudd

Thanks so much to PRH Audio and Random House for the gifted copies.

Publisher: Random House Audio
Publish Date: April 26, 2022
11hrs. 41min
Genres: Thriller, Suspense, Contemporary

Two identical twin sisters and former child actors have grown apart--until one disappears, and the other is forced to confront the secrets they've kept from each other in this twisty thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Things.

"You be me, and I'll be you," I whispered.

As children, Sam and Elli were two halves of a perfect whole: Gorgeous identical twins whose parents sometimes couldn’t even tell them apart. They fell asleep to the sound of each other’s breath at night, holding hands in the dark. And once Hollywood discovered them, they became B-list child TV stars, often inhabiting the same role.

But as adults their lives have splintered. After leaving acting, Elli reinvented herself as the perfect homemaker: Married to a real-estate lawyer, in a house two blocks from the beach. Meanwhile, Sam has never recovered from her failed Hollywood career, or from her addiction to the pills and booze that have propped her up for the last 15 years.

Sam hasn't spoken to her sister since her destructive behavior finally drove a wedge between them. So, when her father calls out of the blue, Sam is shocked to learn that Elli’s life has been in turmoil: Her husband moved out, and Elli just adopted a two-year-old girl. Now she’s stopped answering her phone and checked in to a mysterious spa in Ojai. Is her sister just decompressing, or is she in trouble? Could she have possibly joined a cult? As Sam works to connect the dots left by Elli’s baffling disappearance, she realizes that the bond between her and her sister is more complicated than she ever knew.

I’ll Be You shows Janelle Brown at the top of her game: a story packed with surprising revelations and sharp insights about the choices that define our families and our lives — and could just as easily destroy them.

My Review:

I absolutely adore Janelle Brown.  This is my third book by her, and they are all solid across the board.  Who needs a synopsis? Janelle wrote it? SOLD. She has absolutely done it again with I'LL BE YOU.  Here we are introduced to twins, Elli and Sam. One loves the spotlight, the other just wants a normal life.  Identical in so many ways, and yet worlds apart.  

We get to navigate from their childhood to present day and as with any family, the drama contained within.  Which brings me to the point where while this is a thriller in the domestic drama sense, it really reads more like a contemporary story and brilliantly done at that.  Regardless of Elli and Sam's differences, they have an unbreakable bond and in the process of them coming back into each other's lives now, they learn so much more about each other that they had never expected.

Honestly y'all, this novel will subtly surprise you.  As the unknown starts showing itself, all the things you thought you knew in the beginning will be proven wrong.  I kind of wish there had been just a little more about GemFem - cult vibes are always a win for me but don't expect this to be completely in that vein.  If you love a good sister bonding suspenseful read, I would highly recommend this.  If there's one thing Brown can do, it is make you care about her characters.  Flawed but lovable, even at their worst.  I mean, if you had the opportunity to finally have everything you wanted, just how far would you go?


Friday, April 22, 2022

Review: When the Corn is Waist High by Jeremy Scott #ATBR2022

When the Corn is Waist High
by Jeremy Scott

Thanks so much to Keylight Books/Turner Publishing for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Keylight Books
Publish Date: April 19, 2022
279 Pages
Genre: Thriller

In the early 1980’s, a tiny, rural Indiana farm town experiences a series of confounding and violent murders that shock the community.

Father Solomon Lancaster—the town’s dry-witted sheriff and priest at the community Catholic church—finds himself on the forefront of the investigation. Soon, he’s fighting to match wits with the serial killer terrorizing his town while trying to justify his law enforcement credentials to the FBI as their analysts and profilers take Crooked Creek, Indiana, by storm.

But Father Solomon is hiding secrets of his own. Ones that threaten to rise to the surface as the murders continue and the investigation draws nearer to the truth. As the killer begins to escalate, Father Solomon finds that even the innocent have dark sides, and trust might be the deadliest weapon of all.

My Review:


Father Solomon Lancaster - priest and sheriff in the tiny town in Indiana called Crooked Creek.  He should be neither.  A serial killer is on the loose and has a trademark for each killing.  In such a small town where not a lot usually happens, he finds himself ill equipped in solving these murders.  So now what?

Ok - what I liked.  There were some pretty funny moments that I chuckled at (chuckled? twice I've used this word this week - I'm turning into my Dad).  I liked that Father/Sheriff was fallible in his humanity and, at times, his faith. I didn't even mind that he cussed a lot - some of my closest friends do the same. *smirk*  

What I didn't care for - the reveal, saw it coming from miles and miles of farmland away.  Didn't care for the reasoning behind everything but that's a personal preference that unfortunately lends to my womp womp review.  I also have a pet peeve where the book ends with "The End".  I don't know why this irks me so much.  

I can't decide if I was ok with Father/Sheriff narrating directly to the reader.  It almost made this feel a bit satirical or on the comedy/thriller side and I'm just unsure how that falls for me.  Maybe a zillion books I've read does this but for some reason it really stood out in this one.

I really, really wanted to like this more than I did.  Uff.


Jessica's Review:

I'm going to keep this review pretty short because I don't even really think I know how I feel about it. WHEN THE CORN IS WAIST HIGH was my introduction to Jeremy Scott, and despite this one not working for me I still want to try another book by him. I liked the writing and I feel like this had a lot of potential, but something in the execution just didn't work for me. This book is the definition of a 3 star read for me - there were things I liked that kept me reading and there were a lot of things that I didn't really like where I almost had to DNF it. Overall, I'm not upset that I read it because I do want to try out more from Scott in the future, but I wanted just a little bit more. Seeing the reviews from other readers, I seem to be an outlier and there are plenty of others that loved it, so if the synopsis intrigues you, then give it a shot!

3 stars

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Review: Like Me by Hayley

Like Me
by Hayley Phelan

Thanks so much to Lake Union for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: March 1, 2022
272 Pages
Genre: Psychological Thriller

A propulsive psychological thriller that follows an aspiring model down a social media-fuelled rabbit hole of obsession, narcissism and self-destruction.

For nineteen-year-old Mickey, Instagram offers a tantalizing portal into the world she wishes she inhabited. Though beautiful, cunning and privileged, Mickey finds herself with a stalled modelling career, an escalating drinking problem, few friends and next to nothing in the bank. To numb her growing despair, she spends her days frantically refreshing her Instagram feed, obsessively tracking the movements of Insta-famous model Gemma Anton.

Gemma is a perfected version of Mickey, living a seemingly perfect life: a skyrocketing career, a famous photographer boyfriend and adoring followers--the life Mickey wants more than anything for herself. She studies every detail Gemma offers through the window of her phone, trying to absorb, learn, mimic, become the object of her growing fascination.

Then, a chance encounter thrusts Mickey into a world of opportunity, and she is met with surprising, and immediate, success. But as her online persona begins to take over her life, Mickey finds it increasingly difficult to separate reality from the facade of Instagram.

Engrossing, sharp and astute, Like Me is a shimmering portrait of infatuation, disconnection and identity in the digital age--and a dazzling introduction to a brilliant new voice in contemporary literature.

My Review:

My bff sent me a photo of a handwritten letter I had sent her shortly after we had graduated from college and the first line said "I got your page last night".  I had to take a moment to realize that this was pre-cell phone days and I had a pager during those baby tech days. These days we have computers in our pockets that we can't seem to live without (guilty), the grip of social media and the urge to perform and influence and compare.  And so here we meet Mickey.  A 19 year old, fresh faced model whose father is incarcerated, mother is delusional and all she wants to do is be Gemma - an Instagram famous model with similar features. She's OBSESSED.  Mickey is young, impressionable, addicted to cocaine and cares more about being a brand rather than a human.  

Within the first few pages I thought for sure I was going to DNF this one.  FFS, Mickey is SO annoying.  It's really hard to find some empathy for her.  The situations she gets in.  The casualty in how she deals with sex and drugs.  And omg, if I had to hear Gemma's name one more time.... *pulls hair*.  But then something just clicked and I couldn't look away.

I can't tell if this is supposed to be a bit of a satirical look at the influence of social media and the banes of the modeling industry.  Or if it really was on-the-nose for the dark side.  The way she takes advantage but then is also taken advantage of... and all in the name of the likes and infamy of Instagram.  But just as easy as social media gives... how easily it will also strip you of your humanity.  At the end, I gave my forehead a thinking massage trying to decide if this was brilliant or a "wtf did you just do to me" kind of read.  Yes, there are plot holes.  Yes, I'm still a bit befuddled by the happenings and that ending that leaves you curious.  Yes, it can seem like Phelan takes an almost too relaxed look at the two polarized sides of today's version of popularity and drive.  However, I think for the sake of Mickey's experience and how unfortunate it is that this shit happens in this day and age... well, this is a thinker for sure.  

I think this will be a love it or hate it kind of read, but either way it will certainly sit with you.


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Review: Blood Sugar by Sascha Rothchild #ATBR2022

Blood Sugar
by Sascha Rothchild

Thanks to NetGalley and Putnam's for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Putnam's
Publish Date: April 19, 2022
Kindle Edition
336 Pages
Genre: Thriller

“I could just kill you right now!” It’s something we’ve all thought at one time or another. But Ruby has actually acted on it. Three times, to be exact.

Though she may be a murderer, Ruby is not a sociopath. She is an animal-loving therapist with a thriving practice. She’s felt empathy and sympathy. She’s had long-lasting friendships and relationships, and has a husband, Jason, whom she adores. But the homicide detectives at Miami Beach PD are not convinced of her happy marriage. When we meet Ruby, she is in a police interrogation room, being accused of Jason’s murder. Which, ironically, is one murder that she did not commit, though her vicious mother-in-law and a scandal-obsessed public believe differently. As she undergoes questioning, Ruby’s mind races back to all the details of her life that led her to this exact moment, and to the three dead bodies in her wake. Because though she may not have killed her husband, Ruby certainly isn’t innocent.

Alternating between Ruby’s memories of her past crimes and her present-day fight to clear her name, Blood Sugar is a twisty, clever debut with an unforgettable protagonist who you can’t help but root for—an addicting mixture of sour and sweet. 

My Review:

I just love books like these.  The beginning immediately drew me in... and yes, while there are other thrillers similar in storyline/thought process, when it's done well, it's just done well.  And as a debut - um, okkkkk Sascha - I'll be looking out for your future novels.

Haven't you ever said "I could kill you/him/her/them/that/whatever"?  But what if you actually acted on these impulses - and only for ones who have wronged you or someone you love?  If they're really a bad person, does it really even count?  I LOVE me a good "good person" with sociopathic tendencies.  So imagine you're being accused for a murder you actually didn't commit. Oh the irony.

I really loved heading back into Ruby's past and seeing how the choices she made led her to a variety of different outcomes.  Folks, always remember that what you did in the past can come back to bite you... or help you.  And there's a very thin line between wrong and right.  Or so it seems.  Ruby is a flawed character that you just can't help but root for.  She's always been different but can be empathetic and loving.  She's protective and wants to help but knows she needs help herself.  It's also a look at how quickly the media can save and/or ruin you if they want to. Misdirection, lies, looking for that heading that sells.  It's a roller coaster of emotions and especially in this day and age... uff.

Was this book perfect? No.  Do I care? Also, no.  It was a breeze to read through and I love it when a debut crawls under my skin and sits there.  


Jessica's Review:

Who doesn't love a good murderous main character? Especially when they're only reserving it for people they deem to be bad people - a vigilante of sorts. I'm sure everyone has had that little voice in their mind when friends and loved ones have been wronged that you just want to take care of the one that hurt them. Not that I'd ever act on that but here we meet Ruby. She says she's not a sociopath because she's felt empathy and does feel emotion towards those in her life she loves, like her husband Jason. We start the book with her being interrogated because she is the person of interest in her husband's murder. While there are three bodies left in her wake, Jason is not one of them.

Not only is she trying to prove her innocence, but she must also try to not implicate herself in the murders she has committed. I loved the two timelines in this: Ruby's past and the events that brought her to where she is now, and the present day with the murder investigation. It's so hard to not like Ruby and root for her throughout the book because why would anyone want the murderer to get away with it? Or at least prove her innocence in the crime she didn't commit - maybe that was more so what it was here. This was a solid debut and while there have been other stories with this same topic, I thought this was really well done and still kept me on the edge of my seat. I'll be looking for Rothchild's next release because I'm super curious as to what she will cook up for us next.

4 stars

Review: Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough

by Sarah Pinborough

Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: April 12, 2022
Kindle Edition
336 Pages
Genre: Psychological Thriller

Emma Averell loves her life—her high-powered legal career, her two beautiful children, and her wonderful stay-at-home husband—but it wasn’t always so perfect. When she was just five years old, Emma and her older sister went into foster care because of a horrific incident with their mother. Her sister can remember a time when their mother was loving and “normal,” but Emma can only remember her as one thing—a monster. And that monster emerged right around their mother’s fortieth birthday, the same age Emma is approaching now.

Emma desperately wants to keep her successful life separate from her past, so she has always hidden her childhood trauma. But then she’s unable to sleep, and now losing time during the day, also one of the first symptoms her mother showed. Is the madness in her blood, just as her mother predicted? Could she end up hurting her family in her foggy, frenetic state? Or is she truly beginning to lose her mind?

My Review:

INSOMNIA!!!  What is the longest you have gone without any sleep?  I think I've lasted around 72 hours back when I was young and didn't need a whole lot.  Now, I struggle with the 5-6 hours I may get these days. Nights. Whatever.  Do you know what happens to your body when you don't sleep... and yes, it can kill you.

I have a love for Pinborough's writing - maybe because she's horror/psych thriller and these are my favorite genres.  From the time I found that someone unbeknownst to me traded my arc of Behind Her Eyes for a taco in my tote bag with only 50 pages to go to her darker, sexier retellings, to her YA thrillers... let's just say I'm a fan.  I recently caught a bit of @crimebythebook's IG Live with Sarah which reminded me to stop everything and go buy this book and I sure am glad that I did!

First of all, not only does this book deal with the terrible effects of insomnia and how it wreaks havoc on your body, it also deals with that ever unsettling feeling of OMG, I'm turning 40!! (I may not have had the same concerns as Emma but lemme tell ya, the 40s are FUN, so go in wide eyed and ENJOY IT!)  Secondly, Pinborough takes us on Emma's ride and you get to feel like you're going insane right along with her.  Now, I will say I can already feel people probably complaining about some of it being a bit repetitive but it truly lends to the story here considering the subject matter.  

Every time I thought I knew what was going on (and believe you me, my mind went in several crazy directions), I was proven wrong.  And that ending is honestly what cinched it for me.  For those who weren't happy with the ending of Behind Her Eyes, don't worry.  Pick this up.  Read it.  Become obsessed right along with Emma.  The ending is completely unexpected but lends well to the storyline.  Go. Run.  Don't sleep on this. 😏 (Sorry, couldn't help myself!)


Friday, April 15, 2022

Review: The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

The Candy House
by Jennifer Egan

Thanks so much to Simon Schuster Audio,, Scribner and Dart Frogg Communications for this gifted book.

Publisher: Scribner
Publish Date: April 5, 2022
352 Pages
Genres: Science Fiction, Contemporary

It’s 2010. Staggeringly successful and brilliant tech entrepreneur Bix Bouton is desperate for a new idea. He’s forty, with four kids, and restless when he stumbles into a conversation with mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or “externalizing” memory. Within a decade, Bix’s new technology, Own Your Unconscious—that allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others—has seduced multitudes. But not everyone.

In spellbinding linked narratives, Egan spins out the consequences of Own Your Unconscious through the lives of multiple characters whose paths intersect over several decades. Egan introduces these characters in an astonishing array of styles—from omniscient to first person plural to a duet of voices, an epistolary chapter, and a chapter of tweets. In the world of Egan’s spectacular imagination, there are “counters” who track and exploit desires and there are “eluders,” those who understand the price of taking a bite of the Candy House.

Intellectually dazzling and extraordinarily moving, The Candy House is a bold, brilliant imagining of a world that is moments away. With a focus on social media, gaming, and alternate worlds, you can almost experience moving among dimensions in a role-playing game.​ Egan delivers a fierce and exhilarating testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for real connection, love, family, privacy and redemption.

My Review:

I'm going to keep this short as I'm not entirely sure what I just read.  Vaguely reminiscent of that Black Mirror episode where you can download all your memories so you can rewind and see what really happened... remember that one?  Well in THE CANDY HOUSE, we get Own Your Unconscious - not only do you get access to all your memories but you can trade them for someone else's.  OoOOoO - sounds very intriguing and I love it, but maybe my brain couldn't process it all. 

I almost felt like I was reading another short story collection that eventually came together somehow and I still don't know exactly know the who, the why or the what. It all does come together nicely in the end but I was befuddled for the majority.  I also ended up listening to this one over reading with my eyes and I think maybe that didn't help to really engage or follow along as well as it could have.  Though the whole cast was a lot of fun to listen to.

Listen, I haven't been in school in a really long time and felt like I needed a lot more brain power to solve the puzzle that is The Candy House.  And I think maybe this type of format for a book doesn't particularly work for me.  However, I also do think it's genius when authors do this because holy hell, how do they keep up with it all?! Impressive.


Thursday, April 14, 2022

Review: What One Wouldn't Do - Horror Anthology

What One Wouldn't Do
by: Scott J. Moses, J.A.W. McCarthy, Avra Margariti, Marisca Pichette, Stephanie Ellis, Christina Wilder, Donna Lynch, Katie Young, Angela Sylvaine, Tom reed, Cheri Kamei, Shane Douglas Keene, J.V. Gachs, Tim McGregor, Emma E. Murray, Nick Younker, Jennifer Crow, Joe Koch, Lex Vranick, Eric Raglin, Eric LaRocca, Daniel Barnett, Bob Johnson, Simone Le Roux, Hailey Piper, Bryson Richard, Jena Brown and Christi Nogle

Thanks so much to Jena Brown for sending me this gifted copy. Isn't it gorgeous!

Publisher: Scott J. Moses
Publish Date: October 5, 2021
330 Pages
Genres: Horror, Anthologies, Short Stories

What One Wouldn't Do for...What?

Power? Safety? Love? Revenge?

Here's to the lengths one might go to for everything.

My Review:

Ok. Fine.  Horror, you win (as if there would ever be any other way).  I think I have now succumbed to the fact that I can read anthologies and short stories and be perfectly satisfied.  And have you SEEN the list of contributors to this collection? *BONKERS*

But, before you start wondering if this is really me, I'm still not sure about poetry, though if I'm going to read it, it will most definitely be horror and some of them in here are starting to make me succumb to them as well.  Damn you, I love you.  I wish I had taken the time to list the stories and make a comment about them so I could give a little taste to y'all for each one but alas, I did not. But I will tell you some of the stand outs for me - but really, they're all creepy fun of WHAT ONE WOULDN'T DO.  And I LOVE the little notes at the end of each story of author info and how they came up with each one.

The Grievous Art of Compulsion really snagged me and I LOVED it.  Baby Girl really got to me as a person who has suffered from miscarriages and infertility.  Cathartic and I thank Gachs for writing something that is usually considered "forbidden topic".  Red Rotary Phone - I remember the case where this idea sprang from so *shiver*. YES. They Don't Eat Teeth - it's like Jena knew exactly what kind of story I needed to read.   I'm just going to assume she wrote it for me. 😉  I could likely mention every single one and something I liked about each, but you'll just have to grab this collection. Oh what I wouldn't do to make you read it. 😏


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Review: The New Neighbor by Carter Wilson #ATBR2022

The New Neighbor
by Carter Wilson

A huge thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for this gifted copy.

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publish Date: April 12, 2022
384 Pages
Genre: Psychological Thriller/Suspense

Aidan holds the winning Powerball numbers.

Is today the best day of his life... or the worst?

Aidan Marlowe is the superstitious type—he's been playing the same lottery numbers for fifteen years, never hitting the jackpot. Until now. On the day of his wife's funeral.

Aidan struggles to cope with these two sudden extremes: instant wealth beyond his imagination, and the loss of the only woman he's ever loved, the mother of his twin children. But the money gives him and his kids options they didn't have before. They can leave everything behind. They can start a new life in a new town. So they do.

But a huge new house and all the money in the world can't replace what they've lost, and it's not long before Aidan realizes he's merely trading old demons for new ones. Because someone is watching him and his family very closely. Someone who knows exactly who they are, where they've come from, and what they're trying to hide. Someone who will stop at nothing to get what they want...

My Review:

OK Wilson, you are definitely an autobuy author on my favorite list.  This is my fourth book.  I started with Mister Tender's Girl and Revelation (both UH-MAZING) and then read The Dead Girl in 2A - also excellent.  But of course, I haven't read my copy of The Dead Husband yet and THE NEW NEIGHBOR is a cross over book.  But fear not!  This is a standalone, as is his other works just mentioned.

What would you do if your partner died and left you and your twins? And on the same day of their funeral, you find that you just won $30M in the lottery? CRACK! WTF is that sound.  Damn, life is going to change in a gazillion different ways and moving into a mansion that has bad history but that you're drawn to?  I mean, who wouldn't move to a town called Bury because the name resonated with you since you just BURIED your wife. Ahem.

I was hooked from the get go and Wilson just showcases his brilliance once again.  This is a story of grief, change, love, history and family.  I really enjoy the message that we get at the end but you'll have to read this to find out.  It just really touched me in a way I wasn't expecting.  Go snag yourself a copy ASAP (along with Wilson's backlist).



Jessica's Review:

Alright, it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Carter Wilson. Ever since MISTER TENDER’S GIRL I anxiously wait for his next release and I have yet to be disappointed. I cannot stop recommending his books enough and that is no different with THE NEW NEIGHBOR. Once again, we are treated to an incredibly addictive book and one that I couldn’t put down. While this book does have a little bit of crossover with THE DEAD HUSBAND, this is definitely a standalone book and you do not need to read that one in order to follow along with this.

The book begins at a funeral, and Aidan Marlowe is burying his wife. As he is saying his final goodbye he finds out that he just won the lottery, to the tune of $30M. After hearing a loud cracking in the cemetery he decides this was the sign he needed to move him and his twins to a new town to start over. Enter the Yates House in Bury, New Hampshire. This house has quite the history of previous occupants disappearing and never being seen again, but Marlowe is drawn to it. Not going to lie, I was super excited to see this house get its feature because it’s from THE DEAD HUSBAND. The house is a character all on its own and knowing it’s dark past made it even more ominous.

While there is plenty of suspense to keep you on your toes, Wilson always does a great job developing the characters and having you connect with them. The secrets Marlowe has in his past combined with the dark history of the Yates House was just perfectly executed. I think that this is up there as one of my favorites from Wilson (it’ll be pretty hard to top MISTER TENDER’S GIRL) and I can’t wait for his next release. Get all of his backlist and you’ll thank me later!

5 stars

Monday, April 11, 2022

Review: An Honest Lie by Tarryn Fisher #ATBR2022

An Honest Lie
by Tarryn Fisher

Thanks so much to Graydon House for this gifted book.

Publisher: Graydon House
Publish Date: April 26, 2022
336 Pages
Genre: Thriller

“I’m going to kill her. You’d better come if you want to save her.”
Lorraine—“Rainy”—lives at the top of Tiger Mountain. Remote, moody, cloistered in pine trees and fog, it’s a sanctuary, a new life. She can hide from the disturbing past she wants to forget.
If she’s allowed to.
When Rainy reluctantly agrees to a girls’ weekend in Vegas, she’s prepared for an exhausting parade of shots and slot machines. But after a wild night, her friend Braithe doesn’t come back to the hotel room.
And then Rainy gets the text message, sent from Braithe’s phone: someone has her. But Rainy is who they really want, and Rainy knows why.
What follows is a twisted, shocking journey on the knife-edge of life and death. If she wants to save Braithe—and herself—the only way is to step back into the past.

My Review:

🙄 More Summer and less Rainy please.  A sentence I thought I'd never say since IRL I prefer the exact opposite. Uff, y'all.  Uff.  I've read quite a few of Fisher's books but unfortunately the last couple just did not work for me.

Fisher is compulsive in her writing and I can never NOT read her. I just can't stop!  And this is a fun story to an extent.  Anything cult-like is almost always a win for me. I could read and watch things about cults all the time.  Which is why I wanted more of the past, before Summer became Rainy.  I definitely preferred this timeline to the "current" one.   The way the past and the current end up meeting up... just... let's just say it wasn't seamless. And the last few chapters... what the hell just happened? I can suspend reality with the best of them but too many coinky dinks do not a good thriller make.  I said what I said.

I dunno.  This just seemed a bit disjointed in my opinion.  Certain plot lines were unnecessary to get to a point that didn't quite make sense anyways.  However, I was rooting for her... kind of. I wish I could write a better review for this one but alas....  I'll certainly still be looking for her next release. I firmly believe it'll be a winner for me. 🤞


Jessica's Review:

I'll keep it short and sweet. I wanted to love this more than I did. I absolutely loved The Wives and still recommend it to everyone needing a great thriller but this just felt a little lackluster in comparison. It was a little disjointed and the end wasn't quite worth the build up. This one didn't work for me but I'm definitely still reading more from Fisher because her writing is so addictive. I still couldn't put this down and it moved quickly. Despite it not being my favorite, I'll still be anxiously waiting for her next release. I've seen some really great reviews for this book and I seem to be in the minority, so if the synopsis intrigues you then don't let my review deter you!

2.5 stars

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Review: Young Rich Widows by Kimberly Belle, Layne Fargo, Cate Holahan & Vanessa Lillie

Young Rich Widows
by Kimberly Belle, Layne Fargo,
Cate Holahan & Vanessa Lillie

Publisher: Audible Originals
Publish Date: April 14, 2022
8 hrs 46 min
Genre: Thriller

When the four partners of a prominent law firm are killed in a mysterious plane crash, their widows must come together to uncover the truth in this explosive, edge-of-your-seat novel.

It’s 1985 in Providence, Rhode Island, and the four partners of a prominent, mafia-affiliated law firm have been killed in a private jet that went down outside New York City. Four very different women have just lost the loves of their lives: Justine, a former fashion model adjusting to suburban life; Camille, a beautiful, young second wife some suspect is a gold digger; Krystle, committed to leaving the firm to her sons after her husband worked his whole life to support them all; and Meredith, a stripper at the local club who was in a secret relationship with the firm’s sole female partner. While the crash is initially ruled a tragic accident, something’s not adding up: The team wasn’t supposed to be in New York that day, and it’s soon revealed that there was a very large sum of cash that burned up with the plane. The women find themselves thrown together in search of the truth, with new danger and threats unfolding at every turn.

Could a dissatisfied client be seeking revenge? Or were the partners involved in something bigger—something dangerous and deadly? What other secrets were the partners keeping, and how far might people go to ensure they stay hidden? The widows must find the answers in order to protect their inheritance, their families, and their lives.

My Review:

I had the BEST time with the narrators of this story.  Each person really played their role to their fullest and with each chapter I felt I could feel the authors' signature styles and lemme tell ya, it's freakin' entertaining!  Grab some popcorn or pull up candy crush or some other mobile game or some gem art.. do some cleaning.  Whatever.  Find a reason to have to listen to this audio. 

I was hoping the title was a how-to book *wink wink*... but what we readers get is far more fun.  Four very different women all lose their partners in the blink of an air crash leaving them widows.  But something isn't right and their millions may be further out of grasp than any of them had anticipated.   What follows is drama, mob tendencies that really fit to the mid-80s theme and laughs.  OMG was Krystle cracking me up! 

Four thriller authors I love collaborated for this Audible Original - a round of applause to each of you and to the narrators who really delivered and made this story come to life.  Special shout out to Vanessa for this gifted #audiobook.  Y'all are going to do more, right? ahem *cough (say yes) cough*


Saturday, April 9, 2022

Review: Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester

Such a Pretty Smile
by Kristi DeMeester

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

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: January 18, 2022
Kindle Edition
320 Pages
Genre: Horror

A biting novel from an electrifying new voice, Such a Pretty Smile is a heart-stopping tour-de-force about powerful women, angry men, and all the ways in which girls fight against the forces that try to silence them.

There’s something out there that’s killing. Known only as The Cur, he leaves no traces, save for the torn bodies of girls, on the verge of becoming women, who are known as trouble-makers; those who refuse to conform, to know their place. Girls who don’t know when to shut up.

2019: Thirteen-year-old Lila Sawyer has secrets she can’t share with anyone. Not the school psychologist she’s seeing. Not her father, who has a new wife, and a new baby. And not her mother—the infamous Caroline Sawyer, a unique artist whose eerie sculptures, made from bent twigs and crimped leaves, have made her a local celebrity. But soon Lila feels haunted from within, terrorized by a delicious evil that shows her how to find her voice—until she is punished for using it.

2004: Caroline Sawyer hears dogs everywhere. Snarling, barking, teeth snapping that no one else seems to notice. At first, she blames the phantom sounds on her insomnia and her acute stress in caring for her ailing father. But then the delusions begin to take shape—both in her waking hours, and in the violent, visceral sculptures she creates while in a trance-like state. Her fiancé is convinced she needs help. Her new psychiatrist waves her “problem” away with pills. But Caroline’s past is a dark cellar, filled with repressed memories and a lurking horror that the men around her can’t understand.

As past demons become a present threat, both Caroline and Lila must chase the source of this unrelenting, oppressive power to its malignant core. Brilliantly paced, unsettling to the bone, and unapologetically fierce, Such a Pretty Smile is a powerful allegory for what it can mean to be a woman, and an untamed rallying cry for anyone ever told to sit down, shut up, and smile pretty.

My Review:

Snarls and fangs and too many teeth - this weird in the best way horror story really bites.  Young girls, staying silent, going crazy, doctors, pills, sculptures, shadows... the vivid imagery played with my imagination's feelings.  I really need to see Caroline's creepy sculptures in person please and thank you.

This story starts in 2019 with Lila, Caroline's daughter and then shoots to the past in 2004 where we see Caroline's past ... how they come together and where the story ends was truly satisfying for me.  I'm not sure what I expected from this story but what I thought was going to happen, didn't, and I'm so glad!

Wooooooow the "men" in this book suck.  Constantly condescending and thinking the girls and women are just being hysterical.  Hey, here's a pill for your problem because YOU'RE the problem.  Now, now, listen to your husband, he knows what is best for you. Blah blah, inert eyeroll an try not to stab them.  /rant

There's a lot to unpack in this story.  Social commentary told in a horror story where girls are being silenced and the changing of the faces of the men around them still define the same type of misogynistic man we run into on the daily.   It's a story of fighting back and finding a way to thrive when everything around you pushes you to be less than.  Sometimes these kinds of stories don't work for me but I was involved with the violence part that it didn't dawn on me until the end and then it punched me in the face. Solid.


Thursday, April 7, 2022

Review: Secret Life of a Hollywood Sex & Love Addict by Brianne Davis

Secret Life of a Hollywood Sex & Love Addict
by Brianne Davis

Thanks to the author for this gifted audiobook.

Publisher: Just B Productions
Publish Date: April 21, 2021 (first published Feb 2021)
Genre: Contemporary

Imagine if Sex and the City's Samantha discovered she was an addict and her drug of choice was MEN. Go on a hilarious, inspiring, and at times, shocking journey as Roxanne conquers her fears, changes her ways, gets closer to healthy relationships and begins loving herself a little more each day. 

After years of working as an image-obsessed actress in Hollywood, Roxanne finds herself at rock bottom from a disease that is anything but glamorous.

In her first year of recovery, Roxanne has to take accountability for her past. From tales of being mistaken for a prostitute at the Hotel Bel-Air to botching a threesome attempt with an A-list celebrity, she must face the truth about herself and stop playing the victim.

Roxanne's odyssey of using sex and love—as destructive and beguiling as an alcoholic reaching for a bottle—is a veritable rollercoaster of ups and downs, laughter and tears, and a true testament to facing your absolute truth and conquering your fears. 

Secret Life of a Hollywood Sex & Love Addict has the vibrant, relatable vibe of chick lit, the soul-baring honesty of a memoir and the wisdom of a self-help book.

So take a front-row seat into this complex world and the 10 RULES Roxanne learns along the way.

My Review:

OoooOOoooooOo, this was so much fun to listen to.  It was like I was sitting across from Brianne with a glass of whiskey, listening to her regale stories of her (i.e. Roxane's) journey from addiction to sobriety.  And done in a fun way so as not to feel like a textbook on the rules to follow.  From hilarious quips and situations to the cringe worthy.  I mean, who doesn't love that butterfly in the stomach feeling that we get at the beginning of any relationship?  Who doesn't get complacent and take people for granted sometimes?  But how much do you rely on this feeling to satiate what you think you need to feel good about yourself?  If you're not looking to yourself to make you happy, then maybe you're doing it wrong.

This roman à clef novel showcases Davis's own intimate experiences through our main character, Roxanne, in her road to finding self love and ditching her destructive patterns.  While we may not have this same type of addiction, I'm sure we can all relate in one way or another - I know I certainly can.  There's certainly advice to be heeded that would benefit us all.  Whether it's staying away from social media to avoid the "compare and despair" spiral (been there) to cutting people out of your life that can trigger you to act in a way you'll feel worse for the wear for later on (done that).  Everything is easier said than done - but that does not mean it can't be done! 

Thank you, Brianne, for being such an inspiration and providing me with this gifted audiobook.


Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Review: A Puppet Scorned by Jamie Kort

A Puppet Scorned 
by Jamie Kort

Thanks to the author for this gifted story.

Publish Date: December 26, 2021
Kindle Edition
Genre: Horror. Short Story

Enter a world where needles are sexy and knitting is deadly...

Camille and Brad are sock-puppets that live in a dusty old attic. They fill their days by exploring the storage boxes in their small world. One day they find yarn and needles and they create something that causes a nightmarish series of events to unfold... and Brad has been hiding something from Camille... a terrible secret that might destroy them!

My Review:

insert photo

When the author reached out and made it clear this wasn't a joke, I couldn't help but say YES to a horror short story about sock puppets.  Hell hath no fury like a sock puppet scorned. 🤣

In the first couple of pages or so, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this.  Puppet erotica with all their ambitious "love-knitting".  Puns abound - and I'm a lover of puns but sometimes it can be a bit *too* much.  Then again, if you're reading a story about scorned sock puppet, then you're boundaries are probably not that thick. I don't even know what I'm saying now.

As the story grew further, I couldn't help but enjoy myself and rooting for Camille.  I grew to enjoy the absolute punniness of it all.  My favorite part is probably she tells Brad that 'She's not the right sock for you.  I'm the right sock for you and you're the left for me.' I die.  

This was simply a fun horror short story with sock puppet sex and revenge.  What more could you ask for??