Blog Tour – Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott

Hello friends! I’m very excited to be partnering with Quercus USA and Jo Fletcher Books to welcome you all to the delightfully odd world of Rotherweird! I’m very nearly done reading this one, and I can tell you it’s an extremely fun read. I’ll have a review up soon, but for today, check out the synopsis below and be sure to add Rotherweird to your Goodreads TBR!

The town of Rotherweird stands alone – there are no guidebooks, despite the fascinating and diverse architectural styles cramming the narrow streets, the avant garde science and offbeat customs. Cast adrift from the rest of England by Elizabeth I, Rotherweird’s independence is subject to one disturbing condition: nobody, but nobody, studies the town or its history.

For beneath the enchanting surface lurks a secret so dark that it must never be rediscovered, still less reused.

But secrets have a way of leaking out.

Two inquisitive outsiders have arrived: Jonah Oblong, to teach modern history at Rotherweird School (nothing local and nothingbefore 1800), and the sinister billionaire Sir Veronal Slickstone, who has somehow got permission to renovate the town’s long-derelict Manor House.

Slickstone and Oblong, though driven by conflicting motives, both strive to connect past and present, until they and their allies are drawn into a race against time – and each other. The consequences will be lethal and apocalyptic.

Welcome to Rotherweird!

Top Reads of 2019 (So Far)

I’m a little bit late in getting this post together seeing as we’re now well into July, but I promised a round-up post, and so a round-up post you shall receive!

As of mid-July, I’ve read 37 books in 2019. A little lower than I was aiming for, but I’ve had some stellar reads so I’m not too upset! And now, onto my top 5 – title links go to Goodreads, with links at the bottom to my reviews of all of these in case you missed them.

#5 – The Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer

This is a book I really should have gotten to in 2018, but it stayed on my TBR until January. I’m sure had I read it in 2018, it would have made my top 10 for the year. I haven’t read a lot of flash fiction, and I was a little wary of not being able to connect with such short stories, but that was definitely not the case here. The writing is deft and oh so creepy, with not a bad story in the bunch!
Find my review here on the blog.

#4 – The Hunger by Alma Katsu

This book was the inaugural read for Grim Readers Book Club, and we were lucky enough to have the author agree to a Q&A with us! The book was excellent on its own, with an incredible mixture of historical facts and horrific fiction, but being able to discuss the author’s research and influences elevated it even higher on my list of favourites for 2019. (PS: I’ve left a link to the book club above if anyone wants to join in the spooky fun!)
My review is up here at Sci-Fi & Scary.

#3 – Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

This is one I was a little nervous about going into it, since domestic thrillers tend to be a bit hit or miss for me. But I’m so glad I gave it a shot, because this was so much more than your typical thriller! There’s folklore and uncertainty weaved into every page, and I was left guessing not just until the last page, but well after I’d finished reading.
My review for this one is here on the blog.

#2 – The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall

This book spent literally over a decade on my shelves before I finally decided to pick it up in January. I have no idea why I put it off for so long, because this was a seriously incredible read! It’s bizarre and beautiful, and it’s definitely stuck with me.
My review can be found here at Sci-Fi & Scary.

#1 – The Homecoming by Andrew Pyper

Andrew Pyper is an auto-buy author for me, so I guess it isn’t too surprising that this one is still in my top spot halfway through the year! I bought it on release day and absolutely tore through it. 5 months later and I still find myself thinking about this book – always a sign of an excellent read!
You can find my 5 star review here on the blog.

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle #BookReview

TITLE: Dear Wife | AUTHOR: Kimberly Belle | PUBLISHER: Park Row| PUBLISHED ON: June 25, 2019 | PAGES: 329| ISBN13: 9780778308591 | RATING: 3.5 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Copy provided by publisher for review consideration.

My Thoughts:

I don’t normally do half-hook ratings, but this one has left me truly stuck in the middle – 3 stars doesn’t seem to quite give the book the credit it deserves, but I can’t quite justify pushing it to that fourth star either. This novel was most of a really great thriller, but it wasn’t without its shortcomings.

The novel has a pretty straightforward premise: we follow Beth, a woman on the run, Jeffrey, a man searching for his missing wife, and Marcus, the detective assigned to find Jeffrey’s wife. From the very first pages, this book gave me serious Gone Girl vibes. Not to say that the plots were overly similar, but the alternating viewpoints and the overall tension that Belle builds in the opening chapters were definitely reminiscent of Flynn.

This book hooked me fast, and it demanded to be read in large chunks because I couldn’t put it down. The characters were flawed but compelling, and I absolutely needed to know what would happen next! I did find that the tension died off a little in the middle of the novel, particularly in Beth’s sections, but for most of this book, I was totally glued to its pages. A good thriller needs to be thrilling (it’s in the name, after all) and this one definitely delivers on that aspect.

My main issue with the novel is that I found it to be a bit predictable. It definitely took some unexpected turns, particularly near the end, but I had probably the biggest twist of the book figured out within the first couple of chapters, because the alternative seemed just too obvious. I’ll admit I doubted myself a couple of times while reading, so the author did a decent job of trying to throw me off the scent, but I was pretty confident I had it (and I did). The ending was also a little Scooby-Doo for my tastes: lots of exposition of the why and how in the middle of what was otherwise an exciting and action-packed climax.

This was my first time reading Belle’s work, and while it wasn’t perfect, I’m definitely planning to check out her other novels. The writing here is solid and definitely delivered the thrills, even if some aspects of the plot left me craving a bit more suspense.

Technical Difficulties

Hello blog friends!

I promise I haven’t forgotten about you, despite my, ahem, rather sporadic posting of late. I’ll have some new reviews coming (and maybe a few other things, stay tuned!) soon, but sadly my computer has decided it’s just done with my shit, so it’s out of commission until further notice. Which has made the whole blogging thing a little more difficult.

On a more personal note, I’m also swamped with homework and exams, and schoolwork has been rudely cutting into my reading time recently. Things are winding down there though so hopefully I’ll be able to balance things a little better going into July! Let me tell you, studying after not being a student for over a decade while also working full time is a LOT more difficult than I anticipated. Phew.

So that’s my little update. Keep an eye out for new reviews very soon though, and my midyear wrapup!

A Penny For Your Thoughts by Robert Ford & Matt Hayward #BookReview

TITLE: A Penny For Your Thoughts| AUTHOR: Robert Ford & Matt Hayward| PUBLISHER: Poltergeist Press | PUBLISHED ON: June 1, 2019 | PAGES: 287| RATING: 4 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Copy provided by authors for review consideration.

My Thoughts:

Guys, this book is a fucking trip! It’s been a while since I’ve had this much fun with a book. It’s hilarious, it’s gross, it’s creepy, it’s touching…this book gave me a lot of very conflicting feels and I loved every second!

The book follows Joe, a recovering heroin addict freshly released from prison and trying to get his life back on track in some…questionable ways. Joe is a likeable, albeit extremely flawed, character and I really enjoyed following his insane attempts at staying clean while battling a whole new kind of addiction. But what really adds soul to his character is his connection with his father. It’s a small thing in the grand scheme of the novel, but their relationship and the love they clearly had for each other is what really drove my personal connection with Joe. His interactions with all of the other characters in the novel, and especially with Kenny and Ava, show that while he definitely isn’t a “good guy,” he is compassionate and truly trying his best to clean up his mess, which made the story all the more compelling for me.

While the humour is definitely present, this is still a horror story, and it has its fair share of chilling moments to make sure the reader doesn’t forget that. The two genres blend effortlessly in this novel, so that I found myself sometimes laughing and feeling utterly disgusted all at the same time. It’s not an easy balance to strike, but the authors have managed it beautifully here. I love a book that can make me question my own sense of humour by having me laugh out loud at completely gross, inappropriate moments, and this book delivers on that HARD.

The writing in this book is awesome. So often, collaborative projects end up feeling a little clunky because the authors’ styles just don’t fully mesh, but this book is seamless. Ford and Hayward clearly jive, because at no point could I pick out a section and say “oh yeah, this is where things switched off.” I also loved, LOVED all the little witticisms and descriptions thrown in, they definitely had me chuckling more than once. The story is completely unique, and while I had a couple of points where I had to remind myself not to think too hard about the specifics and just enjoy the ride, for the most part everything weaves together in a rewarding way. I wish we’d spent a bit more time with the Crimson Sisters, and I would have liked a little more detail on the mechanics of the wishes, but honestly this book is so much fucking fun that I can look past the areas that lack a bit of detail.

This book is a seriously fun read. I was hooked from the very first page and I had a hard time tearing myself away from it. It has a couple tiny weak points, but really the story as a whole is strong, original and just SO. DAMN. FUN. Highly recommend grabbing this one if you need a bit of a creepy laugh in your life (and really, who doesn’t?)!

BLOG TOUR: The East End by Jason Allen


THE EAST END opens with Corey Halpern, a Hamptons local from a broken home who breaks into mansions at night for kicks. He likes the rush and admittedly, the escapism. One night just before Memorial Day weekend, he breaks into the wrong home at the wrong time: the Sheffield estate where he and his mother work. Under the cover of darkness, their boss Leo Sheffield — billionaire CEO, patriarch, and owner of the vast lakeside manor — arrives unexpectedly with his lover, Henry. After a shocking poolside accident leaves Henry dead, everything depends on Leo burying the truth. But unfortunately for him, Corey saw what happened and there are other eyes in the shadows.

The East End is available for purchase now from these sellers and others:
Harlequin|Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Books-A-Million|Powell’s


Read on for an excerpt from The East End


Hordes of family and guests are coming to the estate the next morning, including Leo’s surly wife, all expecting a lavish vacation weekend of poolside drinks, evening parties, and fireworks filling the sky. No one can know there’s a dead man in the woods, and there is no one Leo can turn to. With his very life on the line, everything will come down to a split-second decision. For all of the main players—Leo, Gina, and Corey alike—time is ticking down, and the world they’ve known is set to explode.

After sunset, Corey Halpern sat parked at a dead end in Southampton with his headlights off and the dome light on, killing time before the break-in. As far as he knew, about a quarter mile up the beach the owners of the summerhouse he’d been casing for the past two weeks were busy playing host, buzzed from cocktails and jabbering beside the pool on their oceanfront deck, oblivious that a townie kid was about to invite himself into their mansion while they and their guests partied into the night.

Smoke trailed up from the joint pinched between Corey’s thumb and forefinger as he leaned forward and picked up a wrinkled sheet of paper from the truck floor. He smoothed out his final high school essay, squinting through the smoke-filled haze to read his opening lines:

In the Hamptons, we’re invaded every summer. The mansions belong to the invaders, and aren’t actual homes—not as far as the locals are concerned. For one thing, they’re empty most of the year.

The dome light flicked off and he exhaled in semidarkness, thinking about what he’d written. If he didn’t leave this place soon, he might never get out. Now that he’d graduated he could make his escape by taking a stab at college in the fall, but that would mean leaving his mother and brother behind, which for many reasons felt impossible, too abstract, the world outside this cluster of towns on the East End so unimaginably far away….

If only he could write as he saw things, maybe this place wouldn’t be so bad, though each time he’d put pen to paper and tried to describe these solo hours at the ocean, or anything else, the words remained trapped behind locked doors deep inside his head. Sitting on his heels, he reached up and pressed the faint bruise below his right eye, recalling the fight last weekend with that kid from North Sea and how each of them had been so quick to throw punches…

_________________________________________________________________________

A few miles later, with Iggy Pop and The Stooges blaring from his door panel, it made perfect sense to take the night to a whole new level and rob his mother’s bosses before they came out from the city; before Gina came home crying after one of the longer, more grueling workdays; before he joined her for the summer as the Sheffields’ servant boy. Iggy reinforced the necessity of the much higher risk mission—the need to do it now—as he belted out one of his early-seventies punk anthems, the lyrics to “Search and Destroy” entering Corey’s brain and seeping much deeper inside his chest as a truth he’d never been able to articulate for himself. His fingers tapped steadily on the wheel when he turned off Main.

He drove slowly for another block or two, his pulse beating in his neck as he turned left at the pyramid of cannonballs and the antique cannon on the edge of town. A couple blocks later, he downshifted around the bend, rolled to a stop and parked beside a wooded section of Gin Lane. From there he didn’t hesitate at all. He hustled along the grass bordering the roadside, past hedgerows and closed gates and dark driveways, until the Sheffields’ driveway came into view. A life-size pair of stone lions sat atop wide stone bases and bookended the entrance, two males with full manes and the house number chiseled onto their chests. Corey knew the lions held a double meaning. His mom’s boss put these statues out here partly because they looked imposing, the type of decorations kings used to choose, but also because they stood as symbols of August birthdays, the same astrological sign as Mr. Sheffield’s first name—Leo.

He stood still for a moment, looking between the bars of the tall iron gates crowned with spikes. Beginning tomorrow morning, and then all throughout Memorial Day weekend— just as he had the past few summers—he’d spend long days working there. Gina would be so pissed if she could see him now. She’d at least threaten to disown him if she ever found out he’d broken in, but that would be a hollow threat anyway, and he’d already convinced himself that she’d never know. The Sheffields should have paid her more to begin with, even if she didn’t have a deadbeat husband like Ray pissing her meager savings away on his court fees and gambling debts. But the memory that sealed Corey’s decision tonight had been replaying in his mind for almost a year—the dinner party last summer, when Sheila Sheffield yelled at his mom right in front of him and about ten guests, berating her for accidentally dropping a crystal chalice that she said cost more than Gina’s yearly salary. While Leo and the grown Sheffield kids looked on dumbly and didn’t bother to make a peep, Corey had followed Gina into the kitchen and stood a few feet away from her, unable to think of what to say to console her while she cried. Ever since then, he’d wanted to get back at them all.

Fuck these people, he thought.

He would rob them, and smash some windows on his way out so they wouldn’t suspect anyone who worked there. All he had to do was make sure not to leave any evidence behind, definitely no fingerprints, and he’d take the extra precaution of scaling the gates rather than punching in the code.

He wriggled his fingers into his gloves. Crickets chirped away in the shadows, his only witnesses as he looked over each shoulder and back through the bars. He let out a long breath. Then he gripped the wrought iron and started to climb.

Moonlight splintered between the old oak branches and cut across his body like blades. It took only a few seconds to grapple up the bars, though a bit longer to ease over the spear-like tips while he tried to shut out a nightmare image of one of them skewering his crotch. Relieved when his legs reached the other side unharmed, he shimmied down the bars like a monkey and dropped, suddenly hidden from the outside world by the thick hedge wall. Poised on one knee, he turned to his left and scanned the distant mansion’s dark windows, the eaves and gables. The perfectly manicured lawn stretched for acres in all directions, a few giant oaks with thick limbs and gnarled trunks the only natural features between the faraway pines along the property line and a constellation of sculptures. A scattered squad of bronze chess pieces stood as tall as real-life soldiers, with two much larger pieces towering behind them—a three-ton slab of quartz sitting atop a steel column and a bright yellow Keith Haring dog in mid stomp on its hind legs, each the size of an upended school bus or the wing of a 747, all the sculptures throwing sharp shadows across the lawn when Corey rose to his feet, leapt forward and ran toward the Sheffields’ sprawling vacation home.

His sneakers crunched along the pebble driveway, his steps way too loud against the quiet until he made it across the deeper bed of beach stones in the wide parking area and passed through an ivy-covered archway, still at top speed while he followed the curved path of slate down a gentle slope, and then pulled up at the corner of the porch. Breathing heavily, he grappled up the post and high-stepped onto the railing, wiping sweat from his forehead when he turned to face Agawam Lake. The moon’s light came ladling down onto the water like milk and trailed into the darkness of the far shore, while in the reeds beside the nearest willow tree a pair of swans sat still as porcelain, sleeping with their bills tucked at their breasts.

No one will know, he thought. The crickets kept making a soft racket in the shadows. The swans seemed like another good omen. But then a light went on inside one of the mansions directly across the water, and Corey pulled his body up from the railing, thinking he should get inside before someone saw him. He quickly scaled the corner porch beam and trellis while trying to avoid the roses’ thorns, even as they snagged his sleeves and pant legs. Then, like a practiced rock climber, in one fluid motion he hoisted himself from the second-story roof up to the third-floor gable. He crouched there, looking, listening. The house across the water with the light on was too far away to know for sure, but he didn’t see any obvious signs of anyone watching from the picture windows. Probably just some insomniac millionaire sipping whiskey and checking the numbers of a stock exchange on the other side of the world.

Confident that he should press on, Corey half stood from his crouch and took the putty knife from his back pocket to pry open the third-story bathroom window, the one he’d left unlatched the previous day when he’d come there with his mother. The old window sash fought him with a friction of wood on wood, but after straining for a few seconds he managed to shove the bottom section flush with the top, and was struck immediately by the smells of Gina’s recent cleaning— ammonia, lemon and jasmine, the chemical blend of a freshly scoured hospital room. Balanced at the angle of the roof, he stared down at the neighboring properties once more. Still no sounds, no lights, no signs that anyone had called the cops, so he turned and stretched his arms through the window and shimmied down until he felt the toilet lid with both gloved hands and his sneakers left the shingles, all his weight sliding against the sill as he wriggled in.

Although he hadn’t been sure whether he’d ever go through with it, he’d plotted this burglary for weeks, the original iteration coming to him during Labor Day weekend last year. The first step had been to ask Gina if he could clean the Sheffield house with her for a few extra bucks before the summer season began. She’d raised an eyebrow but agreed, approving at least of her teenager’s out-of-character desire to work, and throughout the past week, whenever she’d left him to dust and vacuum the third floor, he’d had his chance to run recon and plan the point of entry. He knew she wouldn’t bother to check the latch on a closed window three stories off the ground, not after she’d scrubbed and ironed and Pledged all day. And more important, by then he knew those upper-floor windows had no seal-break sensors. He knew this because a few days earlier he’d left this very same window open before Gina armed the alarm, and afterward nothing happened—no blaring sounds before they pulled away, no call or drive-by from a security officer. So tonight, again, the security company wouldn’t see any flashing red lights on their computer screens. Not yet anyway, not until he smashed a window downstairs and staged a sloppy burglary scene on his way out.

Despite knowing that nobody would be out till Friday, his footsteps were all toe as he crept from the dark bathroom and into the hazy bluish hall, and yet, even with all this effort to tread lightly, the old floorboards still strained and creaked each time his sneakers pressed down. Trailing away from him, a black-and-white series of Ansel Adams photos hung in perfect rows, one on either side of the hall, hundreds of birch trees encased in glass coverings that Corey had just recently Windexed and wiped. Every table surface and light fixture and the entire length of the floor gleamed, immaculate, too clean to imagine the Sheffields had ever even set foot in here, let alone lived here for part of the year. He’d always felt the house had a certain coldness to it, and thought so again now, even though it had to be damn near eighty degrees inside with all the windows closed.

After slowly stepping down one set of stairs, Corey skulked along the second-floor hall, past the doorway to Mr. and Mrs. Sheffields’ master bedroom and then past Andy’s and Clay’s rooms, deciding to browse Tiffany’s bedroom first, his favorite room in the house. The Sheffields’ only daughter had a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf full of hardcover novels, stage plays and poetry collections, a Super 8 projector, stacked film reels and three antique cameras. He’d spent as much time as possible in this room during his previous workdays, mainly staring at the paintings mounted on three of the walls, and now lingered once more looking at each textured image, surprised all over again that a rich girl had painted these shades of pain, these somber expressions on the faces of dirty figures in shabby clothes, compositions of suffering he’d have expected from a city artist teetering between a rat-hole apartment and a cardboard box in an alley. They all had something, that’s for sure, but one portrait had always spoken to him much more than any of the others. He stood before it and freed it from its hook.

At the window he noticed the light had gone off at the mansion across the lake and figured the insomniac must have drunk enough for sleep. Although he knew he shouldn’t, he flicked on Tiffany’s bedside table light to get a better look at the girl in the painting, her brown eyes, full lips, caramel skin, her black hair flowing down to divots between her collarbone and chest. He knew Tiffany had painted it, but also that it wasn’t a self-portrait. She looked nothing like the girl she’d painted. Anorexically skinny, Tiffany had dyed-blond hair and usually wore too much makeup. In one photo with her parents and two older brothers, while the rest of the family had dressed in country club attire, she had on a tank top and frayed jean shorts, dark sunglasses, the only one of them with any tattoos, the only one barefoot on the grass.

Corey searched her shelves until he found the photo of Tiffany’s best friend, the girl from the painting, Angelique. He’d seen her at the estate plenty during the previous summers, and last Labor Day weekend they’d talked many times, their conversations lasting longer and seeming to have more depth until finally he summoned the courage to ask her out. Her long pause had made him wish he could disappear, and then those four awful words, I have a boyfriend, had knocked the wind out of him just before he nodded with his eyes to the ground and walked away. Reliving the disappointment, he killed the lamplight and lay on the bed with her photo on his chest, and then, stupidly, closed his eyes…

Excerpted from The East End by Jason Allen, Copyright © 2019 by Jason Allen. Published by Park Row Books.

About the author: Jason Allen grew up in a working-class home in the Hamptons, where he worked a variety of blue-collar jobs for wealthy estate owners. He writes fiction, poetry, and memoir, and is the author of the poetry collection A MEDITATION ON FIRE. He has an MFA from Pacific University and a PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University, and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he teaches writing. THE EAST END is his first novel.


Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols #BookReview

TITLE: Vessel | AUTHOR: Lisa A. Nichols | PUBLISHER: Atria | PUBLISHED ON: May 21, 2019 | PAGES: 304 | RATING: 4 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Netgalley

My Thoughts:

I don’t know that I’ve ever really read a sci-fi thriller before, but this was definitely a solid entry point into the genre. I tore through this book in only a couple of sittings because I absolutely needed to know what would happen next, and that’s always the mark of a good book for me.

The novel follows Catherine Wells, an astronaut presumed dead in space after six years of no contact with Earth. Once safely back on Earth, she must adapt to life where her family (including her now-teenaged daughter) has moved on without her, while also facing questions from NASA about exactly what happened to the rest of her crew.

The ideas here felt fresh and not like a rehashing of the same themes I’ve seen over and over. It definitely gave me some X-Files, government cover-up, type vibes, but in a good way, without feeling like it was pulling too much from outside sources. This novel is very much its own unique story, and while the thriller element is front and centre, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is, ultimately, a sci-fi novel.

I loved the two timelines, having flashbacks to Catherine’s time in space interspersed with the mystery of what REALLY happened to her crew now that she’s back on Earth. It added a lot to the tension of the novel, and kept me reading as I looked for the links between past and present. The characters and plot were, for the most part, both written in a way that was incredibly engaging, so I found myself immersed in the story very quickly and invested in the outcome of Cath and Cal’s search for the truth.

This would have been a 5-star read for me if not for two things: one, it features yet another useless romance subplot that adds absolutely nothing of value to the plot, and two, the ending was way too neat and tidy (and ridiculous) for me to buy it, especially given some of the shady shit that takes place over the course of the novel. But overall, this was a really entertaining read, filled with suspense and unique ideas. Definitely worth picking up even if you aren’t typically a sci-fi fan. There’s more than enough mystery here to grip most readers!

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding #BookReview

TITLE: Little Darlings | AUTHOR: Melanie Golding| PUBLISHER: Harper Avenue | PUBLISHED ON: April 30, 2019 | PAGES: 330| RATING: 5 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Copy provided by publisher for review consideration. 

This book right here is an excellent example of why I choose to go into most books as close to blind as possible. If I’d gone based solely on the blurb, I probably would have taken a pass on this book as your typical domestic thriller. But this novel is so much more than what it says on the tin, and I’m so glad I gave it a shot! This book grabbed me from the very first page, and didn’t let up until I’d devoured the entire novel.

This novel takes one of my most loathed tropes and completely turns it on its head. I haven’t made any secret of my hatred for this trend of thrillers where no one believes the traumatized female main character, and I cringed a little when I saw that this book was heading in that direction. However, it takes a sharp, completely unpredictable turn early on and keeps you guessing all the way through. Honestly, I spent this entire novel second-guessing myself because the unreliable narrators here are just that good. Every time I thought I had things figured out, the author would pile on a new aspect that would have me back at the drawing board, trying to figure out what was ACTUALLY happening here.

I really loved how vividly the author brings her characters to life. None of them are entirely likeable, but they’re so realistic that I couldn’t help but feel strong emotional ties to all of them (yes, even Patrick…anger is an emotion!). The less-than-rosy portrait of new motherhood that the author paints here was raw, visceral and wholly compelling, in a way that I don’t think I’ve encountered before. My heart broke over and over for Lauren as she tried to protect Morgan and Riley as her world crumbled around her.

The folklore behind the story was a fantastic touch, and added an extra level of doubt to my reading. This book left me with more questions than answers, which would have been frustrating if the writing and detail of the plot weren’t so damn well done. Nothing ties up neatly, there are no right answers here, but it’s so deftly handled that I felt satisfied with just a hint of residual doubt niggling at the back of my mind when I finished reading.

This is a stunning debut, with big ideas and fresh takes on themes that have been saturating the thriller market for years. This novel beautifully showcases that you can absolutely write a new and unique story off the backs of existing tropes. An amazing thriller that I’m sure I’ll be recommending for months to come!

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid #BookReview

TITLE: Daisy Jones and the Six | AUTHOR: Taylor Jenkins Reid| PUBLISHER: Doubleday| PUBLISHED ON: March 5, 2019 | PAGES: 355| RATING: 2 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Self-purchased

My Thoughts:

Ugh. What a disappointing read! It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this let down by a book. I’m sure all of the hype around this novel didn’t help, but after reading (and absolutely loving!) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo last month, I thought the hype would be warranted. Unfortunately, for me, that wasn’t the case.

I know a lot of people who disliked this novel felt like they couldn’t connect with it because of the interview format. That wasn’t an issue for me at all. In fact, the format was probably one of my favorite parts of this novel. I enjoy reading nonfiction about music and musicians, and I think the oral history format is definitely one of the defining trends of that subgenre, so to me this felt like a great fit for the story of this huge 70s rock band. It also lent itself well to having just slightly unreliable narrators, which I thought was well done.

Where my issues lie are largely with the characters. I just did not care at all about any of these people. Daisy least of all. I was expecting this grand, over-the-top, larger than life personality from Daisy, and what I got was a petulant, drug-addled girl with very little personality to speak of. The rest of the band really weren’t much better. Karen was by far the most interesting of the bunch, but even then that isn’t saying a ton. I could sympathize with Billy, to a point, and I enjoyed his relationship with Camila, but the other characters were more or less complete throw-aways for me. Just a bunch of whiny strung out assholes being assholes to each other.

The entire second half of the book felt like one emotionally manipulative ploy after another against the reader. There were so many “twists” and “controversies” near the end of the book, but I didn’t care about any of them because it just felt like a cheap way to force the reader to invest in these characters that, to this point, I could not give a shit about. And then the ending itself was so, so, so bad. I won’t spoil it here, obviously, but the ending was just such a cop-out. I rolled my eyes so hard it physically hurt me.

The premise for this book had so much potential, and the author clearly has the chops to handle it, but this book fell so flat for me. I really couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters or events taking place, regardless of how good the prose itself was. There are some great one-liners in this book, but that’s certainly not enough to carry an entire novel. Sex and drugs and rock n’ roll should never be boring, and yet in this book, it’s dull as dirt.

Deeper Into Darkness by Maria Ann Green #BookReview

TITLE: Deeper Into Darkness | AUTHOR: Maria Ann Green| PUBLISHER: Self-Published | PUBLISHED ON: April 12, 2019 | PAGES: 317| RATING: 5 hooks out of 5 | SOURCE: Copy provided by author for review consideration.
**NOTE: Deeper Into Darkness is the second book in the Darkness series. Click HERE for my review of the first book, Nothing But Darkness.**

My Thoughts:

Well here’s a first. I never thought serial killer romance would be a niche genre I’d be into, but here we are. I enjoyed Aidan’s story in the first Darkness book, even with its extremely violent and sexual undertones which I’d normally shy away from in non-horror books. So I had fairly high hopes for the sequel. Hopes that have been completely blown away, because I completely loved this book!

First off, I absolutely loved, LOVED that the story is from Bee’s perspective. There aren’t nearly enough female serial killer stories out there, and that alone sold me from the beginning. As a character, you can’t help but love Bee (even though you really probably shouldn’t, what with the whole murderer thing). She’s fierce and violent and immoral, but also deeply human and sympathetic. I loved the depth to her character, and the complex, conflicted feelings I had about her.

The tone of this book is completely different from book one in the series, but it never felt forced or disconnected because of the fact that we’ve got a brand new narrator and therefore a completely new and unique voice. The tone here was also much more my speed than Aidan’s story. There’s still plenty of killing and sex, but it’s far less violent and explicit while still maintaining the sort of sexy shock factor that the author does so well in the first book. The cat and mouse game between Bee and her victims is completely chilling, and I loved every page. It also felt like the stakes were much higher in this book, and I found myself extremely deeply invested in the plot, dying to find out what would happen next!

I really enjoyed seeing Aidan and Bee’s courtship in the first book, so it was fantastic to get a deeper look into their engagement from Bee’s point of view. I know I complain a lot about romance in non-romance books, but it’s so well done here and so central to the plot that instead of bothering me, it completely absorbed me. Their emotions are so raw and real and intense. They really jump off the page and again serve to make it nearly impossible not to sympathize with Bee as she and Aidan face the ups and downs of their relationship. Plus, what’s not to love about a serial killer power couple?

I seriously devoured this book, I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next through the plot’s twists and turns. I found myself just a little bit in love with Bee, and, charismatic as Aidan was in the first book, I felt that Bee’s perspective lent itself better to providing more depth to the story. And, obviously no spoilers but UGH, that ending! THAT ENDING. A fantastic page-turner of a thriller, trust me when I say that you’re going to want to get into this series before the next book comes out.