Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Published: April 7, 2020 by Quirk Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.

Review: I had fairly high expectations for this book when I got the audiobook. I had heard a lot of great reviews from good friends of mine and it sounded absolutely thrilling and charming. Taking horror back to a time when the Internet was still just dial-up and cellphones weren’t a thing. Center it around a southern ladies’ book club and you have the stage set for a great read. Unfortunately it was just okay.

Patricia started out as a good character but she quickly became boring. Most of her narration is complaining about her boring life as a housewife. She complains about her mother in law, her husband, her children, her book club, her friends, the household chores, the new neighbors, the weather. She just complains a lot. And I was okay with that at first because it seemed like the plot was moving on from it, but then it didn’t and I had to listen to many more hours of Patricia complaining about everything. She’s also a very weak character and I just couldn’t deal with her anymore.

The plot meanders quite a bit too. We meet the suspicious James (I am fairly sure that was his name at least) early on and Patricia grows suspicious of him early on too. But when the women decide that they have to turn over the information they’ve found to the police their collective husbands hold a meeting to tell them how hysterical and ridiculous they are being. The husbands decree they are never to speak of this again. (Sidenote: I really really hated all the husbands in this book, there should have been a massive neighborhood divorce going on.) And so we spend many more hours of book club meetings, dinner parties, and pretending that James is just a perfect new neighbor. In fact no further plot development happens until three years later. And it literally felt like I had been listening for three more years too. It was so utterly boring.

It also isn’t lost on me that the white women in the book club are all perfectly fine with overlooking their suspicions for three years when it’s children from a poor, primarily African American community who are going missing or turning up dead. They only change their minds when it’s their children who are in danger. Then they can’t remain silent any longer.

Now, once Patricia decides to stop cowering behind her husband (remember what I said about her being weak?) and starts bringing the women over to her side I was back on board too. Things were moving and it was interesting and well written. I really loved the back half of the book. It was gritty, dark and at times disgusting. The ending was imaginative and unexpected. If the middle half had been taken out of this book then it would have been an easy five stars from me. But that middle half was some of the boring drivel I’ve ever read.

Review: After She Wrote Him by Sulari Gentill

After She Wrote Him by Sulari Gentill

Published: April 7, 2020 by Poisoned Pen Press

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: If you get lost in a book, be sure you can find your way back . . .

Madeleine d’Leon doesn’t know where Edward came from. He is simply a character in her next book. But as she writes, he becomes all she can think about. His charm, his dark hair, his pen scratching out his latest literary novel . . .

Edward McGinnity can’t get Madeleine out of his mind–softly smiling, infectiously enthusiastic, and perfectly damaged. She will be the ideal heroine for his next book.

But who is the author and who is the creation? And as the lines start to blur, who is affected when a killer finally takes flesh?

After She Wrote Him is a wildly inventive twist on the murder mystery that takes readers on a journey filled with passion, obsession, and the emptiness left behind when the real world starts to fall away. 

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press!***

The synopsis of this book appealed to me right away. As someone who fashions themselves an amateur writer, I was drawn into the idea of an author writing a character who is also writing about her as a character. Or is it the other way around? That premise did not disappoint. I can honestly say I have never read a novel so ingeniously written. I could not tell which one was the character and which was the author. And ultimately it didn’t really matter, the two were so intertwined that their fates depended on each other. Maddie would tell a bit of her story and then sit down to write Ned’s story, and his story picks up from there until he sits down to write about Maddie. It was perfectly executed.

Some elements of the plot were very predictable. I knew right away who the killer was in Ned’s story and I knew right away who the bad guy was in Maddie’s story. But even this was intentional I think. It’s supposed to be obvious, to the author, what the answers are. The author knows who the killer is. The author knows who the bad guy is. In that way, the reader was supposed to know these things too. Maddie and Ned didn’t know, because that’s real life. It’s always easy to point out the killer in a book. It’s not so easy when that person is someone close to you. That was one of the themes of the book that was executed perfectly.

The only thing I wished had been done differently was the ending. We spent a lot of time getting to know Maddie and Ned but their respective stories didn’t really get moving until we had about fifty pages to go. The ending seemed rushed and a bit unfinished. Neither of them got a resolution because their respective author was unavailable to finish the story. That ending might appeal to some readers but it detracted from the overall story a bit for me.

Take My Money! Sunday

This feature now has a better name. I’ve been thinking of one for awhile and then it hit me. These are the books that make me want to yell, “Just here’s my wallet! Take the money and gimme gimme!”

A Mother’s Lie by Sarah Zettel

Expected Publication date: April 7, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis:

A compulsive family drama about a mother’s desperate search to reclaim her daughter from the horrors of her own past, perfect for fans of Then She Was Gone.

Beth Fraser finally has her life together. She’s built a successful career in the tech sector, has a bright fifteen-year-old daughter, and she’s completely erased all evidence of her troubled past. At least that’s what she thought.

Dana Fraser always wondered why she’s the only kid with two backup phones, emergency drills, and a non-negotiable check-in time every single day. When a stranger approaches her on the street claiming to be her grandmother, Dana starts to question what else her mother has been hiding. 

Soon Beth’s worst nightmare is coming true: Dana is in grave danger, and unless Beth is willing to pull one last con job for her parents, she may never see her daughter again.

Why I’m Excited: This sounds really good. A child who grew up surrounded by secrets and has to piece things together when it all comes crashing down around her. I really need to hurry and read the ARC I have of this one.

Hush by Dylan Farrow

Expected publication date: October 6, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis:

How do you speak up in a world where propaganda is a twisted form of magic?

In the land of Montane, language is literal magic to the select few who possess the gift of Telling. This power is reserved for the Bards, and, as everyone knows, the Bards have almost always been men.

Seventeen-year-old Shae has lived her entire life in awe of the Bards—and afraid of the Blot, a deadly disease spread by ink, which took the life of her younger brother five years ago. Ever since, Shae fears she’s cursed. But when tragedy strikes again, and her mother is found murdered with a golden dagger—a weapon used only by the Bards—Shae is forced to act.

With a heart set on justice, Shae journeys to High House in search of answers. But when the kind, fatherly Cathal, the High Lord of Montane, makes Shae an undeniable offer to stay and train as a Bard, Shae can’t refuse.

Through this twisty tale, Shae endures backbreaking training by a ruthless female Bard, tentative and highly-forbidden feelings for a male Bard with a dark past, and a castle filled with dangerous illusions bent on keeping its secrets buried.

But sometimes, the truth is closer than we think. We just have to learn to listen.

Why I’m excited: I have always loved the idea of words having actual power, so this seems to play on that theme. It begs the question of how much more careful would people be if they knew there was real world consequences for the things they say. Or would they be more reckless?

New Releases Wednesday

This week I am excited to tell you about several books that were just released. All of them are on my TBR list and I can’t wait to get to them.

 

27774751Dark Mirror by Barton Gellman

Goodreads

Synopsis: From the three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the New York Times bestseller Angler, who unearthed the deepest secrets of Edward Snowden’s NSA archive, the first master narrative of the surveillance state that emerged after 9/11 and why it matters, based on scores of hours of conversation with Snowden and groundbreaking reportage in Washington, London, Moscow and Silicon Valley

Edward Snowden chose three journalists to tell the stories in his Top Secret trove of NSA documents: Barton Gellman of The Washington Post, Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian and filmmaker Laura Poitras, all of whom would share the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Poitras went on to direct the Oscar-winning Citizen Four. Greenwald wrote an instant memoir and cast himself as a pugilist on Snowden’s behalf.

Barton Gellman took his own path. Snowden and his documents were the beginning, not the end, of a story he had prepared his whole life to tell. More than 20 years as a top investigative journalist armed him with deep sources in national security and high technology. New sources reached out from government and industry, making contact on the same kinds of secret, anonymous channels that Snowden used. Gellman’s old reporting notes unlocked new puzzles in the NSA archive. Long days and evenings with Snowden in Moscow revealed a complex character who fit none of the stock images imposed on him by others.

Gellman now brings his unique access and storytelling gifts to a true-life spy tale that touches us all. Snowden captured the public imagination but left millions of people unsure what to think. Who is the man, really? How did he beat the world’s most advanced surveillance agency at its own game? Is government and corporate spying as bad as he says?

Dark Mirror is the master narrative we have waited for, told with authority and an inside view of extraordinary events. Within it is a personal account of the obstacles facing the author, beginning with Gellman’s discovery of his own name in the NSA document trove. Google notifies him that a foreign government is trying to compromise his account. A trusted technical adviser finds anomalies on his laptop. Sophisticated impostors approach Gellman with counterfeit documents, attempting to divert or discredit his work. Throughout Dark Mirror, the author describes an escalating battle against unknown digital adversaries, forcing him to mimic their tradecraft in self-defense.

Written in the vivid scenes and insights that marked Gellman’s bestselling AnglerDark Mirror is an inside account of the surveillance-industrial revolution and its discontents, fighting back against state and corporate intrusions into our most private spheres. Along the way it tells the story of a government leak unrivaled in drama since All the President’s Men.

My thoughts: Like most people, I have had a variety of opinions on Edward Snowden as a person. Is he a hero? Is he a traitor? Was he first one and then the other? Is he both? But what often gets lost in the assessments of him as a person is the web of government deception that he uncovered. This seems to tackle this head on, and I am really interested.

 

52028849The Queen’s Secret by Karen Harper

Goodreads

Synopsis: 1939. As the wife of the King George VI and the mother of the future queen, Elizabeth—“the queen mother”—shows a warm, smiling face to the world. But it’s no surprise that Hitler himself calls her the “Most Dangerous Woman in Europe.” For behind that soft voice and kindly demeanor is a will of steel.

Two years earlier, George was thrust onto the throne when his brother Edward abdicated, determined to marry his divorced, American mistress Mrs. Simpson. Vowing to do whatever it takes to make her husband’s reign a success, Elizabeth endears herself to the British people, and prevents the former king and his brazen bride from ever again setting foot in Buckingham Palace.

Elizabeth holds many powerful cards, she’s also hiding damaging secrets about her past and her provenance that could prove to be her undoing.

In this riveting novel of royal secrets and intrigue, Karen Harper lifts the veil on one of the world’s most fascinating families, and how its “secret weapon” of a matriarch maneuvered her way through one of the most dangerous chapters of the century.

My thoughts: I love historical fiction! And I have a bit of a fascination with the British royal family. So, naturally, this makes me want to find out what the secret is?

 

52219451The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine

Goodreads

Synopsis: Breezing into the tony seaside paradise of Westport, Connecticut, gorgeous thirty-something Piper Reynard sets down roots, opening a rehab and wellness space and joining a local yacht club. When she meets Leo Drakos, a handsome, successful lawyer, the wedding ring on his finger is the only thing she doesn’t like about him. Yet as Piper well knows, no marriage is permanent.

Meanwhile, Joanna has been waiting patiently for Leo, the charismatic man she fell in love with all those years ago, to re-emerge from the severe depression that has engulfed him. Though she’s thankful when Leo returns to his charming, energetic self, paying attention again to Evie and Stelli, the children they both love beyond measure, Joanna is shocked to discover that it’s not her loving support that’s sparked his renewed happiness—it’s something else.

Piper. Leo has fallen head over heels for the flaky, New Age-y newcomer, and unrepentant and resolute, he’s more than willing to leave Joanna behind, along with everything they’ve built. Of course, he assures her, she can still see the children.

Joanna is devastated—and determined to find something, anything, to use against this woman who has stolen her life and her true love. As she digs deeper into Piper’s past, Joanna begins to unearth disturbing secrets . . . but when she confides to her therapist that she fears for the lives of her ex-husband and children, her concerns are dismissed as paranoia. Can she find the proof she needs in time to save them

My thoughts: This sounds much like your typical cheating husband thriller. But, as you near the end of the synopsis it starts to sound different. I am intrigued. I want to know why Leo’s soon-to-be ex-wife is so worried about his new paramour. Is she dangerous? Or is the ex just upset that he cheated? I know that I want to find out.

Review: The Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

44084930The Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

Published on: March 10, 2020 by St. Martins Press

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: In Oak Knoll, a verdant, tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son. Xavier is headed to college in the fall, and after years of single parenting, Valerie is facing the prospect of an empty nest. All is well until the Whitmans move in next door – an apparently traditional family with new money, ambition, and a secretly troubled teenaged daughter.

Thanks to his thriving local business, Brad Whitman is something of a celebrity around town, and he’s made a small fortune on his customer service and charm, while his wife, Julia, escaped her trailer park upbringing for the security of marriage and homemaking. Their new house is more than she ever imagined for herself, and who wouldn’t want to live in Oak Knoll? With little in common except a property line, these two very different families quickly find themselves at odds: first, over an historic oak tree in Valerie’s yard, and soon after, the blossoming romance between their two teenagers.

Told from multiple points of view, A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today―What does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don’t see eye to eye?―as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending star-crossed love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.

Rating: 1 star

Review: I have been looking forward to this book for months. The synopsis  made me expect a thriller and a tragedy all wrapped up into one. I could not have been more disappointed. Not just disappointed but angry too. I was supposed to write this review on Saturday but it just turned into a non-coherent rant with language that would make a sailor blush. So I decided to give it a few days before I tried again.

Be aware, from here on out there will be all variety of spoilers. Mainly because I am hoping that after reading all of it, you won’t have the desire to read this piece of propaganda, masquerading as a novel.

This book was an agenda. The author has political views that she feels are very important. So she constructed a story around those political views in order to make her reader feel guilty about how they felt about the book. I despise it when an author feels they need to manipulate me into thinking their worldview is so superior to any other.

First off, for an author who gives such a long winded explanation in the Acknowledgements about how she researched African American culture in order to represent them properly in her book, she did a piss poor job. There are a total of two black characters, and the mother gets very snippy if you refer to them as African American because she’s Haitian American. But apart from the author telling me their race every ten pages or so there is absolutely nothing about them that gives me any indication they are other than white. Xavier has no personality whatsoever except for us to be told how smart he is, how asexual he is, how generous and kind he is. Frankly, she tried to make him a saint. And in doing so made him barely better than a cardboard cutout. She even has the character tell us how his friends thing he should act more like he’s from the “hood”. It was insulting.

Speaking of his mother, she is an awful human being. I could tell right from the start that I wouldn’t like her. I got the feeling that the author wrote herself into this character and then changed her skin tone. I could also tell that the author was setting her up to be as “perfect” as her perfect son, and that if I disagreed with her being perfect then I was a racist. I knew that’s where this was going, and in the end, it did go that way. But she isn’t perfect. She’s a horrible, racist, sexist bigot. She decides to sue her neighbor because in the process of building his home he inadvertently killed her tree. The tree had some deeper history and some story about the slaves who used to live on the property and such, fair enough. But then she goes to see her attorney and laments that she would have preferred to hire a person of color but the white guy has better environmental credentials. And then she speculates that he’s gay and it must be nice to be able to pass as straight, she can’t pass for something beneficial as a Haitian American, people just think she’s African American and that’s not beneficial at all. She approaches every white person in the book (which is apparently the rest of the neighborhood) with an air of “you’re looking down at me because I’m not white aren’t you?”. It doesn’t matter what the person does or says, she feels the same way. Later her son asks her if she’s suing both the husband and wife and she replies no, just the husband, she assumes that he is the one who made all the decisions. In the same conversation she berates her son for dating the white neighbor girl because she’s just “so very white” and that purity vow thing she did was bizarre.

But remember, you are told very clearly on every single page that she is the good guy. The fighter for justice! All the white people are horrible and just trying to ruin the lives of anyone non-white. Every single white person in this book was a pedophile, rapist, child abuser, sexual harasser, racist good ‘ole Southern boy. Literally every single one. And yet I found her just as offensive.

Also, pretty far fetched that anyone in North Carolina would be berating a teenage girl for a purity vow. Something like 80% of North Carolina residents are devoutly Christian. So that made absolutely no sense at all except to tell me that author thinks it’s weird and so it was weird to everyone else in the book too

So, then we come to the plot. Nothing actually happens until 75% of the way through. It involves Brad trying to set up Xavier for doing something awful, because then he can stop this nonsense of his step-daughter dating him and we all know everyone wants to pin it on the “black boy next door” right? Hell, even Xavier’s own attorney (who is an African American man) tells him that he’s just too non-white for it to matter that he’s basically a saint, he better plead guilty or he’s going to prison.

Brad is setting Xavier up for rape. Because his precious step-daughter (who he has disgusting sexual fantasies about) decided to have sex with her boyfriend. Brad calls the police and says, “OMG, this kid raped her!” And somehow everyone just goes along with it. Juniper tells everyone from the police, to the doctor, to the nurse, to the district attorney that she wasn’t raped. Every single one of them just pats her hand and says, “There, there dear, lots of rape victims don’t think they were raped.” Their basis for why it was rape is that he had a knife (for cutting up food since they were in the woods) and he brought alcohol (which they both drank). Now, as thousands of women can tell you, this is the exact opposite of any experience they ever had with reporting a rape to the authorities. But of course, Valerie has the answer for that too, it’s because her son is black…they want him to be guilty so they are all willing to set him up. I don’t buy it, not for a second. Many women can tell you that the average experience of reporting rape by a complete stranger is to be met with skepticism and even more so when it’s a romantic partner. “Come on honey, are you sure this isn’t about you being mad at him? Maybe he cheated and you’re upset.” The only circumstance in which rape accusations seem to favor the woman making the accusation is on college campuses. There you have insane laws, like in California, that if a woman has been drinking then it’s automatically rape, regardless of whether the male has been drinking or not. Men of every color are routinely run out of college campuses, with no criminal proceedings but their entire futures ruined over an allegation with zero evidence. But in the world of criminal prosecution the exact opposite is true. Yet, I’m supposed to believe that a “victim” can sit here and repeatedly tell everyone on the earth that she isn’t a victim and everyone just says “hush now dear, he’s black, of course it was rape.” Please. It was cheap and disgusting.

This book made me want to vomit. It was the single most racist piece of fiction I’ve ever read. The entire book was a lecture about how white people need to stop trying to intentionally ruin the lives of minorities. I can honestly say I will never pick up a book by this author ever again. I don’t need to be lectured when I read.

New Releases Wednesday

Another week, and another list of newly released books that I am really excited to read!

 

51934838Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

Published: May 12, 2020

Goodreads link

Synopsis: You are in the house and the house is in the woods.
You are in the house and the house is in you . . .

Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included—completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises its graduates a future of sublime power and prestige, and that they can become anything or anyone they desire.

Among this year’s incoming class is Ines, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, pills, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline—only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. The school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves and their place within the formidable black iron gates of Catherine.

For Ines, Catherine is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had, and her serious, timid roommate, Baby, soon becomes an unlikely friend. Yet the House’s strange protocols make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when Baby’s obsessive desire for acceptance ends in tragedy, Ines begins to suspect that the school—in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence—might be hiding a dangerous agenda that is connected to a secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.

Combining the haunting sophistication and dusky, atmospheric style of Sarah Waters with the unsettling isolation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Catherine House is a devious, deliciously steamy, and suspenseful page-turner with shocking twists and sharp edges that is sure to leave readers breathless.

My thoughts: This sounds so gothic and thrilling that I can’t wait to read it. It’s not a new story, a secretive school that has a hidden agenda. This one will be all about the execution.

 

52668915._SX318_SY475_Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake

Published: May 12, 2020

Goodreads link

Synopsis: When we think of fungi, we likely think of mushrooms. But mushrooms are only fruiting bodies, analogous to apples on a tree. Most fungi live out of sight, yet make up a massively diverse kingdom of organisms that supports and sustains nearly all living systems. Fungi provide a key to understanding the planet on which we live, and the ways we think, feel, and behave.

In Entangled Life, the brilliant young biologist Merlin Sheldrake shows us the world from a fungal point of view, providing an exhilarating change of perspective. Sheldrake’s vivid exploration takes us from yeast to psychedelics, to the fungi that range for miles underground and are the largest organisms on the planet, to those that link plants together in complex networks known as the “Wood Wide Web,” to those that infiltrate and manipulate insect bodies with devastating precision.

Fungi throw our concepts of individuality and even intelligence into question. They are metabolic masters, earth makers, and key players in most of life’s processes. They can change our minds, heal our bodies, and even help us remediate environmental disaster. By examining fungi on their own terms, Sheldrake reveals how these extraordinary organisms–and our relationships with them–are changing our understanding of how life works.

My thoughts: One of my Goodreads friends said this and I absolutely agree, the author sounds like a professor in Harry Potter. That makes me want to read it even more. But I am also really intrigued by the synopsis. It actually makes fungi sounds…..interesting. I want to see what its all about.

 

 

Review: Problem Child by Victoria Helen Stone

46066517._SY475_Problem Child by Victoria Helen Stone

Published: March 24, 2020 by Lake Union Publishing

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: She’s cold, calculating, and can deceive with a smile. Jane Doe is back in the Amazon Charts bestselling series – and this time she’s met her match.

After a brutal childhood, Jane Doe has been permanently wired to look after herself and only herself. Now, looking next to normal, Jane has a lover and a job. But she hasn’t lost her edge. It sharpens when she hears from her estranged family.

Jane’s deeply troubled sixteen-year-old niece, Kayla, has vanished, and no one seems to care. Neither does Jane. Until she sees a picture of Kayla and recognizes herself in the young girl’s eyes. It’s the empty stare of a sociopath.

Jane knows what vengeful and desperate things Kayla is capable of. Only Jane can help her – by being drawn into Kayla’s dark world. And no one’s more aware than Jane just how dangerous that can be.

Rating: 3 star

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing!***

I really enjoyed this book and found it an easy read. It’s the second in a series but that didn’t hamper the story at all. I found that it wasn’t really necessary to explain how and why Jane got to this place, she did it for self-serving reasons because she’s a sociopath. She explained some of those reasons along the way and that was good enough for me. Her personality is what carried this book. I loved seeing her savage logic applied to situations that had me cringing as a normal human, but also cheering because it was well deserved even if I would shrink away from doing it.

The impetus for the book is a little bit thin. Jane’s niece, Kayla, is missing and no one seems to care. Jane doesn’t care either because she’s not capable but she’s interested because she thinks that Kayla might be a sociopath like her. For some reason that she doesn’t bother to explain, she decides to try and find her….she says it was for “fun.” That isn’t a great reason. Whose fun? Jane’s? Kayla’s? How exactly is this “fun?” It would have been more interesting if she wanted someone around who understood her, but she doesn’t even seem to care about that either.

Despite the poor reasoning behind why Jane is look for Kayla it was an interesting ride. I don’t like that this book is being marketed as a thriller because it was anything but thrilling. It was not really even a mystery. It was an interesting character study and a fun journey. Jane was an engaging character and seeing a little mini sociopath that irritated her so much was good too. My only complaint about Jane was that she got a little preachy on the “society lets men exploit women every day, but not me, I’ll exploit them first.” I got the message the first three times we had the speech, I didn’t need it again after that.

This book did make me want to go back and read the first book, which I take as a good sign that I enjoyed it enough to want to see the character again.

Review: The Return by Rachel Harrison

49878129._SX318_SY475_The Return by Rachel Harrison

Published: March 24, 2020 by Berkley

Buy this book at Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: An edgy and haunting debut novel about a group of friends who reunite after one of them has returned from a mysterious two-year disappearance.

Julie is missing, and the missing don’t often return. But Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and she feels in her bones that her best friend is out there, and that one day she’ll come back. She’s right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she’s been or what happened to her.

Rating: 4 star

Review: The synopsis of this book was just intriguing enough to make me pick up this book without actually giving me any idea what it would entail. I liked the idea of a girls trip that uncovers something sinister about what happened to their friend. I did not realize before I was reading it that there would be some horror aspects in this one. I figured that out while I was reading in bed at midnight, everyone else in the house sleeping soundly. Needless to say I did not sleep much and devoured this book in about 48 hours.

This book focuses on the friendship between four women; Mae, Molly, Elise and Julie. Two years ago, Julie went hiking and vanished. Mae and Molly presumed that Julie was dead when she had not surfaced after a year, but Elise never let go of the feeling that their friend was alive. On the second anniversary of when Julie disappeared, she is found by her husband sitting on their porch with no recollection of the last two years. Her friends all go out for a weekend getaway to reconnect. Everything is going fine, Julie is back and she’s acting just like herself. Except when she isn’t acting like herself. Elise is uneasy about her friend but also about the hotel itself, everything is setting her on edge. But it’s just her imagination right? Julie is still Julie, isn’t she?

Elise was the perfect narrating character. She was the closest to Julie and has felt left behind by her friends. She views herself as the hanger-on of the group. Her friends are all successful while she works a pathetic job and still lives in a studio apartment. She is sure they do not approve of her choices and probably talk about it amongst themselves when she leaves the room. She was so relieved when Julie was found because now the dynamic between the friends would be restored. I empathized with her and identified with a lot of her feelings of unworthiness and anxiety.

The plot was super creepy. It was set in a mismatched hotel that sets Elise on edge, and set me on edge too. The author did a very good job at playing on the fears and anxieties that plague all of us. How many times have we sworn that we saw a shadow moving in our peripheral vision? But then we look and nothing is there and we chide ourselves for being scared, we’re adults after all! Or how many times have we averted our eyes at the gap in the curtains, convinced that if we look someone will be standing there? No one ever is, but we all feel the thrill of fear in our gut just the same. That is the type of horror at play in this novel. I recommend reading it in daylight only.

 

Review: Three Hours in Paris by Cara Black

50921705._SX318_SY475_Three Hours in Paris by Cara Black

Published: April 7, 2020 by SoHo Crime

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: In June of 1940, when Paris fell to the Nazis, Hitler spent a total of three hours in the City of Light—abruptly leaving, never to return. To this day, no one knows why.

The New York Times bestselling author of the Aimée Leduc investigations reimagines history in her masterful, pulse-pounding spy thriller, Three Hours in Paris.

Kate Rees, a young American markswoman, has been recruited by British intelligence to drop into Paris with a dangerous assignment: assassinate the Führer. Wrecked by grief after a Luftwaffe bombing killed her husband and infant daughter, she is armed with a rifle, a vendetta, and a fierce resolve. But other than rushed and rudimentary instruction, she has no formal spy training. Thrust into the red-hot center of the war, a country girl from rural Oregon finds herself holding the fate of the world in her hands. When Kate misses her mark and the plan unravels, Kate is on the run for her life—all the time wrestling with the suspicion that the whole operation was a set-up.

Cara Black, doyenne of the Parisian crime novel, is at her best as she brings Occupation-era France to vivid life in this gripping story about one young woman with the temerity—and drive—to take on Hitler himself.

Rating: 2 star

Review: The premise of this story was good, and I tend to like historical fiction, but this book just didn’t grab me. Full disclosure, I stopped reading about halfway through. It wasn’t interesting enough to make me keep reading.

SPOILER ALERT: Though this review will be brief, the reasons I stopped reading do contain spoilers.

Kate wasn’t a very interesting character. All I knew about her in the first half of the book was that she lost her husband and daughter and could shoot really well. Apart from that she displayed no other personality at all. The German detective who is hunting her down after her failed mission was the same. I have no idea who he is and he showed not a single glimmer of a personality.

The story also told me all the good parts by about page 70, when we have a chapter between Kate’s handler and some of the other spies when he basically just says that they expected her to fail and it was her mission to fail. The Fuhrer will be too busy trying to catch her after the botched assassination attempt to not see the real assassination attempt happening. Yawn. So I am supposed to sit though 230 more pages of Kate trying not to get caught when the only reason she was sent there is to get caught? Wait, I think I know how this ends…she uncovers the nefarious plot to throw her under the Gestapo bus and miraculously escapes.

Speaking of getting caught, in the portion that I read, Kate should have gotten caught at least three times. She gets stopped by German soldiers on three separate occasions (when they know they are looking for someone in the vicinity who shot at their leader) but no one searches her bag? They search her. They look under the bag. One of them even remarks on the heaviness of the bag….which contains the rifle she used to attempt the assassination. But no one actually looks IN THE BAG. No wonder the Third Reich was defeated, they had a bunch of morons working for them.

Also, why does Kate keep the rifle? Her handler was specific that she needed to keep it (you know, to properly frame her). But she realizes that it’s incredibly stupid to not ditch it. And yet, she still doesn’t ditch it. Why? Is she as stupid as the soldiers who should have searched her? She even says that she might have been abandoned by her handlers and still doesn’t ditch it.

I just couldn’t get into the story. It annoyed me more than it interested me. I had no desire to keep reading and so, I didn’t.

Review: IM by Rick R Reed

50535319._SY475_IM by Rick R Reed

Published on February 10, 2020 by Nine Star Press

Buy this book at: Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: One by one, he’s killing them. Lurking in the digital underworld of Men4HookUpNow.com, he lures, seduces, charms, reaching out through instant messages to the unwary. They invite him over. He’s just another trick. Harmless. They’re dead wrong.

When the first bloody body surfaces, openly gay Chicago Police Department detective Ed Comparetto is called in to investigate. Sickened by the butchered mess of one of his brothers left on display in a bathtub, he seeks relief outside where the young man who discovered the body waits to tell him the story of how he found his friend. But who is this witness…and did he play a bigger part in the murder than he’s letting on?

Comparetto is on a journey to discover the truth, a truth that he needs to discover before he loses his career, his boyfriend, his sanity…his life. Because in this killer’s world, IM doesn’t stand for instant message…it stands for instant murder.

Rating: 2 star

Review: ***I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley and NineStar Press.***

This book has an interesting premise, one that is becoming more relevant as the idea of social networking and hook up culture gains ever more steam. It plays on a lot of fears that people have. One side is spurring you on a hormonal rush to an anonymous lover, the other is wondering just how do you know the person you’re meeting isn’t a psycho? Ultimately, the book had it’s good points but it wasn’t done very well. The characterizations had a lot of inconsistencies, the story had gaping plot holes and the entire ending was written in a way that confused me as to what was going on.

One of the good things in this book was Peter. I really enjoyed him. I found him funny, sardonic and at times wise beyond his years. His romance with Ed was very sweet. I was rooting for the two of them because they were both nice guys that desperately wanted a relationship more meaningful than just hooking up.

I also really enjoyed that this book didn’t shy away from the depravity within its pages. Sometimes when an author feels uncomfortable writing something dark they tend to do a “fade to black” just when things are getting serious. I always admire an author that has the courage to see the depravity through. As an amateur writer myself I have written scenes that made myself feel ill and they are really hard to write. I was uncomfortable reading this book, so well done to the author.

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get over some big things with the book. The first problem was the ever growing cast of narrators. Virtually every other chapter was “Meet Guy 2, he’s lonely and wants to hook up with a dude from online. He is wary that the person won’t be anything like they described themselves. Ahhh, he’s going to kill me.” Then the killer kills them and we move on to a chapter about Ed being frustrated with finding a killer. It got repetitive and boring, and the constant shuffling of narrators who were subsequently killed made it difficult to connect with the story emotionally. It’s hard to get an emotional investment in a character who is only around for ten pages.

There was also a very huge problem with the characterization of the killer. Sometimes he is portrayed as a victim of abuse and neglect, getting back at the homosexual world that had so richly abused him over the years. Then other times we’re treated to narratives about him being a psychopath and torturing animals as a child, or torturing lovers because the pain is a turn on. Those two things don’t really mix very well. Which one is he? I had a hard time reconciling both in my head as being the same person. Violent psychopaths typically don’t make for very easy victims.

 

SPOILER ALERT: The following paragraphs contain some minor spoilers.

 

A few of the big plotholes took away from the story for me too. First, the circumstances that Ed finds himself in with his job were weird. It literally made no sense and was never explained. Ed gets fired for allegedly “fabricating” the witness who discovered the first body. They allege that he had no witnesses so he made one up to make it seem like he had a lead. But here’s the problem. The witness was seen by several people. Several other people talked to him before Ed even arrived. When Ed arrived, he is directed to the witness by one of those people. But then the person is just too upset about the crime scene to remember clearly? That was very weakly done. There are plenty of options for having Ed be terminated through crooked means but this was just dumb.

I had a big problem with exactly how the killer seemed to be a full head (or more) shorter than everyone he killed, but it wasn’t a problem. He is described as “elfin” about a thousand times. He’s so short that he sometimes can’t be seen through peepholes. But yet, he physically overpowers and kills multiple men who are larger, more athletic and stronger than him. How does that happen? I have no idea. All the book told me is that he does. It’s not explained how that happened at all.

The ending was really confusing. I was being told about a lot of things happening at once and the way it was written made it all seem jumbled. All of a sudden Ed would be jumping up to attack the killer and I was thinking “Wait, but wasn’t the killer over by the door? How did he get here all of a sudden?” I started to skim it for the high points because I just didn’t follow it.

I think there are a lot of good bones to this book. The writing shows a lot of talent and the idea is a good one. It really needs a good edit or two.