Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Soon by Lois Murphy

The town of Nebulah has been plagued by a strange mist for some time now. No one knows where it came from or what it is. They know when it started. They know it comes at night. And they know that anyone outside after dark will die a terrible death. They also know that even though no bodies have been found, the dead are cursed to come back in the mist thereafter. 

Pete is a retired cop who took over the only police position in Nebulah after his divorce. Forced to retire because of a cancer diagnosis, the town had been without any police force ever since. And now it doesn't matter. There are less than a dozen people left in Nebulah. 

Those few that remain have made a new routine around the mist. Many nights are spent as a group, gathered at one home or another, eating and drinking and distracting one another from their new reality. It's a life, such as it is. 

But then Pete saves a woman. A psychic who warns him that if he doesn't leave Nebulah before the summer solstice, it'll be his last. Pete is stubborn but it's the other folks in Nebulah he's more worried about, people who claim they'll never leave for one reason or another. And Pete won't abandon them. But as the solstice draws nearer, the psychic's warning seems more and more a possible reality. And Pete doesn't want to spend his last days in Nebulah at all. 

Soon is a pitch-perfect horror debut. 

Atmosphere is key in this one, as it is in all of my favorites of the genre. Set in an already remote town in Australia, in 1999, the book begins with one of the most affecting first lines I've read in a while:

The hardest thing, I sometimes think, is keeping track of time. With no school or shops there is nothing to define the days, and the weeks flow through the calendar like a sluggish river. You don't realise the importance of ritual, commonplace, until it's gone. 

As you might guess, they're affecting because they are something of a reality for many of us right at this moment! And it was impossible for me not to read this and draw connections to our Covid-19 year thus far. 

And while Soon would be a pretty bleak read any time, it is especially so right now. 

But I am either a glutton for punishment or, more likely, are better able to find distraction in horror even if the setting rings a little true to real life! 

I loved this book! Even though it is bleak. Pete and the others in Nebulah, the things they face—aside from the life threatening mist, everything about this book was such a great fit for me as a reader! I highly, highly recommend it if you're looking for an excellent horror that's packed with chilling atmosphere. The characters are perfect in their imperfection, so super well rounded and mired in problems that include family issues, mortality, and questions of morality as well. Like I said, I really loved it!

Can I take a minute to gush over the cover too! This is my favorite cover treatment of any book in quite some time! I just adore it—and it does set the tone for the book so well!

Order if from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Beach Read by Emily Henry

January Andrews is broke and on deadline. Her particular brand of romantic fiction has never been a struggle before, but after learning of her father's long time affair romance and happily-ever-after seem so far off from reality that she just can't quite conjure it up anymore. What's worse, now that her father is dead she can't even confront him about the earth-shattering revelation that her parents' marriage wasn't the perfect match she'd always believed. 

Forced to spend her summer in the love nest her father shared with his mistress, January is afraid she'll never meet the expected delivery date for her latest project. And when it turns out that her next door neighbor is her arch-nemesis from school, best-selling author and womanizer Augustus Everett, it seems her attempts at writing are going to be even more futile. 

But when January and Gus clash at a local book club event, they come to an agreement. Or, more accurately, a bet. Gus, who's always looked down on January's chosen genre, will try to pen a happily-ever-after tale and January will try Gus's hardened literary fiction on for size. In the meantime, she'll teach him the ways of romance (platonically and in the form of movie marathons and the like) and he'll take her on his typical research trips (interviewing cult members, apparently). As summer winds on, January is determined not to let things with Gus go further than competition and—maybe—friendship. But fate, as usual, has a way of intervening on even the best laid plans.

Emily Henry's latest is a rom com with so much heart and soul!

Pitting two authors against each other in a small beach town over a summer is a premise I will always eat up like candy! But Beach Read is more hearty than you might think. In January and Gus, Henry has created two characters with some serious baggage. 

January comes by hers more recently than Gus. Her father has died and she met his mistress for the first time at his funeral. The news that he even had a mistress was a blow to a woman who built a career based on the perfect romance she believed her parents' marriage to be and the resulting inability to even conceive of a book in that vein has been plaguing her for months. 

What's more, January is recently single, broke, and essentially homeless, leaving her no option other than to take up residence at her father's secret second home. 

Which turns out to be next door to Agustus Everett's house. 

Gus and January have a history. They attended the same writing program and Gus maddeningly criticized every reading of January's work. So to say she's less than excited to learn that he's living next door is a grand understatement. 

Avoiding one another turns out to be impossible, which leads to their bet. But of course, the more time they spend together, they do learn that neither is quite what they thought the other to be. 

Beach Read delivers on all the rom com fronts but adds a healthy dose of writer life to the mix as well. And then there's the fact that rather than the typical caricatures you'd expect, Henry's fleshed out January and Gus to an extent that the book becomes so much more than just the rom com you thought you'd picked up. As I said, it's got heart and soul. And messiness. And drama. And so many feelings!

Beach Read is sweet and steamy. It's also a little sad and a little funny. Given the setting, it's a perfect summer read!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Monday, July 6, 2020

The Request by David Bell

Ryan Francis seems to have a perfect life, but it's all a lie. He's hiding a secret. One that's landed him in a heap of trouble! With this secret as leverage, Ryan's best friend, Blake, has asked him for a big favor. 

Blake is about to get married. But before he can, he wants Ryan to break into a woman's house and steal some damning correspondence. The woman is Blake's ex, one who could ruin his relationship with his wife-to-be. But she can also ruin Ryan. Because Blake already told her Ryan's secret. He put it in the letters. 

Ryan does as he's asked but everything immediately goes wrong. When he arrives at the woman's house, he finds her dead in her bedroom and the letters missing. Now he's got an even bigger secret to hide and with each passing minute, the secret gets harder and harder to keep under wraps. 

David Bell is known for his insanely paced page turners and this is no exception. 

Ryan is a mess. He's made one dumb decision after another and when the book begins he's about to make a whole lot more. 

He and his wife have a great relationship. They have a new baby. Ryan's got a steady job—in fact, they're about to begin a huge overhaul of their yard. Basically, he's an everyman who's got it all. 

But Ryan was once a dumb kid who made a mistake. And his friend Blake, who stood by him for years and years is the only one who really knows the truth about Ryan. 

Blake on the other hand is a screw up. But he's loyal and supportive, which is why Ryan has been steadfast in his friendship for so many years even when his own wife has tired of Blake's antics. But it seems Blake has finally turned over a new leaf. He's getting married and his fiancĂ© seems to have a great calming effect on him. 

Except it seems that Blake's past behavior could potentially ruin it all before it begins. 

Now, it's understandable that Ryan would want to keep his past behind him. And it's understandable that he'd believe that with this one favor, everything might be neatly swept up once again. But I'm not sure Bell had me completely sold on the plot of this one from start to finish. 

The Request is a popcorn read through and through—by which I mean it's fun, goes by super quick, and pairs great with popcorn (it'd also make a fun movie adaptation). But it's not his strongest book by far, unfortunately. 

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Maggie Holt has never believed the stories about Baneberry Hall. After all, she lived through the supposed story that is the focus of her father's book, House of Horrors, and she has no memory of any of the things he wrote. Maggie has held a long simmering resentment against her parents and House of Horrors. In fact, she's certain the book was a lie meant simply to drum up attention and money. Money she certainly benefited from but attention she never wanted.

The story is that after just about three weeks, her family abandoned the house out of desperation, having been plagued by ghosts from the day they took up residence in the old home. And certainly the history of the house lends itself to haunting! But Maggie is convinced her father's story is blatantly untrue. Unfortunately she was never able to get him to reveal the truth and now it's too late.

She was surprised, however, to learn that her father had never sold the house. And that, as his sole heir, the house now belongs to her. Maggie plans to fix up the place and put it on the market to be done with it. But not before she learns what really happened all those years ago.  

Home Before Dark finds the adult Maggie Holt troubled and her relationship with her parents strained. Which is a shame because her father dies before she can even consider trying to mend that bond.

To his dying day, Maggie's father swore by the words he wrote in the book that made him famous. The book that purports to be the truth about why Maggie and her family fled a home they'd lived in for just under a month, leaving everything they owned behind and never to return. Or so Maggie thought. As it turns out, her father did return, once every year.

Chapters of her father's book are interspersed throughout the story, giving the reader something of a parallel view of the events at Baneberry Hall: Maggie's arrival somewhat coincides with her family's arrival in House of Horrors and Maggie's own experiences at the house are something of a mirror of her father's written experiences. It's intentional considering Maggie herself compares her experiences to those laid out in the book, which even causes her to begin doubting her steadfast conviction that the book isn't real.

Riley Sager's latest is a great twist on the classic haunted house tale. In fact, if each new release so far has been a play on classic horror films, Home Before Dark is definitely inspired by The Amityville Horror (which is mentioned in the book). As a huge fan of horror, I appreciate all of the nods towards the classics but also enjoy the fact that Sager puts his own stamp on the classic tropes.

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

Anna Cicconi is going to spend her summer laying low. She's been hired as a nanny in tiny Herron Mills for the summer, which means a break from the city and a break from the hard partying she's used to. But when she arrives, the locals are a little strange. Turns out Anna resembles a girl who'd gone missing around New Year's.

Anna is curious about the girl and the case, which has been profiled by a local teen on a podcast. There's been no clue as to the whereabouts of the girl and plenty of speculation about who could have had a hand in her disappearance. Most would prefer to believe she simply ran away. But the longer Anna is in Herron Mills, the more things start to seem familiar. How could she know intimate details of the town if she's never been there? And why is she having dreams about the missing girl?

I know I've mentioned it many times, but I am a sucker for a Rebecca inspired tale! Kit Frick's latest is not only a Rebecca inspired story, but there's a house that's absolutely inspired by Grey Gardens! Bonus :)

So Anna has, as a habit, been drinking a lot and blacking out. She knows the behavior is problematic and she also knows that it's encouraged by her best friend. So a break from her hometown and a job that, at least in part, inspires her to behave better are exactly what she needs so that she can head off to college in good form.

But then she finds out about Zoe.

Zoe is a local teen who's been missing since December. And Anna apparently looks like her. Which is actually part of why she got the job in the first place! And is weird for Anna, to say the least.

It's also the reason she gets interested in the podcast about Zoe's disappearance. But, her interest goes a bit too far and, as we find out in the opening chapter of the book, she ends up being arrested after confessing to playing a part in Zoe's death.


The book alternates between then and now—Anna's arrival in Herron Mills at the beginning of the summer and Anna's confession and arrest in August. The book is race to bring those two timelines together, leading the reader down a path that begins with Anna arriving in a town she's never been to for the very first time and ends with a shocking explanation to the mystery at hand.

I read this one during the spring (ahem, winter junior in Colorado) and absolutely loved this little bit of summer vacation in the midst of the still cold and dreary weather we were having.

I really liked the mystery and the way that it unfolded. And I appreciated the fact that while it was easy to see the undertones of Rebecca, Frick actually didn't simply retell the classic at all.

I Killed Zoe Spanos is a fun outing. The pacing is great and the plot is engaging; a fun summer mystery for any time of year!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Lion's Den by Katherine St. John

When Belle's best friend, Summer, invites her on a luxury yacht trip to Europe, of course Belle accepts! But in the weeks leading up to the trip, things between Belle and Summer go drastically downhill. Still, it would be rude to back out of the trip at the last minute.

Paradise it may be, but things are definitely not what Belle expected. For one thing, Summer's rich boyfriend appears to be extremely controlling. And not just of Summer. All of Summer's friends are under strict orders to follow his every instruction. And the friction between Belle and Summer is undeniable! 

As the trip wears on, things begin to go from awkward to downright sinister. Belle believes her emails are being read and the guests are locked in their cabins at night. Is it security or is it something darker? 

The Lion's Den is a darkly comic and unabashedly fun debut!

Belle is a struggling actress who's almost perpetually broke. She's been friends with Summer since they were teenagers, offering up her couch any time Summer needs a place to stay (which is often). 

Summer has made it plain that her goal is to find a rich man to take care of her and she's convinced her new boyfriend is the one. And Belle couldn't be happier for her, at first. But something happens in the weeks leading up to the trip, something that plays out in flashbacks as the story progresses, giving the reader the opportunity to see exactly why things have taken a turn between the once close besties. 

I absolutely did not expect this book to take the turn that it did! And I loved it! I will admit, some of the twist was easy to figure out, but only as it became closer to being revealed in the narrative itself. And again, it was not what I expected at all when the book began!

This is the perfect summer read (both for reading in summer AND for reading anytime you want a slice of summer in your life!). The setting is exclusive and the prose is vivid and playful. Highly recommended for anyone in search of a book that's pure, darker, entertainment!

Buy a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Feature: Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory

Happy Book Birthday to Jasmine Guillory! Party of Two, the latest in the Wedding Date series, is available today!

I have heard nothing but wonderful things about Guillory's books and am definitely in the mood for some lighter fare of late (hence yesterday's post!). Here's a little bit about Party of Two from Goodreads:

A chance meeting with a handsome stranger turns into a whirlwind affair that gets everyone talking.

Dating is the last thing on Olivia Monroe's mind when she moves to LA to start her own law firm. But when she meets a gorgeous man at a hotel bar and they spend the entire night flirting, she discovers too late that he is none other than hotshot junior senator Max Powell. Olivia has zero interest in dating a politician, but when a cake arrives at her office with the cutest message, she can't resist--it is chocolate cake, after all.

Olivia is surprised to find that Max is sweet, funny, and noble--not just some privileged white politician she assumed him to be. Because of Max's high-profile job, they start seeing each other secretly, which leads to clandestine dates and silly disguises. But when they finally go public, the intense media scrutiny means people are now digging up her rocky past and criticizing her job, even her suitability as a trophy girlfriend. Olivia knows what she has with Max is something special, but is it strong enough to survive the heat of the spotlight?

Note that while the books are connected, this is a series in the loosest sense! Think circle of friends rather than having to read them in order. (Though from what I hear, once you read one you'll definitely want to dive into the others!)

While it certainly stinks not being able to go to author events, it's pretty cool that the wealth of virtual events being hosted right now are available to anyone who wants to attend. Guillory is doing a number of them, I encourage you to check the list out here

Order Party of Two from your favorite indie via Bookshop!