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Monday, May 13, 2024

Thirty Days of Darkness by Jenny Lund Madsen

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Jenny Lund Madsen's debut, Thirty Days of Darkness, which is now out in paperback!

Hannah is an award-winning author. But while her books are critical darlings, they're not exactly commercial successes. In fact, they're the kind of books people laud but don't actually read. 

Which doesn't keep Hannah from looking down her nose at more popular authors, like crime writer Jørn Jensen. And it's exactly that attitude that has Hannah traveling to Iceland with plans to write a crime novel of her own—in thirty days. 

The hope was that the isolated setting would be the perfect inspiration and atmosphere for conceiving of and writing said novel. But when a very real crime occurs, Hannah finds herself at the center of an investigation that could mean much more than her career and reputation as a writer. 

Thirty Days of Darkness is such a fun plot! A snooty author who talks garbage about a popular author finds herself in a pickle when she's challenged to write her own commercial crime novel in a month. And then gets caught up in a real crime!

I love this kind of book, especially since Hannah brings to mind a few very real authors who have downplayed the effort and talent that go into commercial novels. And she's not easy to like! In fact, as a reader I kind of wanted her to fail just because she was so high on herself! But she made for a fun lead character to follow, that's for sure!

If Thirty Days of Darkness is any indication, we're in store for lots of fun to come from Jenny Lund Madsen. 

And a shout out to Megan E. Turney. Translators don't get enough credit in my opinion, and they're a key part in bringing such a wide range of voices to English speaking audiences!

Huge thanks to Orenda and to Random Things Tours for including me on the tour! 

Thirty Days of Darkness is out now in the UK and the US (it's a Kindle Unlimited deal in the US) will be out in paperback in the States in November.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

One of Us Knows by Alyssa Cole

Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Alyssa Cole's latest, One of Us Knows

Ken has been asleep for six years. Or so it seems. 

Diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, though still with no memory of the inciting event, Ken has been dormant for six years while her other headmates have been living life for her. But even they don't know where Ken was all that time. 

When she awakens, on a dock and dressed in a style typical of another identity, she learns she's starting a new job as caretaker at the castle on Kavanaugh Island. But a storm hits straight after her arrival--after she meets members of the island trust she is all too familiar with. 

As she and her alters all try to cope with the situation and figure out the various mysteries they're suddenly facing (where Ken went for so many years; where Della, who took over for much of that time, has gone now; and more strangely, why a castle they've never been to is the exact replica of where they live in Ken's inner mind), they must also survive the storm alongside her ex, a man she assaulted years ago, and the other trust members, in a castle that has it's own strange history on an island locals once believed was home to goblins. 

I absolutely loved this latest from Cole! It's a fantastic modern gothic read!

The POV switches between Ken and her headmates, which I thought was both interesting and handled well. (Cole does thank someone who helped with the DID details.)

Each of the others has a specific role. And part of the story is learning how Ken developed DID in the first place, something neither she or our other POV identities can remember. 

Like I said, this is definitely modern gothic. The house, the rumors of ghosts, being trapped by the storm...all of the basics are there. And Cole does it so freaking well! I read this book in one day and would have read in one sitting had day-to-day life stuff not gotten in the way!

And that's how it felt too. I just could not wait to dive back into this world and find out what secrets were hidden on Kavanaugh island, what ghosts were hiding in the castle, and how Ken and the others would handle it all!

One of Us Knows is out now in the UK and in the US

Friday, April 19, 2024

Five Bad Deeds by Caz Frear

It's Friday! And it's a cold one here. Hopefully the last of the season!

But the good news is that today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Caz Frear's latest, Five Bad Deeds

Just a few months ago, Ellen was your average housewife. Mom to three kids and desperate to get back to her career, she's also still trying to fully fit into their new life away from London. 

But now she's in prison.

It all starts with a note. Someone who things Ellen should pay. But who? And why? As Ellen thinks back, there are five things. Five things that could have been the start of her downfall. But until she figures out which one, she won't know who is behind the threat. As more notes arrive, it becomes clear this is someone who will do anything to see Ellen lose it all. 

What a juicy and enticing thriller!

When we meet Ellen, she's already been incarcerated. But we don't know why. All we know is that she hasn't seen her twin sons since she got there. 

Flash back to "the beginning." And it would seem that it's the damning note that arrives in the mail. 

Except the note is not the beginning at all. 

And that, I think, is what made this such a fun read. We meet Ellen, we feel for her as a mom struggling with her teenage daughter and twin sons, a woman whose husband is often gone, a woman starting to feel lonely in her life. 

But as Ellen's story goes on, she begins to become much more complicated! The notes and the things she's done that might be the reason for it all...

There's a little, or a lot, of Ellen in us all. Trust me. And while some might not like the reflection, I quite enjoyed the 'what if' of it all. (Even though I have a lot of anxiety and tend to overthink everything!) It's not necessarily fun to think about what you might have done in your own life. But it is quite easy to empathize with Ellen as you soon begin to question what you'd do in her shoes!

Of course the suspense behind the sender of the notes and the five deeds Ellen reflects on make this an absolute page-turner, but I think that little connection Frear draws between the reader and Ellen is what makes it a richer (sometimes uncomfortable—but in a good way) reading experience!

Five Bad Deeds is out now in the US and the UK!

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The Escape Room by L.D. Smithson

Hello, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for L.D. Smithson's The Escape Room

Clara is desperate to get picked for The Fortress, a new reality competition escape room with a 100k prize. Money she and her sister can definitely use in the wake of their mother's illness and death. But after being accepted onto the show, Clara breaks her leg and can't compete. She only barely manages to convince her sister, Bonnie, to take her place, arguing that they look enough alike that she can pull it off and that Bonnie has always done better at puzzles anyway.

The competition is set in an old fortress that dates back to the 1800s, though it wasn't completed until later. At one point it was even a hotel. But rumors swirl around the place, as the contestants soon learn. It all seems fodder for the clues to the game until viewers' commentary starts to suggest something much more sinister. 

The Escape Room is a no holds barred thriller that had me hooked from the strange and bloody beginning!

The structure of the book is interesting to note considering Bonnie is a guest on a podcast in the aftermath of the show. She's telling the story, even though it played out ostensibly in front of a live audience. And it adds a definite layer of suspense that I absolutely loved!

So I've never done an escape room. And honestly I have no real desire to. One is the fear that I'd absolutely suck at it! And reading this one, I have to admit I never would have figured out any of the clues the contestants are faced with. 

What's more, even though the clues seem to lead to prizes of a sort (remember the oreos and peanut butter Survivor episode--note, I watched little of that show so my reference point is very dated), the viewers vote on contestants to go head to head with one another throughout. 

Which seems fairly normal to the kind of program the game is based on. Except...Bonnie notes that something feels off from the beginning. 

The Escape Room is a cool premise done in a way that I found to be truly fresh and fun! Throughout, there are dispatches from "The Director," which hint at a more nefarious plot than even I could guess at. 

This book has blockbuster written all over it and I was here for every single page--frequently with popcorn to accompany it!

The Escape Room is out now in the UK and I highly recommend adding it to your immediate must read list!

Monday, March 11, 2024

Crow Moon by Suzy Aspley

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Suzy Aspley's Crow Moon!

Things haven't been easy for Martha Strageways since the loss of her three-year-old twins. But she and her teenage son are getting by. Until his friend goes missing. Knowing all too well the horrific fears that come with being a parent, Martha makes an effort to look into the teen's disappearance, never expecting to stumble over his dead body!

And then another teen goes missing. 

What a fantastic start to a new series! The blending of folklore and dark mystery is always one that's going to get me, and this has it all!

So what is it about this strange village? That's the first question. Even Martha's home, a croft with a stone built to track the phases of the moon, a discovery she made after purchasing the home, hint at weird things!

But the main mystery and the POV of the killer are undeniably creepy, hinting at ritual, sacrifice, and all manner of things that only begin to become clear as the story progresses. 

This is also a story about grief. And to that end, is a very emotional read. Martha's loss is a shadow that hangs over the story. It motivates her, it drives her, it also keeps her going at times. And it plagues her. 

Aspley imbues the story with this layer of grief so that the reader can't avoid it. Can't help but feel it. 

I will say that it can make for a difficult read at times. But I found it was affecting and added to my rooting for Martha and her family. And I absolutely look forward to reading more about her and her strange new home!

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Good Girls Don't Die by Christina Henry

What if you woke up one day and realized your life has become a story? And not a great one!

Celia doesn't recognize her daughter. She doesn't remember her husband. And she has somehow forgotten her past. She runs a restaurant where, thankfully, the recipes come to her with ease. She certainly doesn't remember the grumpy old lady who harasses her regularly or the cop who responds in kind. And then the lady winds up dead in Celia's restaurant's dumpster. 

Allie was supposed to be celebrating her birthday on a beach vacation with her two best friends. But plans soon change and they wind up at a remote cabin in the woods with the friends' boyfriends in tow. When she's awakened by strange noises in the night, she knows something is wrong. But as a horror movie fanatic, her friends are ready to write off her fears. 

Maggie has somehow wandered into a red-life competition that resembles the dystopian novels she's so fond of. She and a handful of other women are set on a timed course where failure could literally mean death!

All three women quickly realize there's something very wrong with their stories. But even they can't imagine just how twisted the plot is!

I wasn't sure where this one was going when I first started reading. 

We meet Celia first. As noted, she runs a restaurant, where she is most comfortable because at least she can remember how to cook the dishes they serve! But at home everything feels off. At first she thinks its her. But she soon becomes suspicious. 

By the time we get to Allie, we know something weird is going on. But Allie's experience is completely different than Celia's. Allie is with her friends. Allie is supposed to be celebrating her birthday at the beach until her friends' significant others tag along and change the plan. But that's when things go pear shaped for Allie!

When we reach Maggie, we're well aware that things aren't going to go her way. 

I don't want to spoil the plot, but this is truly a fun book for book lovers and a great addition to Henry's collection of work!

Order a copy from Bookshop.org!

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

The Drift by C. J. Tudor

Listen up, people. Have you read C. J. Tudor yet? If not, you are missing out!

I read The Drift when it came out in hardcover, but was very neglectful about typing up my review. Now that it's out in paperback, I'm rectifying that!

The book is told in three parts. But they intertwine in such a way that the connections aren't immediately clear beyond setting. 

A school bus overturns on trip to evacuate a group of students to a place called The Retreat. These chosen few should be safe there. If they can only make it. 

Meg was also on her way to The Retreat when she awakens in a stopped cable car. Neither she or her fellow passengers can remember how they got there. But with no power and temps dropping fast, they must find a way to survive!

Carter lives comfortably in a ski chalet. But they live at the mercy of the generator. And when it starts to fail, it means facing the things both inside and outside that put everyone at risk. 

Tudor says this was a bit of a passion project. One delayed by but also made possible by the pandemic. 

After all, even I as both a reader and agent had my doubts about ever being able to read a post-apocalyptic thriller in the days around and beyond 2020. 

But I actually found it a bit cathartic. And by the time The Drift released here in the States, I was more than ready for this particular book!

First, I have a thing for snowed-in reads. And absolutely fits the bill! Which is perfect because it's February and I especially like to read snowed-in books while it's nasty and snowing outside!

The world of The Drift unfolds somewhat slowly through the eyes of these three narrators. And it's in part because of the structure—alternating short chapters between each of these characters means you get snippets of what each of them are experiencing alongside the world around them. And I have to say that the deliberate delay in what is otherwise an exceptionally fast-paced read made for a deliciously agonizing experience!

I desperately wanted to know what was going on in this world. Why the desperation to reach The Retreat. Why the secrecy around the facility!

And the dawning of understanding that begins to set in at a certain point in the reading was truly a wonderful discovery and reveal. 

Again, if you've not been reading Tudor, you absolutely need to. There's a new adaptation of one of her works (The Burning Girls), there's a new release (The Gathering) on the horizon, there's plenty of backlist to tide you over, and there's even a TV adaptation of The Drift in the works! Add her to your must-read list today and ENJOY!

Order a copy from Bookshop today!