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Monday, June 20, 2022

Ghost Games by Brooke Mackenzie

Happy Monday! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Brooke Mackenzie's Ghost Games!

Games like Bloody Mary are just urban legends, right? 

But what if they're not. What if a certain sequence of floors in an elevator can take you to another dimension? What if all you need to summon a demon is a walk-in closet? What if there's a much darker Telephone Game than the one you remember as a kid?

These and more are the subjects of Brooke Mackenzie's short story collection, Ghost Games

In each tale, someone elects to play, in spite of all the warnings not to. And, of course, bad things happen!

I can honestly say that other than Bloody Mary and the Ouija Board, all of the games that inspire these stories were new to me. And imagine my surprise when I found that they were not created specifically for the collection!

I thoroughly enjoyed Mackenzie's stories. They're super creepy! Which of course makes for fun reading for any horror fan! Upping the creep factor is the fact that Mackenzie includes instructions for each of the games, along with the ominous note that you shouldn't ever play them!

There's a definite cinematic quality to Mackenzie's writing. The whole time I was reading, I kept thinking I'd like to see each of the stories adapted as films—in part so that I could experience them again for the first time!

If you're in the mood for a great collection of chilling tales, Ghost Games is definitely one you don't want to miss!

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official tour page here!

Monday, June 13, 2022

The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

The Beacon Hill Butcher is one of Seattle's most infamous serial killers. Edward Shank is the local hero who took him down, killing him and ending his violent murder streak. 

Sam has been dating Edward's grandson for some time now. And she knows his aspirations as a chef are important. But she longs to take their relationship to the next level. At the very least, she'd like to move in with him when his grandfather leaves him his old house!

And Sam has aspirations of her own. She believes that the Beacon Hill Butcher wasn't caught all those years ago. In fact, she believes her own mother may have been one of his victims—even though her murder occurred a full two years after Edward caught and killed the suspected murderer. 

Sam has been researching the killings and thinks there's more to the story. And neither Edward or Matt pay her much attention in that regard, certain that Edward's story from all those years ago is the end. 

But that's before Matt begins renovating his grandfather's home. 

Here we have a serial killer, a stressed out chef who doesn't know the half of his family secrets, and the daughter of a murder victim desperately trying to get justice for her mom. That they all collide in a weirdly coincidental way means nothing good will can really come of it!

Sam is all around a great main character. And she shares the narration with Edward and Matt. So not only do we see from her point of view as she investigates the Beacon Hill Butcher, we also see from Matt's and Edward's perspectives as well.

And Hillier isn't afraid to delve into dark and disturbing corners of the human psyche. You should know that going in. But her careful attention to detail really does suck you into the story completely!

In The Butcher Jennifer Hillier has created a disturbingly dark serial killer novel that explores exactly what happens when the real killer is able to evade capture for decades! 

She also explores the trickle down effect on the family members of the investigators, the victims, and the killer himself. 

This is a super fast-paced read—the kind you shouldn't start at bedtime without being prepared to read straight through!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Thursday, June 9, 2022

The Mirror Man by Lars Kepler

Good morning, readers! Today I'm super excited to be a stop on the Random Things tour for the latest in Lars Kepler's Joona Linna series, The Mirror Man

Jenny Lind disappeared five years ago and in all that time there's never been a hint of a trace of her. 

Everyone assumed she was dead. But that wasn't the case. Until now. 

When her body is found hanging in a playground, Joona Linna immediately recognizes the girl. But while everyone admits Linna is an amazing detective, his new boss has told him to step aside. Something he's unwilling to do. And it's Linna who draws a connection between the Lind murder and another, older case. 

When another girl goes missing, Linna is convinced they're dealing with a serial killer. But he doesn't know the whole story. He doesn't know what Jenny Lind lived through for five years. He doesn't know how meticulously she planned her escape. All he knows is that whoever killed her is going to do it again if they can't stop him. 

I do so love this series. It's equal parts dark and creepy—packed with atmosphere and truly disturbing plots. But also characters you want to continue following from book to book. And, admittedly, I've read them out of order, so do be aware that's possible :) However, if you're a true stickler for reading series IN ORDER, here's the full list:

The Hypnotist
The Nightmare
The Fire Witness
The Sandman
Stalker
The Rabbit Hunter
Lazarus
The Mirror Man

Having said that, I will say that The Mirror Man works fine as a bit of a standalone. There are mentions of past cases, which could prove to be somewhat spoiler-y if you go back to the beginning, but otherwise you can dive in with this installment as an easy introduction to the series. 

The plot revolves around sex trafficking, so that's something to know going in. If you're a longtime fan of the husband and wife team that make up Lars Kepler, you know they don't shy away from things. If you're new to them, however, you've been warned. 

It's hard to call this a fun read, given the subject matter. But I am a huge fan and I look forward to each new installment with great anticipation. Linna is brilliant and quirky. And the books follow suit. The writing is amazing—like any great cowriting team, it reads seamlessly, with no obvious indication there are two separate writers involved. And the plotting is always purposeful and intricate with unpredictable twists along the way. 

Like I said, I'm a huge fan! If you're looking for a fantastic blend of psychological thriller and police procedural, this series is one of the absolute best!

The Mirror Man is out now in both the UK and the US. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Lucy Clarke's latest, One of the Girls!

No one expected Lexi to ever get married. Least of all Lexi herself. But here she is, just weeks away from settling down with Ed. 

But first, her friends have planned an epic hen party to see her off!

Bella, the wild one, planned the whole thing. With the help of her girlfriend, Fen, whose aunt owns a fabulous villa in Greece! Robyn, a single mom, deserves a weekend away in paradise celebrating her best friend. Eleanor, who recently lost her own fiance, is there as Ed's sister, so that Lexi can get to know her better. And finally, Ana, the newest of the bunch, who met Lexi during yoga one day and became fast friends. 

It's to be a weekend of sun, fun, and drinks. Except they're all lying to one another. And at least one of them has ulterior motives in being there. And by the end of the weekend, someone will be dead. 

A beachy thriller that begins with the reader knowing something terrible is coming!

So six women, three of whom have been best friends since they were kids, convene in what is undeniably paradise to party and celebrate the Lexi's upcoming nuptials.  

Lexi, once a backup dancer for various acts—and a verifiable party girl, has traded in her wilder ways for a yoga studio and a steady relationship. And honestly, no one ever expected it. In fact, Lexi swore she'd never get married. Just goes to show what can happen when you meet the right person.

Bella isn't ready to give up her wild ways. In fact, she misses having Lexi along for the ride. And as the self-appointed maid of honor, she's vowed to give that Lexi one final weekend. 

Fen, isn't jazzed about returning to her aunt's villa. Her memories of the place are tainted in a way the even Bella, her own girlfriend, isn't aware of. But she knows that in spite of that, it is the perfect place for a hen weekend. If only it hadn't started out so very badly for her and Bella. 

Robyn hasn't had much time to spend with her old friends for quite a while. As a soon to be divorced single mom, all of her focus and energy has been on her infant son and her job. And having to move back in with her parents while trying to decide what comes next for her and her small family hasn't made things easier. She needs this weekend away. But she can't help feeling guilty. And things have been frosty between her and Bella for some time too. 

Eleanor and Ana are the outsiders. And they both feel it. Eleanor has never quite fit in and the loss of her fiance has made her even more uncomfortable at a hen party of all places. Plus, she can't help but feel that she's only there because Lexi feels obligated to invite her as Ed's sister. 

Ana, meanwhile, is also a single mom. And would never spend her hard earned and should be saved money on a trip to Greece under normal circumstances. But her sister has taken her sullen teen son for the weekend and Lexi really wanted her new friend to be there. 

Together, they all make a bit of an odd group. But they all have one thing in common. Lexi. Which is not to say that all of them are there for exactly the same reasons!

The book begins with the glaring fact that something has gone terribly wrong on this particular party weekend. And it's easy to guess what that something is. But the facts around it are teased and throughout the book as we go back to the beginning and the group's arrival on the fictional island. 

Points of view alternate between all of the women and a mysterious narrator who sprinkles in more clues about what's to come, giving the reader a chance to get to know each of the women and what motivates them as the plot progresses. 

One of the Girls was great fun! A perfect summer read with just the right amount of tension!

One of the Girls is out now in ebook and due out in paperback and hardcover (in the UK) and in hardcover (in the States) later this month. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jónasson

"Teacher wanted at the end of the world." It's exactly the kind of thing Una needs!

It’s 1985 and Una can barely make ends meet as a teacher. But the posting for a position in Skálar is perfect! Not only does it come with room and board included, the remote location means there’s nothing else to spend money on either. Una may finally be able to save enough for a deposit on a place of her own. 

Plus, the location means getting away from things Una has been trying to escape in her personal life. 

Unfortunately, Una doesn’t realize exactly what she’s in for until she arrives. She’s only got two students. In fact, the town is all but abandoned, with just ten residents total. And they aren’t exactly warm to outsiders. 

Una can deal with most of it. But the nightmares and the strange sounds she hears at night are too much for her to ignore. And when a villager dies suddenly, Una realizes that she can’t ignore what’s happening around her any longer. 

Ragnar Jónasson’s latest is a stand alone that combines a mystery inspired by the very real one with a ghost story set in one of the most remote areas of Iceland. It makes for a truly compelling and eerie read that I enjoyed immensely!

In 1974, two men disappeared in Iceland. Not only were they never found, questions still remain today regarding the two cases. There’s an entire documentary about the cases on Netflix right now. Of course the book is only inspired by those events. The setting for the story, the remote village of Skálar, was completely abandoned by 1985 and, as far as anyone knows, has no ties to the case at all. But it does make for a great premise and a perfect setting!

Una is desperate to escape her past. And Skálar might jus offer that. But the remote location plays havoc on her mental health, especially considering her access to alcohol. And the locals notice. Which is why, when she considers asking about the girl she sees in her dreams and the song she hears in her little apartment, she’s tries to hide her fears. 

And yet, the haunting melody and the little girl are too much to ignore. Especially after the town is struck by tragedy. 

Una isn’t treated badly, per se. But she is discouraged from asking too many questions about the townspeople and their past. It’s an insular community that keeps their secrets close and definitely doesn’t welcome nosy outsiders. Which is how Una is soon perceived. 

I really loved this latest from Jónasson. Una is carrying some really heavy weight when she arrives in town. It’s something that’s revealed as the story progresses. So really this is the kind of story that unfolds in a lot of different layers: Una’s story, the truth behind the “ghost,” the mysterious death that occurs, and how it all ties into the missing men (which comes out in part through an unnamed narrator). It makes for a somewhat slower pacing, but not a true slow burn. In fact, while there’s a lot of development, I was drawn in quite easily and found it to be a rather quick read simply because I was so sucked in! No doubt this is because of the perfect union of Jónasson’s writing and Victoria Cribb’s seamless translation!

The Girl Who Died is out now in paperback. 

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon

Happy Tuesday, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Joanna Cannon's latest, A Tidy Ending!

Linda's life is fairly uneventful. She spends her days working part time and keeping house. She and her husband, Terry, have fallen into a life of routine...habit...boredom even. 

But that was before the murders. And the mail. 

The murders, two women the news say are connected, immediately get Linda's attention. Because she's noticed something. But she knows the police won't listen to her. They never do. The mail...well, that's Rebecca's. Mail that gets delivered to Linda's new home, addressed to the prior resident. Mail that suggested this Rebecca leads a much more interesting life than Linda. 

You could say that Linda becomes a bit obsessed. So much so, that when her husband starts spending more time at work, the distraction is welcome. But Linda's not quite what she seems. And that routine life isn't quite as routine as you might think. 

A Tidy Ending is, dare I say, quite a delight to read!

First, I'm a sucker for a quirky main character. And Linda is quirky indeed!

Second, I'm an even bigger sucker for books with unexpected (or, not quite unexpected in this case) twists that turn the beginning framework you expect on its head. 

And third, I do so love dark reads!

This is, if you haven't gathered, one that could very easily be spoiled. I will say, however, that it is great fun and I absolutely loved it!

A Tidy Ending is out now in the UK from The Borough Press. It'll release this summer in the States. Wherever you are, I highly recommend snagging a copy for your TBR!

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

The Attic child by Lola Jaye

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Lola Jaye's The Attic Child

Two children separated by almost seven decades, share a similar trauma in this latest from Lola Jaye. 

Dikembe was just a boy when he was given over to Sir Richard. In truth, he couldn't have known his mother's fears for his future. And she was promised that he would gain an education and be brought up as an English gentleman. 

Torn from his home and everything he'd ever known, he was thrown into British society. Renamed Celestine, he served as Sir Richard's companion and was given every privilege befitting Sir Richard's place in society. 

But he always longed for home. Even when he was told his home and his family were gone. 

And then Sir Richard died. 

Lowra's early life was a happy one. But when her mother died and her father remarried, all of that changed. Her father disappeared, leaving her in the charge of her new stepmother, who made no bones about her feelings for the young girl. And the abuse she suffered at the woman's hands were unknown to everyone else in her life. 

She escaped when she was fifteen, living in group homes until she turned eighteen. 

Now, at thirty, she has just learned that her stepmother has died. And the house where she experienced the worst years of her life is hers. It's there that she once found evidence of another child. And now, so many years later, she's determined to find out what she can about the boy who lived in the attic before her. 

This is a hard read. The abuse both Dikembe and Lowra suffer truly made my heart ache as I read the book. But it's about a deeper trauma than that. A history of upper class society figures basically kidnapping children from what they viewed as lesser societies. 

These children, and there are a few mentioned in the book, were, as Dikembe is, part of a collection. Yet another piece or artifact showing off wealthy people's travels and allowing them to pat themselves on the back for their "good deeds."

In truth, Dikembe's slate is wiped clean as soon as he's handed over to Sir Richard. His name, his history, his culture, his family...all of it is lost to him. 

Lowra too experiences something of the same at the hands of her stepmother. All of the photographs of her family are gone. She knows nothing of her past or her family connections. Nothing of her own story. 

This is a heart wrenching book. But it's also one about holding on to the things that are important to you. Dikembe never forgets his family. Never forgets where he came from. And in searching for his story, Lowra learns more than she ever expected about a history she was completely unaware of. 

The Attic Child is a beautifully written story, even at it's most painful to read parts.