Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Excerpt: Lies, Lies, Lies by Adele Parks

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Today I'm excited to share a little excerpt from Adele Parks's latest, Lies, Lies, Lies. But first, here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

To the outside world, Simon and Daisy look like they have a perfect life. They have jobs they love, an angelic, talented daughter, a tight group of friends... and they have secrets too. Secrets that will find their way to the light, one way or the other.

Daisy and Simon spent almost a decade hoping for the child that fate cruelly seemed to keep from them. It wasn’t until, with their marriage nearly in shambles and Daisy driven to desperation, little Millie was born. Perfect in every way, healing the Barnes family into a happy unit of three. Ever indulgent Simon hopes for one more miracle, one more baby. But his doctor’s visit shatters the illusion of the family he holds so dear.

Now, Simon has turned to the bottle to deal with his revelation and Daisy is trying to keep both of their secrets from spilling outside of their home. But Daisy’s silence and Simon’s habit begin to build until they set off a catastrophic chain of events that will destroy life as they know it.
Lies, Lies, Lies is hits shelves stateside on August 4 from Mira. Thanks to the publisher, I have an excerpt to whet your reading tastebuds!


May 1976

Simon was six years old when he first tasted beer.

He was bathed and ready for bed wearing soft pyjamas, even though it was light outside; still early. Other kids were in the street, playing on their bikes, kicking a football. He could hear them through the open window, although he couldn’t see them because the blinds were closed. His daddy didn’t like the evening light glaring on the TV screen, his mummy didn’t like the neighbours looking in; keeping the room dark was something they agreed on.

His mummy didn’t like a lot of things: wasted food, messy bedrooms, Daddy driving too fast, his sister throwing a tantrum in public. Mummy liked ‘having standards’. He didn’t know what that meant, exactly. There was a standard-bearer at Cubs; he was a big boy and got to wave the flag at the front of the parade, but his mummy didn’t have a flag, so it was unclear. What was clear was that she didn’t like him to be in the street after six o’clock. She thought it was common. He wasn’t sure what common was either, something to do with having fun. She bathed him straight after tea and made him put on pyjamas, so that he couldn’t sneak outside.

He didn’t know what his daddy didn’t like, just what he did like. His daddy was always thirsty and liked a drink. When he was thirsty he was grumpy and when he had a drink, he laughed a lot. His daddy was an accountant and like to count in lots of different ways: “a swift one’, “a cold one’, and ‘one more for the road’. Sometimes Simon though his daddy was lying when he said he was an accountant; most likely, he was a pirate or a wizard. He said to people, “Pick your poison’, which sounded like something pirates might say, and he liked to drink, “the hair of a dog’ in the morning at the weekends, which was definitely a spell. Simon asked his mummy about it once and she told him to stop being silly and never to say those silly things outside the house.

He had been playing with his Etch A Sketch, which was only two months old and was a birthday present. Having seen it advertised on TV, Simon had begged for it, but it was disappointing. Just two silly knobs making lines that went up and down, side to side. Limited. Boring. He was bored. The furniture in the room was organised so all of it was pointing at the TV which was blaring but not interesting. The news. His parents liked watching the news, but he didn’t. His father was nursing a can of the grown ups’ pop that Simon was never allowed. The pop that smelt like nothing else, fruity and dark and tempting.

“Can I have a sip?” he asked.

“Don’t be silly, Simon,” his mother interjected. “You’re far too young. Beer is for daddies.” He thought she said ‘daddies’, but she might have said ‘baddies’.

His father put the can to his lips, glared at his mother, cold. A look that said, “Shut up woman, this is man’s business.” His mother had blushed, looked away as though she couldn’t stand to watch, but she held her tongue. Perhaps she thought the bitterness wouldn’t be to his taste, that one sip would put him off. He didn’t like the taste. But he enjoyed the collusion. He didn’t know that word then, but he instinctively understood the thrill. He and his daddy drinking grown ups’ pop! His father had looked satisfied when he swallowed back the first mouthful, then pushed for a second. He looked almost proud. Simon tasted the aluminium can, the snappy biting bitter bubbles and it lit a fuse.

After that, in the mornings, Simon would sometimes get up early, before Mummy or Daddy or his little sister, and he’d dash around the house before school, tidying up. He’d open the curtains, empty the ashtrays, clear away the discarded cans. Invariably his mother went to bed before his father. Perhaps she didn’t want to have to watch him drink himself into a stupor every night, perhaps she hoped denying him an audience might take away some of the fun for him, some of the need. She never saw just how bad the place looked by the time his father staggered upstairs to bed. Simon knew it was important that she didn’t see that particular brand of chaos.

Occasionally there would be a small amount of beer left in one of the cans. Simon would slurp it back. He found he liked the flat, forbidden, taste just as much as the fizzy hit of fresh beer. He’d throw open a window, so the cigarette smoke and the secrets could drift away. When his mother came downstairs, she would smile at him and thank him for tidying up.

“You’re a good boy, Simon,” she’d say with some relief. And no idea.

When there weren’t dregs to be slugged, he sometimes opened a new can. Threw half of it down his throat before eating his breakfast. His father never kept count.

Some people say their favourite smell is freshly baked bread, others say coffee or a campfire. From a very young age, few scents could pop Simon’s nerve endings like the scent of beer.

The promise of it.

Excerpted from Lies Lies Lies by Adele Parks, Copyright ©2020 by Adele Parks.
Published by MIRA Books

Adele Parks was born in Teesside, North-East England. Her first novel, Playing Away, was published in 2000 and since then she's had seventeen international bestsellers, translated into twenty-six languages, including I Invited Her In. She's been an Ambassador for The Reading Agency and a judge for the Costa. She's lived in Italy, Botswana and London, and is now settled in Guildford, Surrey, with her husband, teenage son and cat.

For more on Adele Parks and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Order it from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

He Started It by Samantha Downing

Beth's grandfather has died and he's left everything to his grandkids—Beth and her siblings, Portia, and Eddie. But before they can claim their inheritance, they have to complete a road trip. Not just any road trip. The same road trip they took with their grandfather two decades ago. When they finish, they're to scatter his ashes in California. 

But this road trip isn't so straightforward. Everyone is hiding something. Someone might be out to sabotage them. And there are things about that first trip that none of the siblings ever told anyone outside the family. Things that might be coming back to haunt them even now. 

He Started It was not what I expected at all. And I think that's the point. It's what I like to describe as an "and then" book. You know, the kind of story where there are constant twists that seem to come out of nowhere. 

First, the siblings are forced to take a road trip together. And then things start to go off the rails!

Honestly, it made this a pretty fun read! The twists are less like twists and more like hairpin turns, which is appropriate since this is a story that takes place on the road. 

Beth, our narrator, is keeping things close to her chest. She keeps secrets from her brother and sister. She also keeps secrets from her husband who, along with Eddie's wife, are the two tag alongs on the trip. And she keeps secrets from the reader, too!

This book was a lesson in family dysfunction! And that's just one piece. If you're into super twisty reads with big surprises and crazy pants plots, He Started It is definitely up your alley. It's also up your alley if you like fun, fast, darkly twisted thrillers :)

Samantha Downing's latest is one I highly recommend. Now I have to go read her debut, My Lovely Wife!

Buy it from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Cover Reveal - Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig

Happy Monday! Today I'm super excited to share the cover for Lauren Willig's upcoming release, Band of Sisters. Isn't it a beaut??? 

Here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

A group of young women from Smith College risk their lives in France at the height of World War I in this sweeping novel based on a true story—a skillful blend of Call the Midwife and The Alice Network—from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig.

A scholarship girl from Brooklyn, Kate Moran thought she found a place among Smith’s Mayflower descendants, only to have her illusions dashed the summer after graduation. When charismatic alumna Betsy Rutherford delivers a rousing speech at the Smith College Club in April of 1917, looking for volunteers to help French civilians decimated by the German war machine, Kate is too busy earning her living to even think of taking up the call. But when her former best friend Emmeline Van Alden reaches out and begs her to take the place of a girl who had to drop out, Kate reluctantly agrees to join the new Smith College Relief Unit.

Four months later, Kate and seventeen other Smithies, including two trailblazing female doctors, set sail for France. The volunteers are armed with money, supplies, and good intentions—all of which immediately go astray. The chateau that was to be their headquarters is a half-burnt ruin. The villagers they meet are in desperate straits: women and children huddling in damp cellars, their crops destroyed and their wells poisoned.

Despite constant shelling from the Germans, French bureaucracy, and the threat of being ousted by the British army, the Smith volunteers bring welcome aid—and hope—to the region. But can they survive their own differences? As they cope with the hardships and terrors of the war, Kate and her colleagues find themselves navigating old rivalries and new betrayals which threaten the very existence of the Unit.

With the Germans threatening to break through the lines, can the Smith Unit pull together and be truly a band of sisters?

The book doesn't release until March 2, 2021 but it is available for preorder now!

They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall

Miriam has won a spot on a new reality show! The filming location is a private island in Mexico and the prize is enough money for her to finally return to the life she was used to before her divorce. Not only that, it'll prove once and for all to her daughter that she's someone to be admired! And the timing is pretty perfect as well. 

But when Miriam arrives at the island, she learns that there is in fact no reality show at all. She and a group of others have been gathered on the island for a very specific purpose. 

And then one of their group dies. 

With no way to leave and no contact with the mainland, the group is stranded. And paradise or no, Miriam will soon find that she'll need all her wits about her if she's going to survive this trip of a lifetime!

When the book begins, Miriam is newly divorced and suffering from anxiety. She's also experiencing some sort of harassment just prior to leaving for her trip, something she's looking forward to putting behind her at least temporarily. 

But we soon learn that Miriam is not exactly what she purports to be. And that becomes clear when she starts to interact with the other people on the trip—none of whom are what they purport to be either!

I think I may never tire of Christie adaptations! This is Rachel Howzell Hall's twist on And Then There Were None and it is so much fun! 

I loved how the story played out in revealing the various characters' secrets. I especially loved how Hall manages to lull the reader into a sense of ease in spite of the knowledge that this is a play on Christie. The twists are a surprise even when you know they're coming, especially the twists in Miriam's own story!

I'm probably not the only person who tends to grow more fond of an author when I get the chance to interact with them in some way and see first hand just how fabulous they are. Rachel Howzell Hall is one of those authors. 

Last year I had the pleasure of attending the Pikes Peak Writers Conference for the very first time. I met with so many wonderful people in my capacity as an agent but I also had downtime to attend some of the panels as a fan, including a few that Rachel Howzell Hall took part in. I was very much looking forward to hearing her speak and she proved to be just as fabulous as I'd hoped!

They All Fall Down is out in paperback tomorrow. Hall's latest, And Then She's Gone, is due out from Forge in September. 

Order them both from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Lost Girls of Devon by Barbara O'Neal

Happy Friday! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for Barbara O'Neal's latest, The Lost Girls of Devon.

Zoe's best friend Diana is missing. It's been two weeks since anyone has heard from her. Zoe almost didn't notice what with Diana living in England and Zoe living in Santa Fe. Plus, Zoe had been angry with Diana for befriending Poppy, the mother who'd abandoned Zoe so many years ago. She'd also been preoccupied with her daughter, Isabel, who's been going through something she won't reveal to either of her parents. 

But Zoe's grandmother, a mystery author who sees sinister deeds in everything around her (more and more now that she's getting older), is worried and she's asked Zoe to come home to help. It's good because it offers Isabel a chance to get away from whatever is bothering her. But it also means Zoe will have to face Poppy who's recently been more involved in her own mother's life. 

All four women are thrown together in a mystery that grows more worrisome with every passing day. But Diana's disappearance is just the start. And if they're to get through what's happening, Lillian, Poppy, Zoe, and Isabel will have to face their demons and learn to move on. 

Barbara O'Neal's latest is an exploration in family relationships—specifically the relationship between mothers and daughters. 

Zoe is scarred. Her mother abandoned her when she was seven, leaving her to live with her grandmother for years to come. But now Poppy has returned and everyone seems to have forgiven her except Zoe. Zoe holds onto her anger so much so that Isabel has never even met her grandmother. 

And Zoe's anger stretches further than just Poppy. She's barely spoken to Diana in the weeks leading up to her disappearance because Diana herself has forgiven Poppy. Which is why Zoe doesn't really notice when Diana's texts stop altogether. 

Which is not to say that Zoe doesn't have other things going on in her life. And Diana had recently met someone...But living in another country completely means that Zoe isn't privy to everything going on back in Devon anyway. And her daughter has been suffering silently, unwilling to share her secrets. 

Isabel holds her hurt close and even the reader only learns exactly what's going on in small clues for much of the early part of the book. Something happened. Something involving social media. Isabel deleted her accounts and even enrolled in virtual school, leaving her old school and all of her friends behind. Not only does she refuse to tell her mother what's going one, even her father is clueless. And Isabel definitely doesn't want to share it with her therapist. 

Meanwhile, Poppy has finally returned to Devon and is trying to make up for her past disappearance. She too is holding something close, but she recognizes the hurt she created when she left her daughter all those years ago and now she's ready to make amends, if Zoe and Lillian will let her. 

Lillian herself has almost no choice. In her late eighties and determined to stay in the manor house she's called home for so long, even she admits she can't keep up with the place. Both Diana and Poppy have been helping out, which is why Lillian is certain something terrible has befallen Diana. But as a woman who made a career creating mysteries, it seems no one quite believes her—at first. And with her memory failing her, Lillian isn't sure what she might already know. 

This is the kind of story that really gets me. It's an emotional read and ultimately a character-driven one, but it's woven around a mystery: that of Diana's disappearance. The Devon setting is truly magical and mysterious as well, adding so much depth and atmosphere to the story!

The Lost Girls of Devon is a rich and dramatic read, one that upended all of my plans once I started reading! I had to know what was going on in Devon, where Diana had disappeared to, and how this family was going to make it through it all!

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

For more on Barbara O'Neal and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Safe Place by Anna Downes

Emily is in a tough spot. She's just been fired after turning up late at work again due to an audition. An audition that led nowhere, by the way. And now her agent is dropping her as a client. What's more, she's got no money in the bank and has just been informed that her rent check has bounced and she's being evicted. 

Then her knight in shining armor arrives in the form of her ex boss. It seems he needs an all around assistant/housekeeper to work with his wife and young daughter at his home in France. Emily will have room and board, access to the household credit card, and a car for her very own use. Oh, and the house, it's in paradise! 

But there's something odd about the family. Scott almost never leaves London, Nina is pretty as a picture but a bit too intense, and Aurelia doesn't talk. At all. But the young girl also suffers from some pretty severe health issues too, which Emily suspects is the reason for any weirdness. 

Unfortunately for Emily, she's about to learn that paradise isn't all it's cracked up to be. And if a job seems too perfect, it probably is!

Anna Downes's debut is a spectacularly page turning one!

Emily is young and somewhat downtrodden. She doesn't have a great relationship with her parents and she basically has nowhere to turn when everything goes to shit. But Scott has had his eye on her for some time. 

And Scott is where the reader first begins to learn that things are...off. He comes to Emily's rescue but she's completely unaware of the fact that she's being manipulated. Plus, she has something of a crush on the man as well, which keeps her from really noticing anything off. 

In fact, Emily is soon starstruck by Scott's entire family and existence. The house—actually two houses: the family home and the guest house where Emily is living and working— is amazing. The estate sits on the water and seemingly has acres of gardens, tons of animals, a pool, a fully stocked outdoor kitchen, the works. So when Emily arrives and is told emphatically that the main house if off limits, it's not that big of a deal. She understands the family wants their privacy. 

All of that conspires to keep Emily from recognizing all of the things that aren't quite right. The NDA she has to sign before accepting the job, the reminders that she not post anything on social media, even the overall privacy of the estate itself is somewhat disconcerting. But again, the family wants privacy. 

Chapters alternate between Emily, Scott, and Nina, which gives the reader the chance to see things that Emily isn't privy to or just plain doesn't notice at all. It also keeps the reader, and Emily, on their toes throughout the story. All in all, Downes does a really excelling job of building the suspense throughout!

If you're a fan of audiobooks, I do have to recommend that edition of the book as well! Downes herself narrates and does a phenomenal job! You can listen to a sample over at Libro.fm.

Dark secrets in blissful paradise, what more could you ask for in a perfect summer read? The Safe Place is such a fun debut! I can't wait to see what Downes will do next!

Order it from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Malorie by Josh Malerman

Today feels like such a long time coming, so a Huge, Huge Happy Book Birthday to Josh Malerman on the release day of Malorie, the sequel to Bird Box!

In the two years since their arrival at the Jane Tucker School for the Blind, Malorie knows that she's let her guard down. But when their safe haven is infiltrated, she immediately sets off to find another place to call home. 

Ten years later, she and her children have been safely ensconced, alone, at a defunct summer camp when a visitor arrives. He says he's from the census, gathering info on the survivors for his records. Malorie wants no part of it. She still isn't sure who she can trust and she isn't willing to take a chance. But the kids, in secret, ask the man to leave a copy of his records behind. 

What they discover changes everything for Malorie. It forces her to decide whether to continue as is or venture out into the world, risking everything she's worked so hard for. 

I've come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of readers: those who absolutely would read The Stand during a pandemic and those who most definitely would not. And I fall into the first category. In part due to stubbornness! I've been waiting anxiously for the release of Malorie for so long that I was not going to let this situation ruin it for me. And thankfully, it didn't!

It's impossible for me to read Malorie without reading it as a mother. And let me just say, given everything, I couldn't cut it in Malorie's world! At least, I'm pretty sure I couldn't.

Malorie will do anything and everything to keep her kids safe. That's the gist of Bird Box as well as its sequel. But her kids are teenagers and starting to view the world through their own eyes. And it's a world they've been largely sheltered from.

Malorie's son, Tom, is curious and bucks against his mother's rules as often as possible. And it's this she fears the most. With every year, she loses a little more control and venturing out into the world exacerbates that.

Olympia on the other hand is the mediator. She follows the rules and tries to keep the peace between her brother and Malorie. But even she can only do so much!

Malorie fights the decision to leave the safety of their home but the information left by the census man is too big for her to ignore. The promise of something she dares not even hope for is enough for her to decide to try. But the risk is so enormous!

Malorie is every bit as tense and torturous to read as Bird Box. It's terrifying on the one hand, but so incredibly good on the other!

Order it from your favorite indie via Bookshop.org!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

 Silvie's father has always been enamored by the history of their land. And in the northern part of England this history abounds. Iron Age living and especially their rituals have fascinated him all of Silvie's life. She's even named after one of the women they worshipped. But when their family is allowed to tag along on an immersive college trip that aims to show people what it was like to live in that era, Silvie's father takes things a bit too far. 

Sarah Moss's latest is a slim novel set in the 80s in northern England. 

Silvie's father believes himself to be something of an expert on Iron Age history in England. The time before the Romans (and the peoples' resistance to them as well) is a subject he's completely self-taught on. But it is clear that he knows quite a bit. And he converses with professors and historians on the subject frequently even if he never had the luxury of officially studying it himself. 

Which is how the family is allowed to join in on a trip otherwise reserved for archaeology students at one of the universities. 

Silvie and her mother, as we soon learn, not only humor her father's hobby, they're forced to endure it. And endure is the correct word as we soon learn. 

The students, and Silvie's family, are to live as the people would have lived in ancient history. Though the students are granted some leniency by their professor, Silvie's father is insistent: the family will sleep in the hut built for this purpose, wear clothes appropriate for the time (with the exception of their underclothes and pajamas, after much arguing), and work and eat just as the Iron Age people would have. 

But Silvie is a teenager. One who is, by virtue of her exposure to the college students, starting to learn just how penned in she is by her father's beliefs. The resulting situation is a perfect storm of teen angst and psychological tension. 

This is a quiet book, but again a very short one. I loved the setting but will say that it was not quite what I'd expected. 

The ghost wall of the title doesn't appear until closer to the end of the story. And where I'd expected a bit more in the way of creepiness, the build instead was instead focused on the breakdown in the relationship between Silvie's family. 

Ghost Wall was interesting, but marred by my expectations going in. It was still an enthralling read and a great way to spend a hot afternoon swinging in the hammock!

Order it from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Golden Cage by Camilla Läckberg

Faye thinks she has the perfect life. And she's worked hard for everything she has. But when she discovers her husband is having an affair—by finding them together in her own bed, no less—he responds not with remorse, but with a demand for a divorce. 

As if the humiliation isn't enough, Faye is left with nothing. This in spite of giving up her own degree to wait tables while her husband built the business she helped conceive. 

But Faye isn't going down without a fight. In fact, she has the perfect plan for Revenge!

Läckberg is the author of the Fjällbacka Series, which kicked of (in the US) with The Ice Princess back in 2004. There are, to date, ten books in the series.

All of that said, The Golden Cage is the first in a brand new series (the second book just released in Läckberg's native Sweden), and it's the perfect starting point if you haven't read her before!

The Golden Cage is quite different from the other series in that it's not exactly a mystery. It is a thriller, and a steamy one at that. But there are no detectives and no investigation. There's just Faye. And her drive for revenge. 

Faye has a dark history and has overcome tragedy in her past. What that history and tragedy are don't become clear until the book has mostly played out, but we do learn early on that Faye has left her hometown, adopted a new name, and is intent on starting over where no one knows her past. 

And Faye is smart. Smarter than her husband. 

They met in college where Faye was studying finance, but she soon found herself head over heels for the man. So much so that when his own business plans hit a roadblock, she gives up everything to support him. Which turns out to be a mistake. 

But her husband has made plenty of his own mistakes. His biggest one in forgetting who stood by him throughout it all!

The Golden Cage is a deliciously plotted revenge novel, one that I absolutely gobbled up! And now I can't wait for more! Fortunately, I did learn this weekend that there's at least one more Faye book (as mentioned above)! And I also realized that I never finished the Fjällbacka series either, so I do have some backlist to get to now as well!

If you're a fan of thrillers featuring strong women and whiplash fast plots, this is the book for you! It's perfect for anytime reading, but I think especially perfect for diving into this summer—just the thing to take your mind off the heat and set in a locale that almost made me forget I can't go on anything resembling a vacation right now!

Now go forth and order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

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 fiancé 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!