Wednesday, July 26, 2023

You Can't See Me by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for the prequel to Eva Björg Ægisdóttir's Forbidden Iceland series, You Can't See Me.

On what would have been the family patriarch's 100th birthday, the Snæberg family has scheduled a reunion at a posh new hotel in rural Iceland. Modern and stark, the hotel is nonetheless breathtaking. But certain family members are less than impressed. 

With a storm looming and alcohol in the mix, tension is particularly high. And then one of the guests goes missing. 

Two days later, the police are on site. But what happened between the guests' arrival and then?

The story alternates in timeline and POV. Some of the narrators include Petra, an interior designer, her daughter Lea, who may have been followed to the hotel by an online stalker, and Irma, a hotel employee (to name a few). 

The book begins with a prologue of sorts, set on Sunday, November 5, but then jumps back to Friday, November 3, the day the family is set to arrive at the hotel, and the reader is given a brief introduction to the family by way of Irma, who's done ample research to prepare for the family's stay at the hotel. But then the story jumps back to Sunday and the arrival of the detectives. 

So less than three days before what's supposed to be a family reunion turns into something much more sinister!

The author perfectly sets the stage for a snowed in thriller that's excellent fun! And there's plenty of ominous foreshadowing for what's to come!

This is a perfect entry and introduction to the series for readers who are new to Ægisdóttir. If you're a fan of dark crime fiction and/or Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Ragnar Jónasson, you need to be reading Eva Björg Ægisdóttir!

As mentioned, this is a prequel to the Forbidden Iceland series. Reading order, after You Can't See Me is:

The Creak on the Stairs
Girls Who Lie
Night Shadows

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The Dive by Sara Ochs

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Sara Ochs's The Dive!

It's supposed to be a normal work day for dive instructor Cass. And yet it's anything but. 

Cass has lived and worked on the island of Koh Sang in Thailand for two years. And in that time she's made great efforts to keep her background under wraps. And she's done well in that regard, finding friends and a family of sorts among the other expats who work on the island. 

That is until she receives an ominous message: someone knows about her past. 

Things take a significant turn for the worst when a member of her latest dive class is found dead in the water. Cass soon becomes convinced that the death is tied to the note she received. Unsure of the note writer's motive, Cass, along with another expat, Brooke, decides to find out more about the tourist's death. And when another person turns up murdered near the resort and Cass receives another note, she's more certain than ever that the two are connected. 

With the locals and the police determined to keep their island tourist friendly, Cass knows she can't turn to the authorities with her suspicions. Solving the case is her only option. 

Conspiracies and murder in paradise! If you're a fan of The Beach, this is the summer read for you! (If you haven't read The Beach, definitely pick it up—even Cass herself has a nod to the book/movie.) 

The reader is introduced to Cass the morning after she's become engaged to another expat, Logan. And we quickly learn that Cass hasn't told Logan everything about herself. Whatever she's keeping is big. Big enough that she's afraid of losing him. Big enough that someone can use it as blackmail. 

The reader is also introduced to our second narrator, Brooke, who is (surprise) also keeping secrets. Posing as a travel influencer, Brooke has been getting to know Cass and her friends for the past few weeks. But Brooke has bigger aspirations than Instagram. And when a guest at the resort is found dead, Brooke's interest is piqued. 

Though the death is ruled an accident, it is actually the second tourist death in recent weeks. A connection neither Cass or Brooke can overlook as they become involved in digging up info on the latest death. 

I loved The Dive! The setting is fabulous: a small dive resort on a less popular Thai island where business lives—or dies—by its reputation. And with so many people running from their pasts (yep, it's not just Cass and Brooke that are hiding things), the list of possible suspects and motives isn't as small as you'd think. 

Given that it does take place on a (fictional) island, there's an automatic urgency to the story. An insular community, made so by language and cultural barriers, tied together simply by way of their all speaking English. And those nasty secrets none of them wants revealed are all in danger of being spilled!

The Dive is great fun! Perfectly paced and super fun! It's out now from Bantam Press in the UK and will be out in the US early next year. 

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Eye for an Eye by M. J. Arlidge

Happy Sunday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Compulsive Readers tour for M. J. Arlidge's latest, Eye for an Eye. 

I'm a little under the weather, so here's a bit about the book from the publisher:



'Emily' is a devoted single mother.
'Jack' starts a new job in a new town.
'Russell' may be falling in love.

They all share the same secret: none of them are who they say they are.

They are among only nine criminals in the UK who have been granted lifelong anonymity, for their own safety, because of their terrible crimes.

But what if someone exposed their true identities to the families of their victims, who are desperate for revenge?

Probation officer Olivia Campbell is caught in the crossfire of this unprecedented crisis - and as the hunt for the mole behind it all intensifies, so too does the search for the vigilante killers let loose by the leaks...

Everyone is a suspect. Anyone could be a killer.
Who deserves justice? And who gets to decide?

I have been a big fan of Arlidge's work since the Helen Grace series debuted back in 2014 (2015 in the States). 

This latest is a standalone that presents an excellent premise. What would happen if criminals who have served their time and been given a new identity were suddenly outed. 

Given that the readers have the chance to get to know each of the characters, it becomes an even bigger question. They've rebuilt their lives, have new families and friends, and suddenly their darkest secrets have come to light. 

But don't those around them deserve to know their truths? The chance to reveal that has been taken away from them by someone else...It's an interesting question. And one that begs the reader to ponder what they themselves would do in both situations. 

Eye for an Eye is out now from Orion Books!

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Goddesses by Nina Millns

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Nina Millns's Goddesses.

Ayesha and her friend Yaz are off for a weekend hen do. But it's anything but the average bachelorette party. No, this one is a goddess retreat, complete with cleansed auras, transformations, and a strict schedule to adhere to. 

Yaz is something of an outsider, a comic who is friends with Ayesha, but invited nonetheless. They'd been classmates, but were reunited on the comedy scene. 

Ayesha, after going viral calling out a heckler at one of her shows, was brought into the fold of a activism group headed by Frankie. Alone with her partner, Joni, and another activist, Jessica, the group made headlines doing interviews on the #MeToo movement and women's rights. But a falling out is what introduced them to India, the bride to be. And India's friend Clemmie plays host for the weekend. 

Things begin awkwardly, but ok. As the weekend progresses, however, things go further and further off kilter until Ayesha finds herself stuck in the middle of nowhere, afraid for her life. 

Goddesses is a book that's understandably being touted as Bridesmaids meets Get Out, which is a simplistic but fair comparison as the audience gets a good sense for what to expect. Except that it's also SO MUCH MORE!

Goddesses is a story that can be read and enjoyed in layers. You can take the basic comedic horror, dipping into the odd vibes of the weekend and the ultimate creepiness that comes into play. You can also delve deeper into the social commentary about white feminist activism, cultural appropriation, generational trauma...

Whichever approach you take, you're in for a ride!

Dark humor is almost always a hit for me, as is horror containing social commentary (pretty sure all horror comes out of social commentary of a sort anyway). And this really is the hen do from hell! I can say without a doubt I'd be miserable from the moment of arrival and easily empathized with Ayesha and her car full of unwelcome pink party favors! Plus the book starts out with her not quite sure where she stands with the rest of the group, with the exception of Yaz.

And awkward doesn't even begin to describe what Ayesha is in for! The minute they walk through the door, its a practice in masking offense and excusing things that pile on until it can no longer be excused or denied. 

Like I said, it's a ride and I was along for every snarky bit of it!

Word has it tv rights have been sold for this one. I cannot wait to see it! 

Goddesses is out now from Simon and Schuster UK. No US release date as of yet, but I really hope it'll get a chance here!

Monday, July 17, 2023

Burn the Negative by Josh Winning

Laura makes a living covering entertainment for Zeppelin. She's spent years making a name for herself as a journalist. 

But there's a part of Laura's past that she's kept hidden for decades. Laura used to be an actress. In fact, she starred in the notoriously cursed film The Guesthouse. But in the aftermath, she and her family relocated to the UK where she'd be less likely to be recognized. And eventually, she legally changed her name as well. 

All that's to say that Laura has gone to great lengths to erase any connection between herself and that film. And yet, she's been assigned to cover the "reinterpretation," It Feeds

Her plan is to get what she needs for the story and get out of LA as quickly as she can. But when she's found on set after a tragic accident, it seems her return home is going to be delayed. Convinced It Feeds has fallen under the same curse as the original film, Laura knows she needs to figure out what's going on or she might die trying!

There have been a bevy of cursed film movies of late and I am so here for it!

Burn the Negative introduces us early on to Laura, our leading lady. She's on a plane to Los Angeles when she finally looks over the press material she's been sent for her latest job and discovers it's a remake of The Guesthouse. Which she starred in. And which is said to be cursed because so many people involved in the film died. Not only that, their deaths mirrored deaths in the film!

That was decades ago. Laura has lived an entire liketime since then. And she's worked hard to put that, and the trauma she experienced, way behind her. So to say she's none too pleased about this assignment would be putting it lightly. 

It also means that she suspects her secret has been blown. 

But that becomes a bit of an afterthought when people start dying on set! And the deaths started as soon as she arrived!

Burn the Negative makes for a quick read. I loved the extra design aspect that goes along with the book: pieces of ephemera throughout that give more info on The Guesthouse and other aspects of the curse! The page numbers also appear within a little film reel!

I also loved that the book deals with trauma. Multiple kinds of trauma and how that can affect our life as we grow older. 

This is a super fun read for horror movie fans—pure popcorn entertainment! 

Order a copy from Bookshop!

Thursday, July 13, 2023

The Bleeding by Johana Gustawsson

Happy Thursday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for the first in a new series by Johana Gustawsson, The Bleeding!

2002, Quebec: Detective Maxine Grant wasn't supposed to be back from maternity leave quite yet, but when a murder suspect requests her at the scene, she can't refuse. 

The accused is a former schoolteacher and a well-respected community member married to a professor. Together they were the epitome of a perfect couple. At least to the people around them. But then why would she brutally stab her husband over thirty times? As the investigation proceeds, the police make a gruesome discovery in the couple's home that leads to even more questions. 

1949, Quebec: A young girl being bullied by her classmates finds solace and friendship with an old woman in a care home. The woman opens the girls eyes to secrets that are nothing less than profane. 

1899, Paris: A mother loses her two daughters to a tragic house fire. In its aftermath, she seeks the guidance of mediums and other spiritual guides to connect with her children. 

Who could resist such a tempting and mysterious plot?! Certainly not me! Also, look at that fabulous cover!

As you might guess, the way the three stories come together is a big part of the story. But we begin with the professor's murder. After that, chapters alternate between three narrators: Maxine in 2002, Lina in 1949, and Lucienne in 1899. 

It becomes clear pretty early on that this book is headed in an unexpected direction. I don't want to spoil it, but I was quite pleased by the way the story played out. And it was fun trying to see if I could figure out the connections before they were revealed! (I was right in a few cases and totally wrong in others!)

Quick shout out to David Warriner for a wonderful translation!

I cannot wait to see how this will develop into a series! In the meantime, Gustawsson has another book due out from Orenda later this year and a previous series to sink my teeth into while waiting for a follow up to this one. 

The Bleeding is out now from Orenda! Fair warning for bedtime readers: if you start this late at night, you're going to want to stay up reading til the end!

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The After-Death of Caroline Rand by Catherine Cavendish

Hello, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things blog tour for Catherine Cavendish's latest, The After-Death of Caroline Rand

It's been years since Alli last saw Nancy. But when Nancy friends her on Facebook and then invites Alli to her new house for a weekend getaway, it all happens at just the right moment. 

The house in question once belonged to Caroline Rand, a singer from the late sixties. And as tribute, the house party is sixties themed. It's just Alli, Nancy, and two others. But the small get together quickly turns odd when Alli finds herself not at Nancy's house, present day, but at Mama Cass's California home during a party featuring a number of musicians who have long since passed away. 

Soon, Alli finds herself back at Nancy's. But the slips in time continue. And Alli finds herself woven into Caroline's own past. But to what end?

This was a fun one! It's a little horror lite in the beginning, but the why is a big pull.

Why is this happening to Alli? Why is she essentially traveling through time? And why is it linked to Caroline's past?

These questions become more pressing considering it's not the house's past that Alli is tied to—she arrives at a house in rural England, only to find herself in the famed Laurel Canyon! Different time, different house, different country!

Thankfully, all of this expectation builds to a very satisfactory end!

The After-Death of Caroline Rand is out now from Flametree!

Monday, July 10, 2023

One by Eve Smith

Hello, everyone! I'm late for my tour stop for Eve Smith's latest, One

Huge apologies as this was a very anticipated title in my TBR!

In the future, climate change and other crises have resulted in mass shortages of resources. Only the UK's one child policy has worked in curbing this and making life generally better for all its citizens. 

Or so they'd like you to think. 

Kai is one of the enforcers of this one child policy. As an enforcer with the Ministry of Population and Family Planning, it's her job to make sure families stick to the policy. But when a 50% match to her own DNA is flagged and quickly disappears, she has two weeks to find out what's going on. 

So first off, if you're a fan of Black Mirror, this is most definitely a book for you!

And if you couldn't tell:

A. the one child policy is not the great thing for change it's chalked up to be. 


B. this is definitely a bit of a bleak read in terms of a pervasive THIS MIGHT ACTUALLY HAPPEN ONE DAY feeling!

Kai is all about the rules. In her world you have to be, unless you want to live on the dangerous fringes of society and/or be punished. And her whole life it's seemed her parents are the same.

Until Kai learns she has an illegal sibling. 

As you might expect for someone who is so staunch about the rules and has a job enforcing them, the discovery doesn't sit well with her. But she has limited time in which to do anything about it. 

As you might expect, this scenario is pretty much the only thing that can force Kai to open her eyes to the reality that is her society. 

Eve Smith has a knack for putting together stories that are highly disturbing looks at very potential real world threats. As with Off Target, I found myself both completely sucked in and more than a little unsettled. 

Smith is such a great talent! And again, this could easily be a Black Mirror episode. Which isn't a bad thing considering the show forces viewers to consider, even just for a little while, the outcome of certain policies, technologies, and powers. 

One is a lot to consider and a lot to take in! I have to say, though, that I truly do love Smith's writing and highly recommend each of her books!

Friday, July 7, 2023

Lowbridge by Lucy Campbell

Happy Friday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Lucy Campbell's Lowbridge

In 1987, a girl goes missing in the small town of Lowbridge. The case is never solved. 

Cut to 2018. Katherine and her husband have come to Lowbridge in the wake of terrible loss. Facing a growing problem with sleeping pills and alcohol, Katherine stumbles on the local historical society and throws herself into helping set up events highlighting Lowbridge history. 

When she sets her sites on the opening of the women's health center in the mid 80s, she unwittingly opens a can of worms the whole town would rather see buried. And in doing so, she becomes obsessed with not one, but two missing girls from that decade. 

I have a confession to make: I'm a little obsessed with Australian and New Zealand crime fiction!

This one is a bit quieter than some of the others I've read. It's a slow burn even though it starts with a girl going missing. 

But after that tragic beginning, the story jumps back to the months leading up to the event and alternates between 1986/87 and Katherine's story in 2018. 

Campbell teases out the story, hinting at the tragedy Katherine and her husband (who grew up in Lowbridge at the time of the missing girls) have suffered. But it takes a bit for that to come truly to light. Mostly, it's the affect of their loss that's the focus. And Katherine is really in a bad place. Though she keeps this to herself, she finds distraction in learning about her new home and friendship with the women of the historical society. 

And it's here that we get the first hint about the identity of the the missing girl(s). Because the 1980's story focuses on three girls (two in particular), Louisa, Sim, and Tess. 

Like I said, it's a bit of a slow burn, but I really enjoyed how the story unfolded. The anticipation of Katherine finding the story, all the while following the girls and wondering about their fate. 

Lowbridge is an excellent debut, one I highly recommend to anyone looking for an intriguing story with a rich, small town setting.