The Good Lie -A. R. Torre

•February 23, 2021 • Leave a Comment

the good lie

Synopsis

Six teens murdered. A suspect behind bars. A desperate father. In a case this shadowy, the truth is easy to hide.

Six teenagers dead. Finally, the killer behind bars. But are the games just beginning?

Psychiatrist Dr. Gwen Moore is an expert on killers. She’s spent a decade treating California’s most depraved predators and unlocking their motives—predators much like the notorious Bloody Heart serial killer, whose latest teenage victim escaped and then identified local high school teacher Randall Thompson as his captor. The case against Thompson as the Bloody Heart Killer is damning—and closed, as far as Gwen and the media are concerned. If not for one new development…

Defense attorney Robert Kavin is a still-traumatized father whose own son fell prey to the BH Killer. Convinced of Thompson’s innocence, he steps in to represent him. Now Robert wants Gwen to interview the accused, create a psych profile of the killer and his victims, and help clear his client’s name.

As Gwen and Robert grow closer and she dives deeper into the investigation, grave questions arise. So does Gwen’s suspicion that Robert is hiding something—and that he might not be the only one with a secret.

My Thoughts

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book was a wild, emotional rollercoaster. It was also sneaky. So, so sneaky.

The twists, turns, and spun webs are very intricate, and detailed. It was so easy to get wrapped up in one thread, only to be pulled in by another. Just as I thought I was making headway with the plot, I was thrown for a loop.

The crumbs of the mystery led me down one rabbit hole, but I was way off. I thought for sure I knew who the Bloody Hearts Killer was, and I was excited to see them exposed. Watching the pieces to come together was a thrill. And the Big Reveal gave me whiplash – I definitely did not see that coming. It snuck up on me.

I’m not sure how I feel about the dynamic between Gwen and Robert. The will-they-won’t-they wasn’t front and centre, which I liked, but it also wasn’t so present that it annoyed me. (If anyone here has read my reviews long enough, you’ll know the will-they-won’t-they trope is one I can usually go without.)

In they end, I suppose it worked out. In a bit of a weird way that I wasn’t super keen on. But it could have been worse.

Weird relationship aside, I couldn’t put this book down. I needed to know who the BH Killer was. I needed to know if Randall Thompson was really the killer or not. And if not, then why was he identified?

This book elaborately and brilliantly twists and turns things around in a way that’s magnetic, and entrancing. And I absolutely loved it for that.

Two Can Keep a Secret – Karen M. McManus

•February 14, 2021 • 3 Comments

two can keep a secret

Synopsis

Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.

The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone’s declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.

Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous–and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.

My Thoughts

This book had me on the edge of my seat from the get go. A seemingly unrelated situation sparks events that no one saw coming. Like McManus’s first book that I loved, One Of Us Is Lying, this book gripped me and didn’t let go.

We follow Ellery and Malcolm as they attempt to navigate their senior year of high school – Ellery and her twin brother Ezra being new transfers, and Malcolm being the younger brother of the only suspect in the murder of Lacey Kilduff. Not easy positions to be in.

They try to keep their heads down, but get thrown into one mystery after another as events linked to Lacey’s murder threaten to pop up again – just in time for homecoming.

I couldn’t help but love with Ellery and Malcolm. Ellery with her anger and love of true crime, and Malcolm with his insecurities and survival instincts. Having both their points of view throughout the book was nice, as it gave the readers insight into two sides of similar mysteries.

This one honestly had me stumped. Even as I tried to piece things together along with Ellery and Malcolm, I couldn’t figure it out. It wasn’t until the Big Reveal at the end that it all made sense. All the pieces were right there – I just wasn’t looking at them. Which was the whole point.

This mystery was masterfully executed, and beautifully done. The book doesn’t shy away from hard subjects, and it definitely runs its characters through the wringer. But that’s why I loved it so much.

It was dark and gritty, and the mysteries were enthralling. The way they all came together, and were all connected impressed me.

Two Can Keep a Secret is a great YA mystery thriller, and I really, really look forward to reading more from McManus in the future.

Public Trust – Tess Shepherd

•February 7, 2021 • Leave a Comment

public trust

Synopsis

When Lola Michaels wakes up to a strange man in her apartment, his hands touching her throat, she’s petrified. And, although one scream sends her nighttime visitor running, she can’t shake the feeling that next time she might not be so lucky.
LAPD Lieutenant Jacob Simmone isn’t entirely sure what to make of the situation either. Lola is a gorgeous, single woman, living in an eight-hundred-square foot artist’s studio. Why would a man break in while she was home? Why would he leave without taking a single item? It’s only when the bodies of similar female victims start surfacing in the same neighborhood, that he realizes there may be something more to Lola’s midnight encounter. And, as Jacob and Lola are thrown into a situation that neither of them could have expected,—or wanted—Jacob can’t help but wonder if he’s making a mistake, if he’d be more effective at tracking a killer without Lola always nearby, clouding his brain. Little does he realize that, maybe, he can’t catch a break because someone else, someone with real power, is holding all the cards…

My Thoughts

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The prologue had me hooked. I was riveted. And then it just went downhill from there.

The mystery aspect of this book was intriguing. I wanted to know who this asshole was, and why he was targeting Lola. And unraveling that mystery is what kept me going. But the rest was just… awkward.

The main characters weren’t particularly interesting to me – I couldn’t really connect with them. I was more interested in the secondary characters, Zac and Sarah. I wanted to know more about them than I did Lola and Jacob.

I also just couldn’t get into the romance part of the book. It just felt awkward to me.

Keeping this short, all in all, I really didn’t enjoy this book. But seeing how the prologue tied into the plot, and how the mystery of the killer unraveled was really well done.

I would have liked this book, I think, if it weren’t for the awkward romance – which made up a large chunk of the book.

Cracked Up To Be – Courtney Summers

•January 31, 2021 • 1 Comment

cracked up to be

Synopsis

Perfect Parker Fadley isn’t so perfect anymore. She’s quit the cheerleading squad, she’s dumped her perfect boyfriend, and she’s failing school. Her parents are on a constant suicide watch and her counselors think she’s playing games, but they don’t know that the real reason for this whole mess isn’t something she can say out loud. It isn’t even something she can say to herself. A horrible thing has happened and it just might be her fault. If she can just remove herself from everybody–be totally alone–then everything will be okay…The problem is, nobody will let her.

My Thoughts

Holy. Fuck. Excuse my language, but holy fuck, what a wild ride of a book.

There were so many moments while reading this book that I thought “Yes, this is exactly what it felt like as a female teenager in high school”. And those moments made me so very angry. So many times, for so many teenagers, the school system fails them. The adults they’re supposed to “trust” fail them. And that is exactly why teenagers don’t tell anyone anything. Because they can’t. And Parker’s character exemplifies that to a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking degree.

When I started this book, Parker was exhibiting behaviour that was uncomfortably familiar to me. Took me a little while to realize that it was for very different reasons, but there was a fair amount of self-reflection that occurred as I read regardless. It was not pleasant. But it made a lot things make sense.

This book does not sugar coat, gloss over, or beat around the bush about anything. And I am glad for that. Granted, seeing events transpire in a mix of present, and flashbacks was a bit of a whirlwind. But it was necessary.

This book had me riveted. In one way, I couldn’t put it down, because I just needed to know more. But in another, I almost read out of spite – angrily – at all of the people who saw a teenager – a child – in pain and did absolutely nothing but pat themselves on the back for a job well done after a single conversation where nothing was resolved. But “trusted” adults letting children down is a whole other can of worms that I am not going to open up right now.

Cracked Up To Be broke my heart into a million tiny pieces, for so many reasons. But it was also one of the most realistic depictions of high school that I’ve ever read. And while I’ve never quite been in the same position as Parker, I could relate to an uncomfortable level. And now, I have a lot to reflect on.

Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi

•January 23, 2021 • 2 Comments

shatter me

Synopsis

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

My Thoughts

This book wasn’t really great, but it also wasn’t really terrible. It was meh. Your basic YA, tyrannical government agency that needs taking down by a group of rebels, mostly made up of teenagers. With that premise down, and easily established, the rest is fairly easy reading.

Juliette is an easy character to like – which helps with the reading a lot. I couldn’t help but vouch for her. Warner, predictably, is disgusting. Adam is meh. Kenji makes me laugh. James is sunshine personified.

There’s nothing really new happening in this book that I haven’t seen in other places before (Hunger Games would be a very, very apt example here). But I’m intrigued enough that I’ll likely continue reading. ( I have the trilogy, plus two novellas, in a set, I might as well read them.) Mostly, I want to see more of Kenji. I really enjoy him.

Overall, I think if I’d read this when I was 15 years younger, I’d have been enraptured. But as an adult, I was not quite there. It was enjoyable, but not hugely groundbreaking.

Point Roberts – Alexander Rigby

•January 16, 2021 • Leave a Comment

point roberts

Synopsis

Five strangers forge an unlikely alliance to uncover the identity of the infamous Point Roberts Slayer.

On a peculiar peninsula in Washington State, the small town of Point Roberts exists in the shadow of the fifteen people who were murdered here. Surrounded by water and a giant wall that spans its border with Canada, Point Roberts has been cut off from the rest of the world every February for the past twenty-seven years in an attempt to stop a brutal serial killer from striking again. Because the murders took place exclusively during February three years in a row, closing down the town seemed like the only way to stop the slayings. And so far . . . it has worked.

Except the decades-old cold case remains unsolved, and the residents of Point Roberts are beginning to question if there’s an ulterior motive behind the mayor’s enforced lockdowns. After a brazen seventeen-year-old orphan named Liza moves to town, a new February begins. At first, she knows nothing of the murders, but that quickly changes when she finds a mysterious book titled The Fifteen—a book that shares shocking details on the killings.

Determined to discover the identity of the Point Roberts Slayer, Liza teams up with four other misfits who all hold secrets and have personal connections to the victims. These five strangers will have to work together to uncover the truth, if only they can stay out of the murderer’s destructive path so they don’t become victims themselves.

Point Roberts is a love letter to the moody Pacific Northwest, an intricate portrait of complex characters building walls to protect their fragile hearts, and, at its core, a profound story of embracing chosen family and walking with them into the foggy unknown.

My Thoughts

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book was a Wild Ride. (Yes, the capital letters were necessary.) At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get into it. It didn’t hook me right away. But it left me curious. I was intrigued. I needed to know how it ended. And that’s how it got me. Slow, but deep.

Five strangers come together to solve a mystery. And those five strangers need each other in a way none of them realized until they came together. To me, that made the whole book so, so good. The relationships between Theodore, Liza, Maude, Grant, and Colette. Their search for answers gave them something they didn’t realize they needed – a family. And I am ALWAYS a sucker for found family.

The twists and turns this book took in order to solve the mystery was fascinating. Roughly halfway through, I thought I had it pegged. And I was half right. I had pegged the right people, just not quite for the right things. The slow revelation was jarring. As the pieces fall into place, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. (I even told myself “There is no way in hell this is happening” out loud at one point, scaring the crap out of my napping cat.)

The way this book comes together is spooky, and eerie, and absolutely lovely. Part of me kind of felt like I was there, but part of me also felt like the entire town of Point Roberts was sort of ethereal. It had a mysticism about it that was hard not to fall in love with – despite the tragedy that hung over the town like a wet blanket.

Between the spooky mystery, my love for the characters, the found family, the mystery, and how deep this book hooked me, I really can’t say anything other than: Go read this book. You won’t regret it.

Hunting Prince Dracula – Kerri Maniscalco

•January 10, 2021 • Leave a Comment

hunting prince dracula

Synopsis

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine… and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.

In this New York Times bestselling sequel to Kerri Maniscalco’s haunting #1 debut Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?

My Thoughts

This is the second installment of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, and I was quite pleased with it! Mystery, intrigue, adventure, romance, and murder! What more could a frozen Canadian girl ask for?

Audrey Rose is determined to make herself known as a forensic professional, and most people – most men, especially – seem quite keen to stand in her way. There’s just this pesky business of intrigue and murder standing in her way.

I loved the tie-ins with the legends of Vlad the Impaler, and Romanian history. I know very little about both – other than what I’ve seen in passing – but having such a gruesome, bloody, and horrific historical context as the backdrop and context for this adventure was really fun and interesting.

The mystery itself also offered quite a few twists and turns. By about half way through, I thought I had it solved. I partially had the motive right, but I definitely got the culprit wrong. It was a… pleasant surprise, to be honest. The shock was enough to make me gasp out loud, but I still felt a sense of righteousness at having pinned down the motive.

Of course, I wouldn’t have gotten there without Audrey Rose and Thomas’s banter. Oh, do I enjoy their banter! It’s clear that their relationship is growing stronger, but what I love most is that, despite the time period, Thomas refuses to treat Audrey Rose as anything other than his equal.

They are friends and partners first and foremost, and they respect each other absolutely. With that, trust builds, and their relationship grows from a solid, steady foundation. For YA historical sort-of romance, this is a refreshing take, and I really enjoy it.

With this adventure come to a close, a whole new one awaits, and I can’t wait to jump on board, and travel with Audrey Rose and Thomas to their next mystery.

2020 Reading Roundup

•January 1, 2021 • Leave a Comment

Well. This year was a dumpster fire, wasn’t it?

2020 was not a good year for most of us. So much uncertainty, so many changes, and just a hell of a lot of suckage. Surprisingly, or maybe not, my reading did not suck this year. I set myself a goal of reading 40 books. For the first time in a handful of years, I exceeded my goal! I read 49 books this year!

You can see a fully detailed account of my Goodreads Year In Books here.

My reading year was interesting, and a little all over the place. I started with eerie true crime, and finished with LGBTQIA+ contemporary romance. And I read everything in between – cozy mystery, thriller, YA, romance, fantasy, etc. I finished a series I had started in 2019, Kelley Armstrong’s Cainsville series, and kept plugging along with a handful of series that are still ongoing. I even finished a trilogy in one week! (A Court of Thorns and Roses – it was okay. Ish. You can find the reviews here, here, and here.)

It’s hard to pinpoint what my favourite book of the year was. There were so many good reads! I think it’s between My Sister, The Serial Killer, and Red, White, and Royal Blue. Again, two vastly different books.

I’m quite proud of what I read in 2020. Less in terms of content, and more in that I regained my love if reading. Sometimes, the bookish communities on social media can be intimidating and snobbish. Sometimes, they make readers feel like they have to read certain things for certain reasons. I took those notions, reflected on them, and then threw them in the dumpster fire that the year turned out to be.

Quite frankly, fuck that. I will read what I want to read, and screw the snobs and the pressure and the intimidation. I don’t want that in my life.

So, for 2021, I plan to stick to my 40 year goal. Will I make it? Who knows! But I’ll damn well try!

I want to continue reading the Murder She Baked series with my mom, as well as the Whyborne & Griffin series, the Pendergast series (I believe there is a new release coming soon!), the Caster Chronicles series (better known as Beautiful Creatures series), and the Charlie Parker series.

I’d like to finish the Sophie Katz series, the Stalking Jack The Ripper series, and the Mara Dyer trilogy. I may even give The Dark Artifices trilogy another go, despite how lackluster reading the first book felt. (I’m a sucker for Magnus Bane, and will take every chance to see him in action.)

I’m also excited to explore more of what NetGalley has to offer!

Despite how miserable 2020 made me (I will not get into it – y’all do not wanna hear me moan and whine), I am pleased that I managed to regain a love of books, and a love of reading in a way I didn’t I’d ever have again.

I am cautiously optimistic that my reading in 2021 will just expand on these feelings, and that I will be able to continue to read books that make me happy; that make me feel.

So, here’s to us! The readers, the bloggers, the survivors of 2020!

Cheers!

The Beautiful Things Shoppe – Philip William Stover

•December 20, 2020 • Leave a Comment

the beautiful things shoppe

Synopsis

Their collections may clash but their hearts are a perfect match.

Moving to eclectic New Hope, Pennsylvania, and running The Beautiful Things Shoppe is a dream come true for elegant and reserved fine arts dealer Prescott J. Henderson. He never agreed to share the space with Danny Roman, an easygoing extrovert who collects retro toys and colorful knickknacks.

And yet here they are, trapped together in the quaint shop as they scramble to open in time for New Hope’s charming Winter Festival.

Danny has spent years leading with his heart instead of his head. The Beautiful Things Shoppe is his chance to ground himself and build something permanent and joyful. The last thing he needs is an uptight snob who doesn’t appreciate his whimsy occupying half his shop.

It’s only when two of New Hope’s historic landmarks—each as different as Danny and Prescott—are threatened that a tentative alliance forms. And with it, the first blush of romance. Suddenly, running The Beautiful Things Shoppe together doesn’t seem so bad…until Danny’s secret threatens to ruin it all.

My Thoughts

I requested this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I LOVED this book. It was cute, and adorable, and absolutely perfect to finish off my 2020 reading year! The fireworks between Prescott and Danny are electric, and I absolutely adored it! They are a fantastic example of opposites attract meets common goals.

Prescott and Danny have very different visions for what they want to do with the Shoppe, but they meet in the middle on most of the big, important decisions. Even when they’re bickering, snarking, and sassing, they usually come out the other end smiling. And flirting. So much flirting!

I didn’t realize until I saw the book on Goodreads that this was the second in a series, and now I’m excited to go out and buy the first one – and then this one when it’s published! This book reminded me so much of all the holiday Hallmark movies my mom loves watching at this time of year. And I loved it. I also loved how this book – this series, I believe – is predominantly LGBTQIA+ inclusive. As a queer ciswoman, I want to read more romance books of this variety.

I really enjoyed this book, and I can’t wait to dive into the first book of the series!

Snow on the Range – Sofia Aves

•December 12, 2020 • Leave a Comment

snow on the range

Synopsis

Every Christmas, Red Hart Ranch opens their doors to anyone lonely, and Montana provides the perfect backdrop for good company and better food. But this year, the table won’t be as full.

Eve Beaumont is a twin heir to Red Hart Ranch. The heart of the family, she loves the land, loves the people, and will do anything for them. Christmas sees most of the ranch hands return to their own homes to celebrate. Only a few long term cowboys remain with the family.

When Eve and her brother Trav go into town to collect supplies, they each bring home a drifter for Christmas. Rhys Archer and Simon Heldon are as different as two cowpokes can be. One a handsome, rough edged carver who can work the land and animals with a firm hand; the other a smooth-talking horseman with a devilish charm. Eve finds herself attracted to both men, but when tragedy hits the ranch, romance is the last thing on her mind.

Accidents happen around the ranch, and Eve isn’t sure who she can trust. She knows neither man is who he pretends to be — but when no one listens to her, she needs to prove her suspicions on her own.

Snow on the Range is a white Christmas story set in a small town along the Montana border into Canada. It is book one of Red Hart Ranch.

My Thoughts

I requested this book on NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

When I requested this book, I was in the mood for some fun, Christmas-y romance. And I definitely got that in spades! Plus, some twisty mysteries!

I didn’t expect to fall in love with Red Hart Ranch as much as I did. But I felt like I was a part of it as I was reading. It was so, so easy to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of the ranch, and the goings on. I felt what Eve felt, and I was with her every step of the way – even when some of those steps were heartbreaking, painful, and excruciating.

I wish we’d seen more of Eve’s friendship and banter with Suzy. I loved it from the get-go! And in a way, Suzy set the whole thing in motion.

Rhys Archer carried his cards close to his chest, and that drove both me, and Eve, crazy. What was this man up to? Where had he come from? Who was he? But he wasn’t the only new one on the Ranch. Simon was also a mystery that needed to be solved.

However, it was only Archer that caught’s Eve’s attention.

Seeing the magic of Christmas light up the Ranch, and solving the double mystery was a lot of fun to read. I couldn’t put this book down when I started it! I couldn’t even bring myself to refresh my glass of wine!

I really liked the dark, intense moments of this book intermingled with the sweet, soft, fluffy, magic of Christmas. I look forward to reading more of this series as it continues!