Thursday, June 27, 2019

Review: The Last

I'm not typically drawn to dystopian fiction-I'm much more into mysteries, suspense, thrillers, and true crime, and to be honest don't usually venture too far out of my genre comfort zones-but The Last was described as being Agatha Christie-like, so I had to try it. And I'm so glad I did.

I blazed through this book in less than two days, I absolutely could not put it down. It is centered around a group of guests and staff at a hotel, who find themselves thrust together among reports of nuclear attacks around the world. Life as they knew it is over, and they must learn to live together, and somehow survive.

On top of this, the narrator (a historian, which works really well as he documents each day), has found the body of a young girl in a water tank (shades of Elise Lam and the Cecil Hotel-the hotel is also clearly based off of the Cecil), and is determined to discover who killed her-and if the murderer is still at the hotel.

Everything about this book is so gripping, from the characters and their relationships, to the danger, to the mysteries. This is a book that sticks with you after you finish it. I would definitely recommend this book, even if it doesn't seem like something you would typically read.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Review: The Hiding Place

This was a good book.

Typically this would be a positive thing, to have read a good book. And this being a good book, I did enjoy reading it.

But I was also definitely disappointed. I had such high expectations for this book, because of how much I loved Tudor's first book The Chalk Man. The Chalk Man was one of my favorite books of the year when I first read it.

The Hiding Place had so many of the qualities that made The Chalk Man so great-suspense, mystery, twists, secrets from the past, and horror. It tells the story of a man who returns to the small town he grew up in, a town where his sister disappeared, reappeared, and died. Now whatever terrible thing happened back then seems to be happening again, all connected to a horror from the past that refuses to stay buried.

The supernatural elements just do not work in this book, however. They seem unexplained and unresolved, and not as well integrated as I would have liked. This kept taking me out of the story, which was suspenseful and scary enough on its own without the supernatural elements.

From many other authors, a good book would have left me happy and content. But I just wanted so much more from Tudor's second story. I've got my fingers crossed about the third.

Monday, June 24, 2019

ARC Review: Killer in the Carriage House

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

Title: Killer in the Carriage House
Author: Sheila Connolly
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
Recommended If You Like: history, research, small town setting

The Book:

Kate Hamilton has returned to the small town she grew up in an attempt to save it from complete bankruptcy and thus essential extinction. She comes up with a plan to take the town back in time and turn it into a Victorian village for tourists to visit. But on top of all the usual hurdles, Kate also must deal with a dead body, boxes of documents, and the possibility of romance.

What I Liked:

Small town settings typically work really well for cozy mysteries, and the town of Asheboro is a good fit for the story being told. Having a small town for a setting also keeps the action in one place, meaning all kinds of people must interact and the suspect list is centralized.

Connolly has a really nice writing style for this genre. It's light enough for a cozy, but able to handle the darkness of a murder mystery.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Unfortunately, there was a lot I didn't like about this book.

The main problem for me is it's a mystery where the actual mystery doesn't start until over a quarter of the way into the book. And even when the mystery does start, it feels like it's essentially a last-minute addition to the book. The story is far more centered around historical research than the murder, and the solution to the murder feels like a throwaway afterthought.

While I know this is an ARC, and thus not a finished work, there were a ton of really glaring typos, including a whole chapter repeated (the beginning of the chapter was changed to present a different scenario, but then the rest of the chapter was completely duplicated as a new chapter). This was really distracting and took me out of the story.


I've enjoyed other of Connolly's cozy mysteries, so I'm not sure what happened with this one, but I definitely wouldn't recommend it.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Review: Bad Axe County

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

Title: Bad Axe County
Author: John Galligan
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
Genre: Mystery
Recommended If You Like: gritty dark mysteries, small town settings, strong female protagonists

The Book:

Heidi Kick was Dairy Queen when she found out her parents were dead. Convinced it wasn't a murder-suicide, she tried to find the truth, and hasn't stopped now that she is interim sheriff in the small town she grew up in. As she digs deeper into the underbelly of Bad Axe County, Heidi comes up against opposition from every turn, and discovers secrets she may wish she had never uncovered.

What I Liked:

This book really flew by. There was a lot of suspense, and many twists and turns. Heidi Kick is a great protagonist, strong and complicated, and the characters she is surrounded with have layers and darkness inside them all.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This book was a lot gritter than I am normally drawn to. It was pretty much all dark with no light, and had some really hard subjects to stomach.


While I don't think I would read any more of Galligan's work, it's not because this book wasn't good. It was just too dark and gritty for my tastes.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Review: We Went to the Woods

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

Title: We Went to the Woods
Author: Caite Dolan-Leach
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publication Date: July 2, 2019
Recommended If You Like: outsider communities, intricate looks at relationships and friendships, environmental issues, a sense of foreboding

The Book:

Our narrator, Mack, is coming off a stint on a reality show that has left America hating her. Desperate to find a fresh start, she is swept up into the idea of The Homestead, an off the grid living community made up of four young adults she has recently become involved with.

Determined to become entirely self-sustaining, so as to fight against capitalism and the environmental disasters they feel are imminent, the five strive to create their own Utopia. But as Mack does research on other such communities, she begins to realize that despite their best intentions, they are all, in the end, only human.

What I Liked:

I love a book that is both smart and accessible. Dolan-Leach has a lot to say, but it never feels preachy. Both sides of all the issues are shown in all their beauty and ugliness.

These are some believably complicated characters as well, all thinking they are doing what is best for the world, but still driven by human desires and foibles.

There is also this amazing sense of foreboding hanging over the whole book. From the start, Mack lets the readers know something is going to happen, something she feels she should have seen coming. And whether it's what Mack did on the reality show, what happened to the Oneida community that was there before The Homestead, or what is truly going on at The Collective, a large and seemingly thriving self-sustaining community nearby, there are so many twists and surprises.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I thought I might struggle through the parts about growing vegetables or Utopian philosophy, but Dolan-Leach weaves everything together so well that nothing felt difficult or boring to read.

There were a few parts with animals I struggled with, but that's because it made me really sad what happened to the animals, not because those parts weren't well-written or didn't fit into the narrative.


I would definitely recommend this book. It feels almost like a trend now to say a book is like The Secret History (a book I absolutely love), but I can definitely see really positive similarities in the ways Dolan-Leach explores the concepts of intelligence, communities, relationships, and intentions.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Review: The Last Time I Saw You

The Last Time I Saw You centers around Kate, whose mother Lily has just been murdered, and Kate's former best friend Blaire, who has returned to her grieving friend's side after many years of estrangement. As Blaire and Kate regain their previous closeness, Blaire becomes determined to find out just who killed Lily, while Kate tries to keep her sanity as her life is threatened by an unknown source.

The story is very suspenseful, which is absolutely a plus. This is a book that took me very little time to read, because I had to find out what the next twist and reveal would be.

But, while the two sisters writing together under one name worked so well with The Last Mrs. Parrish (a book that has still stuck with me even having read it almost a year ago) and the different viewpoints within that story, it did not work as well here. The character reveals seemed to come out of left field, and by the end it felt like so many of the characters had just had personalities and beliefs completely shifted to fit the story. This was a book that felt like it was written by two different people and suffered from it, feeling disjointed and disconnected.

The Last Time I Saw You was a book that absolutely captured my attention and kept me hooked (I was stalling while leaving the cafe just so I could read the last few pages), but definitely didn't live up to the promise shown in The Last Mrs. Parrish. I'm hoping the next book goes back to how great the first was.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Review: The Never Game

Deaver's Lincoln and Rhymes series has always been a favorite of mine, ever since I read The Bone Collector. I will freely admit that every time he comes out with a new book, I'm always hoping it will be another book featuring those two characters I love so much.

But after reading The Never Game, I am thrilled he has introduced the new character of Colter Shaw.

Shaw is a tracker, raised by his survivalist father in the wilderness, his childhood full of rules and lessons on how to stay alive. Now he uses his skills to solve cases where rewards are offered. earning his living while helping others.

When a young woman gets kidnapped, Shaw takes the case. As he works to find her, he discovers the case is far bigger and reaches much further than he could have imagined. Another kidnapping leads Shaw to the world of The Whisper Man, a video game where players are abandoned in an isolated spot with only five objects to help them survive.

Entering a world entirely new to him, full of gamers and new technology, Shaw must figure out why someone would be so inspired by a game as to kidnap and kill.

The story is really clever, and I love the creepiness of the fictional game and the way it is integrated. There is a great twist towards the end that actually made me gasp out loud, which is always a positive for me. And Shaw is a really enjoyable and intriguing new character, with a mystery in his own past that I look forward to learning more about in future books.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Review: Man of the Year

Title: Man of the Year
Author: Caroline Louise Walker
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Genre: Psychological
Recommended If You Like: family dramas, male narrators interspersed with female narrators, complicated relationships

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

The Book:

Dr. Robert Hart seems to have the perfect life. He's even just been named Man of the Year for Sag Harbor. But when he takes in his son's best friend, Dr. Hart begins to see that there are cracks in the world he's built.

What I Liked:

This book kept me turning pages. From the start, I could tell that something big was going to happen, and Walker had me wanting to find out more.

There were also some great twists near the end that really surprised me, something I always appreciate. I really like when the author makes me rethink all of what I've read in the book before.

I thought it was a really clever decision to have the book interspersed with chapters from the women's points of view. This broke up what could have felt like a monologue from Dr. Hart, and provided important insight into the story.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The last chapter really bugged me. I didn't feel it was necessary, and rather than adding another twist, I felt it took away from the power behind the twists that had already come-and it made things a little confusing.

I also found the characters as a whole really unlikable. I think this was the point, but it stopped me from being as invested in the book as I would have liked.


This was a good book with potential to be a great one. There were some choices that just didn't work for me.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Review: We Were Killers Once

Title: We Were Killers Once
Author: Becky Masterman
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
Genre: Suspense
Recommended If You Like: fiction centered around real crimes, strong female heroines

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

The Book:

Everyone thinks they know the true story behind the Clutter family murders, thanks to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. No one is entirely sure what happened when the Walker family was murdered, but some think there is a connection between the two crimes.

In this fictional look at the murders, Brigid Quinn, a former FBI agent now married to a former priest, finds her world infiltrated by a man who just may have been the unknown and unsuspected third person who participated in the Clutter murders.

What I Liked: 

In Cold Blood is an amazing true crime book, so I was really intrigued by the idea of a fictional take on it. This is definitely a unique take on a well-established crime, and I really like that Masterman went for something brave and bold.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Unfortunately, this wasn't a very well-written book. The characters felt very flat, and there wasn't a lot of suspense to the story.


I sadly can't really recommend this book. Read the original In Cold Blood instead.