My review of Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald

4⭐

While I’ve not yet had the chance to hit that holiday gift stack that includesThe Night Olivia Fell, I jumped at the chance to get an early copy of Christina McDonald’s newest book Behind Every Lie and I really enjoyed it as much as I was expecting.

Eva Hansen goes from a celebratory dinner for her mother Katherine along with her brother Jacob to waking up in the hospital being told that her mother has been murdered. She’s been struck by lightning and due to the lightning strike she has no memory of how she was even out there to be struck, let alone what really happened to Kat all while police suspect her of committing the murder. The worst part for Eva, she wonders if they’re right and she could have possibly done this terrible thing. Eva’s history of a traumatic event that happened to her years prior that her mind has blocked all memories of make her feel broken and filled with constant doubt in herself.

Katherine- “Darling, I’m not entirely certain one can ever become unbroken, but I do know we can be strong and brave and broken and whole all at the same time. It’s called being human.”

That sentence really struck me, especially as a survivor of a terrible car accident with a traumatic brain injury that I have zero memory of. I really felt for Eva throughout the entire book, knowing how events can throw your life off balance in a variety of ways that still affect you years later.

The chapters alternate in being told from Eva and Kat’s point of view so we learn about both their pasts as well as Kat’s own secrets. We follow Eva to London as she searches for the truth about those secrets. It works very well being told the way it is and I enjoyed Kat’s perspective and motivation as well. I thought the author did a great job tying everything together and was pleasantly surprised by a few twists I did not see coming. She did a great job of making Eva feel like a friend you might know or even someone like yourself.

“I was too awake to go back to sleep, so I dinked around on my phone, checking e-mail and Instagram. I knew social media was like standing in front of a crowd screaming into a microphone: “Look at me! See how great I am! Be jealous of my life!” We had twenty-four hour access to the worst things happening in the world, and twenty-four hour access to other people’s apparently perfect lives. It was simultaneously disturbing and confusing, and yet I continued using it. Maybe something inside me needed to feel worthy of others approval. But weren’t we all like that?”

I’ll be keeping my eyes open for the author’s next book, looking forward to whatever she comes up with next.

 

*Many thanks to Gallery Books and BookishFirst for an ARC. All thoughts and opinions are my own.”

My review of The Other People by C.J. Tudor

5⭐

Finally my first foray into a novel by C.J. Tudor and I certainly was not disappointed. I devoured this book in two days and loved every minute of it.

Gabe is driving home and he’s shocked when he sees his little girl Izzy in the back window of a car on the road. He starts to pursue the vehicle, can’t catch it in traffic and finally decides it can’t be her, she’s home with her Mom. But when he pulls off to call home he hears the news that his wife Jenny is dead and Izzy is too. No one believes him that he could have possibly seen his daughter in this car. Gabe spends the next three years driving night and day searching for the car, “sticker guy” because of all the crazy bumper stickers all over the back of it, and for his daughter he knows has to be out there.

“People say hate and bitterness will destroy you. They’re wrong. It’s hope. Hope will devour you from the inside like a parasite. It will leave you hanging like bait above a shark. But hope won’t kill you. It’s not that kind.”

Fran is also on the run on the roadways with her little girl Alice who suffers terrifying bouts of narcolepsy. But she’s running from people to protect their lives because she knows what these people are really capable of.

“She glanced at Alice. She was staring out the window, a familiar lost look in her eyes as she fumbled with the bag on her lap. Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack. The shell from the bath had disappeared, added to Alice’s collection. Where did they come from? she thought again. Who was the girl on the beach, and what did she want? “The Sandman was coming.” Why did that phrase seem so damn ominous?

Add in the fascinating and mysterious man known by The Samaritan, who seems to be helping Gabe in his search for clues about Izzy’s disappearance. As well as Katie, a single mother and waitress at one of the service stations who sees Gabe like clockwork during his cycle of stops for coffee. Oh and yes, of course- The Other People, the ones who help people find justice when something tragic happens to them, no matter the cost.

“We fulfill all requests.”

A really terrific mash up of mystery, thriller and horror without a dull moment. Once again in a January, I can see this being one of my top reads of the year. I’m also extra happy I holiday gifted myself the author’s earlier books, The Chalk Man and The Hiding Place. Already snuck them way up higher into my rotation to tear into as soon as I have a night here and there, looking forward to them even more now.

*My thanks to Penguin Random House and NetGalley for an ARC copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

My review of Followers by Megan Angelo

4⭐

Really enjoyed this book even though I think in the beginning I was expecting it to be a little different. The things that happen in the book you can actually see it being possible for these things to happen one day. We meet Orla a blogger in New York for Lady-ish, a celebrity gossip site and her roommate Floss who is obsessed with becoming famous without doing a thing.

“I’ve done the math,” Floss said. “I’ve done the actual math. There are eight million people here, and all of them want something as bad as I want what I want, as bad as you want what you want. We’re not all going to get it. It’s just not possible, that all these people could have their dreams come true in the same time, same place. It’s not enough to be talented, it’s not enough to work hard. You need to be disciplined and you need to be ruthless. You have to do anything, everything, and you need to forget about doing the right thing.”

“Orla steadied herself and looked Floss over. She would never make it as an actress, she thought. She went a little too big, wanted a little too hard. But Floss, it seemed, didn’t want to be an actress. She wanted to be what she already was, even if nobody knew it yet: a celebrity. A person, exaggerated.”

You definitely already see this everyday, people being famous, just because. I’m personally the type to limit my Instagram following to books and football lol, but you see it in the tabloids today who’s wearing what etc.

We have a dual timeline with Orla and Floss in 2015, then Marlow in 2051. The author handles both of these very well throughout the entire book. I was completely caught up in both, following the success and celebrity Orla and Floss blossomed into. Even the events in the future timeline, could see that being a possibility quite easily. Marlow lives her entire life with her husband on camera all the time with her millions of followers watching every move.

“Marlow looked at Ellis, sleeping stomach-down beside her. She couldn’t ask him if he thought her armpits were fat. To bring it up on camera would be to acknowledge the follower’s comment, to acknowledge the existence of followers at all. This was against employee policy. Which was a total farce, of course; her followers knew she knew they were watching. They knew she could see them talking about her. But the fact that she and the other talent never let on, that they pretended to just be living- this was what her followers wanted. They liked to feel like voyeurs; they didn’t want to be looked at in the eye.”

Marlow and the rest of “the talent” are considered extremely lucky to live in the government controlled village of Constellation. The circumstances leading to its construction and the rules that are in place there are quite frightening, especially with our dependence in this day and age on all things internet and social media. When Marlow leaves Constellation to learn the truth of her family history, her journey is filled with danger. Was definitely pulling for Marlow throughout the entire book, she pulls a lot of emotions out of the reader. The author managed to tie the whole story together in a wonderful way, my only small gripe would be how very fast the ending wrapped up. I was so invested in these ladies by the end I really wanted to spend more time with all of them. I’ll look forward to more from Megan Angelo in the future.

 

*Many thanks to Graydon House and BookishFirst for an ARC copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

My review of Those Who Came Before by J.H. Moncrieff

 

5🌟

 

People are dying at Strong Lake and the worst is yet to come. A group of two couples take a trip to Strong Lake, a campground on an Indian reservation for a weekend of camping. Only one person, Reese, will come out alive.

In the beginning I really wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy this story if it was filled with Reese’s very unlikable girlfriend Jessica and their fighting. The girl is just insufferable.

“Once upon a time, I’d thought she was pretty. Then I’d gotten to know her.”

As the first night progressed Reese feels things are just off. Feelings of being watched and hearing strange things no one else hears. “You’re not welcome here.” When he wakes in the morning Reese finds everyone else has been slaughtered.

This book was so well done- a great horror story, a full background of the Native Americans, their beliefs and superstitions as well as police involvement with Detective Greyeyes as she tries to piece together what happened. Loved the author’s writing, very vivid and complete yet never losing the reader at any point since each moment is really important and gripping. I felt deeply for these characters and almost regretted coming to the end of the story. Absolutely fabulous anytime but especially the Halloween season! I look forward to J.H. Moncrieff’s next one.

 

*My thanks to NetGalley and FlameTree Press for a digital ARC. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

 

 

My review of The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman

 

3.5🌟

 

I’m so conflicted about The Remaking, really wanted to love this, a story inspired by true events about cursed horror films based on on witches who were burned at the stake couldn’t be more up my alley in genre if it tried. Sadly for me personally, the way it was told made it ok but not great.

“Here lies Jessica Ford. May she always burn.”

The Remaining is told in four parts, the campfire urban legend recounting the events in Pilot’s Creek on October 16, 1931 at four minutes past midnight when a woman Ella Louise Ford and her nine year old daughter Jessica were burned at the stake for witchcraft.

“Wayne and his co-conspirators buried poor little Jessica in a steel reinforced coffin. They laid her body to rest right there, in our very own Pilot’s Creek Cemetery, along with the rest of the dead from our town. After they lowered her coffin into the ground, they filled it with concrete. Three whole bags worth.

But those boys didn’t stop there though, did they? No they went ahead and erected a metal fence out of interconnected crosses. Over a hundred crucifixes, arm-in-arm with one another, surrounding her resting place.”

Awesome right?! We learn of the seemingly cursed 1971 horror movie, with nine year old Amber Pendleton cast to play Jessica, The Little Witch Girl and the effect the movie has on the rest of her life. Here is where I didn’t care for some of the writing, it seemed several paragraphs were repeated with the same information several times or just strange sentences. “And yet…” was in so many places but it really threw off my enjoyment. In 1995 a remake of the original, this time with Amber cast to play the mother Ella Louise, is also seemingly cursed. This ultimately leads to the final part in 2016, a podcaster looking to debunk all the crazy theories that have been born over the many years and to hear from Amber Pendleton the truth about everything.

The story, for me, was less a supernatural horror than a character study on a person who played such a central role in the horror films. If that was ultimately the author’s intent, bravo, if not I’m sure plenty of other people probably will enjoy it as a horror story perhaps. Don’t let my opinions keep anyone from reading this, it is very clever and a pretty read.

*My many thanks to Quirk Books and Penguin Random House for an ARC. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

 

My review of Violet by Scott Thomas

 

5🌟

I absolutely loved this author’s first book Kill Creek so I was really looking forward to this one and Scott Thomas did not disappoint. The story of recently widowed Kris Barlow and her eight year old daughter Sadie who take a much needed break at the summer house on Lost Lake. Kris used to visit the lake house with her parents each year until her mother passed away from cancer when she was 10. Sadie has been withdrawn and troubled since the death of her father and Kris is hoping a carefree summer like she used to enjoy will bring some happiness back to Sadie.

Similar to Kill Creek, this book is also a slow burning, creepy atmospheric read. The beginning stretch is a bit wordy with some of the descriptions of the cleaning process that the lake house required after years of un-use, but the payoff is worth it. The chilling and creepy vibe is evident throughout, from the people in the town who seem a bit off, the several girls who have gone missing in years prior and the way Sadie behaves in the house. From sudden mood swings, to having strange conversations and seeming to interact with another child in the house, everything seems to point to maybe the trip was a mistake.

I thoroughly enjoyed the many different threads in Violet and the way Scott Thomas pulled everything together, everything I’m looking for in a great horror or thriller. Another hit for the author, while I’m already eager for his next one!

*My thanks to NetGalley and InkShares for an ARC of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own*

My review of Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber

5🌟

How great it can be to step out of your normally preferred genres to find a charming and heartwarming story by a new to me author! Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber is the story of Anna Kate who must return to the town of Wicklow to bury her beloved Granny Zee who was the owner of the popular cafe. According to the will, Anna Kate must stay and run the cafe through the summer. Anna Kate wants to simply fulfill her obligations and be on her way to medical school, especially after hearing stories growing up how some people in the town blamed her mother for a car accident that killed her father before she was born.

Heather Webber writes so beautifully descriptive, you can truly see the town and the people in it. The magical realism with the story of the blackbird pies and the messages they deliver to the people who need to hear them is so well done. There’s a charming cast of characters I became quite invested in, my heart breaking for them at times and hoping they would find happiness. A really wonderful story of the past, family you knew, family you didn’t and second chances at happiness.

My many thanks to Forge Books and Bookish First for a copy to read and review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

My review of One by One by D.W. Gillespie

3 & 1/2🌟

 

My thanks to NetGalley & Flame Tree Press for a copy of this book for review.

One by One is the second book by D.W. Gillespie that I’ve read and much like The Toy Thief is almost a coming of age horror story. 10 year old Alice, her teen brother Dean, her Mom and Dad move into a creepy looking and feeling house her father finds as part of his plan for a new beginning after losing his job. On the very first day Alice finds a hand painted picture on one of the walls of a family almost identical to theirs only with a dog instead of their cat. The first night there’s strange noises, a tapping on Alice’s window, a nightmare that has her waking up screaming and ultimately them finding the first X over someone painted on the wall.

The story is very atmospheric and creepy, everything you would want in a haunted house/horror story, though there are a few periods of slow pacing. While the story is told from Alice’s perspective, some of the wording she uses threw me off as it didn’t seem like something a 10 year old would say or think. Not a great deal of character development either beyond Alice and the house itself, maybe this was intentional by the author as it is coming from a young girls point of view. The house and it’s former occupants are quite interesting. The story definitely went in a different direction than I was expecting, I think that helps add to it being a bit different than a run of the mill haunted house story. Overall, a pretty good story I found enjoyable.

 

My review of The Haunting of Henderson Close by Catherine Cavendish

 

In 1891, Edinburgh’s Henderson Close is a seething mass of crime. Miss Carmichael falls victim to a gang of thugs, who beat her to death. Gang member Donald Bain escapes and is possessed by an entity the locals call the Auld De’il. In the present day, renovations begin on Henderson Close, and the ghost stories begin to take on a sinister reality.

Newly divorced Hannah takes a job as a tour guide in Henderson Close, dressing in period costume and telling groups of tourists tales of people who lived, worked and died there in 1891. Strange things happen from the very beginning- sightings of figures, smells, sounds and even scarier events nobody could possibly explain. Is the ghost of Miss Carmichael trying to say something or is it something much, much worse?

This is my first Catherine Cavendish book and what a marvelous treat for anyone who loves a really well told, very original paranormal horror or ghostly haunting story. I particularly appreciated the in depth information and realistic vision of life in a past time period I find fascinating, mixed so seamlessly into the present day story. I fairly flew through the book as there was never a dull moment, in fact I originally didn’t anticipate the suspense and overall sense of dread the author was easily able to convey throughout. And holy crap how I wish I could talk about that ending- just fantastic! If this is a genre of interest to anyone I definitely recommend reading. For myself, I’ll be ready and waiting for Ms. Cavendish’s next book.

*My thanks to Flame Tree Press for an ARC copy, however all thoughts and opinions are my own.*

My review of The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient is an interesting and solid debut by Alex Michaelides.
Famous artist Alicia Berenson seemingly out of the blue shoots her prominent fashion designer husband Gabriel five times in the head and face and never utters a single word for the next six years. Told from the point of view of Theo Farber, a forensic psychotherapist who becomes obsessed with Alicia’s case, connecting with her on some level, convinced he can help her. Theo has his own issues from his past, has had his own therapist in his life for a long time but he feels this can only serve to help him fix whatever has caused Alicia to completely shut down and refuse to speak.
“It’s odd how quickly one adapts to the strange new world of a psychiatric unit. You become increasingly comfortable with the madness- and not just the madness of others, but your own. We’re all crazy, I believe, just in different ways.”
I got slightly bogged down with some of the reiterated details of Theo’s life and his own struggles, it made it feel like a slower beginning for me but the writing was very impressive for a debut, certainly didn’t seem like an author’s first novel written. I really wanted to like it more than I did as it seems most other readers did, it didn’t seem to pack the serious punch I was looking for as it was just a tad easily predicted. Although I will say it very well could have been that the thriller I read right before this was an outstanding thriller for me so I can’t really hold it against this novel that might have colored my feelings. That said I have definitely found an author that I’ll be extremely eager to read his next effort.
Kudos to Celadon Books for the very clever marketing campaign enclosing a “newspaper” front page with photos and articles on the crime. *My thanks to Celadon and Bookish for an ARC, all thoughts and opinions are my own.*