THE SANATORIUM by Sarah Pearse


Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Release Date: February 2, 2021

THE SANATORIUM was probably my most anticipated read for early 2021, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to that delicious creepy gothic cover. This book is very popular now so I don’t want to rehash the plot. Here it is in a nutshell:

Elin Warner, a British detective on leave due to PTSD from a case gone wrong, travels to the Swiss Alps to celebrate her estranged brother Isaac’s engagement at a renovated hotel, previously a sanatorium. She and Isaac have some heavy, unresolved family drama. Not long after Elin arrives, Isaac’s fiancée goes missing, a snowstorm traps them at the hotel, and then dead bodies start piling up. Elin investigates to help out local police, though she lacks jurisdiction?

I love snowstorm thrillers, and I appreciated the frozen, isolated setting, especially combined with the hotel’s unsettling history as a tuberculosis hospital. Unfortunately, though, not much else appealed to me. The pacing was slow, I felt detached from the characters, and the culprit’s reason behind the murder spree was too farfetched. And then there’s the confusing epilogue. Meh, not for me. (There are other things I’d like to add about the killer’s reasoning vs the victims and the epilogue vs the rest of the book, but I won’t because of spoilers.) — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

📚 Find THE SANATORIUM on Goodreads 📚

MOON OF THE CRUSTED SNOW by Waubgeshig Rice


Publisher: ECW Press
Release Date: October 2, 2018

This was a haunting cautionary tale! Set in northern Canada, MOON OF THE CRUSTED SNOW is a character-driven, slow-burn thriller about what happens in a remote Anishinaabe community when the unthinkable happens. Their power goes out, their phones quit working, and suddenly they’re cut off from the rest of the world. Winter is setting in, food supplies are low, and word from the south is that the chaos is widespread. When an outsider arrives seeking shelter, their precarious situation gets worse.

I’m not usually a fan of dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction, BUT something about the premise of this book pulled me in. I’m so glad I took a chance and read it. The wonderfully tense, ominous atmosphere kept me glued to the pages. What a terrifying situation to be in, and I felt like I was a part of it, wondering what was coming next.

One of the most memorable moments was when main character Evan talked to an elder about the meaning of “apocalypse,” and how their world had already ended when they were forced off their land and had their children taken away.

If a dystopian novel can be realistic, then this was it. In the end, I was left with a lot of unanswered questions, but in an actual apocalypse, would you have all the answers? I just read that there will be a sequel coming out (next year, maybe), and I can’t wait to find out what happens next! — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

📚 Find MOON OF THE CRUSTED SNOW on Goodreads 📚

FIVE TOTAL STRANGERS by Natalie D. Richards


Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: October 6, 2020

I love cold weather/snowy suspense novels, so the cover of this book was screaming for me to read it. FIVE TOTAL STRANGERS is a locked-room-on-wheels YA thriller that left me with mixed feelings.

The protagonist Mira is a high school student flying home to Pittsburgh to be with her mother on Christmas. A snow storm cancels connecting flights and leaves her stranded at the Philly airport. Desperate to get home, she makes the BAD decision of hitching a ride with four college-aged strangers who were on her flight. In a blizzard with strangers on desolate backroads? What’s the worst that could happen? Mira is about to find out…

First of all, I loved the creepy, frozen atmosphere the author created. As odd things start to happen, Mira becomes convinced that someone in their party doesn’t want them to get home. But why? There were a lot of tense moments, and my thoughts on who was the bad one was constantly changing.

Though the book kept me guessing, I thought the first half moved too slowly, and the ending was too abrupt. There were loose ends and unanswered questions that annoyed me, plus the reasoning behind the bad one’s actions wasn’t convincing, and also, what an absurd plan. You’re in a blizzard!?!

Overall though, I did enjoy the author’s descriptive writing style, and I wouldn’t hesitate to give her other books a try. — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

📚 Find FIVE TOTAL STRANGERS on Goodreads 📚

THE PUSH by Ashley Audrain


Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Release Date: January 5, 2021

★ BOTM Club Pick ★

Wow! I’ve seen THE PUSH getting a lot of buzz on Instagram, and I can certainly see why. The subject matter is chilling and flat-out tragic, but I couldn’t quit reading.

The story is told in second person, with the narrator being Blythe, and the “you” she’s taking to, her husband, Fox. Blythe’s own mother, and her mother before her, were cold & neglectful. Was it mental illness, or simply a lack of desire to be a mother? Blythe wants to give her new baby, Violet, the love and affection she missed as a child. But, things don’t go as planned, and Blythe soon senses that something is wrong with Violet.

This book tackles the struggles of motherhood, generational trauma, and the “nature versus nurture” debate in a gripping way. My mind kept wrestling over Blythe and Violet’s characters, wondering if there really was something “off,” or whether it was imagined. Either way, what a devastating situation to be in.

THE PUSH is a remarkable debut novel from Ashley Audrain, and she’s definitely going on my auto-buy list! — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

📚 Find THE PUSH on Goodreads 📚

THE INITIAL INSULT by Mindy McGinnis


Series: The Initial Insult, #1
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: February 23, 2021

THE INITIAL INSULT gives a modern YA spin to the imagination of Edgar Allan Poe, taking inspiration from several of his classic tales of suspense. In Amontillado, Ohio, at the condemned Usher House, Tress Montor devises a sinister plan to get information out of her former best friend, Felicity Turnado.

Tress’s parents disappeared seven years ago, and the only witness was Felicity, though she’s buried any memories of that terrible night in her subconscious. So in The Cask of Amontillado style, Tress plans to wall up Felicity, brick by brick, in Usher House’s coal chute, unless she finally admits what happened to Mr. & Mrs. Montor.

This book was strange and dramatic, and gruesome at times. None of the characters were particularly likable, but I’m glad there was a dual narrative between Tress & Felicity, so at least we could hear where both were coming from. There was also a third POV from the character “Cat,” whose voice was confusing. I’m not sure that being inside Cat’s head was necessary.

Something to note: THE INITIAL INSULT is the first book in a duology, so it’s left open-ended in regards to the mystery of the missing parents and other points. There was A LOT of drama going on in this book (drug abuse, animal cruelty, bullying, class struggle, family secrets), so I’m assuming the second book will make sense out of everything, though we’ll have to wait until next year to see. — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

📚 Find THE INITIAL INSULT on Goodreads 📚