Thoughts on Books (#23)

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” ― Lauren DeStefano


The Book of Cold Cases
The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

★ Publication date on March 15, 2022 ★

True crime podcasts are popular themes in thrillers these days, and in this book we have a cold cases blogger named Shea who lands an interview with Beth, the woman acquitted of murdering two men 40 years earlier. Shea has been long obsessed with this case, partly because it happened in her home town of Claire Lake, Oregon. If Beth didn’t kill those men, then who did? Beth has been reclusive for decades, hiding alone in her family’s creepy mansion, and also hiding the truth.

Usually I’m a huge fan of Simone St. James’ ghostly elements, but this time the paranormal didn’t fit particularly well. THE BOOK OF COLD CASES was more of a dysfunctional family drama with a murder mystery mixed in, and unfortunately the mystery gets solved too quickly! While I enjoyed the premise and characters, I thought the story moved slowly overall, and I kind of questioned the point of including the woo-woo. Liked this one, but didn’t love it.

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


Mrs. March
Mrs. March
by Virginia Feito
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A wealthy New York housewife is horrified to learn that the pitiful protagonist of her husband’s latest novel might be based on her.

This book was a strange experience! I’m not exactly sure when the the story is set, probably mid-20th century. I would describe MRS. MARCH as literary suspense, or maybe a character study of a woman’s descent into madness. There’s even a murder mystery mixed in.

We only know the main character as “Mrs. March” until the very last sentence when her first name is revealed. I’m not sure I get the significance of that, still thinking it over. She’s definitely unreliable and filled with inner turmoil, and her husband’s new book sets her on a downward spiral.

The writing was good, and I enjoyed the Shirley Jackson/Daphne du Maurier influence throughout. It’s not exactly a fun read, but it did keep me glued to the pages. Borrowed from the library.


A Lesson in Vengeance
A Lesson in Vengeance
by Victoria Lee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Felicity Morrow returns to the prestigious Dalloway School a year after her girlfriend’s death, but finds she’s still haunted by Alex’s memory and the school’s dark history of witchcraft and murder.

I enjoyed the gothic atmosphere, but that’s about it. For most of the book, I just didn’t get the point. Weak plot, pretentious characters. Had some intriguing twists near the end, but kind of boring overall. Borrowed from the library.

Thoughts on Books (#22)

“We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.” ― Henry Rollins


Happy September! My blogging break is over, though I’ve decided to go back to quick & simple “Thoughts on Books” posts for my reviews. My new job is going well, but balancing full-time work and home commitments is a challenge right now. If you want more info on the books below, just click the title. Have you read any of these?

Thanks for stopping by… I’ll be back to blog hopping soon!



THE GUILT TRIP (Audiobook) *
Sandie Jones
Minotaur Books
August 3, 2021

One-Sentence Summary: A lush destination wedding in Portugal threatens to turn disastrous for three couples who fail to keep their secrets buried.

My Thoughts: What a soap opera! This domestic suspense novel was an entertaining (though sometimes frustrating) beach read, narrated by Clare Corbett. She did a great job keeping me engaged with a varied cast of voices.

Billed as a thriller, THE GUILT TRIP is more a slow-burn drama with a bit of excitement at the end. A group of three couples head to Portugal for one of the couple’s wedding, but years of secrets and lies between them turn paradise into a nightmare.

A lot of misunderstanding could have been easily cleared up if they actually talked to each other! The story was told from Rachel’s POV (sister-in-law of the groom), and good grief she was naïve at times. Rachel and the bride, Ali, were the most developed characters, but the others could have been fleshed out more. I would have preferred a stronger mystery element, but the drama did make me curious to see how it all played out. [3.5/5]

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



COME WITH ME
Ronald Malfi
Titan Books
July 20, 2021

One-Sentence Summary: After his wife Allison is killed, Aaron Decker gradually uncovers her dark, hidden life with some otherworldly assistance.

My Thoughts: COME WITH ME was so well-written, with haunting (literally & figuratively) subject matter. Lots of creepy moments that gave me chills! Aaron’s wife is killed in a random act of violence, and as he’s mourning her loss, he finds clues to a dark past she was hiding. Was he married to a stranger?

The story is written in second person, with Aaron talking directly to deceased Allison (as the “you”) which made it so much more personal and tragic. I was just the tiniest bit disappointed with the twist at the end. I really thought the author was going in a different direction with whodunit. Overall — eerie & disturbing, a story that will stick with you for a long time. [4/5]



NOT A HAPPY FAMILY
Shari Lapena
Pamela Dorman Books
July 27, 2021

One-Sentence Summary: When a wealthy couple is murdered, fingers point to their adult children who stand to inherit millions.

My Thoughts: Knives Out! That was my first thought when I read the blurb. A wealthy couple is murdered, and their awful offspring (and others) fixate on their inheritance and point fingers at each other. I enjoyed most of the book, and I felt like anyone could have been the culprit, but the ending was too rushed and anticlimactic. The story had some loose ends that bugged me, but overall this was a fun domestic thriller. [3.5/5]



WHERE THE TRUTH LIES *
Anna Bailey
Atria Books
August 3, 2021

One-Sentence Summary: The worst of a small Colorado town’s dark secrets come to light when a teenage girl goes missing, and her best friend sets out to discover what happened.

My Thoughts: This book was grim. Tough to read. So at 50% I marked it as DNF, even though I did skip ahead to the end to find out what happened. The writing is pretty good, but most of the characters are horrid. Racists, homophobes, abusers & more — this book packs them all in, and in turn, the mystery of the missing teen gets lost. In addition, too many POVs and time jumps made it difficult to get absorbed in the story. [DNF]

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

Thoughts on Books (#21): LITTLE THREATS • MAGIC DARK AND STRANGE • THE AWAKENING


Little Threats
Little Threats by Emily Schultz *
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In 1993, teenage twin sisters Carter and Kennedy Wynn rebel against their suburban upbringing with grunge, drugs, and dangerous guys. The night after a bad acid trip, their best friend Haley is murdered and Kennedy takes the blame, and she spends 15 years in prison wondering what really happened. In 2008, Kennedy is finally free to start her life, but soon true-crime tv show host Dee Nash comes to town intent on stirring up the past.

While it is part mystery, LITTLE THREATS is mostly a slow-burn family drama about the repercussions of a young girl’s murder. The characters were difficult to like, though I thought their dilemmas were compelling. Kennedy’s conviction at 16 was a stretch. Motive is important, and to me there wasn’t one. She ends up accepting the charges against her though maintaining her innocence because she blacked out and couldn’t remember what actually happened. What lazy police work. The victim’s younger brother and Dee Nash investigate further and open a nasty can of worms. I wasn’t surprised by how things turned out, though I found it intriguing, and rather depressing.

The best part of the book was the early 90s nostalgia — grunge music, doc martens with floral peasant dresses, Kurt Cobain — this story brings it all back. Fun to revisit, though so glad I didn’t go through it with this disturbing crew.

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


Magic Dark and Strange
Magic Dark and Strange by Kelly Powell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

MAGIC DARK AND STRANGE is a YA historical fantasy set in the Victorian-like city of Invercarn. The main character is 17-year old Catherine Daly who works at a print shop by day, and by night she raises the dead for grieving families who just want a few more moments with their departed loved ones — for a price. She and Guy Nolan, a watchmaker’s son, end up entangled in a mystery involving a charmed timepiece said to be buried in an unmarked grave. Catherine’s boss wants her to retrieve this item at any cost, but she and Guy get more than they bargained for when the coffin is opened.

There was much to enjoy in this Gothic mystery — dark atmosphere, creepy cemeteries, slow-burn romance, clever characters, and a Victorian setting. I was disappointed, though, with the lack of world-building. All of this amazing magic, and no explanation of where it comes from and how it works. Why is Catherine magical? Has she always been that way? It almost felt like this was book two of a series. Some backstory was missing. MAGIC DARK AND STRANGE had a lot of potential, but it needed to be fleshed out more.


The Awakening (Graveyard Queen #6)
The Awakening by Amanda Stevens *
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading THE AWAKENING was bittersweet, as it’s the conclusion to one of my favorite series. I didn’t want it to end! Known as the Graveyard Queen, protagonist Amelia Gray has made a successful career restoring dilapidated and often forgotten cemeteries. She’s also gifted with being able to see and communicate with ghosts. Her latest job restoring Woodbine Cemetery brings her face to face with the malevolent spirit of a young girl. She seems to be fixated on an unnamed baby’s grave, and it’s up to Amelia to figure out the connection between them and what will finally allow the child to rest in peace.

A lot more juicy secrets are revealed in this book, and Amelia’s turbulent on-again, off-again relationship with John Devlin comes to a head. Though I was sad to see the story end, I was pleased with the way the author wrapped things up. Emotional! I highly recommend the Graveyard Queen series to fans of Gothic suspense and creepy ghost stories, just start at the beginning with The Restorer (#1) or The Abandoned (#0.5).

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

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