Review: Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

Good Girl, Bad Blood (A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, #2)Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

I had been highly anticipating Good Girl, Bad Blood since I turned the final page of Holly Jackson’s 2019-release, A Good Girls Guide to Murder.

Okay, truth be told, I didn’t even know there was going to be a sequel to AGGGTM, but I knew I wanted more of Pippa Fitz-Amobi and her badass investigatory abilities!

After she solved the mystery of the disappearance of Andie Bell, along with her now boyfriend, Ravi Singh, Pippa created a True Crime podcast on the case.

It went viral. In spite of the podcasts huge popularity, Pippa has sworn off any further investigations.

But when her good friend Connor’s older brother, Jamie, goes missing, Connor enlists Pippa’s help with finding him.

Pippa’s first suggestion is that Connor go to the police with his concerns. She even goes to speak with officers herself, but they aren’t taking it seriously. Jamie has disappeared before and they think he has just skipped town for a few days.

Pippa can’t ignore the signs, however, and they seem to point to foul play.

Against her better judgement, she agrees to look into it. She can’t deny a friend in need and sit by while Jamie may be in danger, or worse.

As her investigation begins, she unearths a lot of secrets Jamie has been hiding. It’s a wicked web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.

This was such a fun and captivating story. It didn’t quite capture me to the extent that A Good Girl’s Guide did, but I think that’s mostly attributable to being introduced to Pippa in the first book.

In the initial book, I loved learning about her as a character. Meeting a girl who was willing to go outside of her comfort zone and risk everything in the name of truth and justice.

Pippa definitely felt more mature in this novel, like an old friend. She still has that same fire inside her to discover the truth. She’s really a character you can get behind.

The mystery was so well-plotted and I absolutely adored the podcast elements incorporated throughout. Podcasts are definitely a popular plot device over the past couple of years and it felt very natural within this story.

Holly Jackson has such a pleasing writing style. The setting, format and fantastic characters in these stories will keep me coming back for more as long as she keeps writing them!

I cannot wait for the next book in the series!!!

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Review: When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain

When the Stars Go DarkWhen the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wracked with grief after a personal tragedy, Missing Persons Detective, Anna Hart, flees from her regular life in San Francisco, in order to give herself time to heal.

She heads back to the town she grew up in with her loving foster parents, Mendocino, in Northern California.

Once there, she rents a modest cabin in the woods and actually ends up taking in a new canine companion, who she names, Cricket.

Obviously. this enhanced my enjoyment of the story.
((Just kidding. Kind of, not really.))

Anna also reunites with her childhood friend, Will, who happens to now be the local Sheriff.

Knowing how successful Anna has been in her career, Will enlists her help with assisting him finding a teenage girl, Cameron, who has recently gone missing.

This new investigation is a good distraction from Anna’s own tragedy, but her involvement means more to her than that. She quickly becomes engrossed in the case.

Having survived very significant childhood trauma herself, Anna has dedicated her life to helping other children and survivors. As stressful as it can often be, it’s her calling.

We watch the investigation unfold, as Will and Anna work together to try to find out what happened to Cameron. Maybe they can get to her before it’s too late.

They end up tying her case to that of other missing girls in the area and the intensity definitely begins to build from there.

This is a great story. It’s subtle, dark and heart-wrenching.

It really reminded me a lot of Rene Denfeld’s, The Child Finder and I mean that as a heavy compliment.

It’s quite nuanced, more than your average book in this genre, which I appreciated so much. McLain packed a lot in.

I loved the investigatory elements and learning more about Anna’s background as a character; how her early life lead her to the point where she is at.

Overall, this story has good action, a compelling mystery, layered, well-established characters and a satisfying conclusion.

There were some areas that felt a little slow for me, but that didn’t overshadow any of the other fantastically done elements.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate the opportunity and hope this author writes more in this genre!

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Review: The Other Side of the Door by Nicci French

The Other Side of the DoorThe Other Side of the Door by Nicci French
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When Bonnie Graham’s friend asks her to perform at her wedding at the end of the summer, she readily accepts.

All she has to do is put a band together. How hard can it be?

Even though she is currently a music teacher, Bonnie has been on the music scene for a long time and knows a lot of people.

Thus, she is able to hastily assemble a band with members including her ex-boyfriend, Amos, and her best friend, Sonia.

As the summer wears on and they spend more time together prepping for the show, tensions begin to rise and relationships become strained.

When Bonnie finds the body of her lover, and fellow band member, Hayden, dead, lying in his apartment in a pool of his own blood, she thinks she knows what happened.

She then hatches a plan to try to protect the killer, but does she really know who that is?

Alternating between past and present perspectives, with Bonnie as the main protagonist, the truth behind Hayden’s life, death and their relationship is revealed.

I feel almost exactly the same upon finishing this, as I did after Lisa Jewell’s, The Family Upstairs.

In short, underwhelmed.

I thought that I would really like this, as I frequently enjoy stories focused on music, or musicians. However, this was just too slow of a burn.

With this being said, I also appreciate a slow burn, but the final payoff needs to be worth it and for me, this just wasn’t.

The back-and-forth felt extremely chaotic to me. I generally prefer an alternating timeline, but it has to be seamless and here I found myself forgetting which time I was in.

Additionally, I didn’t find the relationships and corresponding drama to be particularly believable.

At the end of the day, while there were some glimmers of a solid story under all the chatter, this one just did not work for me.

It may work for you though, so do not let my opinion sway you from picking it up. If the synopsis sounds interesting, give it a go! There’s a Reader for every book!

Thank you so much to the publisher, William Morrow Paperbacks, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

Even though this one didn’t quite work for me, I would definitely be willing to pick up more work from this author!

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Review: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn (Legendborn, #1)Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hot dang!!! That’s how you write a Fantasy!

Believe the hype. Legendborn is next level. I am so impressed with Tracy Deonn and cannot wait for the second book.

Go into this knowing as little as possible, just let the story wash over you. It’s complex and layered. The characters are wonderful and the magic system is incredibly creative.

It’s everything I look for in a modern urban fantasy!!!

The mystery of it kept me completely engaged. I couldn’t put Legendborn down once I started.

With the heavy fangirling out of the way, let’s get to the most serious question…

WHEN DOES THE SECOND BOOK RELEASE!?

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Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill

The FiremanThe Fireman by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally got around to picking this up along with my friend, Shannon, for a buddy read.

Considering everything the world has been through over the course of the past year, it was an excellent choice. We certainly had a lot to discuss!

Following a group of characters, after a worldwide pandemic decimates the population, The Fireman is a chilling example of society stripped bare of its conventions.

The plague itself is spread by a highly contagious spore, physically representing itself on the human body as scaly skin discolorations and sores that come to be known as, Dragonscale.

Obviously, in my head I pictured, Greyscale, from Game of Thrones.

The most interesting aspect of this disease is the cause of death: spontaneous combustion.

Fires are erupting everywhere. There’s no advanced warning. Anyone could blow at any time. There’s no cure. Can you imagine the stress!?

Harper Grayson is a nurse in New Hampshire, who continues working long after the plague begins, in spite of great personal risk to herself.

As many other frontline workers, she feels compelled to help people as long as she can. Unfortunately, her husband Jakob isn’t crazy about her choice.

The couple make a pact, that if they become infected, they’ll take matters into their own hands. They’ll decide when they die, but when Harper finds signs on her skin that she has contracted the disease, she doesn’t want to follow through with it. She wants to live.

She’s pregnant and believes she can give her baby a fighting chance. In the hospital, she watched infected mothers give birth to healthy babies. She knows it’s possible.

When Harper expresses this to Jakob, he loses it. He comes completely unhinged, revealing a side to himself he previously kept hidden.

He believes Harper has gotten him sick, even though he has no symptoms yet. Jakob turns on her, blaming her for everything and ends up abandoning her.

With vigilantes, known as Cremation Squads, out hunting those infected with Dragonscale, Harper knows it is unsafe for her to stay alone.

Luckily, she is approached by some friendly infecteds, who offer her a place to stay within their survivor’s camp.

I found this to be an incredibly riveting story. To me, it feels sort of like The Stand-2.0. I did notice a few nods to that classic; my favorite book of all time.

The Stand was written in the late-1970s; The Fireman was published in 2016. A lot has changed in our society since then, but simultaneously, not much has changed at all.

As the rules and norms of society are broken down, people are returned to their more primal instincts in order to survive. It’s interesting to think about how people would arrange and conduct themselves following an apocalyptic event.

While this wasn’t as impactful or compelling for me as The Stand is, I still think it is a great post-apocalyptic story. Hill definitely has a narrative style that keeps me engaged and wanting more.

I also appreciated how layered this story was. You could deep dive into it and analyze so many different aspects.

Shannon noticed a lot of feminist themes woven throughout and that definitely fueled some of our more vibrant discussions.

Overall, I had a really good time reading this and do recommend it to those who enjoy a long-form, post-apocalyptic story!

I’m really looking forward to seeing what Hill comes up with next. He’s definitely an autobuy author for me.

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Review: The Perfect Daughter by D.J. Palmer

The Perfect DaughterThe Perfect Daughter by D.J. Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After Grace discovers an abandoned 4-year old girl in a park, she knows the little one is destined to be her daughter. Grace fights hard to foster the girl and ultimately adopts her into the family.

Grace and her husband, Arthur, have two boys, Ryan and Jack, but Grace has always wanted to mother a daughter. That relationship is just so special.

As it turns out, mothering this particular little girl, named Penny by her older brother, Jack, is more challenging than Grace initially anticipated.

Penny, due to trauma in her early life, has suffered a schism within her psyche, outwardly displayed as a case of Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID.

Once known as Multiple Personality Disorder, Grace and the rest of the family are slowly introduced to Penny’s alters, Ruby, Chloe and Eve.

When Penny is accused of killing her birth mother, caught red handed at the woman’s apartment, Grace knows there has to be another explanation. Her sweet Penny would never be capable of such violence.

But would one of her alters? Would Eve, the most aggressive and openly hostile?

Penny gets arrested, and subsequently committed, to Edgewater Psychiatric Hospital for care and treatment prior to her trial. It is there that she comes under the care of the perceptive, Dr. Mitch McHugh.

The Perfect Daughter is a fast-paced and intriguing Psychological Suspense novel. Palmer did a great job of keeping the tension high throughout the story.

I was constantly questioning who, or what, to believe. I know that mental health and disorders can be a complicated topic to write about, but I never felt icky about this. It felt like Palmer handled the topic with care, never demonizing Penny simply because she suffered from DID.

In signature Palmer style, this did get pretty wild towards the end, but it was a heck of a lot of fun to read.

He definitely has a brand and style he keeps returning to, and you know what, it works for me. It may be a little far-fetched, but it keeps me coming back every time!!!

The audiobook is fantastic, highly recommend that medium, as the narrators truly sweep you up into the story!

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies of this to read and review. In my opinion, this is Palmer’s best work yet, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!

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Review: The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

The Good SisterThe Good Sister by Sally Hepworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Fern and Rose are fraternal twins. As often happens with twins, they are opposites in many ways. From the outside, the division is clear; Rose is the responsible one, Fern is the quirky one.

In The Good Sister you follow both of their perspectives, gaining an inside view to their fascinating relationship.

Rose has placed herself in a quasi-caregiver role over Fern and Fern, for her part, is codependent in her interactions with Rose. So much so, that when she discovers Rose cannot become pregnant, she decides to have a baby for her.

This may seem like an odd statement, but once you meet Fern’s character and learn a bit about the way her mind works, it actually makes sense.

Through flashbacks to their early life, it is clear that Rose has always felt the need to protect Fern. Firstly, from their mother, and later, seemingly, from herself.

Fern has done a bad thing. Throughout the course of the narrative, what that is, comes to light. Poor Fern has let this one event, although admittedly horrifying, define her.

As Fern starts to follow her new plan to become pregnant, she learns things about herself she never knew. She also begins to see things about Rose she never noticed either.

I was oddly captivated by this story. I wouldn’t really consider it to be a Thriller, but I’m not sure what else to call it? An eerie character study?

Regardless, I found it to be interesting as heck. I couldn’t take my eyes off the sh*tstorm evolving on the page!

It was really fun to watch play out. I was impressed with the pace at which Hepworth reveals the truth behind Rose and Fern; so well done, it kept me engrossed the entire time.

I would absolutely recommend this for Readers who enjoy complex familial relationships. This was my first novel by this author, but I am looking forward to picking up more.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martins’ Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review! I appreciate the opportunity to provide my thoughts and opinions.

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Review: The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

The Chestnut ManThe Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

If you find one, he’s already found you.

A psychopath, with a distinctive calling card, is terrorizing Copenhagen in this tense, debut Crime Thriller from Soren Sveistrup.

The Chestnut Man is a brutally fast-paced read. I needed a nap after I finished!!

Women are disappearing. When their battered and mutilated bodies are discovered, a chestnut man doll is always located at the grisly crime scenes.

Made of matchsticks and two chestnuts, the little doll comes to be thought of as the killer’s signature, but what could it mean?

When forensic evidence connects the chestnut men, via a fingerprint, to the missing daughter of a government minister, things really begin to heat up.

How could these crimes possibly be related?

Detectives, Thulin and Hess, team up to try to solve the mystery and prevent another woman from falling victim to the vicious Chestnut Man.

For a 500+ page novel, this book reads extremely quickly. The chapters are super short, keeping the narrative flowing at a feverish pace.

I found Sveistrup’s writing to be extremely engaging. It was smart, with twist, turns and red herrings around every corner. As I raced towards the conclusion, I loved how the case pieced itself together.

Thulin and Hess were both believable and compelling. I would love to read further mysteries with them at the helm.

From the very first pages, Sveistrup sets a grisly tone, which I love. Additionally, the intensity of the story never lets up. There was not one moment where it felt like the story wasn’t accelerating.

I was so impressed with his ability to do that. The execution of the plot is brilliant. I could use a little bit more development of Hess and Thulin’s characters, which is why I am really hoping for a second book featuring the two detectives.

I highly recommend this impressive piece of Nordic Noir!! You better clear your schedule though if you plan to pick it up, because once you start, you won’t want to put it down!

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Review: Malice by Heather Walter

MaliceMalice by Heather Walter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once upon a time, an evil fairy cursed a line of Princesses to die. The only way to break the curse, true love’s kiss.

You may be thinking you’ve heard this story before, right?

I’d say, not quite like this. in Malice, Heather Walter has put her own darkly creative spin on the beloved tale, Sleeping Beauty.

Alyce is a Dark Grace, living in a house of Beauty Graces since she was just a young girl.

While the wealthy of Briar set appointments with the other Graces to enhance their beauty, they go to Alyce for more sinister potions and tinctures.

Alyce has never fit in with the other girls and is frequently harassed by them; particularly by the beautiful and talented, Rose.

As deplorable as their treatment of her is, Alyce grows used to it. She even comes to accept it, in a way.

That’s why when she crosses paths with the last Princess, Aurora, and Aurora shows her kindness, Alyce isn’t quite sure how to react. Why would the Princess want to be friends with her? It doesn’t make any sense.

In the midst of all of this, Alyce actually stumbles upon, and befriends someone else. Kal, a man magically imprisoned in a tower, who promises to teach her how to harness her powers.

Through her meetings with him, Alyce begins to learn more about her history, potential and the world outside of Briar.

The world Walter created within this story was absolutely immersive. I loved the magic system. Learning about the Graces and their powers, but also the interactions with Fae and the history of Briar.

It’s richly detailed, but in a way that stays engaging. Alyce was a fantastically created character. I felt her every emotion; also extra points for including her kestrel, Callow. Three cheers for animal companions.

I also thought the relationship between Alyce and Aurora was well done. It felt natural. The stakes were really high and it definitely pushed the drama of the story.

I did feel like the end dragged on a bit, but overall, I was so impressed with this. I would definitely recommend Malice for Readers who enjoy the darker side of fairy tales.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to reading more from Heather Walter!

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Review: 10 Truths and a Dare by Ashley Elston

10 Truths and a Dare10 Truths and a Dare by Ashley Elston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With 10 Truths and a Dare, Ashely Elston returns the Reader to the loving, yet chaotic, Messina family. You may recall them from Elston’s 2019-release, 10 Blind Dates.

In this installment, we follow Olivia, one of the cousins, at the very end of her Senior year in high school. In fact, there is just a week to go until graduation.

Olivia has always taken school very seriously, so it is no surprise to anyone that she will be graduating second in her class.

As Salutatorian, she will be giving the welcome speech at the graduation ceremony. It’s kind of a big deal.

What does come as a surprise to Olivia, is the email she receives from the school, saying her off-campus PE teacher never filled out the paperwork needed to show she completed her golf class.

Meaning, without that course officially completed, she is a half-credit short of the credits she will need to graduate!

Olivia cannot believe it. There has to be a mistake. Everything she has worked so hard for can all be taken away from her because of golf!?

She needs to get in touch with her PE teacher, Coach Cantu, in order to clear this up. Otherwise, she will never be able to enjoy all the graduation parties she has to attend this week.

After talking with the coach, it’s clear, she needs extra credit and the only way to get it, is by helping him with the 4-day golf tournament occurring that week.

Olivia needs to hide all of this from her parents, who are luckily out of town, but her Mom tracks her like a police dog. She literally has a tracking app on her phone.

Making matters worse, her Mom knows her graduation party schedule and is really excited for it. How can Olivia possibly be in two places at once?

She’s going to have to call in reinforcements. The other members of the Fab Four, her cousins, Charlie and Sophie, as well as their other best friend, Sophie’s boyfriend, Wes, agree to help and get Olivia through the week.

As with 10 Blind Dates, this story is full of wacky hijinks, romance, humor and touching family moments.

I laughed, cried and felt a whole host of emotions in between. I adored the dynamic of the Fab Four. They really go all in to help Olivia through, what turns out to be, the most difficult week of her life.

The narrative is so fast-paced. I completed it in under 24-hours. Once I started, I could not put it down. I had to know the conclusion.

While this story focused more on the Fab Four, and less on the extended family members, I didn’t mind that at all. The other family was still there around the periphery, bringing that classic Messina family chaos that I grew to love in the first book.

I hope Elston writes more books following this family. Could there be a book for Charlie in the works?

I highly recommend this, or any other book by Ashley Elston, actually. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next. Also, be sure you read the Author’s Note at the end of this.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate the opportunity to provide my thoughts and opinion.

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