Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good IndiansThe Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brutal. Haunting. Visceral.

Ten years ago, Lewis, Ricky, Gabe and Cass, did something on the last day of hunting season that they will ultimately live to regret.

They knew it was technically wrong, felt it at the time, but spurred on by each other and the adrenaline of the hunt, went against their better judgement anyway.

Close to the ten year anniversary of the event that came to be known as the Thanksgiving Classic, Lewis, now living far from the reservation, begins to be haunted by images of that day.

When a new work colleague, a Crow woman, reaches out to him and a loose friendship begins, Lewis confides in her, thinking she’ll understand.

From there, sh*t hits the proverbial haunted ceiling fan pretty quickly.

This is my first novel by Stephen Graham Jones and to say I was impressed would be putting it very mildly.

His writing has such a texture and grit. Oftentimes you are waiting for a novel to take it all the way and it never does. This one goes the distance.

It is bloody, brutal, fast-paced, genuine and horrifying. The nature of the storytelling feels so classic and traditional whilst also being cutting edge.

The only issue I had while reading it, which is completely a personal taste issue and nothing to do with the quality of the writing or story, was a lot of the animal content was hard for me to make it through.

While this is a personal taste issue, I still rate books I read based upon my reading experience and I had to be honest that those scenes did bother me.

With this being said, I will mention that I do not think in anyway that the author threw those scenes in recklessly. They definitely served a purpose in the narrative. I get it.

Overall, I think this is a purposeful, creative and engaging horror story. I will absolutely be picking up anything else SGJ writes.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Gallery / Saga Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. It will haunt me for a long time to come!

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Review: Shadow Garden by Alexandra Burt

Shadow GardenShadow Garden by Alexandra Burt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

A compulsively readable novel of Domestic Suspense!

This novel begins with Donna Pryor introducing us to the mysterious Shadow Garden property. A place her estranged husband has chosen for her to live.

A living community that feels more like a fortress where wealthy people go when no one else wants them. Donna feels abandoned by her family and confused at how she ended up at this point.

Her husband Edward, although they are not divorced, is no longer taking her calls and she hasn’t heard from her adult daughter, Penelope, in months.

She does have her dedicated housekeeper, Marleen, but that’s a small conciliation prize when one is missing their family.

Donna begins to feel like something isn’t right at Shadow Garden. What are these pills Marleen keeps giving her? Why won’t Edward or Penelope talk to her?

She feels like maybe they are mad at her, but she can’t recall why. Her life feels like a giant black hole of distant memories, one she is slowly sinking into.

Following three different perspectives: Donna, Edward and Penelope, this novel pieces together the story of their life and their downfall.

I found this story so addicting. While not the most believable plot, there was still something about it that kept me glued to the pages.

It sort of felt like reading a Lifetime movie. It’s not going to win any awards, but it’s definitely an entertaining way to spend an afternoon!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me a copy of this read and review. I truly appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion!

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Review: The Safe Place by Anna Downes

The Safe PlaceThe Safe Place by Anna Downes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A strong debut Thriller, engrossing and intense!

Emily is down on her luck, wishing for rescue, as a white knight comes charging through to save her.

By white knight, I mean a very wealthy man, Scott Denny, Emily’s former boss, who offers her an unusual opportunity she cannot turn down.

Before she knows it, Em is being whisked off to the coast of France to live in a Guest Cottage at the Denny’s secluded waterfront estate, Querencia.

Scott’s mysterious wife, Nina, lives there with their young daughter, Aurelia. While the job description is foggy, Emily assumes she is part-housekeeper, part-nanny.

And while she does perform a large amount of upkeep and renovation projects, as the days pass, it begins to seem she is more of a companion for Nina than anything else.

They sit by the pool, drink wine, play with Aurelia. It’s a dream job. Until it’s not.

This book really intrigued me. For the first 60%, I could not figure out where it was going. Obviously, something was amiss, it’s a Thriller, but what was it?

Was Scott up to something? Was Nina? Aurelia seemed a little strange, was she possessed? What about Emily? An unreliable narrator if ever there was one, right?

Then at 60%, there was one sentence, one sentence that made every single puzzle piece fall into place for me. It was so glaringly obvious to me after that what was actually going on.

While I don’t believe that is where I was suppose to figure it all out, as looking back, it was a fairly mundane sentence, I did and it sort of sucked a little of the joy out of it for me.

But, just a little. Overall, I did have a ton of fun reading this. It was quite intense towards the end.

Even though the characters might not have made the choices I would have made, I was satisfied with the conclusion. It felt complete.

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

I definitely think it will end up being one of the hottest Thrillers of the summer. Available now!!!

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Review: The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

The Good Luck Girls (The Good Luck Girls, #1)The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the country of Arketta, young girls sometimes get sold to ‘Welcome Houses’ by impoverished families.

The families are told the girls will be well-cared for and they pull a good price. Additionally, it’s one less mouth for the family to feed.

While it’s true, the girls have a roof over their heads, clothing and food, let’s not beat around the bush here, they’re sex slaves.

Keep in mind, this isn’t blatantly expressed on the page, but they are living in brothels, run by a Madame, being frequented by wealthy men with money to spend on pleasure.

Initially, when the girls are too young to service the patrons, they provide general labor around the house.

When they finally come of age, their first night with a patron is called their ‘Lucky Night’. It’s a big deal with everyone prepping the girl to look her finest.

Once she is ready, into a room she goes to await her client, and her fate.

Our story opens on Clementine’s Lucky Night. She’s nervous, but with an older sister, Aster, already at the Good Luck Girls stage, she’s ready to join her and the more easy lifestyle she believes comes with it.

When her night doesn’t go as planned, and the patron ends up dead, Clementine seeks out her sister for help. Aster knows they need to run or Clementine will be killed herself.

Unbeknownst to them, some of the other girls aren’t happy at the Welcome House either and they want to go with. They’re fed up and they’re not going to take it anymore.

The Good Luck Girls took me by surprise. I had no idea what it was about going in and I ended up really getting into it.

I loved the sort of Western-feel setting and the light fantasy elements sprinkled throughout.

There is a lot of action and the characters were engaging. I wanted the girls to find safety wherever they could.

I also enjoyed the relationships among the girls and the people they met along the way. They basically were following clues held in a bedtime story that they felt was the secret to their freedom.

Overall, I felt this was a unique story. It was well-written and kept me coming back for more. I read it so quickly.

If Charlotte Nicole Davis releases more stories in this world, I will definitely be reading them!

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Review: Evermore (Everless #2) by Sara Holland

Evermore (Everless, #2)Evermore by Sara Holland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have done it. I have finally completed another duology!

I feel so accomplished.

After the events of Everless, Jules Ember finds herself with a bounty on her head.

She’s now on the run with Liam Gerling still at her side. The stakes are high as Jules scrambles to uncover the secrets of her past in order to save her future.

We learn more about the lore of the Alchemist and the Sorceress and how that lore affects the current land of Everless.

The ultimate game of good versus evil is afoot. Who will reign victorious?

Unfortunately, while I think this is a solid YA Fantasy story, for me, it wasn’t overly exciting or particularly memorable.

With this being said, I think for readers who are just breaking into YA Fantasy, this may be a good place to start. For veteran readers of the genre, however, it may seem a bit formulaic.

In spite of not being blown away, I do feel that Sara Holland is a creative and lush writer. I will continue to read more from her in the future even though this duology wasn’t a favorite for me.

Again, I think for younger readers, or for individuals looking to get more into the YA Fantasy genre, this would be a great place to start.

The storyline is easy to follow and the action compelling. If you read the synopsis and it intrigues you, you should absolutely give it a shot!

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Review: Wonderland by Zoje Stage

WonderlandWonderland by Zoje Stage
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Upon her retirement from a professional ballet company in New York City, Orla is ready to settle in to care for her two sensitive children, Eleanor Queen and Tycho, while her artist husband gets his chance to focus on his work.

Her husband, Shaw, has handled most of the child-rearing up to this point, as Orla’s career required long hours outside of the home.

The couple decide to move to Northern New York, an area closer to where Shaw grew up.

They are thinking the open space and slower lifestyle will be good for the children. Plus, the beauty of nature is really what Shaw wants to encapsulate with his art.

They decide on a beautiful old farmhouse with plenty of acreage, far from neighbors, or even a town. It’s already the holiday season and snow covers the ground, giving the children something exciting to focus on.

It seems to be exactly what they wanted, until it’s not.

The seclusion quickly gets to them and mysterious events start occurring on the property, like the appearance of the Aurora Borealis, 10-feet of snow falling in one night, and the trees seem to be creeping closer to the house.

Additionally, Shaw and Eleanor Queen both seem to be channeling some sort energy from the woods. It’s all a bit overwhelming.

When things turn dangerous, Orla must do whatever she can to protect her family from the entity trying to trap them.

Dark and dangerous, this book explores some weighty and thought-provoking subjects.

Wonderland is a slow burn and one that you need some time to think about. I think the longer I sit with this, the more I will grow to appreciate it.

The quality of Stage’s writing, cannot be denied. I love it, but also realize this book will not be for everyone.

I do feel the end dragged on a bit more than it needed too and began to feel monotonous because of that.

Overall though, I think this is a wildly creative and thoughtful story. I will keep coming back for anything she writes.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Mulholland Books, for providing me a copy to read and review. I genuinely appreciate it!

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Review: Recursion by Blake Crouch

RecursionRecursion by Blake Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel like I am waking from a fever dream.

Recursion. Wow.

The possibility of this type of scenario in a future world is terrifying. Can you even imagine?

Maybe you don’t know what Recursion is about. Honestly, I am not sure I can adequately summarize it.

Basically, this novel follows two characters, Helena Smith and Barry Sutton.

Helena is a neuroscientist who is dedicated to creating a technology that will save our memories. Her mother is losing a battle with dementia and all Helena wants to do is help her before it is too late.

She gets recruited to work for a private company, but when her work goes too well, she’s afraid of the repercussions if the technology should fall into the wrong hands.

And, oh baby, is she ever right!

Barry is a New York City cop, who, when he can no longer ignore its significance, begins to investigate a phenomenon known as False Memory Syndrome, or FMS.

FMS is so powerful, it is causing a significant number of people to take their own lives. It is a mystery as to what the cause of the syndrome is, but Barry is hoping he will be able to uncover it.

When we begin following Barry and Helena, they are in different timelines, but eventually, those converge and a partnership develops.

Helena essentially helps Barry, by filling in a lot of missing pieces to his investigation.

This was such a wild ride. No one does temporal stories like Blake Crouch. The shifting timelines, the examination of time as a construct, dimension, however you want to describe it, it’s amazing to read.

Recursion left me reeling. A Neuroscientific Thriller for the record books. I am so glad I finally made the time for this one. It was hella fun!

I did get confused a bit as it starts racing to the conclusion. There were a lot of jumps and perspectives to try to remember and recall.

I think partly, that may have been because, it got so intense, I was reading really quickly. I needed to know what the heck was going to happen.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just makes it hard to let every detail sink in and I think this is a very detail-oriented story.

If you liked Dark Matter like I did, you should definitely check this one out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Write on, Crouch! I can’t wait to see what he whips up next!!

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Review: The Shadows by Alex North

The ShadowsThe Shadows by Alex North
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Paul Adams was a teenager, a classmate of his was quite brutally murdered. Paul was arrested and accused of the murder.

His mother, who knew her son was innocent, fought like a dog to regain his freedom. Paul was innocent, but who were the real culprits?

It turns out that two of Paul’s one-time friends, Billy and Charlie Crabtree, were the killers. Of the two, Charlie was definitely the leader. Billy went to prison and Charlie, subsequently, disappeared into the local woods, known as The Shadows.

Having suffered enough in the public spotlight of his village, Paul moves away as soon as he can, leaving his mother behind. He doesn’t return for 25-years.

He only returns after receiving word that his mother, who is in poor health and suffering from dementia, has taken a fall and is now being kept in a nursing facility.

As you can imagine, returning to the village he fled so many years before, stirs up a lot of memories and emotions. Making matters worse, a copycat crime has been committed, bringing the brutal violence of the past to a whole new generation.

As with, The Whisper Man, I really enjoyed North’s writing and the way he chose to format the story.

We follow a couple different perspectives, as well as past and present timelines. I just feel like he makes such clever choices with his storytelling and I’m down for it.

There were definitely moments I didn’t see coming, as well as some solid red herrings.

I wasn’t crazy about the conclusion to some of the mysteries held within the story, but that is purely personal preference. It is no way a reflection on the skill of the writing or the book itself. There were just a couple of things, I personally wish would have wrapped-up differently.

Overall, this is a fun, creepy read. I love the is it paranormal, is it not paranormal feel that North brings to his work. That’s how I live my life and I love it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Celadon Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. It was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint!

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Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Home Before DarkHome Before Dark by Riley Sager
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

RILEY SAGER!!!

He has done it again, and actually, I think this is his best work yet!!!

Loved. Loved. Loved.

Perhaps I should throw together some coherent thoughts? Yeah, let’s try.

Upon the death of her father, Maggie Holt, is shocked to discover she has just inherited Baneberry Hall, the allegedly haunted mansion her and her parents abandoned some 25-years earlier.

Quite literally fleeing in the middle of the night, her parents refused to ever return to the property. Her father then published a best-selling non-fiction account of their time there. As you do.

For Maggie’s part, she remembers nothing of her time at Baneberry. Of course, she was just 5-years old and apparently her little mind wiped the slate clean after they departed.

She has read her father’s book, House of Horrors, numerous times, but doesn’t believe a word of it. Her parents, whose relationship didn’t survive the Book, wouldn’t tell her anything, even though she pleaded with them frequently to do so.

Returning all these years later, Maggie hopes to piece together a bit of the truth while she is renovating the home for sale.

As soon as she steps foot on the Baneberry property, however, she’s knows it is not going to be as easy as she had hoped.

Alternating between Maggie’s current perspective and full chapters from House of Horrors was an absolutely delightful way to read this story. I loved how Sager set that up.

The pacing was perfection!

I was so engaged with this throughout. It got into my mind.

I was racing towards the conclusion trying to discover how much of House of Horrors was the truth.

Baneberry Hall was such a presence in the story. It was ominous and creepy AF.

I can’t imagine being Maggie and actually staying there on my own!

Home Before Dark is without a doubt going to be on my top books of the year list!

If you haven’t read anything by Sager yet and are wondering where to start, I highly recommend giving this one a shot. I think it is a perfect example of his style.

If you have read Sager before, and are a fan, what are you waiting for!?

I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next!

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Flashback Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

AllegedlyAllegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

Hello, my lovely book friends! Today I thought I would bring you a Flashback review. I originally read and reviewed this novel back in September 2018.

Why am I bringing it up again, you may be wondering?

That’s easy. Because I love this book and still think about it to this day. Also, this novel introduced me to one of my FAVORITE YA Contemporary authors. Tiffany D. Jackson’s writing takes me places and I love every minute of it. Read my full thoughts below and I hope, if you haven’t already, you’ll seriously consider picking up some of Jackson’s work!

Allegedly was Tiffany D. Jackson’s debut novel!?

Yeah, think on that for a while. This. Is. A. Debut.

I am still reeling from this book. It’s one of those stories that sticks with you long after you turn the final page.

Following teenage protagonist, Mary Addison, after she is released from ‘Baby Jail.‘, she now resides in a group home and is trying to adapt to surroundings.

Mary Addison entered Baby Jail after being accused, and prosecuted, for killing a baby that she was helping her mother take care of.

Allegedly.

The majority of the book is stream of consciousness narrative, which generally is hit or miss for me. This is a definite hit and how it should be done.

It was incredibly moving to hear Mary’s remembrances of various parts of her childhood, her challenging relationship with her mentally ill mother, and of her alleged crime.

The rest of the book cleverly fills in the blanks with an excellent assortment of mixed media sources, such as police interviews and court transcripts.

I thought the blending of these two styles together was executed perfectly to reveal the truth at the heart of the story.

The thing I appreciated most about this book was the way it reflected upon the juvenile justice system. Shining a much needed light on the hopelessness and desperation these kids experience, not to mention the general systematic failures.

Behind every case number, inmate number and statistic, is a story. This is just one.

Mary Addison is a whip-smart, mixed race girl, who struggles with low feelings of self-worth and faces a boatload of obstacles.

Her codependency with her mother and her mental illness was so raw. I truly felt for this girl. I was drawn into her story. It was such a struggle to get through some sections, but completely worth it.

It was so well done that at times, I would be so wrapped up, I had to remind myself that Mary Addison is FICTION. Sadly, for a lot of kids out there, too many kids, this story is all too real.

I did listen to the audiobook for this and DAMN, Bahni Turpin can make you feel all the feels. She is so talented and truly brought the story to life for me. I was listening to Mary as far as I was concerned. I could not recommend this audiobook highly enough.

Loved it, loved it, loved it!

Tiffany D. Jackson is one hell of a writer!

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