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: Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3) by Martha Wells

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries, #3)Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rogue Protocol is the third book within The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells.

I picked this series up on a whim last year and quickly fell in love with Murderbot and Martha Wells’ humorous writing style. It draws you in right away!

In this installment we rejoin Murderbot on its continued hunt for answers regarding its violent past.

It ends up on another mission, this time heading to a terraforming facility once run by the mysterious and sinister GrayCris Corporation.

More humans are involved; there mucky things up for our beloved Murderbot, yet again. It also needs to befriend, or intelligently influence, another AI. This time a tragically adorable, human-form companion robot named, Miki.

Miki’s entire personality was exploding with cute. I loved their interactions; so pure.

As usual, there was a lot of action, more betrayals and corporate cover-ups. It also ended much too quickly, although this one definitely crushed my heart a little bit there at the end. Not going to lie.

Why did I have to be listening to it before I had even had my first coffee of the day?

Sadness aside, I can’t quit Murderbot! I’m excited to continue on with their story.

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Review: Love & Olives (Love & Gelato #3) by Jenna Evans Welch

Love & Olives (Love & Gelato, #3)Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jenna Evans Welch has done it again. I absolutely loved my time spent reading Love & Olives.

This brought back the tone, humor, heart and gut-punching familial relationships of Love & Gelato. I’m so happy.

Liv Varanakis is surprised when she receives a postcard from her father asking her to travel to Greece to stay with him. He needs her help with a mystery project; something involving the lost city of Atlantis.

Honestly, Liv has been trying to forget her Dad. She has had little, to no, contact with him since he left when she was only 8-years old.

He returned to his native-country, Greece, and her and her mom were forced to make ends meet without him. It wasn’t always easy, but her mom has since remarried and she even has a half-brother now, who she adores.

She has to go though. Her Mom is making her go. It’ll be fine. Even though she has to miss her boyfriend’s Senior Trip; it’ll be fine.

Arriving on the beautiful island of Santorini, Liv’s nerves begin to get the best of her. She has no idea what to expect. Will she and her Dad even get along?

Things get off to a bit of a rocky start when a strange boy shows up in her Dad’s place to pick her up from the airport. Should she even trust this person?

He claims his name is Theo and that he works for her father. It’s like something out of a movie. She’s pretty sure she shouldn’t just go with him. She’s seen, Taken.

This story is an absolute delight. The Reader gets to follow along as Liv and her father try to repair their broken relationship. She gets to live in his book shop, with Theo, and their relationship blossoms as well.

Central to the story is the mystery of the lost city of Atlantis and the documentary film her father is making on the subject. Liv, an artist, is put in charge filming, a task she excels at.

The story is told through Liv’s perspective and it is full of humor. She has such a sarcastic, honest view of the events; it’s hilarious to read.

I loved the interactions between characters and how Welch incorporated some heavier topics throughout. Liv really grows over the course of the story. Watching her relationship with her father change, as she learns more about him, and about herself, was really lovely.

I have read some reviews where people commented on the length of the story; that it is too long. It is long, over 500-pages for a YA Contemporary, but looking back on it, I cannot think of one scene that I would have removed.

For me, every detail was needed in order to become as attached to Liv and her story as I did. Personally, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Ultimately, I am so glad I picked this up. I didn’t have the greatest experience with Love & Luck, but I knew what Welch was capable of because of Love & Gelato.

I actually think this story is my favorite out of the three. Liv is my favorite protagonist, combined with the Atlantis lore and the documentary aspect, makes this a near perfect book for me.

As one of my favorite BookTubers always says, 10 out of 10, recommend! Let Greece sweep you away!

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Review: Amari and the Night Brothers (Supernatural Investigations #1) by B.B. Alston

Amari and the Night BrothersAmari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yes, yes, yes!!! Middle Grade Fantasy at its best!!!

I love Amari. I love the world. I love the magic system and humbly request at least ten volumes for this series.

Is that too much to ask? I think if you pick it up, you’d agree.

13-year old, Amari Peters, lives with her Mom in the Rosewood housing project. She had an older brother, Quinton, who was smart, fun and brave. He meant a lot to Amari. He was her best friend.

Quinton has gone missing and Amari doesn’t understand why it isn’t a bigger deal. Why isn’t it on the news? Why do the police act like if something happened to him, it was probably because he was up to no good?

Amari knows better. She doesn’t care what they insinuate about him, Quinton is the best person she knows and she is going to find out what happened to him, whether others believe her, or not.

Upon arriving home after an especially trying day, Amari is surprised by a visitor who gives her a clue that may help; the answer to which lies in a briefcase hidden in her missing brother’s closet.

She can’t believe what she finds. The Bureau of Supernatural Affairs? Is this for real?

Quinton has nominated her for a try-out? The prospect is sort of scary, but Amari knows this may be her best, perhaps only chance, of getting to the bottom of her brother’s disappearance. She’s got to go.

Thus begins Amari’s introduction to the hidden supernatural world around her. She also discovers the power within herself.

Under the guise of attending a ‘leadership camp’, Amari is able to stay at the Vanderbilt Hotel with the other Bureau trainees. There she is fully immersed in learning, training and competing. Did you hear that? Learning, training and competing.

It’s a MAGIC SCHOOL trope! I know, it’s called ‘camp’, but it’s a magic school, only one of the best tropes ever created.

The Reader learns along with Amari the ins-and-outs of the world and magic system. The good guys, the bad guys, the history. It’s all beautifully constructed and paced out.

I was totally engrossed in this while reading it. As first books in a series go, this is top notch. It definitely left me wanting more and I can’t wait to see how Amari grows in future books.

If you are looking for that good old-fashioned, kid discovering they are actually part of a magical world, then learns about it, competes within it, and fights evil forces, kind of book, you NEED to pick this up. There’s not even an option.

You can thank me later.

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Review: The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon

The Drowning KindThe Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sisters, Jax and Lexie, the x-girls, were fairly close when they were growing up. They spent every summer at their Grandmother’s property in Vermont and have a lot of great memories from that time.

Lexie, the older of the two, was different than Jax, however, in a lot of ways. Lexie was more like their father, flighty, free-spirited and at times, manic.

The older the girls got, the more apparent the differences in their personalities became. It was clear that Lexie’s mental health was not well. She struggled to remain rooted in reality. It became a real problem for her.

Jax was always the more grounded of the two. She followed the rules, excelled in school and became a social worker. Over the past year, she’s also been estranged from her sister.

When Jax receives nine calls from Lexie one night, none of which she answers, she assumes her sister is just having another one of her episodes.

The increasingly frantic messages Lexie leaves don’t even make sense. Jax isn’t dealing with it. Not her problem.

The following day Jax receives news that Lexie is dead; drowned in the pool on their Grandmother’s estate, Sparrow’s Crest, which Lexie had inherited.

Jax is shocked. Why didn’t she pick up the phone when Lexie called? Heart-broken and full of regret, Jax makes the journey to Vermont to bury her sister and settled up her affairs.

Once there, reunited with family, including her Aunt and Father, Jax discovers that Lexie had been researching the history of their family and the property.

It turns out Sparrow’s Crest has a dark past and it could possibly be linked to Lexie’s death. Jax dives into the research herself, mostly centering around the property’s infamous pool and the natural spring it is fed from.

As with Jennifer McMahon’s other stories, The Drowning Kind follows two timelines. The present, mentioned above, and then a historical perspective focusing on the history of the property.

The more the Reader learns from the historical perspective, the more the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place for Jax. It is such a spectacular format. The pace is excellent!

I have found that sometimes when an author tries this dual timeline format, one of the perspectives will be more interesting than the other. Because of that, you rush through one perspective in order to return to the other.

That is definitely not the case here. Both the present and past timelines are equally foreboding and intriguing. I was fully committed to both.

Another aspect of McMahon’s work that I always enjoy is her sense of place. Sparrow’s Crest is a character. It is so well developed, you can almost hear it talking to you.

The idea that places remember, that pieces of history live on through the land and the structures upon them. I love that whole concept and it is tangible within this story.

In short, this is a phenomenally constructed multi-generational ghost story that will stick with me for a long time.

The ending, chills. Exceptionally well done. I can certainly say I didn’t see it coming!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Simon & Schuster Audio, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I highly recommend it and cannot wait to see what McMahon comes up with next!

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Review: Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2) by Martha Wells

Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2)Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Artificial Condition, the second installment of The Murderbot Diaries, we reunite with everyone’s favorite Sec Unit, Murderbot.

Murderbot is curious about its past, having been involved in an incident at a mining facility, which left a lot of humans dead. It has only vague recollections of that time and has a strong need to know more.

Recently setting out on its own, with no ties to any human, it now has the time to seek answers.

Making a new acquaintance, an AI, who it calls ART, the two, when not binging media shows together, set to work preparing Murderbot for the next steps.

It alters itself a bit, in order to pass as a human, and accepts an assignment as a security consultant. Its new clients are a group of computer scientists, who had their work stolen from a previous employer.

They want to negotiate to get it back. This assignment will take Murderbot exactly where it wants to go.

Yet again, it struggles with, dare I say, emotions where its human charges are concerned. It is the most soft-hearted Security Unit in all the galaxy; although it can definitely slay when it needs to.

There’s corruption, there’s evil entities, there’s action, there’s humor and whole lot of heart.

I adored the interactions between Murderbot and ART. Just the sweetest moments.

If I wasn’t so terribly frightened of the possibilities for AI, I would want one myself.

Overall, this was a highly entertaining novella and I cannot wait to carry on with this series.

Martha Wells has an incredible style and I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a fun, fast-paced Science Fiction series!!

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Review: The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, Edited by Jesmyn Ward

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about RaceThe Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race by Jesmyn Ward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Powerful, powerful, powerful!!!

This is an incredibly moving collection of essays speaking to race, humanity, human rights, family, identity and the Black experience in America, both historical and present-day.

Easily, one of the best collections of this type that I have ever read; each author/artist/thinker wrote with such strength and grace. I could not put this down once I started.

Each of these essays/stories/poems are thought-provoking, heart-felt, captivating, well-written, distinct and incredibly important. I highly recommend picking this one up. The audiobook is fantastic as well!!

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Review: Girl Gone Viral (Modern Love #2) by Alisha Rai

Girl Gone Viral (Modern Love, #2)Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Girl Gone Viral is the second book in Alisha Rai’s, Modern Love series. This is an Adult Romance series with just the right level of steaminess for me.

In this installment we follow Katrina King, who many of you may remember as Rhiannon’s silent partner and roommate from The Right Swipe.

Katrina is a kind-hearted, super wealthy, ex-model with extreme anxiety and panic disorder.

After years of seclusion, she has just recently made a commitment to start reengaging with the outside world. She has a couple of places she feels safe at, one being a local coffee shop she has come to love.

It is on one of her visits to this shop, on a busy day, that a man asks if he can sit at her table. She says yes and they chat amicably for a short while.

When he asks her for a date, however, she turns him down and that is the end of the encounter. At least as far as Kat is concerned.

Unfortunately, another patron watched the whole thing and posted it online. Thus, a viral #meetcute was born.

To Kat’s horror, the man involved comes forward and acts like they are now in a relationship. This is way too much attention and Kat’s worst fears and anxieties are triggered.

She needs an escape and luckily, her hot bodyguard and friend, Jas Singh, is right there to save her.

Upon Kat’s request, he whisks her away to his family’s peach farm to stay in a little house he owns, yet rarely visits. They plan to hide out there until this whole mess blows over.

This book was so stinking cute. I loved both Kat and Jas. Watching their relationship evolve; it was everything.

I thought Rai wrote Samson, from The Right Swipe, as irresistible, but I actually loved Jas, and his quiet protective presence, even more!!!

Again there was quite a bit of serious subject matter included, with Kat’s anxiety and family issues, as well as Jas’s PTSD and equally troublesome family issues.

I like that Rai includes that. Her characters are always working through something. They’re not perfect, they have flaws just like the rest of us and I think that makes these stories extra relatable.

I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, which follows Kat and Rhiannon’s new roommate, Jia.

I actually hope Rai continues on with this series. As long as she writes them, I’ll be reading them!

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Review: None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney

None Shall SleepNone Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Emma Lewis is a rare survivor of a serial killer. She was actually held hostage by him for days prior to her escape.

Travis Bell is a U.S. Marshall candidate, whose father lost his life in the line of duty at the hands of a serial killer.

In addition to these odd circumstances, they are also both extremely intelligent. It’s because of all of this, the FBI decides to recruit Emma and Bell to interview juvenile killers and provide insight on cold cases.

The theory is that teen killers will be more willing to open up to other teens, as opposed to stiff old, fuddy-duddy FBI agents.

Both Bell and Emma agree to the assignment within the Behavioral Sciences Unit and move into the dorms at Quantico. They begin training with other recruits and start their teen killer interviews.

The first interview ends up going better than expected. The killer does seem to be more receptive to them and opens up about his crimes and motivations.

Concurrently, the BSU is working on an active, high-profile serial killer case where all of the victims are teenagers.

Trying to get to the bottom of this case, and catch the killer before another teen is killed, the BSU decides to turn to infamous teen killer, Simon Gutmunsson, for help.

Emma ends up interviewing Simon alone and this is where the strong The Silence of the Lambs vibes begin.

Emma and Simon’s relationship is very Clarice and Hannibal. The more they talk, the more Simon is able to draw out of Emma. Details she should not be confessing to him under any circumstances.

Simon is a masterful manipulator, who could strike with zero provocation.

Simon is revealing a lot to Emma as well and it begins to seem that he has a connection to the current case, but how?

This story was super intriguing from the very first chapter. Emma and Bell were both great characters to get to know.

Because of their history of trauma, they were both working through the effects of that; deciding how they wanted their lives to go. Channeling their pain into potential good for others, instead of letting it hold them back.

They hit it off right away and bonded quickly. I thought that made sense. They were the only people in that position, going through the same things. They had no one else.

Watching their relationship evolve over the course of the book seemed so natural. I am attached to them now and genuinely hope this is not the last we see of their characters.

I also loved all the scenes with Simon. He was chilling, much like Hannibal Lecter before him. The audiobook had incredibly creepy narration for his portions, so highly recommend that.

The cat-and-mouse interactions between Simon and Emma were so well-written. Additionally, Simon has a family member who plays a role in this story and their relationship was equally disturbing.

Overall, I thought this was an exceptionally tense and well-plotted YA Thriller.

Highly recommend to anyone who enjoys shows like Criminal Minds, or Mindhunter, as well as The Silence of the Lambs!!

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Review: The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

The Right Swipe (Modern Love, #1)The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rhiannon Hunter is a successful business woman with one thing on her mind. Her career.

Rhiannon is the founder, creator and CEO of a successful dating app, but she is looking to expand.

She has her sights set on a rival company whose just lost one of their founders. The remaining owner, Annabelle, seems like she could be persuaded to sell, if Rhi could come up with just the right pitch.

Samson Lima is a former pro-football player, who happens to be the nephew of Annabelle.

He also happens to be the hot guy that Rhi hooked up with one magical night. He subsequently ghosted her.

So when Rhi spots him at an industry event, she runs. This is the last person she ever wants to see again!

When Samson and Rhi are forced to work together, however, sparks begin to fly once again. Privately, of course. Neither one of them is about to communicate what they are feeling.

In the beginning, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to connect with this. Rhi felt too rigid, but once I learned more about her character, her behavior began to make a lot of sense.

In fact, she became relatable and by the end, I absolutely adored her.

Samson, I loved right from the start, but I think Rai made him fairly irresistible. His relationship with his Aunt was so fun to read.

Actually, all of his relationships were pretty great. His friend group is definitely goals. So cute.

As with many Adult Romances, the drama mainly revolves around miscommunications and misconnections, which I know for a lot of people can be frustrating.

I think Rai did a great job though of resolving things in a timely manner. I never felt like I wanted to beat my head against a wall, so that’s a plus.

Also, can we all agree that verbalizing desires and consent is sexy AF?

The steamy scenes were great. There were just enough to add that extra-pearl clutching factor without diminishing the other serious subplots.

I love football, so thought it was nice to see the issue of CTE, and the league’s initial reaction to it, spotlighted here. Samson’s life was filled with individuals impacted by the degenerative brain disease and I thought that was displayed so well.

I also love business, so Rhi’s issues were equally as interesting to me. Overall, I felt it was a very well-rounded story.

I’m so excited to continue on with Rai’s, Modern Love series. This definitely exceeded my expectations.

I believe the next story follows Rhi’s silent partner, and sometimes roommate, Katrina. I’m looking forward to it!!

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