Rereading The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

The Winter PeopleThe Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

I am sticking with my original rating of 4.5-stars, rounded down. There’s something about the final few chapters of this one that gets a bit convoluted for me.

I do still think the atmosphere in this is top-notch. Also, I love how McMahon formats her stories. The way she is able to blend historical perspectives with the present; chef’s kiss.

I’m super stoked for their 2022-release, The Children on the Hill, said to be inspired by Frankenstein!!!

Earlier:

Rereading with, you guessed it, my fabulous niece, Alyssa.
I recommended this book to her, so feel it’s only fair that I read it along with her.

I am so excited to be revisiting this one. I have recommended it to countless people since I originally read it in 2019. I have a feeling it’s going to be a full 5-star experience this time around.

Original:

**4.5-stars**

In 1908, Sara Harrison Shea lost her daughter under tragic circumstances. Unsurprisingly, Sara was racked by grief and unable to move forward.

She would do anything to bring her daughter back.

In the present, Ruthie’s mom has gone missing. It seems she simply walked out of their house, into the surrounding Vermont woods, and disappeared.

With no note, and no signs of a struggle, Ruthie is forced to care for her creepy little sister whilst investigating the mystery of her mother’s sudden departure.

What Ruthie doesn’t know is that she is living in the very same house once occupied by Sara Harrison Shea. Is that mere coincidence, or is her mother’s disappearance related to that fact?

When she comes across parts of Sara’s diary hidden in the old farmhouse, she discovers that sometimes the past really can come back to haunt you.

Following both past and present timelines, this eerie tale is filled with an overwhelming feeling of dread.

I feel like Winter is the absolute perfect season to read this book!

When it gets dark early, when it’s cold, when the wind blows long and loud into the night. The atmosphere is richly developed and absolutely my favorite part of the story.

I went into this book completely blind, only knowing that quite a few of my book friends have loved it.

I was impressed with McMahon’s writing. She has a very strong Horror voice and I definitely look forward to reading more of her works.

I feel like with this one now under my belt, I know more what to expect from her, and I’m damned pumped for it.

There were a few issues I had with the storyline. Nothing major, but just things I wish would have had more information, or context.

The use of diary entries was well done and as always, I felt that made me feel more a part of the story; like I was investigating it myself.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one and would recommend it. If you like a ghost stories with a dark and ominous atmosphere, you should definitely check this one out!

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Review: The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell

The Night She DisappearedThe Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

In 2019, 19-year old Tallulah heads out on a date with her live-in boyfriend, Zach. The young couple have a beautiful baby boy, Noah, so don’t get to spend a lot of time alone together.

Kim, Tallulah’s Mom, who the kids live with, is happy to sit Noah for the night. Tallulah works so hard going to college and being a Mom, she deserves a nice night out.

Later that night, Kim receives a text from Tallulah that she is heading to the home of one of her friend’s from college. Kim tells her to enjoy. She’s happy Tallulah is letting loose for once.

But as the sun rises the next day and Tallulah still isn’t home, Kim begins to worry. Not returning home, and not notifying Kim as to why, is far from typical behavior for rule-following Tallulah.

Calling Tallulah’s friends, Kim quickly discovers no one knows where she is. Now Kim knows for sure, she feels it in her gut, something has happened to Tallulah.

In 2018, Sophie moves with her boyfriend, Shaun, to the campus of a boarding school in Tallulah’s hometown, where he will be the new head teacher.

Sophie, a Murder Mystery writer by trade, learns early on of some local missing persons cases and becomes interested.

After she finds what appears to be a clue to one of those cold cases, she begins her own investigation. The case in question, that of Tallulah and Zach.

This intriguing mystery novel follows multiple perspectives as past and present begin to merge. I was gripped from the very first chapter. Jewell immediately pulled me in.

My fabulous niece, Alyssa, and I actually Buddy Read this one together. We had a great time discussing various theories and plot points along the way.

The way Jewell structured this was so clever. Getting Tallulah’s perspective, in addition to Kim’s and Sophie’s, it built-out the truth of Tallulah’s ill-fated night on the town in such an interesting way.

I loved Tallulah as a character. She seemed so real to me. What she was going through, feeling and experiencing in early motherhood and with her relationship with Zach, it was very compelling and I felt myself growing quite attached to her.

Getting to know her friend group and the various players involved in the disappearance was extremely addicting. There were some bad actors, that’s for sure.

Sophie’s investigation also drew me in. Y’all know, an amateur sleuth is one of my favorite tropes in a mystery. Sophie was believable in that role and I loved the fact that she was actually an author of Mystery books.

Additionally, this one kept me guessing until the very end, which is never a bad thing.

I would say, thus far, this is my favorite Jewell to date. There were a few parts where I felt the pace dragging just a little, hence why I couldn’t give it a full 5-stars, but overall, this is a sensationally fun Mystery!

I would definitely recommend all Mystery Lovers add this one to their TBR!!

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Pines (Wayward Pines #1) by Blake Crouch

Pines (Wayward Pines, #1)Pines by Blake Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pines, the first book in Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines trilogy, was originally published in 2012. This is a significant backlist bump for me and luckily, quite successful.

When my dear friend, Shannon, suggested buddy reading this together, I was 100% on board.

I loved both Dark Matter and Recursion from Crouch and suspected it would be more of the same with this series. I was completely correct with that assumption.

I actually did watch the first season of the television show, Wayward Pines, released in 2015 on FOX, so I had a very strong idea of what this story was all about.

The whole time I was reading this, picturing Matt Dillon as Ethan Burke of course, I couldn’t help but be impressed with how the television show was handled.

I mean, as adaptations go, this one was actually pretty stellar. Because of that though, not a lot of this came as a surprise to me, however, this is a really clever story.

I would say it is definitely worth a read, even if you have watched the show. There’s just something about the way that Crouch can consistently build intensity that is just so damn impressive.

Ethan is a great main character to follow. He’s extremely intelligent and vigilant in what he does, and it is such a treat watching him discover what Wayward Pines is all about.

I have already finished the second book, Wayward, and am really looking forward to wrapping the series up. I cannot even imagine how this will end!

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Review: The Apartment by S.L. Grey

The ApartmentThe Apartment by S.L. Grey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

After masked men break into their Cape Town home in the middle of the night, and subsequently terrorize them as they ransack the place, married couple, Mark and Steph are understandably traumatized.

Although they, as well as their 2-year old daughter, weren’t physically harmed, the emotional scars run deep. They are having an extremely difficult time returning to life as normal in the aftermath.

Troubles sleeping, paranoia about leaving the house unlocked, feeling like someone has been inside; all classic PTSD-home invasion symptoms.

Confiding in a friend one evening over dinner and drinks, she suggests to them that they may need some time away to heal and regroup; a house swap site is mentioned and Steph’s interest is piqued.

While they really aren’t in a financial position to take a trip, if they participated in a house swap, they just might be able to pull it off.

Mark doesn’t seem as into the idea, so Steph, naturally, creates a profile behind his back and begins the search.

Finding a match, Steph ends up convincing Mark to take the leap. Paris here they come!!

Arriving in Paris, Steph and Mark quickly discover the apartment is not quite as advertised. Not by a long shot. They fear there has been some sort of mistake, but gradually come to accept that they have been had.

It’s dirty, creepy, terribly furnished and under-provisioned. There’s even mold. Plus, don’t even ask what’s in the closet.

Unfortunately, for the couple, circumstances are actually much worse than they appear. Not long after settling in, strange things begin to happen in the apartment building and their minds.

I picked this audiobook up after a friend of mine had listened to it and really enjoyed it.

She seemed so excited about it and I wanted to be able to discuss it with her. I hadn’t really heard any hype for it, so was pretty jazzed once I read the synopsis and realized it was just my kind of story. Creepy and weird.

The audiobook was fantastic. The narrators did a wonderful job of believably protraying Mark and Steph’s sides of the story; which you alternate between.

There was a constant feeling of dread, even when nothing overtly scary was happening. I always enjoy that type of narrative. When I am just waiting for the dark truth to unfold.

I felt Grey did a solid job steadily building tension throughout. With this being said, the story actually disturbed me from the very start; it had a great tone.

It was like when you are watching a slightly scary movie and the cinematography is very dark, or sepia-toned, and you’re just kind of squinting the whole time, anticipating what is going to be coming next. What’s just outside the lense that you can’t see. I love that.

In addition to the many real-world issues Mark and Steph were struggling with, I enjoyed the darker supernatural elements to this story as well. The ending was satisfying to me and I can definitely picture this being adapted into a movie.

The Apartment certainly may not be for every Reader, but I really liked it. It was especially fun to read with a friend and discuss the different disturbing and crazy occurences plaguing Mark and Steph.

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Review: Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters

Ghost Wood SongGhost Wood Song by Erica Waters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Mood. This book is a mood and I loved it!!

Shady Grove is a fiddle-playing high school girl, who has been struggling a bit since her father’s untimely death.

Her mother has since remarried and her step-dad, Jim, has a contentious relationship with Shady’s older brother, Jesse. This makes life at home far from peaceful.

Shady finds respite practicing her fiddle in the woods surrounding their trailer. At least for a while.

She’s also in a band with her best friends, Sarah and Orlando. While Shady enjoys playing with them, she really wants to play just bluegrass, the music she was raised on, but they have a different opinion; especially Sarah.

Making matters worse is the fact that Shady and Sarah were an almost couple. It never ended up happening and now it feels like there is a giant elephant in the room every time they are together.

When they compete in an open mic night and a boy in a rival band catches Shady’s eye, it seems like things may finally explode with Sarah.

Shady hardly has time to focus on that however, when something much more serious happens.

Her brother, Jesse, gets arrested; accused of murder.

Shady recognizes her brother has a temper and he admittedly, hasn’t been in the best place mentally as of late, but she also knows he could never do this.

Remembering the stories her father used to tell her, how he could channel spirits by playing his fiddle, Shady decides there’s only one thing for her to do.

She needs to find her Dad’s old fiddle and raise the spirit of the person Jesse is said to have killed. That way she can ask him what happened to him and use that knowledge to help free Jesse. Sounds fairly simple, right?

This novel has so many elements that I traditionally love.

There’s the storyline featuring music and musicians, a murder, a haunted old farmhouse, long-buried family secrets, a beautifully-constructed love triangle for our bi-girl protagonist and a haunting, gritty setting.

Tie all of this together with Erica Waters exceptional writing, how could I not absolutely love this story?

I was drawn in from the very start. Some of her descriptions of music, what it is like playing music, the way it can overtake your body; gahhhhhh, it was so well done.

The murder mystery was interesting and just added another level to an already intriguing tale.

Additionally, I loved how Waters weaved in the lore surrounding Shady’s family and their obviously haunted property. Shady’s Aunt Ena was one of my favorite characters.

Then there’s the overriding grief that permeates this entire story. It’s morose, it’s lyrical, it’s so many wonderful things.

I do recognize this story will not be for everyone, but for me and my tastes, it was close to perfection. I would respectfully and lovingly refer to this as a type of Hillbilly Noir. It’s enchanting and I can’t get enough of it.

I cannot wait to check out more of this author’s work! If I love any of it half as much as this one, I will be a happy girl.

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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 Ritual by Adam Nevill

The RitualThe Ritual by Adam Nevill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Luke, Dom, Phil and Hutch have been friends since college. Over the years, however, they have drifted apart a bit; particularly Luke, who is the only one among them still single and without a stable career.

The men decide to travel from their homes in the UK, to the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle for a backpacking adventure. A reunion of sorts.

Unfortunately, the camaraderie of the group isn’t very strong. Dom and Phil seem condescending to Luke. Treating him like a child, or worse.

Hutch is the happy one. The bond that seems to tie them all together. His positive energy is half the reason they decided to take this trip in the first place.

Adding additional stress for the group is the fact that Dom and Phil are ill-prepared for this type of holiday. As in, they’re out of shape AF.

The group is not making the mileage they need to be making per day to reach their goals. Because of this, Hutch suggests they take an off piste short cut.

As a frequent hiker of the rugged mountains of Maine, this is a nightmare scenario for me.

Just the thought…

The men agree to Hutch’s plan, although they are definitely nervous and skeptical; particularly Luke.

The forest is so dark and thick, the rain not giving them a moment’s break. They are exhausted, they are physically no match for the rough terrain. They see things. Everything starts to go really badly.

Forced to take shelter for a night in what clearly is a haunted cabin, the men are finally pushed to their breaking points by what lay inside.

Y’all, these hiking scenes chilled me to the bone. I loved Nevill’s descriptions of being in the forest. How it swallows you, completely cutting you off from the modern world and returning your senses to their more primal nature.

I thought he captured that fear that the wilderness can evoke in us so freaking well. I absolutely loved the first half of this.

The second half does take a twist that shifts the feeling more from fear to anger, as the narrative directs focus from the devil we don’t know, to the devil we do.

I had jaw dropping, stomach-turning moments right up to the very end. The final scene was so intense. Overall, I think this is an extremely well done survival Horror story; especially depending on what your fears are.

My only negative would be that I felt certain sections dragged on a bit. Particularly some of the interactions between the men, although I do understand the author’s choice with those moments.

I definitely will be thinking of this one for a long time to come, especially on my next hiking trip!

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Review: The Hunger by Alma Katsu

The HungerThe Hunger by Alma Katsu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Reimagining the true life events of the infamous Donner Party, Alma Katsu brings mega atmosphere to this Historical Horror novel.

I must say, the atmosphere was my favorite part of this story. The circumstances the wagon train found themselves in were dangerous and you could feel that.

It was like watching a movie that is dark for a large portion of the time. It leaves you squinting, trying to figure out what is coming next.

After a series of unfortunate events, rations become depleted, the weather is getting progressively worse and tempers flare.

Looking for someone to blame, whispers begin to circulate that a witch may be among them.

Tamsen Donner is used to being blamed and misunderstood. It certainly doesn’t stop her from going about her business; she’s a pro at ignoring others opinions.

Going into this, you know this party is doomed, but what will the ending bring?

I thought this was interesting, if a little slow. I wasn’t blown away by anything, but it was a solid book. I am happy to have crossed it off my TBR list.

I seriously do not have much more to say about it, I wish it di. It was good. I could have done with a bit more of the supernatural elements, but it was fine.

My biggest take away, regardless of what was lurking in the mountains, the biggest threats came from within the traveling party itself. Proving once again, man is the most dangerous monster of all.

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Review: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

HorrorstΓΆrHorrorstΓΆr by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

I was so excited when my friend, Shannon, and I made a spur of the moment decision to buddy read Horrorstor!!!

I have owned a copy of this book since it was first released and have heard such great things. I would often stop, pick it up, flip through the pages and considering reading it, but for some reason never did.

I’m not sure why. The whole package of the book is unique and fun. Made to resemble an IKEA catalogue, each chapter begins with a picture of a specific furniture piece and its description.

It’s a really special book in regards to that creativity and for that reason alone, I would recommend people give it a shot to see what it’s all about.

Moving on from the engaging format, I was so pleased with the actual story!

Amy has been working at Orsk for a while, but she seems to be stuck in a rut. It’s so monotonous and honestly, it’s sucking the life out of her.

Additionally, her manager, Basil, is always after her. What’s his problem anyway? He’s such a stiff. She just needs him to let her do her thing, her way.

When mysterious things begin happening around the store, including damage to some of the product, the staff has reason to suspect someone is getting in after hours.

Basil approaches Amy and another employee, Ruth Ann, and asks them to work a dusk-til-dawn shift with him to hopefully catch the vandal.

Important people from corporate are arriving in the morning and he wants to have a handle on the issue prior to their arrival.

The two women agree and return to the store at the designated hour. Their plan, to patrol the showroom floor every hour to see if they can find anything.

On their first walk through the eerie, fun house scary showroom, with designated areas per room type, Amy and Ruth Ann stumble upon an unexpected surprise in Bedrooms.

Two fellow employees, Trinity and Matt, have snuck into the store to shoot footage for their prospective ghost hunting show.

They know of the mysterious happenings at Orsk and think supernatural forces may be at work!

The rest of the narrative follows these five employees, locked in the deserted super store for the night, as they discover the true root of the problem. And it is a serious problem.

I loved the set up for this. The brain-draining retail set-up was spectacular. I know they are not all that way, I have worked in multiple retail locations myself, but some are. The corporate speak and repetitive nature of some of the tasks, it rang real true.

I thought all of the characters were so well done. Even though they seem one dimensional to start, over the course of their time together, you learn much more about each of them. I personally began to feel quite attached.

The humor was also spot on for me. The satirical nature of the entire story, plus the witty banter between the characters, made this an absolute delight from beginning to end.

Added on to all of the great things mentioned above, the horror elements were a ton of fun. There were some yucky moments, cringe-worthy moments and creepy moments. It really offered a lot. I felt like the conclusion was a little rushed, but other than that one small thing, fantastic!

This is definitely Horror Comedy though, so if that is not your jam, you may want to steer clear.

This was my first Hendrix book and it seems like a solid place to start. I am glad to have buddy read this because it was fun to have someone to discuss it with while actually reading. I think it added to the overall experience.

I certainly will be picking up more books by Grady Hendrix in the future!

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Review: The Girl From The Well by Rin Chupeco

The Girl from the Well (The Girl from the Well, #1)The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When the hosts of the Dragons & Tea Book Club announced this as our October pick, I was genuinely excited. A YA horror novel I had never heard of, I was completely intrigued.

Then I discover people comparing the vibe to one of my favorite horror movies of the early 2000s, The Grudge, and I was sold!

I am so happy to report that I really enjoyed this. I could not put it down once I started. I love this type of horror. It was smart and visceral with great characters and atmosphere.

One of the biggest surprises of this book was the perspective from which it is told. A 300-year old vengeful spirit is our narrator. She becomes tied to our protagonist, a troubled boy named Tark, and we follow along with them as she tries to protect him from others out to do him harm.

It’s hard to talk about this book without giving too much away. It was a very engaging plot with a lot of Japanese cultural influences which I found just so interesting. The cultural perspectives in regards to spirits, the afterlife and all things related to those topics, it was really well done. I seriously would consider reading this again because I am sure that I missed a ton of fine details.

During the course of the story our characters travel from suburban American to Japan. It is there that the creepiness begins to kick it up a notch. We have ancient temples, local folklore and legends, crazy ass doll rituals and Shinto exorcisms.

This story is very graphic and definitely doesn’t shy away from violence on page. Some of the scenes were hard to read. The narrators detachment in the midst of violence, pain and suffering was truly unsettling. Well done on Chupeco’s part. That has to be hard to write consistently from that perspective.

I was really impressed with this overall. It wasn’t perfect. There were some points in the narrative that were a tad confusing or even repetitive but overall, very solid horror story.

I definitely plan to pick up more books from this author in the future!

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