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: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

HorrorstörHorrorstör 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: While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt

While You SleepWhile You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Zoe Adams needs to get away. Recently separated from her husband, she rents a newly renovated home on a remote Scottish island. It doesn’t take long after arriving at McBride house for her to discover that some places hold long memories.

Soon Zoe begins researching the history of the house and what she uncovers is far from comforting. Ailsa McBride, the original owner, was reportedly a witch who murdered her own child. In fact, just the previous year, another boy had disappeared from the grounds.

Constantly on edge, Zoe sleeps fitfully and begins having visions and visitations from the past. She can scarcely make it through a few hours at the property without something going awry.

Befriending a few men in the village, she begins to discover long-held island secrets and in turn, finds herself the hot topic for the island rumor mill.

The number of different leads and exposed secrets in this left me spinning. The lore of the island and overall atmosphere was excellently portrayed. I enjoyed the melding of past and present and the characters were well fleshed out.

At times, bordering on erotic, this was an unexpected twist of a classic ghost story with the incorporation of an incubus; something I had never read about previously and certainly was not expecting.

Although this was a slow burn, there was definitely enough intrigue to keep me turning the pages. The last 10% dropped my rating down a half star. I wasn’t sold on the way the story ended. It seemed to wrap-up a little too neatly after the strong build-up.

Overall, I was impressed by Merritt’s writing. If you are a reader that enjoys a bit of sexy times with your horror or mystery stories, you will definitely want to check this one out. Also, haunted house fans, this is worth a read. There were moments that I was absolutely freaked out while reading this.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Pegasus Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

City of GhostsCity of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

There is no doubt that I flew through this.

I loved the premise and am planning to continue on with this series. However, while it was good, there was just something about it that kept me from truly being immersed in the story.

I actually read quite a bit of Middle Grade and for me, this was lacking the level of humor and fun that I am used to seeing in MG stories. I know this is supposed to be on the darker side, as far as content, but there still could have been humorous banter or something of that nature to keep me engaged.

Confession:
While Victoria Schwab is a beloved author, this is actually the first book I have ever read from her.

Her writing is great. Very fluid and experienced but for Middle Grade…I don’t know, something about it just never clicked for me.

Again, the premise is great. I love the idea of Cassidy’s, the main character’s, parents being paranormal investigators. The whole concept of their new television series and having to travel to different locations for filming.

I also enjoyed that Cass can actually see ghosts, and interact with them, even though no one else in her family can. I think maybe as the series continues on the plots will become more involved and perhaps we will have more of a chance to connect with the characters.

Overall, I feel this is definitely a good book and a solid start to a series. Obviously, I am not the intended audience for this so a room full of Middle Graders may have a different opinion than me.

I think if the concept of this sounds good to you, pick it up and give it a shot!

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Review: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

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

1908: Sara Harrison Shea’s young daughter has died under tragic circumstances. Wracked with grief, seemingly unable to move forward, what would Sara do to bring her child back to her?

Present Day: Ruthie’s mom has gone missing. One night while Ruthie was out with her boyfriend it seems her mother simply walked out of their house and into the surrounding woods. With no note and no signs of a struggle, Ruthie is forced to care for her odd, little sister whilst investigating what happened to their mother.

What Ruthie doesn’t know is that she is living in the house once occupied by Sara Harrison Shea. When she discovers parts of Sara’s diary in secret hiding places in the old farmhouse, she discovers sometimes the past really can come back to haunt you.

Following both past and present, this haunting tale is filled with an overwhelming feeling of dread. Winter is the absolute perfect time to read this book. When it gets dark early, when it is cold, when the wind blows long and loud into the night. The atmosphere of this story was richly developed and absolutely my favorite part of this story.

I went into this book completely blind, only knowing that quite a few of my book friends have loved this one. 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 actually received a copy of her next book, The Invited, that is being released at the end of April. 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 story line. Nothing major but just things I wish would have had more information or context. Overall, I really enjoyed this one and would recommend it to anyone who wants to be creeped out for a bit. The use of diary entries was super well done and as always, I felt that made me feel more a ‘part’ of the story; like I was investigating it myself. If you like a ghost/monster story with an overriding, ominous atmosphere, you should definitely check this one out! Backlist BUMP!!

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Review: My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows & Brodi Ashton

My Plain JaneMy Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A rollicking, ‘spirited’ good time! ((see what I did there?))

My Plain Jane is the second novel released by the Lady Janies (Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows). As with their first collaboration, My Plain Jane this book is full of good humor and replete with pop culture references. Dubbed as Jane Eyre meets the Ghostbusters, this story provides a wacky and fun retelling of the classic with lots of supernatural twists! In addition to this, I was picking up a strong Scooby-Doo vibe. There was something about the gang of characters that came together and the style of the antagonist that gave me those feelings. I adore Scooby-Doo so this worked really well for me!

As with the first book, this story follows the perspectives of three main characters: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre and Alexander Blackwood. Although the characters were fun, I personally didn’t become as invested in them as I did with the characters in My Lady Jane. I am not really sure why. I sort of felt like I didn’t get a chance to know them and their feelings, motivations, etc., as well as in the first one. This may be because there is so much more going on in the action part of the plot in this one. A lot of ghosts and things to follow at Thornfield Hall, London, the Lowood School and everywhere in between!

Although at times it felt a little overdone, overall I think the humorous effect was there and that the varied perspectives of the story wrapped up in a nice, cohesive way. I think the authors are so creative to come up with these twists, it is amusing to think of these classics in a whole new light. Jane Eyre is such a beloved tale though ((one I haven’t read)) that I can see some readers perhaps being sensitive to it being altered in such a huge way. To me, it is all in good fun and to pay homage to such a cherished classic only serves to bring renewed energy towards the original source materials. This is actually the second Jane Eyre retelling I have read this year and I can honestly say, I am much closer to reading it now than ever before.

I had a fun time reading this and felt like it was a great book to read during October! I look forward to seeing what the Lady Janies come up with next!

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Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

The Wicked DeepThe Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Wicked Deep is by far the most eerily beautiful book I have read in a long, long time. I finished this over a week ago and I have been trying to come up with a way to express how this book made me feel. I still can’t quite put my finger on it but damn, whatever it is, I likey and I want more. This will probably be a story I revisit in October for years to come. I’m like…

This book has received a lot of buzz. In this case, I feel it is well deserved. Going in, I wanted one thing out of it =
ATMOSPHERE.

The author delivered that in spades. Her descriptions of the small seaside town of Sparrow, Oregon, of the island, the weather, the tourists, it was 100% relatable to me. I live on a small island myself, one that is a tourist destination and at times can feel exploited because of that, and I can tell you, I could feel the wind, the mist, the fog, the influx of outsiders – the weight of it – it is palatable and I thought that Ernshaw really brought that feeling to life in this book.

Her writing is enchanting and she uses breathtaking descriptions to weave her tale. It read like a modern day fairytale – full of witches, magic, curses, revenge, mystery, love – it checked all of the boxes for a whimsical narrative. I loved how she gave us insights into the times of the Swan sisters as well. That was a neat little twist I wasn’t expecting. The modern and historical were woven together seamlessly and it gave such depth to the story and the characters.

“Love is an enchantress – devious and wild. It sneaks up behind you, soft and gentle and quiet, just before it slits your throat.”

When love stories are combined with ghost stories, I find them so haunting. One of my favorites for bringing these two elements together is Stephen King’s, Bag of Bones. While they are completely different animals, that one being heavily adult and this one very YA, I feel they both combined those two elements to create a spooky and memorable ghost story. Ones that truly get under your skin and sit there; that make you simultaneously warm and cold. I am actually glad this is going to be adapted as I feel it could translate well into more visual media.

Now, the characters…the characters were great! The present day story mainly follows local girl, Penny Talbot. She lives out on Lumiere Island tending the lighthouse with her mother, who isn’t well. Penny is likable, if a bit aloof, but definitely someone you can get behind and cheer for. When a new guy Bo arrives in town, she ends up giving him a job out on the island helping with the lighthouse and other tasks gone to pot since her father disappeared. I enjoyed her relationship with Bo; watching its evolution felt mysterious; that more was hidden right under the surface. The big reveal for me was bloody fantastic! I did not see it coming. I didn’t, maybe I am an idiot but regardless, I felt it was really well done.

My favorite character, of course, was Marguerite Swan. I got strong Slytherin vibes from her. Described as ‘ vengeful & clever…single-minded in her hatred for the town…’ Yep, I dig that. Getting the perspectives on the Swan sisters, as I mentioned above, was a real treat. This story could have been done without that historical element but I am glad that Ernshaw chose to write it this way. Reading and understanding the motivations for ghosts or spirits haunting a person, place or thing, is not something you see a lot of. I really, really enjoyed it.

Overall, I absolutely adored this story. I cannot praise it enough and will absolutely be reading it again! Cheers~

Original: Take my breath away. ((fans self))

I’m utterly heartsick over how beautiful this book is. The magical atmosphere has delved deep into my bones. I definitely need some time to gather my thoughts on this. An absolutely stunning read.

Full review to come…stay tuned!

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