Review: The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke

The Lighthouse WitchesThe Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

After the death of her loving husband, Liv has it rough trying to care for herself and her three daughters. It’s generally difficult being a single parent, but Liv is really feeling the strain on her resources.

When she receives a commission to paint a mural in a historical lighthouse on a remote Scottish Island, she jumps at a chance for a fresh start.

Moving the girls there is a big decision, but unfortunately, she really has no other choice. Boarding the ferry on the day of their move, Liv, Saffy, Luna and Clover say goodbye to their old life.

Once at the lighthouse and adjacent bothy, which will be their home, they realize it’s a wee bit more dilapidated than they anticipated. Regardless, it’s an exceptional location and they quickly settle in.

Saffy, as the oldest, definitely has the most difficult time with the move. You know how teens can be. As a result, she begins to distance herself from her Mom and sisters.

Liv dives into her work and actually ends up befriending a few village women, who fill her in on the history and lore of the island itself. Some of the things they tell her are quite disturbing, most notably a witch’s curse that summons wildlings, supernatural beings who mimic human children.

Liv doesn’t know what to make these eerie tales, but it is clear her new friends whole-heartedly believe every word.

When mysterious things begin to happen to Liv and her girls, however, she starts to believe there may be some credence to the lore. After two of her daughters go missing, Liv panics and is willing to do whatever it takes, turn to whoever she must, in order to get them back.

Y’all, The Lighthouse Witches gave me exactly what I was looking for. If you read the synopsis, and it sounds incredible to you, have no fear, that is what you are getting; you will not be let down.

The atmosphere is freaking fantastic. Everything about the island, the lighthouse, the local history and lore, it is perfect for Spooky Season reading!

The narrative follows three different perspectives, over two timelines: Liv, Saffy and Luna, with past and present perspectives.

You learn about the family’s time on the island, the disappearance of the girls, and from Luna’s present perspective, the aftermath of all of that.

My one small issue with this story was that I did find it hard to differentiate between the perspectives in the beginning. I was still learning everyone’s name and their position in the family, so it was hard to keep it all straight at first.

Luckily, the chapters were headed with the person’s name who you were following and the year, but I did have to page back quite a few times to figure out where I was and who I was reading from.

Eventually though, I was able to settle into it and really enjoyed my time reading this story. There are some genuinely creepy moments and some quite interesting supernatural twists.

I found the entire thing to be original and chilling. It definitely kept me up at night. The atmosphere and lore of the town were my two favorite aspects, but really there is so much to enjoy in this story!

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

After this and The Nesting, I think it is fair to say, I will pick up anything C.J. Cooke releases!!

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Review: All These Bodies by Kendare Blake

All These BodiesAll These Bodies by Kendare Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the Summer of 1958, a string of unsolved murders, dubbed The Bloodless Murders, plagued the Mid-West.

In each case, the bodies are found completely drained of blood. Defying explanation, there is also no blood to be found anywhere at the scene, or any other evidence, for that matter. How is the killer getting away with this?

In September of 1958, the spree ends in a small Minnesota town with the killing of the Carlson family. 15-year old, Marie Catherine Hale, is found at the scene absolutely covered in blood.

Initially mistaken for a survivor, it turns out, none of the blood is hers and Miss Hale didn’t previously know the Carlsons. She is the only lead.

Michael Jensen, the Sheriff’s son, soon gets pulled into the investigation when Marie declares that he is the only person she is willing to tell her story to.

Michael can’t believe his luck. With dreams of becoming a journalist, and leaving his small town behind, Marie’s story could be exactly what he needs to help him reach that goal.

However, it’s more than that. He’s drawn to Marie. The pretty girl is not like other girls he knows. She fast and world-wise. He can’t help but be intrigued by her.

Over the course of several jailhouse confessionals, Marie Catherine reveals a tale to Michael that includes a bit of a supernatural twist to the killings.

Certainly, there’s nothing more to that than the active imagination of a young girl trying to avoid blame for truly heinous acts, right?

Nevertheless, Marie couldn’t have acted alone, so who was her accomplice? Will the police be able to locate him based on the information Marie Catherine has put forth?

You’ll have to read it to find out! Y’all, this was really good. I enjoyed it so much.

When I first started, I was instantly reminded of Truman Capote’s masterpiece, In Cold Blood. The whole 1950s-era Mid-Western feel channeled that, for sure. If you are unaware, ICB is my favorite True Crime book of all time.

My In Cold Blood vibes were definitely not far off, as the Author’s Note at the end did mention the Clutter murders and Truman Capote.

Overall, I found All These Bodies to be unique, compelling and fast-paced. I loved how Blake built-out the relationship between Michael and Marie Catherine.

I also really enjoyed the pace at which Marie Catherine’s story is told. It kept me completely focused and engaged.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Quill Tree Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I will remember this one for a long time to come.

Definitely recommend!

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Review: Come With Me by Ronald Malfi

Come With MeCome With Me by Ronald Malfi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Aaron and Allison Decker are happily married. They’re a great match. Life is good.

One December morning, as Allison heads out to a local shopping mall, she says to her husband, “come with me.” Aaron, feeling a little too comfortable lounging around, declines her offer.

That’s the last time he sees his wife.

Allison’s senseless death brings Aaron’s world crashing down around him. Overwhelmed with grief, he tries to take it one day at a time, but even basic things are taxing. He’s drowning.

Sifting through some of Allison’s belongings, Aaron discovers a motel receipt from North Carolina, paid in cash with Allison’s name on it.

They live in Maryland. He has no idea why she would have been at the motel for a two night stay; two nights that happen to coincide with a time Aaron was out of town on business. He’s sure Allison never told him she left home.

Aaron’s mind immediately goes to where yours may have when you read that last paragraph.

He wonders if Allison was possibly having an affair. Immediately he feels guilty. That couldn’t possibly be true. Allison wasn’t like that, was she?

The receipt gives Aaron something to focus on. He’s also insanely curious, thus he sets out on a journey to discover why Allison would have gone there. What exactly was she doing?

Y’all, I think this is my favorite book that I have read so far this year!!!

The more I think about, the more I appreciate just how incredibly well-crafted this story is.

Every moment of Aaron’s journey brings darker discoveries and new information that will ultimately lead him to the truth behind Allison’s secret life.

I was constantly floored by what was happening. The reveals, the connections, the red herrings; they just kept coming. Aaron becomes completely obsessed with his task, risking life and limb in order to solve it.

I love how Malfi beautifully wove together the exploration of grief, the supernatural and a tense and brutal mystery. Yes, it’s a legit mystery, which I had no idea when I started.

I had barely heard anything about this one, Malfi’s name is what made me pick it up and I’m so happy that I did.

I will be shouting from the rooftops about this for a long time to come. It’s incredible. Come With Me releases next Tuesday, July 20th, so make sure you add it to you TBR!

Thank you so, so much to the publisher, Titan Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to read it early and provide my thoughts.

All the stars in the universe!!!

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Review: The Unleashed (The Haunted #2) by Danielle Vega

The Unleashed (The Haunted, #2)The Unleashed by Danielle Vega
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

**Please note, as this is the second book in a series, some mild spoilers are contained in this review. Proceed with caution.**

After the devastating events of The Haunted, Hendricks and friends are trying to return to normal. Not an easy task with Eddie gone and Raven remaining in a coma.

Hendricks, Portia and Connor, received intense group therapy and in some ways, it did help. However, Hendricks is still having a really hard time letting go of Eddie.

In fact, she believes his spirit still remains in Drearfield and with the right method, perhaps she’ll be able to reach him.

She looks to Ileana for help. With Ileana’s guidance, they gather a circle of seven and perform a seance with the hopes of summoning forth Eddie’s spirit. The seance is of course performed on the grounds of Steele House.

Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t go as planned.

Soon thereafter, Hendricks begins to experience hauntings quite similar to before. However, they are no longer restricted to just being within her home. Now evil entities seem to be everywhere; no place is safe.

The high school itself seems to be a hotbed of activity, with ghost girls in the hall and phantom music being played.

With prom on the horizon, Hendricks has been spending extra time there, as she agreed to the join the planning committee with Portia.

When Portia becomes the victim of a supernatural attack, Hendricks knows they didn’t bring Eddie back. They brought back something else, and it’s angry.

They need to redo the ritual and hopefully send this malevolent spirit back from whence it came.

This was a strong continuation from the first book.

Personally, I was devastated by the ending of the first book and honestly, that pissy mood sort of carried over into this one. I missed my favorite character too much.

With that aside, I did enjoy this. The first half especially. I loved how the characters involved in the seance were willing to help Hendricks out, even though some of them thought she was bat shit crazy.

I also really enjoyed the horror imagery. Vega definitely excels at that.

It did start to lose my towards the end. There was a great scene, that as far as I am concerned, could have been the final scene, but it continued on.

After that point, I was sort of out of it. It went way over the top after that and took away a bit of the seriousness of the earlier parts of the story.

Overall, this is a solid Teen Scream duology and I am very happy that I read it.

I would definitely consider picking up future releases from this author!

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Review: Thinner by Richard Bachman

ThinnerThinner by Richard Bachman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another successful buddy read with my friend, Shannon!!!

I love this story so much. Is it perfect?

Probably not for everyone, but it’s a hell of a fun reading experience for me. This is my third time through this one and honestly, not the last.

Thinner follows the story of Billy Halleck, a successful attorney living the good life in a wealthy Connecticut suburb.

Billy has a lovely wife, Heidi, a sweet daughter, Linda, and friends and associates he pals around with at the local country club.

He also has an extra 50-pounds or so around the middle, evidence of the many rich meals and treats he can afford.

All is good in Billy’s life until the night Heidi decides to spice things up on a drive home from an event.

With Billy desperately distracted, tragedy strikes. The other party is no one in this town however. They don’t have rich friends and connections like Billy. Connections to the judge and the police.

Billy doesn’t even get a slap on the wrist for the role he played in that tragic night.

Others want justice for what happened and if they can’t get it through the traditional ways, it’s no bother; they have their own ways. Old ways.

A soft caress with a gnarled hand and one word whispered with intention, thinner.

Thus, changing the course of Billy’s life forever.

Y’all this story is gruesome, wild and unrelenting.

The body horror is just that, horrible and horrifying and sure to make you cringe. If you aren’t into graphic descriptions of terrifying things happening to a human body, you may want to steer clear.

I find writing as Bachman, King is much more blunt in his delivery and build-up. This reads very quickly and advances through the plot at a rapid fire pace.

I love going along with Billy as he comes to grips with what is happening to him and tries to fix it.

He calls in a favor from his friend, Richard Ginelli, when he feels like the problem is too much for him to tackle himself.

Unfortunately, once on the case, Ginelli is like a guard dog slipped his leash. He can’t be called back and things escalate quickly.

As gritty and physically horrifying as this story is, there’s also some great food for thought mixed in. Blame, guilt, disregard for others, privilege, power and blood feuds; you can find it all in here.

If you are looking for a quick, quirky, messy, horrific tale, you should definitely give Thinner a shot.

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Review: The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

The Devil and the Dark WaterThe Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

1634 — Our story begins with a mixed bag of passengers, and crew, preparing to board the Saardam on a voyage from Batavia to Amsterdam.

On the docks, a leper appears high atop a pile of crates and issues a warning that the voyage will end in merciless ruin.

He subsequently bursts into flames and dies a painful death. The observers, although chilled by his damning proclamation, shrug it off as the ramblings of a madman.

It’s harder to ignore the devil’s mark that suddenly appears on the sails, however. The incident, understandably, casts a sense of foreboding over all.

Samuel Pipps, a detective of some note, happens to be aboard, but as a prisoner.

Due to that status, he is locked in a grimy, claustrophobic cell, without even enough room to stand up.

Luckily, his faithful bodyguard, Lieutenant Arent Hayes, is aboard and he happens to have a close connection to the Governor General, Jan Haan.

Through Arent’s suggestion, Samuel earns the right to be taken out of his cell every night to get his exercise and fresh air upon the decks.

As mysterious happenings continue to plague the ship, paired with reoccurrences of the devil’s mark, Arent teams up with Jan Haan’s lovely wife, Sara Wessel, to try to get to the bottom of it.

An important piece of Arent’s past, the lore of a demon named Old Tom, plays a large role in this story. Some say Old Tom is aboard this ship; he’s the cause of all the problems.

There’s a ghost ship stalking them, their food source is threatened, a storm like no other threatens to sink them, people die, things disappear and throughout it all, Old Tom is trying to sway all aboard to his side.

This book has such a vibe. I don’t quite have words for it, but I love it!

As with The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, The Devil and the Dark Water is such a complex, suspenseful mystery.

The tone of this novel, the is it supernatural, is it not-feel of it all was masterfully done. Additionally, the use of Arent and Sara as an amateur sleuthing team was incredibly executed.

Together they are trying to work out who among them has been possessed by Old Tom. Their investigation has a lot of twists and turns, casting doubts on numerous passengers and crew.

All of the characters were so interesting. Anyone could have been the baddie. I had no clue who to suspect!

The entire story was completely original. I have never read anything quite like it. Turton’s imagination knows no bounds.

Apparently, 17th-Century Supernatural Mysteries are now my jam, because I am OBSESSED with this!

Thank you so much to the publisher, SourceBooks Landmark, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. This was by far, one of my most anticipated reads of the year, so I certainly appreciate it.

I am such of fan of Turton’s writing and look forward to seeing what he comes up with next!

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Review: The Nesting by C.J. Cooke

The NestingThe Nesting by C.J. Cooke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Lexi is at rock bottom. Her life has never been easy, but at this point, she has days where she would rather not be alive.

After her long-term relationship ends and her best friend basically tells her that she has become too much too deal with, Lexi knows she must find a way to make a new life for herself.

Riding a train one day, she overhears a conversation that provides her the opportunity to do just that.

Stealing a woman named Sophie’s identity, Lexi applies for a position as a nanny for a wealthy widower and his two young daughters. The best part is, the post is in the beautiful country of Norway.

She’s astounded to learn that she has been hired on. Obviously, she’s also nervous. She has a lot to pull off.

Lexi, now Sophie, knows absolutely nothing about home-schooling, infants or any other general duties of being a nanny.

From the very first day, she’s quickly swept up into the lives of the other staff members, Derry, Clive and Maron; the two children, Gaia and Coco, and the handsome widower, Tom.

The house itself, is a drafty, historic home that the family resides in temporarily while Tom and Clive construct the main event: Aurelia’s Nest.

As her days inside the house go on, Sophie begins to hear and see strange things.

She also starts to learn about Tom’s deceased wife, Aurelia, and the days leading up to her apparent suicide.

Interspersed throughout the story, we do get some chapters told from Aurelia’s perspective.

Sophie also stumbles across a diary that appears to be Aurelia’s, so she gets a little bit of glimpse into her life as well, which causes her to come to some startling conclusions regarding Tom and Aurelia’s marriage.

I enjoyed my time with this novel. The beginning felt very An Anonymous Girl meets Turn of the Key, but once the narrative arrives in Norway, it really takes on a life of its own.

Cooke excels at setting the atmosphere; a perfect Autumnal read. This entire novel is dripping with a cold, dark, ominous feeling throughout.

Part ghost story, part domestic drama, part ecological horror story, there’s also a lovely sprinkling of Norwegian folklore to sink your teeth into.

While I enjoyed many aspects of this story, I also felt like there were a few too many plot holes, as well as aspects that felt too much like other stories I have read recently.

However, with this being said, overall, this is a captivating book. I would absolutely read anything else C.J. Cooke writes. She definitely has a style I am interested in watching grow.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. As always, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

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Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

The Sun Down MotelThe Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My main hope going into this book was that I would love it as much as The Broken Girls. I am happy to report, I loved it even more!!!

While The Broken Girls dipped a toe in the supernatural, The Sun Down Motel dives in headfirst and these waters run deep and dark!

In 1982, Viv Delaney ends up in Fell, New York completely by chance.

Her original intention was to head to New York City, but after stopping in Fell, she ends up staying, working the night shift at a roadside motel.

Never one to shy away from the macabre, Viv isn’t scared off when she notices mysterious happenings around her workplace.

The motel itself isn’t the only scary part of her new life, however, the clientele of The Sun Down also leave a bit to be desired. Not to mention the missing and murdered young women in the area.

Viv decides to begin an investigation. She’s going to get to the bottom of what is going on at the motel, and with the missing girls, one way or another.

We follow Viv’s perspective as her time at The Sun Down edges towards her final night, a cold night in November when she disappears without a trace.

We also follow the perspective of Viv’s niece, Carly, who arrives at The Sun Down thirty-five years later.

Things fall into place fairly rapidly for Carly. It’s almost like she was meant to be there.

She gets hired to work the night shift at the motel, just like her Aunt Viv, and ends up living in Viv’s old apartment.

Carly, who is actively researching her Aunts disappearance, will end up discovering way more than she bargained for.

I absolutely loved every second I spent reading this book.

I was a fan of St. James before, but this, was magic for my mind. The alternating perspectives where fantastic. I felt drawn to each woman and comfortable listening to their stories, in their time.

The pacing was excellent. No filler to get through, just meat. It was perfectly plotted as you raced towards the conclusion.

The side characters were all well developed and each added their own dimension to the story. Both Viv and Carly had allies in their search for answers, even though they often felt alone in their missions.

Of course, the atmosphere was fantastic as well, something St. James definitely excels at writing.

Additionally, I enjoyed the theme of particular dangers to women and how that can make you feel powerless to know you always have to have your guard up. That you can be harmed at another’s will.

At the end of the day. Simone St. James is an autobuy author for me. I hope she continues down this same path for a long time to come. She has such a great gift for eerie storytelling and I’m here for it!

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

I truly appreciate it and have since purchased a finished copy for my shelves. I look forward to seeing what twisted tale St. James will think of next!

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Review: The Institute by Stephen King

The InstituteThe Institute by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m going to need lots and lots of time to pull myself together after this.

I have such a difficult time formulating actual ‘reviews’ of King’s work.

A full review may never come. I have made peace with this.

It’s okay. I accept my right to just fangirl and move on.

One thing I will mention is the phenomenal dynamic between the group of children in this story.

In my opinion, King writes kids so well. Their honesty and way of viewing the world, he always hits that spot on.

A group of children banding together to fight the forces of evil?

It doesn’t get better than that!

Original:


Reads synopsis whilst at work:

RIP Me.
An all new 500+ page book from the KING!!!!

My favorite author.
Released just in time for my birthday.
Comparisons made to Firestarter.

I am overwhelmed with enthusiasm for this!

Release Day Update:

WHERE IS MY COPY!?!?
WHERE IS MY MAIL PERSON!?!?

Final Update:

IT’S HERE!!!!!!!!!!

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The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #2) by Michelle Hodkin

The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #2)The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WHAT THE HECK DID I JUST READ!?!?

First of all, how am I complete trash for this series at this point in my life? It is beyond me.

I have no explanation. I can’t explain it, but I am currently obsessed with this.

I feel like this second installment gave me more questions than answers, but who the f* cares! I have one more book in this trilogy and I plan to devour it. Soon.

Sure, if you contemplate the storyline for too long, it’s definitely problematic, but for some reason, it this case, I couldn’t care less.

My plan is to read the final book this month. Then, sadly, I will have to find a new backlist trilogy to obsess over.

Anyone else who wants to join me on the tragically delayed hype train, you’re welcome.

Mara and Noah are LIFE.

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