Review: The Long Weekend by Gilly Macmillan

The Long WeekendThe Long Weekend by Gilly Macmillan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A book with a synopsis that promises me a perfectly isolated retreat, a friend’s group weekend getaway, a relaxing break turning to horror, three couples, two bodies, one secret, is a book I am going to read.

The Long Weekend has been screaming at me to pick it up since it released in March of this year. I’ve been waiting for an audiobook copy from my library for months.

Alas, it came through and I immediately downloaded it. While I was able to finish it in less than 24-hours, this was not it.

It started with a wee bit of promise. The women were actually heading out on their weekend retreat, but nothing else connected with me. Literally zero things.

Once the women arrived at Dark Fell Barn, they proceeded to do nothing that would equate to the intent to have a fun weekend holiday. They were all so wrapped up in their own heads; just miserable. Why even bother?

Additionally, do I need the perspectives of the property owners? I hated the inclusion of them and their lives into my friend’s weekend getaway. It was such a waste of words.

Imagine my surprise then when the said weekend getaway lasts less than 24-hours. There goes any hope of our isolated retreat vibes because we’re returning to the city.

This has to be the lamest weekend getaway of all time. Further where it goes from there, not what I signed up for. I’m so glad this is over.

Moving on…

As always though, let me leave you with this: just because this book did not work for me, does not mean it will not work for you. It just didn’t suit my personal tastes and wasn’t what I was looking for when I picked it up.

I know that many, many Readers are going to have a lot of fun with this, so please don’t let my disappointment sway you from picking it up if it sounds interesting to you.

What the heck do I know, anyway!?

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Review: The Dinner Guests by Kiersten Modglin

The Dinner GuestsThe Dinner Guests by Kiersten Modglin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Piper, Beth and Lakynn have been best friends since childhood. They now all live on the same quiet street and enjoy spending a lot of time together.

Since the neighborhood is so quiet, when anything changes it’s a big deal. For example, when the most luxurious home on their street sells, they can’t help but spy on the new neighbors. Who are they? What’s their story?

When the ladies traditional methods of reaching out to the new neighbors fail, they’re at a loss. Are these people intentionally ignoring them?

Then the construction begins; a ginormous concrete wall quickly goes up surrounding the property. And the cameras! What the actual heck?

Weeks later, out of the blue, the friends receive very formal invitations to a dinner party at the now fortified mansion. Even though the invitations arrive last minute, they can’t say no. They’ve been itching to get into that house.

Thus, that Friday night Beth and her husband Leo, Lakynn and her husband Henry, along with Piper and her love interest Shane, all walk together to the mystery dinner.

After introductions, it is clear this isn’t going to be a normal evening. The couple is strange, the discussion topics are strange, the atmosphere is strange. It’s a whole thing.

As the dinner portion of the evening draws to a close, the friends discover there’s no way out. They’re forced to play a game, hoping if they win, they’ll be set free.

How do I best explain the experience that I had reading The Dinner Guests?

Let’s just say it was like being served a well drink when you are used to drinking top shelf.

It just was not for me; at all. I had never read anything by this author before, but have heard a lot of positive reviews for her previous works. I was fully expecting to enjoy this, maybe even love it.

I was actually surprised at how bad this turned out to be for me. It just seemed ridiculous. I could not get behind anything that was happening.

Let it be known that I frequently enjoy books that you have to suspend belief in certain areas, so it’s not that. It was everything else, the writing, the characters, the reveals, the ending…

I think maybe Modglin’s work just isn’t for me. I am glad I gave it a shot, but will most likely not pick up anything further from this author.

If this synopsis sounds fun to you though, you should definitely try it. Reading is completely subjective and just because something didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.

Thank you to the publisher, Dreamscape Media, for providing me with an audio-copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: Beneath Cruel Waters by Jon Bassoff

Beneath Cruel WatersBeneath Cruel Waters by Jon Bassoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Holt Davidson essentially fled his hometown of Thompsonville, Colorado, as soon as he was old enough.

After he receives news that his estranged mother has committed suicide, he decides it has to be done; he has to go back for the first time in over twenty-years.

The dread he is feeling about returning is substantial, but he’s also hoping to maybe fill in some pieces of his murky childhood memories. He wants to finally be able to make peace with it all and put it behind him.

Until this point, Holt has been haunted by his past, but it’s actually unclear as to why.

Once he returns to Thompsonville, he even stays at his mother’s home in his old bedroom. Alone in the house, he begins exploring, searching for clues from the past.

Instead of your typical nostalgic childhood items, however, Holt discovers a gun, a mysterious love letter and a picture of a dead man lying in his own blood.

These aren’t the type of things you can ignore, so Holt begins an investigation. He’s determined to discover the secrets of his past, whether he’s going to like it or not.

He enlists the help of his mother’s oldest, dearest friend and gains a lot of useful information from her, including insight into his sister who has been institutionalized since she was a teen. It’s not long before Holt’s own traumatic memories begin to resurface.

One of my favorite tropes in a Thriller is when a main character returns to their hometown after an extended absence, so in theory this was the perfect set-up for me.

Luckily, the theory was proven correct in this case. I enjoyed this one a lot. Once I started I didn’t want to put it down.

I found Bassoff’s writing to be highly readable. It was fast-paced and smooth, with just the right amount of details. I love the POVs coming from both past and present to help to piece the truth together.

I thought the reveals were well handled. Although predictable, it still managed to keep me fully captivated so it didn’t really influence my opinion of the overall story.

I was really surprised by this one and definitely recommend it to fans of Crime Thrillers, especially if you enjoy the use of both past and present perspectives together.

Thank you to the publisher, Blackstone Publishing, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m looking forward to reading more from Bassoff!

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Review: My Summer Darlings by May Cobb

My Summer DarlingsMy Summer Darlings by May Cobb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

My Summer Darlings begins in a very intriguing way. You get the perspective of a woman lying in the woods, bleeding profusely, contemplating her death.

You don’t know who she is or who has harmed her, but it is clear she ended up in her predicament by nefarious means.

You are then sent 6-weeks back in time to follow the perspectives of Jen, Kittie and Cynthia.

The trio have been best friends since childhood and even though Jen moved away for a bit, once she returned to their East Texas town after a messy divorce, they picked up right where they left off. They’re thick as thieves through all the ups and downs of their bougie lifestyles.

The women each have their own personal concerns of course, Jen for example, post-divorce is actually really struggling financially. Luckily her friends and parents never mind helping her out. They’re just happy she is finally away from him.

Cynthia and Kittie are both very well off and their husbands are great, but you know life.

When Will Harding moves to town, a drop-dead gorgeous man who ends up in the most luxurious home in the neighborhood, the three women are intrigued.

Will could be exactly the type of man Jen needs to move past her divorce. Will’s presence in town however stirs things up for the trio more than they ever could have expected. We’re talking secrets, lies and shady alibis.

There is no denying that May Cobb has a knack for writing rich people drama. With this novel, as with The Hunting Wives, once I started, I could not put it down.

I loved the set-up; the way it began and then going back to piece together what had lead that mystery woman to that point, it was so engaging.

While I was addicted to the drama, however, there were a few things toward the end that I found to be a touch too convenient for my tastes. Hence the 3.5-stars rounded up.

Regardless, that is still a great rating and it’s undeniable that I really enjoyed this. It was a ton of fun. If you enjoy over-the-top, reality show-levels of ridiculously entertaining drama, you have to check this one out.

I think if you go into this expecting a strict to the genre Thriller, you may be disappointed. Just know this is more of a Domestic Drama centering around the friend group, with a touch of mystery running throughout.

At this point, I am sold on May Cobb. I love the risqué drama she’s serving up. I’m here for it and will continuing coming back.

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

I appreciate it and look forward to seeing what crazy hijinks Cobb comes up with next!

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Review: My Wife is Missing by D.J. Palmer

My Wife Is MissingMy Wife Is Missing by D.J. Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

On the first day of their NYC-vacation, Michael and Natalie Hart split up for what is expected to be a brief period of time.

While Michael runs out to pick up take-out pizza for the family, Natalie stays back at the hotel with their two children, Addie and Bryce, to get settled in.

When he returns, Michael spots Bryce’s teddy bear just outside the door to their room. That’s certainly strange as the young boy is beyond attached to the stuffed toy.

Entering the room, Michael is surprised his family isn’t there. Surprise turns to confusion when he notices the only bag in the room is his own. Where is his family?

Michael raises the alarm to hotel staff and then the police. As he is unable to reach Natalie by phone and has no other explanation, Michael fears they’ve been kidnapped.

After viewing hotel camera footage though, it appears Natalie left quite willing, of her own volition; just her and the kids. Michael is so confused, why would she do this?

These opening scenes set the tone for the entire novel. It’s intense and fast paced. Through alternating perspectives, as well as past and present timelines, the full depth of Michael and Natalie’s relationship is revealed.

It’s clear that the couple were having problems prior to their ill-fated trip to NYC. Natalie doesn’t trust her husband at all and Michael, well, he has his issues.

Due to stress and struggles within their relationship, Natalie has been suffering severe insomnia. Michael uses that fact against her, claiming she is not in her right mind. Frankly, it’s not entirely clear if she is or not.

I love an unreliable narrator and I would say that Natalie falls into that category. In spite of her insomnia though, it’s really through Natalie’s perspective that the truth of this story begins to be revealed.

I really enjoyed my time reading My Wife is Missing. Palmer has a signature over-the-top style. His books are always a wild ride, never failing to keep me engaged.

I loved how quickly this one kicked off and it really never let up. Towards the end I was flying through, I had to know what the conclusion was going to be. It turned into this sort of intense cat and mouse scenario, although at times it was hard to determine who was the cat and who was the mouse.

I have read all of Palmer’s novels, in order, as they’ve been released and in my opinion each one has been stronger than the last. We love to see that sort of upward trajectory with an author’s work.

He always keeps me guessing, that’s for sure. I can’t wait to see what sort of insanity he throws at us next!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I appreciate it so much!!

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Review: Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

Hidden PicturesHidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mallory Quinn is in her early-20s and at a time when many of her peers are charging through the college experience, Mallory is just over a year into her new found sobriety.

After a personal injury, Mallory unfortunately plummeted down a hole many Americans before her have suffered through; opioid addiction.

She’s not proud of the choices she made in the depths of her addiction, some having life-long repercussions. Mallory harbors a lot of guilt from that time.

With the help of her sponsor, and his encouragement to return to the sport she loves, Mallory has made huge strides. Now it is time to secure some independence.

Mallory applies for a position as a summer nanny in the high-end suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey. The Maxwells, Ted and Caroline, have a 5-year old son, Teddy, who will be her only charge. The job seems perfect.

Teddy is such a smart, sweet little boy, who seems to take a shine to Mallory right away, and the property is gorgeous. She can get used to playing poolside all day.

Even though Mr. Maxwell seems to be quite concerned about Mallory’s past drug use, she still ends up securing the position. She’s elated. Now it is time to prove herself. This is her chance to rebuild her life.

Mallory moves into a pool house on the property and begins to develop a healthy schedule with Teddy. Teddy seems to be a budding little artist and spends at least an hour a day quietly drawing.

At first, Mallory is impressed with his skill and imagination, but when Teddy’s drawings begin to take a very dark turn, she becomes concerned.

When Mallory suspects that the scenes in the drawings may tie to a alleged murder that happened on the property in the 1940s, which she initially learns about from a nosy, eccentric neighbor, things escalate quickly.

Along with her new friend, Adrian, Mallory begins to deep dive into the history of the property and the suspected murder of the woman who once lived there.

Additionally, Mallory feels like Teddy’s imaginary friend, Anya, may be the missing woman in question and she clearly is trying to communicate with them.

Seriously though, can Mallory’s opinion even be trusted? Is she using again? She definitely seems to be spiraling. Right? I mean, ghosts aren’t real…

Or are they?

I had so much fun with this story. I could not put it down once I started, finishing the audiobook in a day. I was so captivated with this story.

It’s not complicated. It’s fairly linear and I was happy to just sit with Mallory and hear her tell it. It was just classic, eerie fun. This would make a great movie!!

I really enjoyed Mallory as a character. I feel like she was super likable and relatable. I loved the sinister vibe, even though I wasn’t 100% on what I should be afraid of at first.

The way Rekulak built up the tension and then slowly revealed the truth behind what has happening at the Maxwells was really fun. It flipped what I thought was happening on its head. I wasn’t shocked, but I was pleased that it ended in a unexpected direction.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flatiron Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

This is the first novel I have read from Rekulak and I am definitely excited to pick up more! Hidden Pictures is releasing tomorrow, Tuesday, May 10th.

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Review: The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

The Chalk ManThe Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eddie lives a quiet life in the same sleepy village in which he grew up. His day-to-day is fairly mundane. He’s a school teacher, who lives in a big house with a younger roommate and maybe he drinks too much.

That’s pretty much Eddie in a nutshell. Like many of us, his life wasn’t always quite so boring however. It just kind of evolved into its current repetitive state.

Little does Eddie know he’s about due for a good old-fashioned shake-up when a blast from his past returns.

His old friend Mickey is back in town and he wants to chat about a certain unresolved murder case from 1986. Eddie, who has been haunted by the events of that year, doesn’t really want to discuss it, but when Mickey tells him he may have the answer, Eddie can’t resist.

The conversation unsurprisingly stirs up all sorts of dark memories and emotions in Eddie. It’s tense. He and Mickey have been estranged for years. It’s not a warm and fuzzy reunion.

Mickey’s sudden reemergence in his life isn’t the only thing tied to the horrific events of 1986 though. The chalk men have also begun to mysteriously appear. Now Eddie must confront his fears and buried secrets head-on if he is ever going to be able to lay the past to rest.

I originally purchased The Chalk Man when in released in 2018, but then I sat on it for years. Honestly, I became apprehensive after reading some of the early reviews which basically alluded to this being a knock-off version of Stephen King’s masterpiece, It.

When my niece mentioned she wanted to Buddy Read The Chalk Man though, I threw caution to the wind and willingly jumped in.

I will say initially I was surprised by the number of similarities to It. I thought to myself, oh no, this could be bad.

However, I am happy to report that after that slightly frustrating start, this one really came around for me. I found it to be interesting as heck and loved the short chapters with their many mini-reveals. It made for a great Buddy Read and we had such a fun time discussing it along the way!

I believe this was Tudor’s debut and if so, I think it definitely sets the stage for her style. She brings a lot of creepy atmosphere in her stories and I loved the back and forth between past and present timelines in this one.

The sections from 1986, of Eddie and his friend group, had the heaviest It vibes, but I became so intrigued with the characters and all that was happening to them, that I eventually was able to overlook all the Itness.

I thought the mystery element was very well done and it definitely kept me guessing. I have also read The Burning Girls from Tudor and really enjoyed that one as well.

I would say, comparing the two, that her writing has matured a bit since this earlier release. I definitely look forward to picking up more from this author. I’m so glad that I finally gave this one a shot. Overall, a fun reading experience!

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Review: The Heights by Louise Candlish

The HeightsThe Heights by Louise Candlish
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

While working at a client’s condo, Ellen Saint, spots a man she knows across the way on a rooftop deck. She can’t believe her eyes.

Sure, he’s aged and other things about him seem different as well, but it’s definitely him. She would know him anywhere.

Ellen is shocked to see Kieran Watts that day because he is supposed to be dead. She knows this because she had him killed herself.

As you can imagine, this turn of events flips Ellen’s world upside down. She becomes obsessed with Kieran all over again. It takes over her every waking thought.

Through flashbacks we learn how this seemingly harmless suburban housewife could come to hate this young man, a close friend to her son, so much.

It’s clear Ellen believes Kieran is at fault in regards to a tragedy that changed their family forever. She will never forgive him and feels he got away with it when he should have been harshly punished. Vigilante justice comes to mind.

The Heights was a tough one for me. From the beginning, Ellen’s character put a bad taste in my mouth and it really never went away.

Normally I love a tale of obsession, but there was something about this one that just didn’t sit right for me.

I thought the end, like literally the last 10-15%, brought something interesting that I wasn’t expecting, but other than that I found this to be fairly boring and at times annoying.

I have really enjoyed three of Candlish’s previous novels, Our House, Those People and The Other Passenger, so just because this one missed the mark for me, I still consider her to be one of my favorite Domestic Thriller authors.

With all of this being said, I did like the way this story was formatted; the way Kieran’s relationship with Ellen’s family was revealed, the tragedy that changed everything and the revelations at the end.

Also, as I always say, just because this one didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. If you are intrigued by the premise, if you want to know what the heck Kieran did to become so vilified, you should definitely pick this one up and give it a try.

Thank you to the publisher, Atria Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to picking up Candlish’s next book!

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Review: Beneath the Stairs by Jennifer Fawcett

Beneath the StairsBeneath the Stairs by Jennifer Fawcett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Clare left her small hometown of Sumner’s Mills, in upstate New York, behind many years ago. And it wasn’t that she just left, she ran.

After a chilling incident occurred one summer when she was just 14-years old, the town lost its sense of comfort for her. She couldn’t wait to get out of there.

It seems a silly thing, tweens exploring a haunted house, but after that day, Clare and her best friend, Abby, were never the same.

In fact, the incident was so traumatic, Abby’s entire personality seemed to changed. Her parents moved the entire family from town to try to escape it. It was really a formative experience in Clare’s life.

The girls eventually lost contact after Abby’s move. That’s why Clare is particularly surprised when Abby’s mom reaches out to her twenty years later and asks her to return to Sumner’s Mills.

Abby, whose mental health has continued to be a challenge for her, is in the hospital, in a coma after an apparent overdose. She had returned to the haunted house.

Having just ended her long-term relationship, Clare is looking for an escape anyway. She decides she will head back to Sumner’s Mills, lick her wounds for a bit and try to discover what could have possibly possessed Abby to go back to that house.

Once back in her childhood home, Clare is reacquainted with old friends and begins a deep dive into the history of the haunted house, known in town as the Octagon House for its peculiar shape.

Beneath the Stairs uses both past and present perspectives to weave together this truly haunting tale. I always enjoy that narrative format, so was excited to see it here.

This book is definitely a slow burn, and while there’s a lot going on, I feel like Fawcett did a great job weaving it all together in a way that felt fluid.

I enjoyed getting to know Clare as a character. She was strong-willed and pretty fearless. It is clear she had built walls up around herself after her childhood trauma. I felt for her. She was alone, both mentally and physically, through a lot of her struggles.

Over the course of the story, Clare comes into contact with a man who was sort of a first love for her. I was completely invested in the exploration of that relationship. I thought it was extremely realistic and very well done.

My only slight critiques for this story would be that it is quite slow, eventually toeing drawn-out territory. Also, towards the end, a few situations didn’t quite make sense to me. I was left with questions.

Overall though, this is a fun read. I am still thinking about it weeks later, so that’s always a good sign.

I loved the is it supernatural, is it not supernatural feel; generally an element I will look for when picking up haunting Thrillers. Fawcett definitely delivered those vibes; something I hope she continues to bring with future works.

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

I enjoyed this a lot and look forward to picking up more from Jennifer Fawcett!

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Review: The Night Shift by Alex Finlay

The Night ShiftThe Night Shift by Alex Finlay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

On December 31, 1999, a mass murder occurred at a Blockbuster Video store in Linden, New Jersey. The vicious closing time attack left three teenage girls and their manager dead; one girl survived.

The alleged perpetrator, after being initially interrogated, is freed on a technicality. It’s at that point that he flees, never to be seen or heard from again.

Fifteen years later, in Linden, girls closing up an ice cream shop are brutally attacked. Again, there is one survivor.

Both final girls recall the attacker whispering something to them before he flees: good night, pretty girl.

Could the Blockbuster attacker be back, or is there a copycat killer on the prowl?

The Night Shift follows multiple perspectives as both the events of the past and present are explored; including possible connections. The evolution of this story was absolutely spellbinding.

Finlay drew me in from the very start of this book and it never let up. I read this entire thing in a day and half, while reading other books. It’s safe to say, I quickly became obsessed with this.

Initially, I felt like there may be too many perspectives followed, but as it progressed, it became obvious why Finlay chose to write it that way. He really pulled it off. It ended up weaving together perfectly.

Reflecting back on my time reading Finlay’s previous work, Every Last Fear, I had the exact same comment on that one.

There were a ton of perspectives there as well, and even though I ended up feeling like they were all necessary, I feel even stronger about the way The Night Shift was done. For me, Finlay’s writing has grown and I’m loving that upward trajectory.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see a recurring character from ELF, FBI Agent Sarah Keller. I enjoyed her perspective a lot before and even more so in this one. I felt like I got to know her better here and I became quite attached.

I love her strength of spirit and she is so darn smart. She’s definitely a character you can get behind.

This story kept me guessing. I think I started to figure it out really at the same time as the people investigating it. I had some inklings, but truth be told, I suspected everyone at one point or another.

It felt like such a natural progression of reveals. I was living for it.

Overall, I had a blast with this. It got wild. It was engaging for me the entire way through. Additionally, it read like a movie. I could picture every scene as it was playing out.

I would definitely recommend it. I pretty much feel on the same level for this one as I did for No Exit by Taylor Adams. Take from that what you will…

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I think it is safe to say at this point, I will pick up anything Alex Finlay writes!!

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