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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Blog Tour: Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Sister DearSister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

As her beloved Dad lay in his death bed at a local hospice, Eleanor Hardwicke, overhears a family secret that challenges everything she thought she knew about her life.

It turns out that her Dad, the closest person to her in the world, isn’t actually her biological father.

She can’t believe it. She feels so betrayed, he has lied to her for her entire life.

She would expect something like that from her mother, who is an absolutely vile woman, but her Dad? It’s a complete shock. One she doesn’t take well.

In the days that follow, she’s torn apart by how she behaved; kicking herself for her harsh reaction.

It’s too late for her to make it up to her Dad, so there’s nothing left to do but learn about her biological father, right?

When she discovers who he is, she can’t believe it!

A influential real estate magnate who owns half of the city she lives in, Portland, Maine.

In fact, he lives in Portland as well, with his beautiful wife. The power couple have a grown daughter, Victoria, meaning Eleanor has a half-sister she has never known.

Upon further investigation, she discovers Victoria is everything she is not: stunning, successful and married to an extremely handsome man.

The narrative follows Eleanor as she slowly infiltrates Victoria’s life.

The tension steadily builds, as you know this cannot end well!

Sister Dear is an intense Domestic Drama that kept me glued to the pages. I read this so quickly, I had to discover what would happen to Eleanor.

While definitely a quirky, slight unreliable narrator, I couldn’t help but be drawn in by Eleanor. I found her character to be so interesting.

Far from perfect, there was a lot going on there. Her relationship with her mother, that made me feel for her right from the start.

There were times when I want to reach through the pages, grab her by the shoulders and shake her! Why are you making these choices, Eleanor!?!?

As you race towards the conclusion, everything gets flipped upside down. The plot twist was so fun. I didn’t see it coming!

For me, the end was great. It definitely left me with an evil grin on my face, which is absolutely how I like to wrap-up my dramatic reads!

Thank you so much to the publisher, MIRA, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review, as well as including me in the Blog Tour for the release.

Hannah Mary McKinnon has a new fan in me. I look forward to reading more from her in the future!

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Review: Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Never Have I EverNever Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Something wicked this way comes…

When Angelica Roux breezes into Amy and Charlotte’s neighborhood Book Club, you would think she belonged there, or at least that she had been invited.

New to the neighborhood, renting a dilapidated house that sees many short-term tenants, Roux is carefree and mysterious.

The other women seem intrigued by Roux’s vivacious personality, but not Amy. She can’t help but wonder what this woman’s angle is. She seems to be intentionally trying to get under her skin.

When Roux proceeds to get the ladies sloshed, minus Charlotte, who is currently pregnant, Amy’s suspicions begin to grow.

Roux gathers them round and suggests they play a drinking game. The game is basically to confess the worst things they’ve ever done. An adult version of ‘never have I ever’. Amy is not playing.

When the party is over, secrets have been spilled that could alter the course of all their lives, but Roux isn’t done.

Turns out, she has dirt on Amy. Real dirt about the worst night of Amy’s life. One she thought was buried forever.

Now Roux has the goods to blackmail Amy for all she’s got.

There’s one problem, Roux has definitely underestimated Amy. The domestic goddess exterior is not the whole of her person and Amy is willing to do anything to protect what is hers.

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

The premise, absolutely is compelling. The writing, however, just didn’t work for me.

I found the dialogue to be wonky and had quite a few eye-roll moments.

Additionally, I felt like the pacing was off. It took a long time for me to get into it and then it would fluctuate between being interesting and being boring for the rest of the book.

The ultimate plot twist was gross. It made me super uncomfortable and yeah, it is just my opinion, but it pretty much ruined the whole book for me.

Basically, I am rounding up because I can admit that for many people this will be a good book. It just wasn’t the book for me.

I want to thank the publisher, William Morrow, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity even though it was a miss for me.

I don’t anticipate picking up further books from the author, but if you think there are other books of hers I would enjoy, let me know!

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Review: Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Little SecretsLittle Secrets by Jennifer Hillier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marin Machado is a boss.

A successful business woman, owning upscale hair salons catering to the stars, she is confident and happy.

Her equally successful and handsome husband, Derek, is also a business owner and the couple has a little boy, Sebastian, who is the light of their lives.

Marin has it all.

That is until someone nabs Sebastian from a busy shopping center just prior to the Christmas holiday.

In the blink of an eye, Marin and Derek’s world shatters. Devastated by Sebastian’s disappearance, they both retreat into themselves to deal with their pain and grief.

When the police investigation goes nowhere, Marin hires a PI to continue the search.

Over a year later, the private investigator uncovers something, but it isn’t about her son. It’s about her husband.

As further secrets are revealed the lines between love and hate begin to blur. A woman spurned is a serious force to be reckoned with and Marin has nothing to lose.

Her best friend, Sal, and a grief support group she is a part of, are Marin’s only real connections anymore. She feels so distant from Derek.

But who can she trust?

I had so much fun reading this book. It was captivating from the very first chapter.

I loved Marin’s character. All of her flaws and grief. I found her to be complex, yet relatable.

While I did guess one of the reveals earlier than I expect the reader is supposed to, it didn’t diminsh my enjoyment level at all.

I thought going along with Marin on her journey, as she learns the truth of her husband’s betrayal and what happened to her son, was so satisfying.

Hillier really impressed me with this one. My favorite Thriller of the year so far, I would say.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I cannot wait to see what Jennifer Hillier dreams up next!

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Review: The New Husband by D.J. Palmer

The New HusbandThe New Husband by D.J. Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Close to two years after her husband, Glen, goes missing, Nina Garrity is doing her best to put her life back together. She feels betrayed that he would just ditch her and their two children, Connor and Maggie.

In spite of this, when Simon Fitch walks into her life, she is charmed by him and suddenly ready to try love again.

Not everyone is pleased with this development. Particularly, her daughter, Maggie, whose precocious perspective we get throughout the novel, alternating with Nina’s.

Maggie’s perspective was definitely my favorite to read from. Sure, she’s sassy, but she’s thirteen and wise beyond her years. I found her to be an astute judge of character and considering the circumstances, I cherished her defiance.

When Nina and Simon buy a house together, the living environment becomes quite tense. Connor, Maggie’s older brother, really likes Simon. He believes his Father is dead and he is looking to move on, just as Nina is.

However, Maggie believes her Father is still out there and doesn’t understand why her Mother would just give up on him. Allowing Simon into their family seems like a hasty decision, as far as she is concerned, not to mention the fact that the guy is a complete creep. As a result, she’s fairly combative.

As a reader, it doesn’t take long before you begin to notice that Maggie is on to something. Simon’s behavior is definitely far from normal.

He’s clearly manipulating Nina, gaslighting her and distancing her from her friends, but why? Not only are his behaviors bizarre, they’re also dangerous. You start to fear for everyone in that house.

Full of twists, I mean, absolutely full of twists, I really had a fun time with this book. I loved the perspective shifts and seeing the story be pieced together that way was so intense.

I’ll agree with some earlier reviewers that it was a bit far-fetched as far as some of the plot twists went, but who cares? It was a wild ride and a great way to escape from life for a while. That’s always what I am looking for in a book. I want to get swept up in it, and this definitely provided that.

While it wasn’t perfect for me, it was pretty darn close. I find Palmer’s writing to be super compelling. He absolutely knows how to pull you in.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it and look forward to reading more from this author!

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Review: Rose Madder by Stephen King

Rose MadderRose Madder by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Opening with one of the most vivid scenes of violence I have ever read, Rose Madder tells the compelling tale of Rosie Daniels as she makes the decision to, and subsequently, leaves her vicious husband, Norman.

Admittedly, I had tried to read this book on two prior occasions and just couldn’t make it past that first scene. It is so harsh and was mentally exhausting for me. I would put it down and then just avoid it.

This doesn’t mean I thought it was bad. I knew if I kept going, I would enjoy the book, I just needed to be in the right head space to do so.

Even for King, those first pages are brutal and shattering because you know that is real.

This isn’t a book where the villain is an alien, an ancient spirit, or a ghost; he is just a man. A corrupt cop with a penchant for violence against women.

One of my favorite aspects of King’s writing is his ability to fully develop his characters. That is certainly the case here. From Rosie and Norman, all the way to the smallest side characters, I felt like I knew them all.

Rosie married Norman when she was very young, just out of high school. She had lost her family and had no outside support system. He became her whole world, no matter how difficult that world was.

After she decides to leave him, she discovers just how sheltered she has become. Her ability to navigate the outside world is close to nonexistent. I felt bad for her. I wished I was there to help her and guide her.

She hasn’t a clue where she will go or what she’ll do. She has no skills. What will she do for a job? How will she survive without money?

Regardless of her questions however, Rosie knows if she doesn’t leave, Norman will kill her. It’s not an if, it’s a when.

On a flight for her life, she boards a bus and selects the farthest stop she can afford. Once there, she will try to build a new life for herself with no resources. She left everything behind.

Unfortunately, if there is one thing that Norman is good at, it’s tracking people down. He’s humiliated by Rosie walking out on him and vows to find her.

Now his sole mission, he has big plans to make her pay. No matter what it takes, no matter how many laws he has to break, he will not give up.

The intensity that builds over the course of this book is truly something special. The narrative alternates back and forth between Rosie and Norman, so you can track his progress, and that really helped to build the sense of dread.

I became quite attached to Rosie rather quickly, as did many she met in her new life. That definitely escalated my fear for what I knew was coming.

In addition, there was a really interesting fantastical element thrown in that reminded me a bit of a cross between The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Dark Tower series.

That may seem like a really odd combination, and it is, but in King’s skilled hands, it somehow works.

I truly enjoyed this story. Thank you to all my Constant Reader friends who pushed me to finally pick it up this year.

I found it to be empowering and moving. I loved Rosie so much and her growth was satisfying. I am so happy I made time for it and can absolutely see myself reading it again some day.

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Review: Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

Darling Rose GoldDarling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Patty Watts was arrested and charged with poisoning her daughter, Rose Gold.

An alleged case of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, Patty was purported to have been abusing Rose Gold her entire life.

As a late teenager, Rose Gold confesses some things to a neighborhood friend and the adults around her end up putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

Ultimately, Rose Gold testified against her Mother in court and she was sentenced to five years. As you can imagine, this has led to an estranged relationship.

Darling Rose Gold follow two perspectives, both Patty and Rose Gold.

We follow Patty after she is released from serving her time and Rose Gold after her Mother is prosecuted up through the present day.

As Patty is released, she is picked up outside the prison gates by Rose Gold. It seems during the interim of her time away they have begun the process of healing their relationship.

Rose Gold is now a mother herself, of little Adam, and has purchased her own home. Since Patty has nowhere to go, it is decided that she will move in with them until she can get back on her feet.

This book is full of messed up twists and keeps its intensity throughout as the timelines come closer and closer to merging.

I love this type of format. I always end up racing through so fast to get to that climatic scene at the end.

About mid-way through I knew hoped I knew where this was going. It went there and I was hella happy about it.

A revenge story is one of my favorite tropes of all time. This one satisfied me in that regard and was full of masterful manipulation.

I have often mentioned that I love a good long-game; this story had that in spades. Well played, Wrobel.

There were definitely parts that made me uncomfortable, particularly the focus on Rose Gold’s ruined teeth, but I understand where the author was coming from in framing it that way.

Rose Gold and Patty definitely shared one of the most f*ed up relationships I have ever read. It’s also one I remember for a long time.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to more from Stephanie Wrobel.

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Review: No Exit by Taylor Adams

No ExitNo Exit by Taylor Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Darby Thorne has just received terrible news from her sister. Their mother is dying of cancer and she doesn’t have much time left.

Rushing home to Utah to be by her side, Darby encounters a blizzard in Colorado that makes all roads impassable.

Luckily, she comes across a remote rest stop that seems like a safe space to wait out the storm.

It has to be better than being trapped alone in her car for the night in freezing conditions.

Seeing other vehicles in the lot, Darby realizes she isn’t the only traveler stuck in this horrible situation. Upon entering, she finds three people inside who seem amiable enough.

Then a fourth person pops up who creeps her the f* out.

After his arrival, Darby is on edge and seemingly for good reason. As she is out in the parking lot, she notices a little girl locked in a dog cage in the back of a work van.

One of the people stuck here is a kidnapper and god knows what else!

Now Darby has to figure out how to free the girl, keep her safe and survive the night. All the while, not knowing who the predator is. So, no pressure.

This book was hella fun. Adams did a wonderful job of consistently building momentum throughout the story.

As I was reading, I found my level of anxiety getting higher, higher and higher. In a good way. The fun, edge-of-your-seat, kind of way; not the crawl under a blanket and not leave my house for a week kind of way.

When this book was released, there was quite a bit of hype surrounding it. Happy to report, that hype is legit.

Channeling strong horror movie vibes, this story will stick with me for a while. I loved the different characters and the horrific circumstances just seemed to get more and more dire as the hours at the rest stop ticked by.

Great pacing by Adams. I am really excited to see what he comes up with next. I hope he consistently stays in this thriller/horror zone. I definitely think he’s found his sweet spot!

As an aside, perfect winter read if you live in a climate where you get a lot of snow.

Blizzard coming this weekend? No problem. Just pick up No Exit and STAY AT HOME!!!

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Review: No Bad Deed by Heather Chavez

No Bad DeedNo Bad Deed by Heather Chavez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My head is spinning. Wow, that was a wild ride!!!

Driving home from work one night, Cassie Larkin sees what she assumes to be a domestic conflict happening on the side of the road.

She stops her car and calls 911. Although the operator tells her to remain in her vehicle, Cassie cannot sit idly by while this woman gets assaulted or worse.

As she breaks up the altercation, the man tells her that if she lets him kill this woman, he will let her live. Basically, this woman’s life for hers, but Cassie isn’t having that.

Eventually, the man flees, but unfortunately he does so in Cassie’s van. Now the psycho has her handbag, complete with identification, family photos, address, and her house keys.

Without putting too fine a point on it, this is basically my worse nightmare come to the page. Reading this opening scene, I was so prepared to throw this book in the freezer.

It’s like Heather Chavez knew exactly what to write to freak me the heck out!

And I cherish that.

When Cassie’s husband disappears the next night, on Halloween, while out trick-or-treating with their 6-year old daughter, her instincts tell her something is terribly wrong.

After she reports it, it seems the cops just believe this is a case of a man leaving his family. Cassie knows better, however, and begins her own investigation.

While it did surprise me that the cops didn’t take his disappearance more seriously, especially considering they knew the crazy, violent guy who stole her vehicle had her keys and information, I did love Cassie getting involved and looking into his disappearance herself.

Amateur sleuthing is one of my favorite tropes in a thriller and I think Chavez did a great job with it here.

This story took so many crazy turns, there was no way to predict what was going to happen next. As secrets begin to come out from Cassie’s own dark past, you know the final reveal will probably blow you away.

The final scenes did not disappoint!

I was so impressed with this. I was creeped out almost the entire time and it was so much fun. I cannot wait to read more from Chavez!

Thank you so much to the publisher, William Morrow, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly appreciate it!

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Review: The Look-Alike by Erica Spindler

The Look-AlikeThe Look-Alike by Erica Spindler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Ten years ago, Sienna Scott, stumbled across a murdered girl in the snow. Sienna was leaving the library and she recognized the girl as one of her classmates.

Understandably traumatized by this event, Sienna has a hard time forgetting the incident.

In fact, she has thought about it so much, she thinks she was the actual target that night, not the poor dead girl.

This coupled with some family issues, leads to Sienna getting shipped off to live with her Grandmother in London, where she becomes a professional chef.

Now upon returning to Tranquility Bluffs, a decade later, Sienna immediately begins to fixate again on the murder. They never caught the real killer after all. He could still be out there and still be after her.

Sienna’s mentally unstable mother is a huge part of this narrative. Her delusional disorder makes it close to impossible for her to be around Sienna, as Sienna’s safety is one of her biggest triggers.

I have to be honest and say, this whole dynamic made me super uncomfortable. Something about it just did not work for me.

I would actually say, overall, the author’s writing didn’t work for me. There were entire aspects to the plot that drove me crazy. Number one being the relationship with the neighbor.

There were a lot of red herrings and plot twists. At times, I felt myself sort of getting into it. Then something wonky would come up and it would kick me right out of the story again.

I would put this in a middling to average category for Adult Thrillers. Although with this being said, there is a reader for every book and just because this didn’t work for me personally, doesn’t mean you won’t love it!

If the premise sounds interesting to you, give it a try. Don’t let me sway you!

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

Even though this one wasn’t necessarily for me, I still appreciate the opportunity so much!

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