Review: Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun (Finlay Donovan #3) by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun (Finlay Donovan, #3)Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun by Elle Cosimano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another thrilling, fun-filled, action packed, over-the-top adventure with my favorite gal pals, Finlay and Vero!!

In this 3rd-installment of the beloved Finlay Donovan Mystery series, Finlay and Vero pack their bags and head to a recently developed Citizen’s Police Academy.

Nick, Finlay’s potential love interest, is the cop in charge of the program and many of his departmental friends are there acting as instructors. Finlay is under the guise of researching her next book, but we all know how true that is.

She’s actually there to try to find the mysterious character, Easy Clean. But like, yeah, she does actually need to finish that book. Will her protagonist get together with the cop?

As you can imagine, Finlay and Vero’s time living in dorms, attending classes where they get put through police training along with Finlay’s elderly neighbor, some over-enthusiastic podcasters and others, will not be without its hijinks.

There’s so much going on in this one. Finlay’s ex-husband is circling around, trying to make amends, which Finlay wants no part of. Vero’s past gets brought up in a big way and mob boss, Feliks isn’t quite done with the ladies yet.

The Finlay Donovan series is one of my favorite Cozy Mystery series ever. The main reasons for that are the characters and the humor.

Finlay has such a dry sense of humor. I absolutely love the way she describes everything going on around her and her feelings about it. I’m seriously in stitches half the time.

I have listened to the entire series on audio and definitely recommend that medium. At this point, the narrator, Angela Dawe, is Finlay Donovan to me. Her voice-work in that role is top notch!

The relationship between Finlay and Vero is perfect as well. They’re so in deep together at this point. I love how even though, they are pretty different when you think about it, they are fully committed to one another and their friendship benefits them both equally.

The ending of this leads me to believe there will absolutely be a fourth installment. I’m not sure how many books are slated to be in this series, but I will be reading them all. Each and every one. Happily and with excitement.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I have been so excited for this release and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun is available now!!!

View all my reviews

Review: How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

How to Sell a Haunted HouseHow to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can’t recall when Grady Hendrix and I had a conversation about everything I would love to see in a Horror novel, but the man must have been taking notes!!!

This story follows Louise Joyner and her brother, Mark. Louise lives in California, while her brother, Mark, still lives in their hometown of Charleston, South Carolina.

The two siblings are not close. They basically only see each other, or talk really, when they are doing things with the rest of the family, like with their Mom, Dad, cousins, Aunts, etc. Otherwise, it’s a bit like cats and dogs.

So, when Louise receives a random call from Mark, she knows the news can’t be good and it’s not. It’s like the rug has been ripped out from under her.

Their parents were killed in an accident. Louise needs to come home right away. It’s devastating. She leaves Poppy with her ex, packs her things and boards a plane.

There’s so much to do, the funeral, the estate, but she doesn’t want to be dealing with any of it. She just wants to be alone, but unfortunately, when people die they leave things behind that have to be dealt with.

Her parents left a lot behind. Of course they did, they weren’t expecting to go anytime soon. They built an entire life in Charleston. They lived in the same house that Louise and Mark’s Mom grew-up in; decades and decades of stuff, memories, accumulating.

How can they get rid of all of that? Stressful! Adding fuel to the fire, there are unexpected turns, mainly involving the wills, that leave Louise and Mark even more at odds.

This sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It is. It is for regular people with regular items that need to be dealt with, but what is kept within the walls of Louise and Mark’s childhood home isn’t exactly what you would call regular.

Their Mom was a puppeteer. She hand-made all of her own puppets; hundreds and hundreds of puppets. But even puppets need more friends, so there are dolls and odd taxidermy craft projects as well. Every room seems to have dozens of little eyes watching your every move.

From the moment Louise sets foot in the house, she feels like something is off. It’s giving her the creeps, she can hardly stand to be in there anymore. Memories overwhelm her. Disturbing incidents from her childhood. Was it just her imagination? Is it now?

Regardless of the vibe of the house, her and Mark want to prep it for sale. Both of them need the money. They need this done quick. They’ll have to work together.

I won’t say anything more about the plot of this novel, as I definitely recommend going into it knowing as little as possible. I didn’t really know what it involved when I started and I’m so glad.

I knew Haunted House, siblings and the fact that their parents had passed away. From that I expected to really enjoy this as I love Horror that explores grief, complicated family dynamics and of course, haunted houses.

This story does have all of that, but also much more. The surface level story is so engaging, yet this one runs deep. If you want to unpack it all, there’s a lot to explore.

Louise and Mark. Their relationship is so complicated. At first, I hated Mark. Not going to lie. I thought he was the biggest jerk to his sister and for no reason. He seemed spoiled to me and jealous of her.

As the story builds, you do get back story of their childhood and a lot of interesting things had happened to them; between them. I felt like after reading that stuff, Mark’s personality started to make a lot more sense.

I loved watching the evolution of their relationship as well. As they began to open up with one another and tried to understand the other’s perspective. I thought that was such a nicely done progression. I felt bad that it took the death of their parents for them to have those needed conversations.

It was dramatic. I also started to feel a certain way towards their parents and it wasn’t very charitable. I felt like they had sort of plagued their own children to grow up with certain issues because of the choices they had made.

This won’t make sense until you read the novel, but just trust, if you become as invested in this as I did, your emotions will run the full range before you are done. With emotional range in mind, I loved the clever section titles. Well played by Hendrix.

I can acknowledge that this book won’t be for everyone. I know that. It plays on certain tropes not everyone is going to love, but for me, this was a top-tier Horror story.

It was incredibly well-told with compelling characters, deep family issues and themes explored, as well as toe-curling imagery. This played off all of my childhood fears and let’s be frank, things I am still afraid of today, even as an adult.

I had moments where I had to walk away from it. It was scary to me. Seriously, there were nights when I had to put it down and read a palate cleansing book before I could even attempt to go to sleep. That’s a sign of a great story!

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

This was absolutely one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint. In fact, I’ve found a new one to add to my ‘Favorites’ shelf!!

View all my reviews

Review: Begin Again by Emma Lord

Begin AgainBegin Again by Emma Lord
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Emma Lord and I have a special relationship. It’s like she sees me, she gets me, she channels what interests me into her stories. Every time I pick up one of her books, my heart is filled to the brim with love.

Okay, I’m not delusional. I know we don’t actually have a special relationship, but I definitely connect with her stories in a remarkable way; one that stands out to me amongst the many books I read.

For her latest release, Begin Again, I’ll be honest, I didn’t read the synopsis. I don’t really care what it is about, if her name is on the cover, I’m picking it up.

I went into this blind and was absolutely delighted with how this story began to unfold. Something completely wild happens in our protagonist’s life right off the bat. I was shocked and laughed, is this what this book is about?

This story follows Andie, who is navigating her first year post-high school. After spending her first semester at a local community college, remaining at home with her grandmothers, Andie has recently transferred to the college of her dreams.

Blue Ridge State is 2-hours from Andie’s home and once she is there, she quickly realizes that she is on her own for the very first time. Honestly, the wide-open freedom is jarring and a bit overwhelming.

Andie is a girl who always has a plan and right from the start her plans for her time at Blue Ridge don’t go as she anticipated. Her long-term boyfriend, Connor, who attended Blue Ridge first semester actually transferred to Andie’s old community college to surprise her.

She transferred to Blue Ridge with the hopes of surprising him. Huge whoopsie!

That enormous flub really sets the stage for Andie’s first term. She’s sort of thrown for a loop, but she isn’t someone who gives in easily. She slowly starts to build her own life; establish her independence.

Andie finds a group of friends, passions to pursue and a boy who is super kind and shares her interests. Blue Ridge is beginning to feel like home.

Life isn’t always smooth sailing though, as we all know and before too long the stress-monster is rearing his ugly head.

Connor is trying to maintain his presence in Andie’s life and she has mixed feelings about the status of their relationship. Then some startling secrets are revealed and of course, there’s some family drama happening that Andie can no longer ignore.

It’s a lot for her to try to navigate successfully. She’s sort of torn between the person she was and the person she has the potential to become. I became super invested in Andie’s life and all the issues swirling around her.

This story is set in that pivotal time of life when you are transitioning from high school, living with your family, to adulthood, living on your own. It’s that sweet spot where the building blocks of your future really begin to solidify.

Andie had some trauma in her family. She lost her mother when she was younger and her father skipped out a bit after that. It was a very impactful experience in her life.

As you would expect, Andie brings that into college with her. Her relationship with her father is still strained, even though he is making an effort, she’s not entirely sure she’s ready to forgive him just yet.

I love how Lord’s stories always include the complexity of family life. Families are just that, they’re complicated. Even the ones that appear perfect, there’s always something there; some issue or issues that can be explored.

Andie being on her own for the first time was also so compelling. She was on quite a journey of self-discovery, even if she was the last one to realize it.

Emma Lord brings so much love to her stories. You can tell she writes with care. She cares about her characters and how the issues are presented. While the stories overall have a feel-good tone, there are always deeper meanings and connections to be made.

I connected particularly well with this story. I’m not entirely sure what it was, but I developed such empathy for Andie. Additionally, the friend group, the found family feel, really touched me and the ending was completely satisfying.

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

While I figured I would love this story, I had no idea how much I would LOVE this story. I cannot wait to see what Emma Lord gifts us with next!!

View all my reviews

Review: Hell Bent (Alex Stern #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Hell Bent (Alex Stern, #2)Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hell Bent is the second release in the Alex Stern series by Leigh Bardugo. I’m told this is a trilogy, but at this point I would certainly accept a lot more.

As this is the second book in the series, I may mention certain things in this review that some may consider spoilers for the first book. I will try not to, but if you are concerned at all, turn back now.

In this book, we find Alex and Dawes desperately trying to find Darlington and bring him back from…well, hell.

It’s so dangerous and many would have chalked it up as a loss, but Alex and Dawes refuse to give up. After a failed attempt, it’s clear the girls cannot achieve their goal alone. Dawes thinks she knows the reason and the type of team they will need to assemble to help them.

They need to find two other people with a very specific qualification. It won’t be easy, but there’s more going on in New Haven than Darlington being missing. It’s imperative they work quickly.

As faculty members begin to mysteriously die off, it’s clear Alex and Dawes will need all the help they can get.

In this installment, both Alex and Darlington’s backstories continue to be built-out, but we also get more info on the side characters. Most importantly, the things that these characters have been through in their lives that make them strong additions to this team. They’ve all had their traumas.

I loved the team ultimately assembled, every one of them. It was giving me light Buffy-vibes in a couple of different ways and I was verrrrrry here for it.

Alex’s past comes back to haunt her when she least expects it, providing us with a very convincing new villain. I was really intrigued with the new occult/supernatural elements explored in this one, the new villain being one of those.

I think my favorite thing about this was watching Alex let down her guard a bit with her peers, or dare I say, friends. She has always been closed off, so watching her accept help from others was really very satisfying.

The closing scenes left me so excited for the next book. There is absolutely zero information on it right now, that I know of. It literally could be years, but you better believe I will be rereading these first two books again prior to it’s release.

Upon completion, I was left with my head spinning, racing and ecstatic. There was so much that happened over the course of this story, I can still hardly wrap my brain around it all. I seriously can’t wait to move forward with this series!

View all my reviews

Review: The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

The VillaThe Villa by Rachel Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

A fantastic, paranoia-filled romp in Italy following two sets of women over two timelines. I really enjoyed watching the dual-dramas of The Villa unfold.

Villa Rosato, 1974: Step-sisters, Mari and Lara, are on an artist’s holiday along with Mari’s boyfriend, Pierce. The trio are staying at the lavish holiday home at the invitation of rock star, Noel Gordon.

Mari is a writer and both Lara and Pierce are musicians. There’s a lot of creating going on at the home, but also a lot of other things. It’s sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, baby!

It’s during her stay at the villa that Mari pens one of the greatest horror novels of all time, her magnum opus, Lilith Rising, with the opening words, ‘houses remember’.

This creative retreat ends with Pierce’s brutal murder. Will the house remember?

In the present, Villa Rosato is now known as Villa Aestas, a luxurious holiday retreat, in spite of the fact that it’s a murder house. For best friends, writers, Emily and Chess, it’s the perfect spot for them to go and reconnect.

Emily, the author of a Cozy Mystery series is in a bit of a rut after the recent separation from her husband. It hasn’t been easy and with him going after her money, she’s financially strapped and emotionally at wits end.

Chess is a very successful self-help author, who rents the villa in the hopes that her best friend, Emily, will join her there for the summer.

Emily is concerned, you know about the murder house part, but it does sound like a nice escape. Chess always seems to be able to make her feel better, so maybe it will good.

Once at the villa, Emily is taken with the house and its history; more specifically the events of 1974. She begins researching and believes that the truth may be more sinister than what is currently believed.

She also feels like the truth may lie within Mari’s writings. It becomes a bit of a project for Emily. She’s fascinated by the topic and begins writing about it.

The murderous events at the villa have already been of interest to True Crime aficionados and podcasters for years, but how many of them have actually had the opportunity to go live in the house.

Emily could have insight nobody else has ever been privy too before. It’s exciting to her and definitely reinvigorates her creative juices.

When Chess begins sniffing around the same story, Emily gets a little miffed. This is her thing. Doesn’t Chess have enough already? Why can’t she leave this alone?

The seclusion of the home and foreboding nature of the house itself seems to be having an effect on the women. They’re snapping at each other, running hot and cold, are they just going stir-crazy, or is there something more eroding their relationship?

More importantly, will they both be able to make it out of the murder house alive?

I was greatly anticipating The Villa and had so much fun listening to the audiobook. The narration was fantastic and absolutely channeled the slow-intensity of the story.

I loved the initial set-up. Getting to know the cast of characters, both past and present, kept me fully engaged and present. I was very quickly invested.

One of my favorite aspects was watching Emily’s character looking into the events of 1974; how those events intrigued her and gave her new focus.

Emily was at a place where she really needed somewhere to focus her energy outside of her failing relationship and bad financial circumstances. The villa helped with that.

The relationship between Emily and Chess was complicated, as many friendships are, but I found it to be 100% believable. Friendships can get messy and this one definitely had its moments.

The 1974-timeline was giving me heavy Daisy Jones & the Six energy and I wasn’t mad about it. It was interesting, with great characters and well-structured reveals.

Personally, I could have gone a bit darker in that time period, but I understand the choices made by the author. It didn’t need to get super dark to be effective and it kept it more evenly-balanced between the two time periods.

I also sort of wish there were more detailed excerpts from Lilith Rising included. I’m so intrigued by Mari’s book. I wish it actually existed in real life so I could read it.

That should giving you an inkling of how interesting it was, the whole concept of the ultimate Feminist Horror novel. This feeling also reminded me of Daisy Jones because I would have sold my soul for a copy of their nonexistent album.

I loved how this wrapped up. The influence of the one on the other; the permission granted in a way for the present to happen the way it did because of the past. It’s really difficult to talk about this without spoilers, so I will just say, I found this to be incredibly clever.

The final twist left me with that evil grin I love so much. It was just so well done.

Rachel Hawkins is crushing this gothic-infused mystery genre. I’m loving it. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. The Villa was a ton of fun and a great way to start off a new reading year!!

View all my reviews

Review: Bad Cree by Jessica Johns

Bad CreeBad Cree by Jessica Johns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After an extremely-vivid dream involving a seemingly-evil murder of crows, Mackenzie wakes with a start to find that she has the severed head of a crow in her hand.

Trying to shake off the fear from the dream, Mackenzie is shocked at what she is seeing. After a few breathless moments, the head is gone. Was it really there, and if so, what does it mean?

Rattled from the dream, Mackenzie is even more shaken the next day when she discovers crows seem to be watching and following her through the city streets. As if the dream itself weren’t disturbing enough.

She confides in her one close friend in the city, hoping they will be able to help her make some sense of what is happening to her. Unfortunately, the nightmares persist. Mackenzie is losing sleep and her health takes a blow. She needs to do something.

She needs to figure this out. She can’t go on like this. She decides she needs to go home. Her gut tells her that the answers are there, but the idea of returning to her rural prairie town fills Mackenzie with apprehension. Having fled home after the death of her beloved kokum, Mackenzie now feels estranged from her close-knit family.

It doesn’t help that when her sister, Sabrina, passed away suddenly, Mackenzie, unable to face it, didn’t even go home for the funeral. She carries a lot of guilt because of that.

Once home, she’s enveloped quickly back into the fray. It’s like a warm, though tentative hug. The reunion goes better than she expected.

Mackenzie finds herself slowly gaining strength from her family, it’s a physical reminder of who she is and where she came from. She has such loving, supportive and wise women in her life. Her Mom and Aunties, even her cousins, surround her with energy.

Her dreams do continue and seem to be escalating, however, she now has someone to share them with. She’s confiding in her family and together it feels like they may be able to actually figure it out.

Mackenzie spends a lot of time with her cousin, Kassidy, and sister, Tracey, trying to decipher the meaning behind the nightmares. It’s clear they’re connected to a night they shared at the lake, where the girls, along with the now deceased, Sabrina, took an ill-fated walk home from a party.

But how can that long-ago night possibly be connected?

‘This is serious. These dreams, the crows. It’s all telling you something. You need to listen.’

Y’all, I fell completely in love with Jessica Johns’ debut novel, Bad Cree. It’s an exceptionally well-constructed, slow burn Supernatural Horror novel, full of inspired imagery and thought-provoking themes.

There’s no way I will be able to adequately explain my love for this, but I’ll give it my best shot.

From the very first pages I was pulled into this story. Johns goes dark and quickly. Mackenzie’s dreams are at the forefront at the start of this novel and I was digging the tone.

I really enjoyed Johns’ style of storytelling. The writing is blunt, to the point and perfectly descriptive without beating it to death. I appreciated how incredible the imagery was without being so flowery that the plot got buried.

I also really enjoyed the mystery at the heart of the story. Trying to find out how the current situation was related to the past was so enthralling.

Additionally, I loved watching Mackenzie’s journey as she reunited with her family and began opening up to them. She really needed to get to a place where she was okay asking for help and that touched me.

I felt everything she was going through. I felt those feelings, hesitations, grief, guilt, etc. It was all so well done. It was super believable and relatable.

Another thing I really appreciated about this story is that there is no romance. This is a story of family and culture, of history and growth, and it didn’t need a pointless romance shoved in to gain popularity points.

It’s also a very female-focused story, which was so refreshing. All the main characters in this story are either female, or nonbinary. To have an entire novel focused on familial relationships, and nothing else, is pretty rare and I loved how it was done here.

I highlighted so many passages in this book. I absolutely adored this from start-to-finish. The family in this story is total life goals. The Indigenous experience and lore weaved throughout made it captivating and eye-opening.

I could seriously go on for many more paragraphs, but at this point, I think you probably get it: I LOVED THIS STORY. 10-out-of-10 recommend!!

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

I am definitely buying a hard copy of this one for my shelves!! Bad Cree is releasing on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. This should be on every Horror Lovers TBR!!

View all my reviews

Review: These Fleeting Shadows by Kate Alice Marshall

These Fleeting ShadowsThese Fleeting Shadows by Kate Alice Marshall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

In These Fleeting Shadows we meet Helen Vaughan. Helen is a girl with a murky past and a slightly haunted present.

She knows that when she was very young, she and her Mom fled their ancestral home, Harrowstone Hall, where their extended family still live, but she has no idea why.

They never discuss it. They don’t talk about the family, about why they left, nothing. It’s just a giant black hole of nothingness looming over Helen’s entire life.

Then the notification arrives that her grandfather has passed away. They’re asked to come to Harrow for the funeral and surprisingly, her Mom agrees. They’re actually going.

Once there, Helen is swept up into Harrow immediately. Meeting her strange family, the eerie house and grounds, its a lot to take in.

When she receives the news of the inheritance, it’s even more overwhelming. The grandfather she barely knew left everything to her? Everything? Really? And what’s this clause about her having to stay in the house for one-year in order to receive everything?

She decides to give it a go.

Life at Harrow is disturbing. The people eccentric, the house itself a haunted labyrinth of confusion. It’s hard to tell if there is anyone Helen can trust. Can she even trust herself?

I don’t really know what to say about this novel. There were many things about it that I enjoyed, but I also found it to be convoluted, with certain events being very difficult to track.

The premise is great. We love an inheritance story, particularly ones set at a gothic mansion. Add in bizarre family members and we’re still on the right track.

A protagonist feeling haunted, unsure if her dreams are just that, or repressed memories? I’ll grab the popcorn. I’m still here for it.

I think where it really started losing me was the nature of the house, which really is the essence of the story. The reason behind the family doing what they were doing. It just lost me. It moved from where I thought it was going to something else entirely.

At the heart of the story, this reminded me of Kiersten White’s release, Hide. There’s a similar vein running through here that ran through that novel. Frankly, I didn’t enjoy it in either place.

In the Author’s Note at the end, Kate Alice Marshall writes a bit about being inspired by Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan to write this story. It sounds like this is in fact a modern-reimagining of that tale.

I wish I would have known that before. I think that could have made this story more impactful for me. Also, I would have loved to have read that original source material prior to picking this one up.

Either way, this ended up being a mixed bag for me. I fell in love with the cover, but eventually fell out of love with the content. The beginning was great, with a very promising set-up.

I loved the atmosphere created once they arrived at Harrow. By the mid-way point though, my interest was waning and by the end, I was looking forward to it being over.

While this story wasn’t necessarily to my liking, I still love Kate Alice Marshall’s writing and the risks she is willing to take with her stories.

These Fleeting Shadows may not have been a hit for me, but I’m confident that so many Readers will absolutely love this. I look forward to seeing what Marshall will serve us next!

View all my reviews

Review: Clown in a Cornfield 2: Frendo Lives by Adam Cesare

Clown in a Cornfield 2: Frendo LivesClown in a Cornfield 2: Frendo Lives by Adam Cesare
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

In my opinion, Clown in a Cornfield 2: Frendo Lives suffered a bit from middle-book syndrome.

Based upon the rumor mill and the way this one left off, I am guessing there is going to be a third book and it’s going to knock this one out of the park.

It’s been a year since the bloodbath in Kettle Springs. Quinn Maybrook finds herself back in Philadelphia, attending college and trying to recover from the horrors she survived.

The public reaction to the Kettle Springs events are mixed. There are factions of online warriors who believe the whole thing was a hoax and some who believe that Quinn and her friends, Cole and Rust, were the actual perpetrators. Frankly, it’s been difficult trying to navigate that atmosphere.

Quinn is a tough egg though, she’s getting by the best she can, just trying to blend in.

Back in Kettle Springs, her father is now the mayor, doing his best to get the damaged town back on track.

The town has become a bit of a tourist attraction for fans of the macabre, general looky-los and unfortunately, a few crazies. All the day in the life of an infamous town.

One weekend when Cole and Rust go to visit Quinn at college, they’re suddenly attacked by a familiar figure. This isn’t their first rodeo, however, and our trio is able to fight off their attackers.

Then Quinn gets the most disturbing call of her life. Something is going down in Kettle Springs and her father seems to be the latest victim. The three must return and seemingly relive the worst night of their life all over again.

Is it a copy-cat? Is it a conspiracy? How were the attacks coordinated? Quinn’s not sure yet, but she definitely intends to find out.

I loved Clown in a Cornfield. I started it on release day, read my hardback copy and enjoyed every moment of my reading experience. It was the exact book I needed to kick off the start of my Spooky Season 2020.

I loved the new girl trope we had happening with Quinn as she first arrived in Kettle Springs. The set-up was fantastic, including details as small as the view from Quinn’s bedroom window. I see you, Frendo.

The social commentary was fantastic as well and the kill scenes were a ton of fun. I marveled at Cesare’s creativity.

While this reading experience was quite different for me, I’m not mad at it.

This time around, I listened to the audiobook, while preparing for and traveling for Thanksgiving. Because of this, I feel like my mind wasn’t 100% committed and had the tendency to wander.

In fact, I listened to the last 40% twice, just trying to determine my opinion on it. One issue was that I found the multiple perspectives difficult to track.

Additionally, I found the build-up to the climax to be a bit muddled. In fact, it was confusion city there for me for a while.

Obviously Quinn’s personality has completely changed as well. At least it felt that way to me. While that’s understandable after all she’s been through, I did find it a little more challenging to connect with her.

While Cole and Rust’s relationship/angle was a bit of a mess for me, I did enjoy the inclusion of a new character in Kettle Springs, Jeri. Meaning new, as in we get her perspective multiple times in this installment.

Jeri lost her sister in the first book and had a very close call with Frendo. I really enjoyed learning more about her and her experience in the aftermath of his sister’s death and the town’s sudden infamy.

Personally, I don’t think the audibook did me any favors either. It’s not like the narration was bad. It really wasn’t. It was great in fact. I just think this could have been a better experience for me if I had read my hard copy.

Regardless, this was still a solid book. The themes involved were well-expressed. Particularly relevant in the aftermath of the Alex Jones / Sandy Hook trial. Cesare did a good job channeling those types of real-life issues into this.

I like that. I always enjoy some social commentary in my Horror. So, while this wasn’t great for me, I’m still enjoying this series and would absolutely pick up a third book!!!

View all my reviews

Review: Nothing More to Tell by Karen M. McManus

Nothing More to TellNothing More to Tell by Karen M. McManus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Karen M. McManus is back and her latest novel, Nothing More to Tell is my favorite yet!

I have been so hyped about this book for over a year and apparently, for good reason. I’m not sure if it was my level of excitement that pushed this one over the top for me, but this was pretty much a perfect YA Mystery for my tastes.

And that Epilogue?! Are you kidding me, McManus!? I want more of this story and these characters so much. Fingers crossed there will be an announcement soon, if there hasn’t been already. It’s possible I missed something. Nevertheless…

This story follows Brynn and Tripp, long-time friends from Sturgis, Massachusetts, who had a falling out and were then separated for four years after Brynn’s family moved to Chicago.

Due to a change in Brynn’s father’s job, they’re back in Sturgis, right back in their old house. Brynn is nervous about going back to Saint Ambrose School. She didn’t leave under the best terms, after her ex-best friend, Tripp, embarrassed her in gym class and then socially shunned her with zero impetus or explanation.

More tragic that all that though is the fact that just prior to their move, Brynn’s favorite teacher Mr. Larkin was murdered and found in the woods adjacent to the school. Three student discovered his body, her ex-friend Tripp being one of them.

Now upon their return, Brynn is determined to get to the truth behind Mr. Larkin’s death. She even pitches the case to a popular True Crime podcast, at which she has secured a dream internship.

Back in school, Brynn’s pretty determined. Let the investigation begin. She knows someone is hiding something about Mr. Larkin and it just may be Tripp.

The Reader also gets Tripp’s perspective and there are some scenes set in the before, surrounding the time that Mr. Larkin was killed.

I absolutely adore how McManus unrolled this story. The shifting perspectives, the mini-reveals along the way as Brynn gathers more and more information, it was perfectly paced in my opinion.

I loved Brynn’s investigation. Amateur sleuths are one of my favorite tropes and I found both Brynn’s motivations and her methods believable.

I also thought there were some great red herrings and the way this wrapped up was smart. As mentioned earlier, I am fairly sure there will be another book to follow this one, but since I have heard nothing official in that regard, I will just say that I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Personally, I would love more content with Brynn and Tripp!! There’s more to explore in this town.

As an aside to long-time McManus fans, you’ll find entertaining Easter Eggs, or references to her previous works cleverly placed throughout. Every time I came across one, it would just bring a ridiculous smile to my face.

Also, it made me want to reread everything she has ever written. Frankly, that shows you just how clever this one really is. Well played, McManus. Again. Well played.

View all my reviews

Review: The Wakening by J.G. Faherty

The WakeningThe Wakening by J.G. Faherty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Greetings Geeks & Ghouls!

Halloween Weekend is FINALLY upon us. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Am I right?!

If you love possession stories, if you love an exorcism, if you love an exorcism gone wrong, may I present J.G. Faherty’s, The Wakening, for your consideration. This could be the perfect weekend read for you!

This story follows a group of individuals, pulled together through an eerie set of circumstances, trying to save one small New York town from the grips of an ancient evil.

The story actually began over 50-years ago in a remote Guatemalan village, when a young Father Leo Bonaventura was called to assist a friend with a complicated exorcism.

Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well. In an effort to learn from that day, Bonaventura brings some evidence of that exorcism back with him to the United States to be studied. Ultimately depositing the objects at a University in upstate New York.

The University is in the small town of Hastings Mills. Over the years the town witnesses multiple atrocities, including an extremely vivid scene taking place in the abandoned attic room of one of the University buildings, when a group of students gathers to perform a seance.

I’m talking, extremely vivid. This was honestly my favorite scene of the entire book. It got my pulse racing. It seriously creeped me out. I could picture it all and the horror imagery was absolutely fantastic!!

It’s a little difficult to explain the set-up of this one, but after the background of the paranormal activities of the town, we begin to follow a group of paranormal investigators who get called to assist with a young girl, Abigail, who appears to be possessed.

Stone Graves is their leader and he is the host of a reality paranormal show. The group gets to Abigail’s home, much to the relief of Abby’s father, a single-parent, and immediately begin filming.

It’s clear that Abigail’s issues are no farce, the adults find themselves in a true battle, not just for their lives, but for the lives of the entire town. How can one little girl be so powerful?

Father Bonaventura, now well past his prime, just may be the key to it all.

Dun, dun dun. Y’all, this book was pedal to the floor the entire way through. I hope I have given an intriguing enough synopsis to get at least some of you Horror fans interested.

I don’t think it gets enough love yet, but we can change that. I appreciated the set-up of this so much. You can literally watch the timeline unfold of the horrors of this town.

And trust me, there are a lot of horrors happening with Abby’s house being the center of it all. When I mentioned above it is pedal to the floor, I meant it. There are no pages and pages of nonsense waiting for something paranormal to occur, it is in your face all the time.

Sometimes, maybe it was too much. I can see how some Readers may feel that way. My one small criticism would be that I did feel it was a touch too long. There was so much happening at Abby’s house that on occasion it began to feel a bit repetitive.

Also, this didn’t bother me at all, but I feel like I should provide a caution for others, the entity involved is sort of a demon of lust and chaos. Therefore, their power seeping over the town can cause blatant acts of hyper-sexualization.

To be clear, you will find that on page. Again, didn’t bother me, but if you feel you are sensitive to highly-sexual content, this may not be the book for you.

With this being said, I did love the build-up, including the set of characters that were brought together to battle the evil and the entire possession element. Even though it was a touch too long, I feel like it was worth the investment of my time.

I absolutely plan to pick up more of J.G. Faherty’s work. I was impressed by the imagery he was able to evoke with his words. Yikes.

Overall, The Wakening is an entertaining, pulse-racing, toe-curling, gag-inducing possession story!

View all my reviews