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!!

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Review: The Nightmare Man by J.H. Markert

The Nightmare ManThe Nightmare Man by J.H. Markert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Ben Bookman is a best-selling Horror novelist in the vein of Stephen King. Ben’s not afraid to get dark and growing up at his family’s spooky estate, known as Blackwood, certainly provided him with plenty of inspiration.

In fact, Ben returned to the estate for a weekend retreat to help him finish his latest book, The Scarecrow.

That weekend is shrouded in mystery. It’s mentioned a few separate times in the narrative, you can tell something fairly serious went down, but it’s unclear what. Even Ben can’t recall what happened there.

Regardless, the freaking book got finished and that’s the most important thing.

Unfortunately, before the book is even officially released, the terrible events from the story begin to occur in real life. It’s as if the story has crawled off the page and taken over Ben’s hometown of New Haven.

New Haven native, Detective Mills and his daughter, Rookie Detective Blue, are tasked with looking into the gruesome murders that become known as the Scarecrow Crimes. Unsurprisingly, Ben is their prime suspect.

How else would anyone know his text that well? It hasn’t even released yet. Perhaps it was a Netgalley Reader…

This story starts out with the first bloody crime scene. An entire family butchered, individually encased in cocoons made of corn husks and hung in their own barn.

Hey, I told you it gets dark. There is oozing blood, flies and let’s not even consider the smell.

Mills and Blue are in for the most startling investigation of their lives. Ben Bloom is just trying to save his family from harm and his reputation. If anyone can get to the bottom of these crimes, it should be the man who wrote them.

The build-up of this had me temporarily fooled. I thought this was going in one direction, a sort of predictable direction, but enjoyably, it was not that. This is actually a unique and twisted tale that definitely kept me engaged.

There are a lot of characters and I’ll admit, at times I lost track a bit. That was sort of a downfall for me. I had to relisten to some parts a few times. It’s the kind of story, if you aren’t 100% paying attention you are going to miss something; particularly towards the end.

Additionally, I felt this was a little drawn out. I think it could have been cut down a bit and it still would have had the same impact.

With this being said, I did really appreciate Markert’s creativity and the Horror imagery was well-presented. This is a big scope kind of story and honestly, I’m not completely sure I picked up on all the different aspects of it.

This was left off nicely though, where I could actually see there being a strong continuation to this story. There are definitely some things that could use further exploration. I’d absolutely be willing to go along for the ride.

I definitely recommend this to Horror fans, or fans of dark, potentially supernatural Thrillers. I think a lot of Readers will really enjoy this one.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books and Dreamscape Media, for providing me with copies to read and review. I am looking forward to more from J.H. Markert!

The Nightmare Man is releasing on Tuesday, January 10th, 2023!! You can preorder now!!

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Review: Murder, She Wrote: Death on the Emerald Isle by Terrie Farley Moran

Murder, She Wrote: Death on the Emerald Isle (Murder She Wrote Book 56)Murder, She Wrote: Death on the Emerald Isle by Jessica Fletcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When Jessica is asked to fill-in for a friend who is unable to attend a book conference at which she was set to speak, Jess graciously accepts, because that’s the type of woman Jessica Fletcher is. She’s helpful to her friends.

That’s why where her long-time Cabot Cove neighbor, Maeve O’Bannon, asks her to do her a favor while attending said conference, Jess agrees to that too.

The conference is in Belfast, Northern Ireland, very close to the village Maeve’s family hails from, Bushmills.

Maeve has in her possession some beautiful landscapes her Grandfather painted of Bushmills. As Maeve nears the final chapter of her life, and with no family stateside to bequeath the paintings to, she asks Jessica to take them and present them to her remaining family members in Bushmills.

In Belfast, Jessica attends the book event, then is picked-up by an O’Bannon family friend and escorted the rest of the way to Bushmills.

The O’Bannon family is well-known and well-off as owners of a very successful skincare/cosmetics line. Their company is currently in negotiations to merge with a similar French company. They have a lot going on.

The friendly family greets Jessica with kindness and welcomes her whole-heartedly, inviting her along to parties and other family gatherings.

The morning after one of these gatherings, as Jessica is taking a solo-tour of the village via bicycle, she comes across a vehicle, parked in a strange location with a man slumped over the steering wheel.

It turns out it is Michael O’Bannon, one of Maeve’s cousins, a local doctor. He is dead!

Of course this is before Jessica has had a chance to present the paintings to the family and now it would be in ill-taste to do so. They’ve got more important things to worry about now, having just lost a loved one.

Jessica agrees to stay on in Bushmills until the matter is settled. While she’s there, she might as well solve the murder. This is Book #56, people. You know how Jessica is.

Y’all, this was exactly the kind of cozy, simple, nostalgic mystery I needed right now. The holidays can get stressful. It felt so nice sitting and getting swept into this story.

It was comforting to be reunited with Jessica and I loved going along with her as she explored the beautiful countryside of Northern Ireland.

While this wasn’t the most captivating Murder, She Wrote mystery that I have ever read, I still really enjoyed it.

I loved the setting and the idea of the O’Bannon family and their business. It was also pleasing to see Jessica get along with and aiding local law enforcement.

Additionally, Jessica met a bit of a protege in this one. A girl named Maggie, who worked at the Inn where Jessica stayed in Bushmills.

I loved Maggie. She was gungho to help Jessica look into Michael’s death and she was good at it. I would love to see her again in a future installment. That would be so fun!

I’m really pleased with this series in the hands of Terrie Farley Moran. I think she has done a great job channeling the original tone of the series. I hope she continues on with it for a long time to come.

Murder, She Wrote is my number one comfort series and I will continue to pick them up as long as they are published! Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

Murder, She Wrote: Death on the Emerald Isle is releasing on Tuesday, January 3, 2023.

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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!!

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Review: All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

All the Dangerous ThingsAll the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Isabelle Drake has barely slept in a year. Not since the night her toddler, Mason, disappeared from their home. Her and her husband were asleep in the next room, but they heard nothing, saw nothing.

The only sign of an intruder was an open window in Mason’s room. With zero other leads, or evidence though, the police had nothing to go on. The case goes cold.

Since that time, Isabelle and her husband, Ben, have split. Isabelle knows the stats, it’s not unusual for people who have lost a child to split up.

For her though, she just couldn’t understand how Ben seemed to move on after Mason. He gave up on him. Isabelle can’t do that. She’s not going to chalk it up as a loss and move on. Her son could still be out there. She refuses to see him as gone forever.

Isabelle talks about the case, literally gives talks about the case any time she can. She figures talking about it, keeps the case alive. It keeps Mason’s missing status in the forefront of people’s minds.

It’s after speaking at an event dedicated to True crime that she meets True Crime Podcaster, Waylon Spencer. Waylon takes an interest in Mason’s case and proposes to Isabelle that they work together. If he can interview her for his series, it will bring even more exposure to her case.

After some thought, Isabelle agrees and Waylon comes to stay in Savannah, to be near her and make the interview process easier on them both. Thus, it begins.

In addition to Isabelle’s present perspective, we also get her past perspective. In her childhood she lived with her Mom, Dad and little sister, Margaret.

After tragedy struck the family, Isabelle was haunted by the event. She’s never truly recovered from the trauma and a lot of recollections are more her trying to parse out the truth of what happened as opposed to a strict retelling of the event.

I really enjoyed the inclusion of this past perspective. I felt it gave a lot of insight into who Isabelle was as a character and helped to give substance to her motivations in her present.

I found this entire story so compelling. From the first moments I met Isabelle, I was sucked into her story. I wanted to know everything there was to know about her life, both past and present.

It was interesting to be inside her head as she grappled with the loss of Mason and tried to make sense of it. The lack of sleep has had an effect on her, so it’s unclear whether or not she’s entirely reliable.

I am a sucker for an unreliable narrator. I know some Readers are over it, but I’m so not one of those Readers.

I wouldn’t describe this as being fast-paced, it was more of a steady pace with great tension throughout. Each chapter fills in more and more of the puzzle and it was really hard to put it down.

There were some super fun twists and reveals. I just had an absolute blast with this one. I really enjoyed Willingham’s earlier release, A Flicker in the Dark, and personally, I think this one is even better. Highly recommend the audio format as the narration is fantastic!

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

After loving her first two novels, it’s safe to say that I will continue to pick up anything else Stacy Willingham writes. Looking forward to more!!

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Review: All Hallows by Christopher Golden

All HallowsAll Hallows by Christopher Golden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

All Hallows, Christopher Golden’s upcoming Horror release, is set in Coventry, Massachusetts.

More specifically, all the events contained within this story surround Halloween Night, 1984, in the solitary neighborhood of Parmenter Road.

The energy in the neighborhood that day is electric, as everyone puts the last-minute touches on the night’s events, decor and costumes.

The Barbosa Family will be hosting their annual and this year, their final, Haunted Woods event. Tony and his daughter, Chloe, have been pouring their hearts and souls into this event for years; setting up just the right props and scares for neighbors and strangers alike to enjoy.

Also that evening will be the typical door-to-door trick-or-treating by neighborhood kids, as well as a block party hosted by the Koenig Family. There’s a lot happening.

The Reader follows the unfolding events via multiple perspectives of individuals living in the neighborhood, including both children and adults.

As the night begins to build, more and more drama is exposed on what one might suppose is a quiet little street. Parmenter Road, like many small town streets, contains a lot of people harboring a lot of secrets. A few of which are about to be brought to light in a big way.

On this night in particular, there are outsiders added to the mix as well. Children dressed in old-fashioned costumes, a Clown, a Scarecrow and a Raggedy Ann, begin to insert themselves into the activities, pleading with the local children for help.

They need to hide, just until midnight from The Cunning Man. Will anyone help them?

I had a lot of fun with this. I love neighborhood-focused stories and this one night on Parmenter Road gave me all the spectacle and intrigue that I could want in that regard.

There was just the right amount of family drama, 80s-references, kills, gore and creepy imagery to keep me 100% invested all the way through.

There are a lot of perspectives, which I feel like not everyone will be crazy about, but for me it made perfect sense. Considering how the story plays out, I actually can’t imagine it being told any other way.

I also loved the atmosphere. Golden brought me back to the Halloween Nights of my youth. Traipsing around with the other neighborhood kids under our claustrophobic masks, carrying plastic orange pumpkins, hitting up as many houses as we could, walking a little faster through the dark spaces between homes.

The strange children and the idea of The Cunning Man definitely brought the chills as well. Nostalgic and scary, I definitely enjoyed the unsettling vibes.

Thank you to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me a copy to read and review. I always enjoy checking out Golden’s new work, sure to be full of creativity and frightening imagery.

Hallow’s Eve is being released on Tuesday, January 24, 2023. Preorder your copy now!!!

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Review: The Kind to Kill (Shana Merchant #4) by Tessa Wegert

The Kind to Kill (Shana Merchant #4)The Kind to Kill by Tessa Wegert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Kind to Kill is the 4th-book in Tessa Wegert’s Crime Fiction/Police Procedural series, Shana Merchant.

If you are unfamiliar with these books, they follow Senior Investigator, Shana Merchant, who, at the start of the series, transferred from the NYPD to the Thousand Islands region of upstate New York. She does this after having a horrendous run-in with a serial killer.

Initially, Shana is looking for a slower pace then her NYPD position. Alas, it seems murder and mayhem follow her everywhere she goes.

I definitely recommend starting at the beginning of this series and working your way through. Although, like many Adult Mystery, or Police Procedural series, you can read any of the books as standalones, or start anywhere along the line, I feel like this series has the greatest impact if you begin with book one, Death in the Family.

In this installment, it’s mid-summer and Alexandria Bay is gearing up for their popular Pirate Days event. The town floods with tourists eagerly anticipating the fun-filled annual festival.

Shana is still reeling from the events at the conclusion of book three, but she is hoping things will settle down soon enough. Maybe the Pirate Days are just what the community needs to distract their attention away from her and the high profile Blake Bram case for a bit.

Unfortunately, when a tourist named Rebecca, visiting the area with her husband, mysteriously disappears, Shana and her team realize this isn’t going to be a normal, relaxed community event.

Their resulting investigation could put a dark cloud directly over Pirate Days, a fact members of the local government aren’t too happy about. Shana refuses to back down though. Time is of the essence here and they need to find Rebecca; community reputation be damned.

As the investigation digs in, Shana begins to realize a lot of the evidence is reminiscent of the serial killer murders in New York she was involved in. Is it mere coincidence, or has someone targeted the area, targeted Shana, on purpose?

Does A-Bay have a full-fledged copy-cat on their hands?

As with the earlier books, I really enjoyed this one. Wegert has done a great job building out Shana’s character and backstory. In fact, it is a central theme throughout all the books in the series.

The beginning of this had a bit of a slow start for me. There was quite a bit of exploration of the community outlook and others opinions of Shana, her connection to Blake Bram and whether or not she had a culpability in his crimes.

For me, we sort of dug into that side of the story a bit too much at the beginning of this, when I would have preferred the focus to be more on the investigation into Rebecca’s disappearance.

With this being said, once the investigation does really get underway, I was hooked. I’m hooked into Shana’s personal story as well, don’t get me wrong, it just felt a little uneven there in the beginning.

The intensity of the case continues to build throughout the book, as more people get involved, including the complicated family of one of Shana’s team members. There were some clever red herrings placed throughout and I enjoyed guessing at what the final outcome would be.

Spoiler Alert: I didn’t guess correctly!

I’m so excited by the ending of this one. Nice set-up, Wegert! I cannot wait for the next book. Already! It’s true, I’m totally invested in this series.

Thank you to the publisher, Severn House, for providing me with a copy to read and review. The Kind to Kill releases in early-December 2022, so you have plenty of time to catch-up with, or start the series, before its release.

Don’t miss out!!

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Review: Found Object by Anne Frasier

Found ObjectFound Object by Anne Frasier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Jupiter Bellarose is an investigative journalist whose last project ended in tragedy. She feels responsible for the way things turned out and struggles to move past it.

She spends some time in a mental health hospital during her recovery and upon her release, her boss, Bennett, suggests that she take a break from her life in Minneapolis. He further suggests that perhaps it would be a good time to go home to Savannah, visit her father and work on an easy story.

Jupiter has avoided Savannah for a long time. As a place, it holds a lot of dark memories for her. Her mother, Marie Nova, a world-famous actress was actually murdered there when Jupiter was a teenager.

Jupiter, unfortunately, along with her father, stumbled upon the very gruesome crime scene, including her mother’s decapitated head, shortly after the police did. It was a scene that continues to haunt her.

It’s a real testament to how shaken up she was by the last assignment that she actually agrees to go back. Her new project is a fluff piece regarding the Lumet family and their cosmetics empire, Luminescent.

Jupiter’s mother was once the face of Luminescent cosmetics, so Jupiter already has a bit of knowledge, including first-hand experiences, with the family. She can get this done.

In Savannah, Jupiter is hit in the face with her past. The sudden overflow of memories makes her curious. Some things about that tragic night long ago don’t add up.

Jupiter begins to do what she does best, she digs and she digs, coming ever closer to the answers she seeks. Will she be able to find the truth, or will she be taken out before she can? There’s only one way to find out…

Found Object definitely surprised me with its ability to draw me in. I wasn’t sure if I would end up liking this or not, truth be told, but oh my word, once I started, I couldn’t put it down.

Some aspects of it were a bit ridiculous, but I didn’t even care. I was so intrigued by the horrifying story of Jupiter’s mother. I had to know what the truth was.

Jupiter was a great main character. She was well fleshed out and I felt like over the course of the story, I really came to understand her. She had a complicated history and her personality definitely matched that.

There were also some great side characters, Ian, a local police officer, and Poppy, his sweet and smart little niece, definitely stick out in my mind.

For me, the mystery was fun. I love the examination of long ago cases and this one didn’t disappoint.

Additionally, I liked watching Jupiter go about her investigation. Being an investigative reporter, it made sense that she would be as resourceful as she was. Having Ian as a friend during her time in Savannah definitely helped as well.

This concluded in a place that definitely left it open for a continuation of Jupiter and Ian’s story. I would absolutely, one hundred percent, no doubt in my mind pick up a second book if one were published.

No pressure, Anne Frasier, but when can I get it?

Thank you so much to the publisher, Thomas Mercer, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly had fun with this story.

Found Object releases this Tuesday, October 18th!!!

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Review: Together We Burn by Isabel Ibañez

Together We BurnTogether We Burn by Isabel Ibañez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is the daughter of famous parents. Her mother was the most cherished flamenco dancer in Hispalia prior to her death and her father is the most celebrated Dragonador.

For a time, the family seemed to have it all. Their own arena, their own dragons and flocks of adoring spectators arriving for all of their shows.

After the tragic death of her mother, however, things begin to spiral for the Zalvidars, made worse after another tragedy strikes during their 500th-anniversary show.

Zarela’s father is seriously injured during the incident, as well as many others, and since it involved some of the Zalvidar’s dragons, the family is being blamed.

Now they face punishment from the Dragon Guild and could potentially lose their ancestral home, as well as their livelihood.

Zarela must keep the arena running on her own. She has to keep money coming in. In order to do so, she decides she needs to take her father’s place in the ring. She needs to become a Dragonador.

To prepare herself for the ring though, she’ll need training, and more dragons. Therefore, she ends up reaching out to dragon hunter, Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, to basically beg him for his help.

While at first Arturo turns Zarela away, she is determined and not taking no for an answer. Ultimately, after an amazing show of will, he’s impressed by her stubbornness. It’s clear she’s not leaving without a yes.

Arturo agrees to help and along with two dragons, they return to Zarela’s home to train and prepare for the show.

During all of this, Zarela also has suspicions that the tragedies involving her family and their shows haven’t been accidents. She thinks someone is purposefully trying to bring them down and she means to get to the bottom of it.

Sweeping through this intricate and wonderfully-developed world, Together We Burn had me completely entranced from start-to-finish!

I absolutely adored this. It’s not a very complicated story, but what’s here is beautifully done.

It’s a story of family, tradition, legacy and a new generations forging their own path while simultaneously paying tribute to those who came before.

❤️‍🔥❤️‍🔥❤️‍🔥❤️‍🔥❤️‍🔥❤️‍🔥❤️‍🔥❤️‍🔥❤️‍🔥❤️‍🔥❤️‍🔥❤️‍🔥

I found the world to be extremely creative. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it. The whole concept of the dragon fights, that practice, the similarities to traditional bullfighting, was very interesting to read about.

I liked that Ibañez gave her two main characters opposing views on the practice, as that let her give voice to both sides of the controversial issue. Personally, I thought that was handled very well.

At first I was a little concerned about that aspect of the story. I mean, even though dragons are fictional, I love them and don’t want to see them harmed.

I also enjoyed the characters so much and the mystery that ran throughout. Zarela was a great character to follow and the dynamic between her and Arturo gave the story just the right amount of humor and romance.

Finally, I really loved how this wrapped-up. I am more of a series girl, overall, as I feel some standalones leave me wanting more, but I was so pleased with the way this concluded. I walk away a happy girl!

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

I can’t wait to read more from Isabel Ibañez!!

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Review: The Fervor by Alma Katsu

The FervorThe Fervor by Alma Katsu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

A minister takes his wife and some local kids for a picnic in the mountains. Mayhem ensues. A newspaper man and woman share a romantic interlude at cabin in the woods. An evil is unleashed.

There’s something out there and anyone who goes near it is putting themselves, and anyone they come into contact with after, at risk.

Spiders, spiders everywhere, in the trees and in my hair…

It’s the 1940s and as WWII rages on, hostility towards individuals of Japanese descent in the United States is on the rise. Internment camps have been opened with some public support.

While her husband, a military pilot, is off fighting overseas, Meiko Briggs and her daughter, Aiko, get sent from their home in Seattle to such a camp in rural Idaho. With no other family to help them, Meiko and Aiko are on their own.

They keep their heads down, hoping for a day when they can be reunited with Mr. Briggs and return home. They want their old life back.

We follow Meiko and Aiko during their time at camp. There’s an illness spreading there and Meiko suspects there is more to it than meets the eye. It starts out with cold-like symptoms, but quickly escalates making the infected anxious and violent; like things weren’t bad enough already.

We also follow the minister, Archie, as he deals with the aftermath of his ill-fated picnic on the mountain, as well as the newspaper reporter, Fran. Through these multiple perspectives the whole truth of the fervor is revealed.

Katsu’s signature style is on full display throughout this tale; melding historic events with Horror and supernatural elements.

While the human-side of this story is horrifying enough, the supernatural elements involve yokai, entities from Japanese folklore, specifically the Jorogumo, a spider demon. These aspects were absolutely fascinating.

The content of this novel provides a great opportunity for exploration of topics pertinent today, such as xenophobia and aggressive nationalism.

Also, the whole idea of the illness and it’s spread, the fear related to that; obviously, that’s quite topical as well and left me with plenty to think about. I think those aspects will make this a great pick for book clubs, or just to discuss with friends. It’s nuanced. We love that.

I would describe this as a slow burn, however there are plenty of creepy elements and intrigue sprinkled throughout. This kept me compelled enough to keep going. I needed to find out what was going to happen.

My slight critiques would be that I wished the Jorogumo would have played an even larger, or maybe more overt role, and the switching amongst the multple-POVs sometimes made it feel a bit disjointed. I did enjoy how it all came together eventually though.

This novel absolutely solidified my belief that man is the most dangerous monster of all. I picked up on that same message in Katsu’s earlier release, The Hunger, as well.

Seriously, the things people are willing to do to one another when they’re afraid…

Overall, this was a strong novel. It’s smart and explores a lot of really interesting and important topics. I continue to be impressed with Katsu’s imaginative take on Historical Horror. It’s so unique and refreshing. Well done!

Thank you so much to the publisher, P.G. Putnam’s Sons, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I have been highly anticipating this one and it did not disappoint.

The Fervor releases this Tuesday, April 26th!!!

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