Review: The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

The House in the PinesThe House in the Pines by Ana Reyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

A fun debut novel! I liked this one a lot. The House in the Pines contains solid storytelling and an intriguing premise.

This story follows Maya. When Maya was a Senior in high school, her best friend Aubrey, died suddenly, mysteriously and with no identifiable cause, directly in front of Maya’s eyes. The only other person around, a young man named Frank, fled the scene.

Seven years later, Maya lives with a loving boyfriend, has a job she enjoys, although isn’t challenged by and is working through kicking a prescription drug habit.

Maya has struggled with the circumstances of Aubrey’s death ever since. Due to this, she has understandably had trouble with sleeping and the pills sort of took the edge off, helped her to suppress the overwhelming anxiety.

At this point, the prescriptions have run out. She needs to stop. It’s going about as well as would be expected, which is to say, not well at all. Then Maya makes a disturbing discovery.

Maya comes across a YouTube video showing a young woman, sitting in a diner booth, suddenly keel over and die. Sitting directly across from this woman is none other than Frank, the same man who happened to be sitting right next to Aubrey at the time of her death.

Maya is rattled. It seems like proof to her. She always knew Frank did something to Aubrey and now this other girl, this sort of proves it, doesn’t it?

After a disastrous dinner at her boyfriend’s parent’s house, Maya knows she can’t live with not knowing the truth any longer. She packs her bags and jumps a bus for her hometown of Pittsfield.

Her Mom still lives there in the house that Maya grew up in and welcomes her home with open arms. It’s hard for Maya to be back there after everything that happened, but she knows she needs this resolution in order to move forward.

Additionally, her mother, who has years of experience as an EMT, may be just the person to help Maya through the painful withdrawal process.

Maya finally feels able to face her past. She throws herself into an investigation, not only of what happened to her and Aubrey all those years ago, but also to the young woman at the diner.

I was really intrigued by this story. It pulled me in from the start. I enjoyed how Reyes structured the telling of the story. There are both past-and-present timelines, as you slowly piece together what happened between Maya, Frank and Aubrey that summer and how that has impacted Maya’s life ever since.

When she meets Frank at the local library, inexperienced Maya is taken in by the older boy right away. It’s not necessarily his looks, but more a certain magnetism he has that is hard to resist.

Frank knows just what to say and it seems they have similar interests. Before too long though, Maya begins to notice certain things about their time together that make her greatly uncomfortable. In fact, she becomes so ill at ease around him, she actually begins to fear him.

Additionally, Frank’s presence is putting a strain on her other relationships. Always thick as thieves, Maya and Aubrey are spending less time together than ever.

Once Maya finally admits to Aubrey the truth behind her relationship with Frank, Aubrey surprises her. She’s afraid of him too. Just as the two girls begin to make connections, on that very day, Aubrey ends up dead.

I could really sympathize with Maya. The events of that summer were truly traumatic and it definitely had lasting repercussions on her life. Finding and watching that video brought it all back for her.

It’s like she was forced to relive it. I appreciated that her character was willing to return home and face all her fears and it did get creepy.

I really enjoyed the pace of this as well. I couldn’t put it down once I started. While I found some reveals fairly predictable, if you’ve recently read (view spoiler), you may see it too, I still enjoyed the story a lot.

Overall, I am so glad that I picked this one up. It was quick and fun, yet thoughtful and slightly spooky. I am really impressed with this as a debut.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dutton, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I can’t wait to pick up more from Ana Reyes in the future!

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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: Magpie by Elizabeth Day

MagpieMagpie by Elizabeth Day
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Magpie follows Marissa, Kate and Jake. Marissa and Jake seem to have a perfect relationship. So perfect, in fact, that they dream of having a baby together.

Kate, is their perfect new lodger, whose rent should help them start their family. She gets on with Jake quite well.

All sounds perfect, doesn’t it? Guess what, if it seems that way, it’s probably not. We all read Thrillers, we know this.

It’s not just the fertility issues that start to put a strain on their relationship. Their new lodger also seems to like to push boundaries. It’s most distracting.

Magpie is a good book. It’s a solid story that I know a lot of Readers will really enjoy. I’m glad I picked it up, but unfortunately, I don’t think it is one that will stick in my mind for long.

For one, I’m not sure the subject matter really suited my tastes. Additionally, from the beginning I couldn’t stand Marissa. I felt like I was supposed to be on her side and if anything, it was the opposite for me.

This book is broken into separate Parts. Part I is from one perspective and then Part II shifts to another. Right around this time there was a big reveal.

For me, the reveal felt like it happened too early, because after that it was sort of just telling the aftermath of that reveal. It sucked any intrigue out of it for me.

I also feel, and this is 100% personal taste, that I would have enjoyed it more if it would have had a format that alternated perspectives for much longer. Sure, this could add some confusion, but also, that’s part of the fun.

There was something else more towards the end, but that ended up falling a little flat for me in comparison. Overall, this is a solid story. The things that didn’t work for me are personal taste issues and completely subjective. I’m sure many, many Readers will have a lot of fun with this.

If the synopsis sounds intriguing to you, absolutely give it a shot. There’s a book for every Reader and a Reader for every book. This one could be a new favorite for you.

This review feels a bit shorter than those I generally tend to write, but this one is really difficult to talk about without going into specifics. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, so will leave it here.

Magpie is entertaining, if not super memorable. I’m glad I gave it a shot. Even though it won’t end up on any of my favorites lists, it wasn’t a bad way to pass the time.

Thank you to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

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Review: One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke

One of the GirlsOne of the Girls by Lucy Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Bella wants only the best for her best friend Lexi’s Hen Do. It has to be one for the record books, as special as Lexi herself. That’s why she picks her girlfriend, Fen’s, Aunt’s villa on a remote Greek island as the destination.

The guest list is small, just Bella, Lexi, Fen, Robin, Bella and Lexi’s other closest friend from childhood, Eleanor, Lexi’s soon to be sister-in-law, and Ana, a new friend Lexi has made in her adult life.

Even though the setting is stunning, the property exceeding all expectations, the rest doesn’t turn out quite as Bella had anticipated.

Everyone seems a bit on edge, Bella’s not crazy about Lexi’s new friend, Ana. Who even is she anyway!?

Then there is the future sis-in-law, she’s awkward. Of course there’s tension with Robin. Bella and Robin have been estranged since that incident in high school. And why is Fen acting so remote?

Most unsettling for Bella though is Lexi herself. Who is this woman? Where is the party girl she used to know? The professional dancer who would hop from club to club imbibing in anything she could get her hands on well into the night?

But this story isn’t told just from Bella’s perspective. She just happens to be the person that I connected with the most; take from that what you will.

This story is told from all the ladies perspectives and my goodness, is there a lot racing through the minds of these women. The history, the self-doubt, the insecurities, the grudges, they run deep!!

Someone is not making it back from this weekend. You know that as you’re reading. This is not going to end well. But who and how and more importantly, why!?

One of the Girls took me by surprise. I loved this. It’s not perfect, no, but it resonated with me in so many different ways. I was absolutely captivated by these women.

I’m actually sorry I put off reading this for so long. It was a great fit for me as I enjoy a lot of drama, suspense and low-key girl squad vibes.

When I tell you the dramatic narrative left me unable to put this down, I am not exaggerating. I loved how this was formatted to slowly reveal the truth of all the relationships at play here. It’s complicated, but so is life.

I definitely would recommend this to any Reader who enjoys a lot of deep drama in their stories. We’re talking interpersonal relationships so mired, you wonder why the characters are even friends. Personally, I love that.

I also really enjoyed the conclusion to this. I loved the just desserts, if you will, and the way some of the storylines really came full circle. It gave me some real satisfaction at the end.

We love closure.

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

This was my first Lucy Clarke, but definitely will not be my last!

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Review: The Island by Adrian McKinty

The IslandThe Island by Adrian McKinty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

The Island follows a newly-formed family as they go on their first big vacation together.

When Tom Baxter, a doctor, announces that he needs to travel to Australia for a work event, his new wife Heather suggests the whole family go as a way to bond and spend some quality time together.

Tom, a widower, married the much younger Heather after meeting her at a yoga studio. Needless to say, his two children, 12-year old Owen and 14-year old Olivia, are less than enthused about this new arrangement.

For the most part, the kids are downright hostile towards Heather. Regardless, Heather loves Tom and she’s willing to dig in to make this work; putting up with the children’s petty behavior all the while.

Unsurprisingly, their vacation isn’t a magic pill that suddenly transforms them into a happy family. It’s actually pretty miserable for all involved.

The kids want to see wildlife and are loudly bummed that they aren’t getting that opportunity. Thus, when a man they meet offers them a chance to explore a mostly uninhabited island full of the wildlife they’ve been looking for, Heather convinces Tom it’s a great idea.

I mean, seriously, what could go wrong?

A lot. We all know this. A lot can go wrong.

Through an exceedingly-excruciating list of bad choices and uncomfortable familial tension, the family has a bit of an accident. Ultimately ending with them having to make a terrible choice.

Either way you cut it, they’re screwed. These events leave Heather and Tom separated and Heather simply fighting to get her and the kids off the island alive.

Hold onto your butts, because this story gets violent, grimy, dehydrating and over-the-top. It’s quite fun.

The plot is interesting enough to keep you engaged the whole way through. There’s no time wasted. It’s definitely channeling Australian Horror movie vibes. In fact, I thought of Wolf Creek a lot and it was even mentioned in the story!

I did enjoy the main character, Heather. She was a fighter and clearly, underestimated by many. She never gave up and I can get behind that.

Initially, the characters, their dynamics and interactions turned me off completely. I found it more annoying than anything else, but I never really need to like characters in order to enjoy a story.

This one is action-packed and frankly, that’s what I was here for, the action.

The further I got into this story, the more I was able to see the positive characteristics of Heather. Even the kids started to come around for me.

Going through what they end up going through, it’s hard not to feel at least some sympathy for them. I think McKinty did provide a solid enough foundation for the characters that you are at least able to understand their choices and motivations.

I’ve ended up thinking about this book a lot more than I anticipated after I finished it. I thought it would go in my earholes and quickly out of my brain, but it hasn’t. This one has really stayed with me.

Apparently, The Island packed even more of a punch than I realized. This would make a fantastic movie, which is exactly what I thought after finishing McKinty’s The Chain.

He has easily digestible ideas that I think would translate well to the big screen. Here’s hoping.

I’m looking forward to reading more from this author in the future. I have no idea what it will be, but I have no doubt that it will be an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride!

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Review: The Blame Game by Sandie Jones

The Blame GameThe Blame Game by Sandie Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Naomi is a UK-based therapist specializing in helping victims of domestic violence.

In her own life, Naomi is married to Leon, a man who initially swept her off her feet, and she still feels content and loved in their relationship.

Originally from New York, it has taken Naomi a long time to get to this place. Having been raised in a violent home, her mother ultimately having been killed by her father, Naomi has worked hard to move past that.

Regardless, of how far she gets however, it will always impact her life. It provides the prism through which she views the world.

Because of her past, Naomi frequently finds herself becoming overly invested in her client’s lives. She can’t help it. It’s a compulsion.

For example, she currently has a client, Jacob, who has decided to leave his abusive wife. Having an empty flat available, Naomi offers it to Jacob as a temporary safe haven.

When Jacob goes missing, Naomi is concerned that his wife may have found him, but the police think otherwise.

Before she knows it, Naomi is neck deep in a criminal investigation and she is the main suspect. Even her once loyal husband seems to believe she is guilty.

Naomi believes she is being framed and that her past may finally have come back to get her. Can she find Jacob and clear her name before it’s too late?

Y’all, The Blame Game was such a wild, and at times confusing, ride. I enjoyed this audiobook so much. Once I started with this story, I could not put it down.

I was all over the place with this. I had so many theories. I was getting so frustrated with Naomi, but for me, that was a huge part of the fun.

I haven’t been this frustrated with a main character since Behind Closed Doors, but again, in a way that was pure fun. If I could have reached through the pages and shaken the shit out of this woman, I would have.

If Sandie Jones goal was to mess with my mind, she 100% succeeded. Was this ridiculously dramatic, confusing, frustrating and over-the-top? Yes.

Did it also leave me with that devious little grin on my face at the very end that I cherish so incredibly much? Yesssss.

Did I love the overall experience!? Absolutely, yesssssss.

I thought the narrator nailed the performance of this story. She definitely kept me at the edge of my seat. The combination of the intensity of the story mixed with the intensity of the delivery was just so well done.

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

I have enjoyed Jones work in the past, but this one is definitely a standout for me!

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Review: Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

Stay AwakeStay Awake by Megan Goldin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After waking disoriented in a city cab, with disturbing messages inked on her hands and arms, Liv Reese asks the driver to drop her at her brownstone. Once there, Liv realizes she doesn’t have her keys. What a night.

She’s going to have to wake her roommate, Amy, to let her in. It’s not ideal, but can’t be helped. Liv is exhausted. She just wants to sleep off the rest of whatever this is.

Making matters even more confusing, she doesn’t recognize the couple who come to the door of her apartment. Could they possibly be guests of Amy’s?

The woman, in particular, is especially curt and hostile towards Liv. She claims they live there, have for quite some time and have no idea who Liv is, or where Amy could be.

Ejected from the place she considers home, Liv doesn’t know where to turn. Then she finds the bloody knife. Every move Liv makes only seems to lead to more questions.

The next day, she heads to work. The last thing she remembers is answering the phone at her desk. Maybe she can find some answers there.

In the office, things are just as confusing. It looks different and she doesn’t recognize anyone, but somehow they seem to know her.

Stumbling around the city, trying to piece together how she ended up in this state, Liv catches a news report that shows a murder scene with the same message written on a window as is written on her hands.

She pieces together that the last memories she has are from two years ago. What has she been doing all this time, and more importantly, what did she do last night? Is Liv capable of murder?

Through past and present perspectives, the Reader is clued in to the truths surrounding Liv’s memory issues and murky past. The question is, will Liv be able to piece it all together before it’s too late?

She’s on the run, but she doesn’t even realize from what. I’ll admit, her story had me panicking at times. It’s uncomfortable, but in the best ways.

Stay Awake was one of my absolute most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint for a second. I enjoy Goldin’s work so much and this is certainly no exception.

This was an insanely-intense, jaw-dropping, mortifyingly-wild ride. Goldin took me on a freaking journey with this main character. Oh my goodness.

In my opinion, this is a perfect Summer Thriller. Megan Goldin delivers again!!!

I was so confused towards the beginning on this story. It really played on my own anxieties, but in a way that was enjoyable. I couldn’t help but put myself in the shoes of Liv and wonder how I would handle these circumstances.

It’s hard to even imagine!

This definitely had me at the edge of my seat and I loved how it all played out. We also get the perspective of the police investigation to the initial murder.

The way the two eventually blended together was so well done. Goldin nailed it.

An extra-special thank you to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

I did listen to the audiobook and it was fantastic, including narration from one of my all-time favorite narrators, Imogen Church. I highly recommend that format for soaking in this highly engaging Thriller.

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Review: Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel

Just Like MotherJust Like Mother by Anne Heltzel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Twenty years ago, Maeve risked her life and fled the cult she was born and raised in. After that Maeve was swiftly adopted by a loving couple, but the transition to life on the outside was quite difficult.

Maeve feared boys and men. She had never been to a public school, or played amongst her peers of the opposite sex.

Now an adult, Maeve has done her best to build a normal life for herself in NYC. She works in publishing and has a guy she’s kind of sweet on.

One thing she is missing though is a family. She doesn’t want any children of her own, but Maeve misses being a part of a larger family nonetheless. In particular, she misses her cousin and childhood best friend, Andrea, who she hasn’t seen since the night she fled the cult.

In an unexpected turn of events, Maeve is finally reconnected with Andrea via a DNA service. Thank you, 23andMe.

Andrea is wildly successful, an entrepreneur in the fertility industry. She’s married, with a loving husband and big old house she just purchased upstate. A house she pretty much offers up to Maeve on a platter.

Maeve is excited for the opportunity to reunite with her cousin and become a steady part of her life. She travels to the house upstate, along with Andrea, her husband Rob and Andrea’s work partner, Emily.

The more Andrea and Maeve interact, and Emily too, she can’t be discounted in this assessment, the more uneasy the vibe becomes. There’s clearly something off, but Maeve isn’t really open to acknowledging that.

Maeve wants Andrea back in her life. She’s willing to overlook any awkwardness. Even though Andrea and Emily both seem to disapprove of Maeve’s lifestyle, she’s not going to let that ruin everything. She dusts it off.

As things in Maeve’s normal life begin to veer wildly off course, however, she’s pushed even further into Andrea’s orbit. That’s when things start really getting intense.

Just Like Mother is a sort of Rosemary’s Baby for the modern age. It’s definitely channeling those vibes and I’m not mad about it at all.

While I will admit, for me, this started slow, it did leave me with one of my favorite things: an evil smile on my face!

Heltzel’s writing was engaging and I did like how Maeve’s character was built out using both past and present perspectives. Understanding her past in the cult was pivotal to understanding her life path and choices involving Andrea.

I liked Maeve. I definitely connected with her decision not to have children of her own and some of the other characters reactions to that choice actually infuriated me. I feel like my strong reaction to those topics is a clear sign that Heltzel delivered these ideas believably.

This was super intense towards the end. After the initial build-up, once it starts spiraling, it really starts spiraling.

I feel like this would make a great selection for a book club, or a buddy read. There’s a lot of solid discussion topics held within these pages. If someone is looking to deep dive, there’s plenty to keep them occupied. I will remember this one for a long time to come!

Thank you so much to the publishers, Tor Nightfire and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copies to read and review.

This one definitely kept me intrigued and I look forward to picking up future works from Heltzel!

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Review: The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

The House Across the LakeThe House Across the Lake by Riley Sager
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Casey Fletcher is a NYC-based actress, who having grown up in the industry, is used to a lot of drama.

Unfortunately for Casey, after suffering a personal tragedy, she makes a mistake many people have made before her. She turns to the bottle to numb her pain.

Initially, she’s still able to function somewhat, but she’s spiraling fast, head-first into the NYC pavement. Luckily, the paparazzi is there to capture her descent for the whole world to see. ((read with heavy sarcasm))

Casey’s mother, in an ill-advised effort to help her daughter, ships her off to their Vermont lake house, because we all know being secluded in the middle of nowhere on a lake will make you quit drinking.

Frankly, Casey could use a break from the city anyway, so she doesn’t put up much of a fight. Her mother thinks since Casey doesn’t have a car there, she won’t be able to get alcohol, but the friendly neighbor who is making her grocery runs keeps her fully stocked.

At the lake house, Casey struggles just as much as in the city. It is the last place she was with her husband and the root of her misery.

Drinking her days away, Casey is obviously not in a good head space. She struggles to concentrate on anything, or remain focused, that is until she begins to utilize the family binoculars.

Across the lake is a massive modern home recently purchased by an uber-wealthy couple, Tom and Katherine Royce. Tom, a successful businessman and Katherine, a stunning former model, give Casey plenty to focus on.

After a shocking encounter on the lake brings Casey and Katherine together, the two women begin a tentative friendship. The more the women chat and get to know one another, the more clear it becomes to Casey that all is not well in the Royce household.

Not long after, Katherine suddenly vanishes. Casey, having witnessed some very suspicious behaviors from the couple before, thinks violence may have been involved. She doesn’t believe Katherine just up and left of her own volition.

Casey becomes obsessed with revealing the truth, but at what cost?

Y’all know, I have been itching to get my hands on this release and it did not disappoint. With his signature-style, Riley Sager has spun another web of intrigue so delicious even Alfred Hitchcock would be giving it two thumbs up!

I loved the modern-Rear Window vibes and the setting was fantastic. Having Casey being on her own, in the house that literally haunted her just by being there, it felt so claustrophobic and unsettling.

It can be tough sometimes being on your own, but Casey being alone at that house was taking it to a whole new level of isolation. Sager paced out the reveals of the before perfectly, in my opinion. It kept me so interested.

I also really enjoyed, not just Casey as a main character, but all her interactions and musings involving the Royces. They certainly kept her mind occupied, at least for a little while.

There were additional side characters, two men in particular, that added a lot to the story as well. They were also residing on the lake at the time that Casey was there and I felt they both added in their own way to the drama unfolding. One was a solid presence, who it felt good to have around, the other, I wasn’t so sure about.

The ending of this is completely over-the-top and caught me by surprise. It’s definitely one of his more memorable conclusions. Trust me when I say, it’s a wild ride.

We started in one direction and ended in another. It was jolting and f*ing enjoyable as heck!!

I really had a phenomenal time reading this. I know that not every Reader is going to love Casey as a protagonist as much as I did, but I found her relatable and even charming in her own clunky way.

This was my most anticipated release of the year and I’m so happy that I was given the opportunity to get to it a little early. Thank you so much to the publisher, Dutton, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

The House Across the Lake is releasing on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Preorder now, as you won’t want to miss this!!

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The Resting Place by Camilla Sten

The Resting PlaceThe Resting Place by Camilla Sten
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

The Resting Place is the second novel I’ve read from Camilla Sten. The first was The Lost Village, which I read in early-2021 and gave 3.5-stars, not rounding up.

While there were aspects of that story I enjoyed, overall I would say I had been hoping for a lot more. I’m happy to report, The Resting Place gave me more.

This story is about Eleanor, who suffers from prosopagnosia, or face blindness. As in, she is unable to recognize facial features.

So, when Eleanor walks in on her Grandmother’s murder and comes face-to-face with the killer, she is unable to describe the individual after the fact.

The grandmother, Vivianne, was a real piece of work. She was not a nice lady and even though she raised Eleanor, she never showered Eleanor with the love that a mother-figure should.

She’s Lady Tremaine basically. That’s the vibe she was giving me.

Time passes and then Eleanor gets a call: Hey, hi, hello. So, your Grandmother owns this creepy manor home that she never told you about. It’s where you’re Grandfather died actually and guess what, now it’s yours. We need you to come to the house and work through some estate dealings. Okay? Great, byeeeeeee.

Eleanor agrees and travels to the property, tucked away in the Swedish wilderness, along with her boyfriend, Sebastian, her Aunt Veronika, and the probate attorney.

Once at the property, the interactions are tense. Eleanor’s Aunt definitely inherited the family gene of general bitchiness, so there are some uncomfortable moments.

Additionally, the property itself gives off an abandoned and haunted vibe. They’re told there’s a groundskeeper there, Benson, but they’re unable to locate him. That fact alone puts a dark cloud over the travelers.

It’s a confusing first day and what’s worse, there’s inclement weather coming in. Of course!

The Resting Place is told through past and present timelines. In addition to Eleanor’s perspective, you also get that of Anushka, who lived at the property decades before working as a housemaid.

Sten uses diary entries as a medium for telling some of the past perspective and I really enjoyed that aspect. There’s something about getting to read someone else’s diary that is just so darn intriguing.

There’s also some psychological tension created because of Eleanor’s prosopagnosia. The woman literally came face-to-face with a killer and survived. This killer was never caught. He or she could be anywhere, be anyone, and Eleanor has to live with that. How can she trust anyone?

In addition to the tension, this story is full, absolutely over-flowing full, of dark family secrets. The kind of secrets that are hidden from future generations. They’re that bad.

I love family drama and I love family secrets. I always enjoy watching people’s dirty laundry being aired. Call it schadenfreude, call it wicked, call it whatever you like, it’s just me.

My biggest complaint with this one is that I found it to be slightly confusing. After I finished reading, I was thinking about it quite a bit, discussing it with my dog, as you do, and I realized, I have a lot of questions.

Like here we were at the end, and I had numerous questions about the familial relationships, connections and the conclusion. I’m not sure if I just missed something along the way, or if the questions I have are questions that will arise for other Readers as well.

With this being said though, this is definitely a step up for me from The Lost Village. Which frankly, I like that for my relationship with Camilla Sten. We’re on an upward trajectory. I love that.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I’m excited to see what Sten serves up next!

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