Review: No Child of Mine by Nichelle Giraldes

No Child of MineNo Child of Mine by Nichelle Giraldes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

No Child of Mine follows Essie Kaur, an ambitious young woman who has recently found out that she is pregnant for the first time.

Essie is in a very loving marriage with her husband, Sanjay, whom she adores, but in spite of that, Essie is less than stoked about the news.

In fact, privately, she’s pretty upset about it. Essie is currently in law school, almost through, ready to take the bar exam early the following year, how is she going to make that work now? The baby will be three months old when she is supposed to sit for the bar?

Essie keeps a lot of her feelings to herself; well, most of them honestly. She’s afraid people will judge her for not having the ecstatic, happy reaction society teaches us we are supposed to always have.

She wants to be happy. She loves the little being growing inside her, she really does, but that love is being shadowed by a lot of other darker emotions right now.

As the Reader, we sit inside Essie’s head as she struggles with these emotions, her changing body, her changing relationship and her ever changing reality.

While some of it borders on repetitive, I feel like as a person who frequently suffers from repetitive thoughts, it still made sense to me. I could imagine being Essie and having these same exact thoughts over and over.

In addition to Essie’s perspective, we also get a historical perspective following two women, Isabelle and Anna.

It’s unclear initially how these women are connected to Essie and her story, but as their narrative evolves it becomes clear where it is going. This aspect adds the impetus behind some of the darker elements in the present perspective.

Particularly, what’s going on with Sanjay.

As a soon to be 45-year old woman, who made a conscious decision at a very young age to never have children, these types of stories revolving around pregnancy and early motherhood either drive me crazy, or I end up connecting to them in a powerful way.

Regardless of the final outcome, I do enjoy picking up stories that involve these themes, because I like to see what sort of new elements, or perspectives, various authors will bring.

I think Giraldes did a great job of writing Essie’s perspective.

To me, Essie’s concerns and emotional struggle was 100% believable. She was a woman who had a plan for her future, who had sacrificed to reach her goals, and so close to the finish line had everything up-ended while her husband still got to live his dream.

I was nodding along in many parts, even yelling words of support for her. The only issue I had with this story really, and it’s a minor one, was the connection between the historic perspective and Essie’s present perspective.

For me, there were times, when it felt a little too disjointed. By this I mean, the transition between the two sometimes seemed jarring; like it wasn’t as fluid as I would hope.

Essie’s sections felt so straight forward, but for Isabelle and Anna, my brain was working overtime trying to figure out why it was even included. Because of this, for at least the first half, every time it switched perspectives, it kicked me out of the story.

At times, I felt a bit like I was reading two separate books.

With this being said, there is a certain reveal that happens, where after that, it started making sense. Plus, additional things were happening in the current perspective, where you could feel that distinct influence from the past.

Giraldes brought it around. It was eventually cleared up and tied together by the end. Although, one final nit-pick is the ending was too abrupt for my tastes.

Overall though, this is a very solid story. I think it provides a lot of food for thought, as far as a women’s role in the modern world, as well as interesting commentary on women’s issues spanning generations.

Thank you to the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press and Dreamscape Media, for providing me copies to read and review. I found this quite absorbing and am looking forward to picking up more from this author.

Also, I would definitely recommend the audio format. The narrator did an incredible job bringing it to life and making it compelling. I feel like it’s a great way to take in this story.

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Review: Burn the Negative by Josh Winning

Burn the NegativeBurn the Negative by Josh Winning
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Even though it had a promising start, sadly, Burn the Negative really let me down in the latter half of the story. I’m bummed about it, y’all. I wanted to love this.

Let’s discuss that initial set-up, shall we?

In the beginning we meet our MC, Laura, an entertainment journalist living in London. We are introduced to Laura as she is making her way to L.A. for a new assignment. She’ll be covering a modern remake of a 1990s Horror-Cult Classic movie called The Guest House.

It quickly becomes clear that there is a lot of mystery and dark lore revolving around the original movie and that Laura has first hand knowledge of that film.

As it turns out, Laura was a child actress who actually had the starring role in The Guest House. Since that time and the tragedies that struck many involved in the film-making, Laura has changed her identity and never let on to anyone who she truly is.

This includes her boss who sent her on this assignment.

Obviously, she’s concerned about returning to L.A. Having anything to do with this new remake, even in the slightest way, makes her nervous. It seems Laura’s doubts are for a reason too, as almost as soon as she is on the ground in L.A., strange things begin happening around her.

So far, so good. I’m a sucker for stories revolving around the filming of Horror movies, series or documentaries too. It also had a strong is it supernatural, is it not supernatural-feel to it that I tend to enjoy.

I was getting major Poltergeist vibes because of all the lore surrounding the making of that movie and the aftermath; the Poltergeist Curse, if you will.

Laura, as a character, was quite mysterious herself. I was interested in learning more about her, as she slowly unveiled the truth of her time with the film, the reasons her family left L.A., and her life since. She has a rather dry personality, but I wasn’t put off by it. She was fine.

There was a certain point though where I stopped enjoying the ride. More specifically, when I stopped feeling as much that it was inspired and started to feel more like it was falling into cliche territory.

I can name the point where the switch-flipped too. Without giving too much away, I will just say it had to do with a road trip, a gas station and the police.

After that point, I started to be more annoyed with the story than pleased by it. Particularly, the dialogue towards the end bordered on cringe and I’ll admit, I was happy when it wrapped up.

Overall, while there were aspects of this I enjoyed, it was too much of a mixed bag for me to give it a higher rating. The concept was fun, but the execution throughout didn’t stay consistent in my opinion.

With this being said, I know a ton of Readers are going to love this. If the synopsis sounds interesting to you, please give it a go. You could end up finding a new favorite!

Thank you to the publisher, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I would be interested in checking out more of this author’s work.

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Review: The Ascent by Ronald Malfi

The AscentThe Ascent by Ronald Malfi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ronald Malfi is one of my favorite authors. Reading one of his books is like sitting at a campfire with an old friend and having them tell you a story.

The Ascent is one of his older titles, having first been released in 2010. It’s now being released in audiobook format, as of today, June 6, 2023, thanks to Tantor Audio.

I was so excited when I learned this was happening, as I always love a survival story, particularly if it involves mountaineering, or hiking.

In this story we follow Tim Overleigh, a sculptor, who after the tragic death of his wife, quit his craft and took up extreme sports as a way to escape his pain.

After a solo-caving accident left him close to death, Tim is in worse shape than ever. His rehabilitation was long and arduous, just ask his nurse. It took time and work before he could even walk again.

Six months later, back on his feet with the aide of crutches and visiting his local watering hole, Tim runs into an old friend, who makes him an intriguing offer.

The man’s name is Andrew and he is arranging an expedition to the infamous Canyon of Souls in the Himalayas. It’s clear to Andrew that Tim needs a life-changing experience like this. This trip could be helpful for his long-term mental health.

Tim initially is against it, but Andrew points out it won’t take place for another year. There’s plenty of time for Tim to prepare himself physically. Eventually Tim caves.

Using a plane ticket provided by Andrew, Tim flies to Kathmandu, where he meets up with the rest of the men that Andrew has recruited for the expedition.

With Andrew acting as their unofficial leader, the men set out on a journey up to the Godesh Ridge. Let’s say, things don’t go as planned.

The Ascent was such a fun read. It was quick and hooked me from the first moments. The audio narration was so believable as being from Tim’s perspective. It really added to my experience.

Malfi sure knows how to tell a tale. This is a freaking great story, layered and textured. It was compelling from the very start, all the way through to the final pages.

The tone of Malfi’s writing and the way he set-ups and builds his stories always reminds me of Stephen King, in the best ways. It’s so comfortable to read. I knew immediately that this one was going to work for me.

I think anyone who enjoys a tense Survival Story, especially involving mountaineering, will love this and be able to connect to it. Tim is a likeable character. He’s fighting to try to get himself out of a dark place and I think we all can relate to that in one way or another.

The intensity of this story builds throughout. It does get fairly wild, but never stops being page-turning. I was really impressed with this.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tantor Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I may not have gotten to this one if it hadn’t been for the audio format, so I truly appreciate it.

I definitely need to continue working my way through Malfi’s backlist!

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My Ninth House Reread

Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In anticipation of the recent release of Hell Bent, I wisely chose to reread Ninth House. The first time I read it, in July of 2020, I listened to the audiobook while on a road trip.

I’ve left my full, original review up below. You will see that at that time I rated it 3.5-stars, rounding up to 4. This time, it’s nothing but a full 5-stars, baby!!

I think the difference is I was able to put my full focus on it this time around. I don’t know about you, but when I am traveling, my mind is going a million miles an hour, it can be hard to concentrate.

While I can enjoy a story I am listening to on the road, the premise, the vibe and the characters, I don’t think I was truly able to hold onto the finer points of this one.

Upon reread, I’m in love.

One of the aspects that really stood out to me this time around was the detailed back stories for both Alex and Darlington. I remembered a little bit of Alex’s, particularly the trauma she suffered directly before being recruited to Lethe House, but Darlington’s I remembered not at all.

I definitely have a stronger understanding of both of their characters now, which I feel is going to be important going into Hell Bent.

Also, I feel like I have a better understanding of the structure and functioning of Lethe House. The importance of the different roles and who fills those roles.

I love how dark Bardugo gets with this story. With this being said, though, although most of us are aware of the numerous trigger warnings, if you aren’t, please be sure you find those and are aware prior to jumping into this story.

Finally, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the murder mystery aspects. The investigations into the other houses and all of the supernatural aspects help to make this story quite compelling.

At this point, I have started Hell Bent and am absolutely loving it. I’m not sure how many books are slated to be in this series, but you best believe, I will be picking up every single one.

If this series sounds interesting to you and you haven’t started it yet, you absolutely should. There will be no better time to read these first two books than right now…

Original Review:

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Ninth House is moody, dark and secretive. In other words, it’s everything I love in my fiction!!

This book is a delightfully intriguing start to the all-new Alex Stern series by Leigh Bardugo.

I have been fascinated by the idea of this book for a while. What’s not to love about the Yale campus in Autumn, paired with secret societies and magic?

On a recent road trip, I finally decided to give this one a shot.

I have to say, while I really enjoyed the audiobook, particularly the two narrators, I think I may have enjoyed the story even more if I had read a hard copy.

I feel like I may have been able to concentrate more on the fine details if I had been holding the book in my hands. There’s a lot to take in here.

There are intricate details regarding the setting of the Yale campus, the magic system, the lore of the secret societies, as well as a back and forth between timelines. I think I just got lost somewhere around mile marker 50.

I was intrigued by Alex as a character. Here was a girl who had a rough start at life; raised by a hippie Mom in California, yet somehow, mysteriously ends up at one of the most elite institutions of higher learning in the world.

After a close call, Alex ends up not in the morgue, but being offered a seat in the Freshman class at Yale. Why? Her academic transcript certainly wasn’t recommending her for the slot.

Regardless of any trauma experienced in her life, Alex is a survivor and a fighter. I loved that about her.

When she starts at Yale, Alex gets tapped for Lethe House; the ninth of the secret societies at Yale and the one with the closest ties to the occult.

It’s also the responsibility of Lethe House to oversee the other houses to ensure there are no bad actors.

Alex, as it turns out, is well-suited for her new house, as she has an arcane ability she has been struggling with her entire life. This allows her a close connection to the spiritual underworld surrounding her.

Essentially a Murder Mystery, this novel offers up a lot of darker real world topics for consideration as well.

One of these that I found extremely interesting, was the examination of the amount of privilege on the Yale campus. The way that uneven power dynamics can contribute to an extremely harmful environment.

There is also quite a bit on page regarding drug abuse, addiction, sexual assault and rape culture in general. If you are sensitive to these topics, I would tread cautiously.

With this being said, I was impressed overall with Bardugo’s transition to the Adult space. This is definitely an Adult novel. There are some real dark scenes in here and frankly, I am glad that she went as dark as she did.

It made this seedy underbelly of a privileged world seem incredibly real. I think as the series progresses the stories will continue to get stronger and stronger.

I may even read this one again, my hard copy, before the second novel is released.

I would love to experience this entire story in a more controlled environment than an SUV whizzing down the highway.

Also, does anyone else want to go snoop around New Haven in the middle of the night now, or just me?

The atmosphere, as always with Bardugo, was really something to behold; loved that aspect so much. I am really looking forward to getting back into this world when the next book releases!

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Review: Ragman by J.G. Faherty

RagmanRagman by J.G. Faherty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Ragman is a fun-filled, brutally-descriptive Horror romp through the streets of modern-day New York City, following multiple perspectives, all trying to survive the wrath of an ancient mummy’s curse.

I’ve actually never read a book featuring a mummy before and ended up having a ton of fun with this one. It was a bit like a SyFy channel movie come to the page and frankly, that hit the spot for my current reading mood.

In this story our main characters include Dan, a current NYPD officer, his ex-partner, disgraced NYPD officer, Tom, Dan’s wife, Joanna, a forensic lab tech, and Stacy, Tom’s ex-girlfriend, who works at an Egyptian Museum in the city. We do get a couple of other perspectives, but these four were really the stars of the show.

The gist of this is that in the 1800s, a group of very rich young men traveled to Egypt, raided a temple, killed the priest of the temple and robbed a bunch of ancient artifacts to increase their own wealth and prestige.

A mummy from this theft ends up at a museum of Egyptology in New York City, where present day it is awakened. Said mummy rises from his slumber with a deep yearning for revenge against those who’d wronged him and his temple.

As luck would have it, the descendants of these tomb raiders, now mostly live in NYC, convenient yes, but not surprising. They’re all still incredibly wealthy families and New York City is a known haven for the ultra-rich.

And when very rich men begin to be brutally murdered, literally torn limb-from-limb, it draws attention. When people, including our protagonists, witness the being doing the murdering, they can hardly believe their eyes.

A giant mummy erupting out of thin air with a clear vengeance against particular people. It’s unclear how they’ll ever be able to stop it. Bullets have zero effect.

How will they stop it?

I’ll be honest, I started to feel a little hopeless here. This ancient killing machine seemed unstoppable. How could our protagonists ever survive its wrath?!

As mentioned above, I had a lot of fun with this. It wasn’t perfect, but it definitely kept me entertained and wanting to read more.

The killing scenes were wild, brutal, descriptive and cringe-worthy. That’s basically everything I’m looking for in a supernatural creature feature.

This is the second novel that I have read from Faherty and both had very engaging horror imagery. He has quite the knack for creatively killing people off.

Additionally, in this one, I enjoyed all of the ancient Egyptian lore and concepts included. It gave the narrative a little something extra that was just so interesting. I loved the premise and how it followed through to the end.

Finally, I will mention that I really enjoyed Tom and Dan. I liked the women as well, especially Joanna, but the relationship between Tom and Dan was very well done.

They were partners and best friends at one point, but had a falling out, so a lot of this focused on them rebuilding trust and friendship.

I liked watching that play-out amidst a backdrop of brutal murders. It sounds insane, but it’s true. I really felt for Tom, he got the short-end of the stick quite a bit, so I loved seeing him gain some confidence back over the course of this story.

I’m hoping there is a sequel to this following these main characters. Faherty definitely set-up that possibility and I would absolutely be here for it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flame Tree Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. This was a damn good time!

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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: Jackal by Erin E. Adams

JackalJackal by Erin E. Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Even though she is returning to her hometown of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, as a successful adult, Liz Rocher is still filled with trepidation. Her memories of her time there fill her with anxiety.

Growing up a bit of an outcast, the one person she could always rely on was her best friend, Mel. Now Mel is getting married and has asked Liz to be part of her special day.

Mel and Liz have remained close over the years and Liz is even the godmother to Mel’s daughter, Caroline. When it comes to visits though, it’s always them going to see Liz in the city; same with Liz’s Mom.

It’s her turn to show up this time, so she does. It feels strange to be back; doesn’t seem like a lot has changed. Her Mom is certainly full of the critiques straight away.

At the wedding, Liz is discomforted by the woodsy venue. The local woods, the subject of dark legends and a frequent player in Liz’s nightmares, are part of her worst memories from Johnstown.

In spite of the location, Liz is enjoying spending quality time with Caroline. It’s sort of on her to keep an eye on the girl while Mel and her new husband entertain at the reception.

Sometime between dessert, dancing and dodging awkward conversations, Liz loses site of Caroline. She begins searching, asking everyone if they have seen the little girl, but no one has. Starting to panic, Liz enters the edge of the woods. She’s scared.

After finding a frightening bit of evidence, Liz comes to the conclusion that Caroline is gone. She needs help. A full search party is assembled.

Liz is devastated. How could this happen? The incident is reminiscent of another horrible night back when Liz was in high school. A night when another girl went missing in the woods from a party; Keisha Woodson.

Even though she had only planned to stay in town for a couple of days, Liz can’t leave now. She has to stay until Caroline is found. Whatever the outcome, she needs to help. She needs to be here.

In an effort to help find the girl, Liz begins asking around regarding Keisha’s disappearance. Perhaps the two cases are related. What she finds is that Keisha wasn’t the first. She also finds a very distinct pattern, all black girls, missing from the woods, directly around the summer solstice.

Will Liz be able to figure out who, or what, is taking the girls, and find Caroline before it’s too late?

Jackal impressed me. It’s hard to define, it’s quite unique. I would describe it as a thoughtful work of Dark Fiction with heavy Social Horror components. The writing style has a stream of consciousness quality to it, that honestly, I’m not normally crazy about, but it really fit here.

It’s not a super straight-forward story, it does require some effort on the part of the Reader, but I feel like for those who are willing to put in some energy, it will leave a mark.

Liz was a well-developed character. It took time to get to know her, but it would be hard not to feel for her and her experiences. I also felt like her character growth was paced well throughout.

The overall tone reminded me of The Other Black Girl, in that the entire build-up of the story is laced with a certain uneasiness; like you know something sinister is going on just beyond your line of sight.

I love that feeling. The ominous feeling of the developing mystery and the building of tension as the conclusion approaches.

It did sort of lose me a bit towards the end. I’m still a little confused on a couple of things and maybe in those instances would have preferred a more definitive outcome. However, this is 100% personal preference.

I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who enjoys Social Horror, or Dark Fiction in general. The topics explored, the over-arching mystery and compelling main character, all combine to make Jackal a stirring debut.

Thank you to the publisher, Bantam, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m really looking forward to reading more from Erin E. Adams!

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Review: Book of Night by Holly Black

Book of NightBook of Night by Holly Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Throughout her childhood, Charlie Hall was trained by a family friend in the art of deception.

Young Charlie proved adept at every task that was thrown at her. Charlie ultimately became one of the most successful con artists around, but leaving that part of her life in the past, as an adult she works a normal job as a bartender.

Charlie’s world resembles our own, but it’s so much more interesting. It’s full of dark, mystifying concepts such as shadow magic and other things I never quite understood.

One night at Charlie’s work a violent incident occurs and someone ends up dead. This event opens up channels into Charlie’s past. She has a mystery to solve.

Book of Night is Holly Black’s adult debut and I would say one of the most anticipated releases of 2022.

I finished it a little over a week ago and have put off writing this review because I knew it would be a tricky one.

This novel starts out fairly slowly and it does contain a lot of flashbacks to Charlie’s childhood.

Initially, I wasn’t sold on that past perspective, but eventually I did come to enjoy it and understand why it was important to the development of Charlie as a character.

Once the murder mystery begins, it really begins to pick up. I definitely would say I was more captivated by the second half of the book than the first.

At almost 2-weeks post-completing this novel, I will admit, I remember close to nothing about the plot. There were quite a few characters, but the only two I remember by name are Charlie and Vince.

I did enjoy how morally grey the characters were and I especially connected with Charlie. I thought she was a great main and I look forward to learning even more about her.

The magic system was interesting, although never fully explained. I definitely do not have a 100% grasp on the way this world works, but I am super intrigued by it.

The tone of this reminded me a lot of Ninth House and I would say I did feel quite similarly about that book.

In short, while I can’t sit and explain every plot point of Book of Night to anyone, I can say I enjoyed my time reading it. So much so, in fact, that I will willingly and happily reread it prior to the next book being released.

I would say if you enjoy dark Urban Fantasy stories with morally grey characters and a dangerous mystery at its core, you should absolutely pick this one up and give it a shot.

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

I’m so happy to have read this and look forward to continuing on with the series!

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Review: Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or are they?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review: The 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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