Review: The Vanishing Hour by Seraphina Nova Glass

The Vanishing HourThe Vanishing Hour by Seraphina Nova Glass
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Kira has a missing daughter. Aden has a missing father. Grace was a missing girl once. These individuals have something else in common, Rock Harbor, Maine.

Welcome to Rock Harbor, a quaint tourist town with a seedy side. The drug scene is rampant, strip clubs and sex workers lining the streets and it seems everyone is keeping secrets.

When Kira’s daughter Brooke wanted to move to Rock Harbor to live with a boy she used to know in the summers, Kira was completely against it. But Brooke is technically an adult so she couldn’t stop it.

After Brooke disappears, Kira returns to the family cabin to begin the search herself. No one else will search for her daughter like she will. They’ll consider her a runaway, or worse, a throwaway.

When Aden hears his father has disappeared, he doesn’t believe it. Surely Dad has gone fishing or something and forgot to pass the message along to Mom. 70-something year old men don’t just go missing, do they?

Even though he suspects it’s a big fuss over nothing, Aden dutifully returns to his family home in the town he happily left years before, Rock Harbor.

From the safety of the cocoon she has built for herself in the hotel she runs, Grace knows nothing of the missing people. It’s the off-season, there are no guests and she’s not talking to anyone on the outside.

Since her own horrifying experience as a missing person, Grace avoids all media outlets and really, the outside world in general. She very rarely leaves the hotel grounds.

As the Reader, you get a front row seat as these three individual’s lives are set on a collision course with one another. Who will survive the vanishing hour?

I was entertained by this one. It drew me in and I finished it quickly. While it isn’t my favorite from this author, I would recommend it to Readers who enjoy stories with a gritty small town feel, full of dark secrets, deceptions and lies.

We get to see the underbelly of Rock Harbor in this story and it’s not pretty. Also, a great example of how monsters can hide in plain sight.

Initially, I felt a little thrown by the number of perspectives. I wasn’t sure how they were related, or how they would ever be able to merge in a meaningful way.

Glass succeeded in pulling it off. I felt like I really got to know our three mains and surprisingly, I was equally invested in all three of their stories, which was a plus.

In addition to enjoying watching the perspectives come together, I liked watching their relationships evolve. As they saw a similar plight in one another, and began to open up to one another, I felt that really added to the story.

Also, I always enjoy amateur investigators and this story definitely has that!

There were some twists I found surprising and some that I was a little underwhelmed by. I did like how this one wrapped up though. It was a wholly-satisfying ending.

I will say, as someone from Maine, this didn’t feel like Maine at all, like not at all, but I understand artistic license and know that the author intended this as a fictional town.

So, I tried to pretend it was just somewhere else entirely. It felt more like the red light district of Montreal to me.

Overall, besides the fact that I was thrown by the setting, it was a pretty entertaining read and I would recommend it to people looking for a twisty, suspenseful tale.

Thank you to the publisher, Graydon House, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I am looking forward to more from this author!

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Review: The Revenge List by Hannah Mary McKinnon

The Revenge ListThe Revenge List by Hannah Mary McKinnon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

In The Revenge List we follow Frankie Morgan, a single-woman living in Portland, Maine, who works as a Project Manager for her Dad’s construction company.

Frankie has had some difficult times in her life, beginning with the hit-and-run accident that killed her Mom when Frankie was just a teen.

Since that time, things have snowballed. Now Frankie finds herself a barely functioning adult, filled with anger, guilt and growing list of regrets.

It doesn’t matter where she is, or who she is dealing with. Frankie has a short fuse and zero restraint when it comes to her reactions. There’s no take a deep breath and count to ten in her playbook.

After an explosive incident at work involving a very important client, Frankie’s Dad is fed up. Her temper is having a major impact on their family and their business.

As luck would have it, a woman he is friendly with leads a local anger management group. It is arranged that Frankie will start attending; required, not requested.

At her first session, one of the tasks is to create a list of people to forgive. People who have angered her in the past that she will now forgive. Even though she thinks it a little silly, Frankie goes along with it and records her list in her favorite notebook, the one with sunflowers on the cover.

In the events of the evening that follows, Frankie sort of forgets about the list. It was just an exercise, it doesn’t mean anything, but then the list goes missing.

Shortly thereafter, individuals on her list start getting injured in very bizarre ways. At first, after the first one or two, Frankie thinks it must be a coincidence, but three? And it’s starting to get closer to home?

Is Frankie losing it, or is someone actually targeting the people on her forgiveness list?

Desperate to get to the bottom of it before it’s to late, Frankie begins to investigate the harmful incidents. Things get wild and crazy from there. Trust no one.

I had a lot of fun reading this. I had been looking forward to it for a while, having really enjoyed previous works from Hannah Mary McKinnon.

I enjoyed the choices that McKinnon made in telling this story. For example, it felt refreshing to have just one-POV.

I feel like for the past two or three years, the vast majority of stories that I’ve read have featured dual, or multiple, POVs. And while I love that, I also liked getting the chance to just ride out this entire narrative with Frankie.

I felt like because of that choice, I genuinely got to know Frankie’s character and it felt important to hear it all from her. It gave great insight into the reasons why she was the way she was. It made her actions make sense.

In some ways, she’s not a super likable person, but I felt myself really empathizing with her and connecting with her. She’s like that friend who you love, but who always makes the stupidest choices and you just want to grab her by the shoulders and shake the heck out of her.

The best part about Frankie’s journey was watching the growth she made as a character. I wasn’t expecting much in that regard, but I loved how McKinnon gave her room to learn and change.

When you first meet Frankie she is bogged down in her anger. It literally feels like she is being crushed by it. It’s palpable. As she evolves over the course of the story, you can feel that weight dropping off. It was impressive to me how McKinnon was able to capture that feeling so well.

As far as the overriding plot went, I was super intrigued in the first half. I had no clue what was happening. Then there was a bit of a shift and I felt like the answer was then obvious, but I was still invested in following along with Frankie as she got the evidence she needed.

I would say it’s a slow-burn story, but the tension does continue to build throughout. Additionally, it gets bat-poop crazy at the end, so be prepared. Grab your popcorn and be prepared to yell at the book. I did.

And the ending!? Don’t even get me started. I mean, I can’t say anything, but like, Hannah!? Hannah Mary McKinnon!? What the?

It made me so devilishly happy, but also…

Overall, I had a fun time with this one, I really did. I enjoyed it from beginning to end. I also feel like this one is going to stick in my head for a while.

Thank you so much to the publisher, MIRA, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I can’t wait for more from this author!

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Review: The Echo Man (Major Crimes #1) by Sam Holland

The Echo ManThe Echo Man by Sam Holland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

The Echo Man is a debut Adult Thriller from Sam Holland. This novel released in 2022 and the follow-up, The Twenty, just released in early-May.

In anticipation of the release of The Twenty, which I was kindly gifted a copy by Crooked Lane Books, I wanted to be sure to pick this one up first.

I don’t know if, or how they’re related, or if you need to read them in order, but when I can, I do like to pick up an author’s work in order of release.

I decided on the audio for this one and loved that format. It was so addictive and cringey, hearing it out loud. It was exactly the reading experience I needed at the moment.

This is one of those stories that is hard to explain, but it was expertly woven together, so when you’re reading it, everything fits; everything makes sense.

There’s a woman named Jessica, married, living with her husband and their daughter. We start following her just before her house is set on fire. She narrowly escapes with her injured daughter in her arms. Her husband, sleeping in a different room, wasn’t lucky enough to make it out.

The police suspect Jessica is guilty of setting the fire, but she didn’t do it. Because of a shady history though, she’s afraid of not being believed and she flees from the hospital where she was being treated for minor injuries.

She befriends a disgraced detective, Nate Griffin, who knows Jessica isn’t guilty. In fact, he suspects the crime against Jessica and her family may have been committed by a criminal who has gotten away from him in the past.

There’s also a detective duo, Cara Elliott and Noah Deakin, who are simultaneously working a series of seemingly unrelated murders. As the bodies begin to add up, Cara can’t help but notice how the crimes seem to match those of famous serial killers.

You’re following these two separate duos, watching as their stories begin to blend and ultimately thread together into one nail-biting, pulse-pounding conclusion.

I found it very compelling. I was so into what was going on with Jessica, but also loved following along with Cara, on the more police procedural side of things. I felt it was the perfect blend of their two storylines; and I liked having one civilian perspective in addition to the investigators.

Both sides were equally interesting and the pace at which it alternated was perfection.

Let me be clear, this isn’t a story for the faint of heart. It’s not your average Thriller and it definitely took me by surprise. This gets DARK. Honestly, it contains some of the most brutal depictions of violence that I have ever read and I read dark shit for fun, like that’s my comfort zone.

I’m talking toe-curling, grimacing, exclaiming expletives whilst listening to it, dark. Not only that though, what a solid mystery; so good!

Overall, I am beyond happy that I finally made time for this one. What a way to enter the scene, Sam Holland.

I will remember this one for a long time to come and am looking forward to beginning The Twenty soon!

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Review: Out of the Ashes by Kara Thomas

Out of the AshesOut of the Ashes by Kara Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Out of the Ashes follows Samantha Newsom. Sam is 35-years old and works as a nurse in NYC. She hasn’t had an easy life, filled with early trauma that has had lasting repercussions.

When Sam was 13, her family was murdered and their home set ablaze. Sam escaped harmed, as she was at a friend’s house that night for a sleepover, but the rest of her family, her Mom, Dad and baby sister were not that lucky.

Sam was taken in by family after the tragedy, but her life was no longer filled with love, or warm relationships. Particularly, tenuous was her relationship with her Aunt Mitch. The two butted heads something awful.

Needless to say, Sam was eager to leave her small town of Carney, New York, behind when she got old enough. She’s rarely gone back since.

She still keeps in contact with her Uncle Gil though and when he dies, he leaves Sam his house, hoping she’ll keep it. Return to her roots.

Sam doesn’t want anything to do with Carney. The mystery of who killed her family was never solved, in large part due to the actions of local law enforcement. She doesn’t want to be reminded of all that.

When Sam is contacted by an Investigator, Travis Meacham, who has been assigned the cold case though, she sees a glimmer of hope for finding the truth.

Meacham reports he has a fresh lead. A prison inmate who claims that he saw Sam’s baby sister, Lyndsay, being removed from the home before it burned.

Could her sister be alive? Was she kidnapped, not murdered?

She needs to take care of her Uncle’s house anyway, it’s the perfect excuse to return to Carney. While she’s there, Sam plans to do some digging of her own.

Sam’s determined to get the answers she deserves about the night that shattered her life forever. With Meacham’s help, she just may be able to solve this decades old mystery.

I really enjoyed this Adult Debut from Kara Thomas. It’s the type of gritty Crime Fiction I tend to enjoy, the kind that feels a bit Hillybilly Noir, for lack of a better term.

The title of this book fits it to a tee. Sam literally feels like a phoenix rising from the ashes. She’s been through some things, it’s definitely had an impact on her adult life, but I felt like throughout this story, she grows and is sort of able to rebuild herself.

I loved Sam as a main character. This story is told entirely through her perspective and I appreciated that choice by Thomas. It felt fitting with the nature of this story.

I love the trope of a character leaving their small town in the dust and then returning many years later to investigate something that happened in the past. Luckily for me, that’s exactly what this is.

Out of the Ashes is a slow-burn, but I didn’t mind. Overall, I felt it easy to get swept up in the story. There’s a lot of drama in the town and with Sam’s remaining family.

At times I struggled a little trying to keep up with the dynamics between them all, but I feel like for the most part, it was really well done.

There is one really powerful family in the town, they own a large farm that employees a lot of people, and Sam and her family are quite involved with them. They definitely added a sinister, dangerous tone to the narrative.

The majority of the story is fairly bleak. There’s not a lot to be jazzed, or happy about, but honestly, there shouldn’t be. It’s not that kind of story.

The town is floundering, drugs have had a huge impact, like in many small towns in America. The locals seem a bit desperate and suspicious of outsiders.

They definitely view Sam as an outsider at this point. She’s been gone too long, has a fancy education and a solid career.

I felt for her. The jarring nature of her return to her hometown. That’s always something I enjoy reading about. I’ve been in that position, so find it easy to relate to. When I do visit my hometown, it’s like a completely different world.

There were some twists in this I didn’t see coming and I did like how Thomas continued to build the tension throughout. She also allowed Sam to gain strength and confidence as the story progresses. Sam’s a bit of a badass.

The conclusion almost brought me to tears. I was stunned. It was wrapped up really well. I’m impressed with Thomas’s ease of transitioning into the Adult Thriller genre. I hope she continues to write YA Thrillers too though, because she is one of my favorite authors in that space.

Look at you being all multi-talented, Kara Thomas!

Thank you to the publisher, Thomas & Mercer, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I think this is a great effort for an Adult Debut.

I definitely recommend this one for fans of dark, gritty Crime Fiction.

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Review: Games for Dead Girls by Jen Williams

Games for Dead GirlsGames for Dead Girls by Jen Williams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Games for Dead Girls is the latest release from Jen Williams. This is the second novel I have read from Williams and unfortunately, I wasn’t crazy about either one.

In this story, we are following multiple timelines. One is a past perspective when two girls, Charlie and Emily, become friends in the small Seaside town of Hithechurch, England.

In an effort to try to rid Emily of her abusive father, the two girls perform a ritual to summon the spirit of a local legend, a girl killed by pirates, who Charlie dubs, Stitch Face Sue.

Even though they are unsuccessful, Emily becomes obsessed with the idea of Stitch Face Sue and of summoning her. When the two recruit another young girl into their friendship group, the end result is disastrous.

The new girl is killed and Emily and Charlie get caught trying to hide her body, after which they’re both sent to institutions for the remainder of their childhood.

Another perspective is Charlie in the present. Now an adult, Charlie has returned to Hithechurch under the guise of researching a book about the local folklore.

That’s not her only reason for being in town though. Emily has released a memoir regarding the incident that changed the course of their lives and she’s laying all the blame at Charlie’s feet.

Charlie is determined to find the evidence she needs to prove that what Emily is saying is false.

Then there is a third, more mysterious perspective, of a man in Hithechurch decades before Charlie and Emily meet.

Eventually, the three perspectives as one story starts to make sense. Unfortunately, for me, it lost some of the impact because it was such a slog getting to the conclusion.

In my opinion, I felt like the perspectives didn’t flow well, one into the other. It felt jarring to me and also a bit confusing keeping track of what was going on amongst the different times. I feel like nothing was memorable enough to stand out, so it made it more difficult to follow.

I liked the idea behind this, the legends of a small seaside town influencing some local kids to do terrible things. I like that premise. I also think the reason behind Charlie coming back to town was kind of fun and made sense as far as motivation for her current actions.

This reminded me a lot, a lot, a lot of The Dead Girls Club. I personally enjoyed this one a little more, because at least I never rolled my eyes at anything the MC was doing.

Unfortunately, neither one of them really delivered the dark atmosphere and engaging plot that I was hoping for.

At the end of the day, while I wasn’t crazy about this one, I can see that there is a good story in here, somewhere. Hence the 2.5-stars rounded up.

With this being said, this will probably be my last-go with this author. Just know, it’s not her, it’s me. I just don’t seem to be the right fit for her style of writing, but I know there are many Readers out there who will be.

After all, as I always say, there’s a Reader for every book and book for every Reader. If the synopsis sounds intriguing to you, absolutely give it a go. You could end up finding a new favorite book!

Thank you to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback.

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Review: Wonderland by Jennifer Hillier

WonderlandWonderland by Jennifer Hillier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Jennifer Hillier’s tense and twisty amusement park-set Thriller, Wonderland, was first published in 2015. I’ve had this on my TBR for years, but just never picked it up.

Now, for the first time ever, it is being released in audio format via Macmillan Audio. After graciously being gifted a copy by the publisher, I excitedly read it and loved it!

This story follows Vanessa Castro, the new deputy police chief of Seaside, Washington, home to Wonderland. Vanessa is a lady with a past, that is clear, but all isn’t revealed to you right away. She’s a mystery unto herself.

Vanessa has moved to Seaside, along with her two children, after the death of her husband and a corresponding scandal at her old department. Vanessa is hoping for a fresh start and her older child, Ava, is almost excited to be working at Wonderland for the Summer.

Vanessa’s first day on the job kicks off with a bang, after the decomposing body of a homeless man, dubbed Homeless Harry, is discovered on the main causeway of the park just before opening.

Who is this man? It’s clear he didn’t die in the spot where he was discovered? Why would someone deposit his body there? What’s the message?

On the same day, prior to the body discovery, a disgruntled employee, a self-proclaimed free climber, scales the Wonder Wheel and photographs himself giving the middle finger in his Wonderland uniform.

He posts the image to his socials and it goes viral. After he posted, he disappeared. What is going on at Wonderland?

Homeless Harry and the Wonder Wheel Boy all in one day. Vanessa is left scratching her head and is about to get a quick lesson in how things work around Seaside.

Wonderland is by far the largest employer in the town. Not only that, it brings in huge amounts of money as a well-known and hugely popular tourist attraction.

Because of this, the powers that be at Wonderland hold quite a bit of sway within local politics and law enforcement. While Vanessa isn’t necessarily surprised by this, she is surprised by just how deep that river runs.

I loved Vanessa. She wasn’t perfect. She has a history, she has a dark past and it’s something that she struggles with at times throughout the novel. So, even though she has a successful career and is a great Mom, she can still have her own personal demons.

To me, that kind of character is so much more believable than the main characters who are perfect in every way, have it all, and just terrible things happen ‘around’ them, but not necessarily to them, or because of them.

Vanessa Castro is the type of character I would go to bat for. I think she was great at her job and did the best she could balancing her work and home life. For that, I give her props.

I also liked Vanessa’s daughter, Ava’s, role in the story. The dynamic between them, as well as what was going on in Ava’s private life added a lot of tension to the story.

Even though they have that mother-daughter relationship and lived together, there were still quite a few secrets between them. The transition to the new town wasn’t easy for Ava. At her age, I think she was 14, almost 15, that type of move will always be rough and I thought Hillier did a great job exploring that.

Ava’s work at the park was interesting as well. She ended up working in the Clown Museum and it sounded totally nuts. Definitely something I would have wanted to do at that age.

Overall, this is an engaging Mystery, with strong Police Procedural aspects and a ton of tension. I loved the pacing of the reveals as secrets come to light and I found the setting to be eerie and interesting. I couldn’t believe how quickly this drew me in.

Additionally, the audiobook is absolutely terrific. I cannot recommend it enough. The narration by Eunice Wong brought this story to life for me. I was transported while listening to it. A++ job!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m so happy that I finally had the chance to read this one. It’s a great reminder of why I love Hillier’s work; so good!!

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Review: The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth

The SoulmateThe Soulmate by Sally Hepworth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

The Soulmate is the latest release from the Queen of the Whiplash Reveal, Sally Hepworth. As I quickly rediscovered with this story, Hepworth likes to keep you shook.

In this story we mainly follow Gabe and Pippa, a married couple with a beautiful cliffside home. Unfortunately, that cliffside sometimes attracts people with unsavory intentions.

Gabe has talked people off that ledge more than once. In fact it has happened so often they’ve even received coaching from the local police on the proper steps to take when they encounter a possible jumper.

Because of this, when they spot a woman on the ledge one day, it seems almost natural for Gabe to go out and approach her. To try to help.

Pippa is initially watching her husband talking to the woman. She hopes he’ll be able to talk her back from the edge. Pippa turns her head, just for a moment and when she looks back, the woman is gone, Gabe’s arms left reaching into empty space.

As the inquiry into the woman’s death begins, it is revealed that Gabe actually knew her, unbeknownst to Pippa. What was said on the cliff that day? Did Gabe have a motive to push her? If so, what could it possibly be. Pippa is hurt, scared and confused. The couple has no secrets, do they?

I listened to this audiobook in one day. Once I started, I was quickly pulled into this web of ever growing secrets and reveals. It was impeccably told.

Hepworth drew me in from the start with a fascinating premise and an interesting couple. Pippa and Gabe were so glossy on the surface, but I just knew there was more to them both than was initially revealed. Boy, was I right!!

I love how Hepworth frames her stories. The pace and reveals are so much fun, you cannot help but be sucked into the lives of her characters.

This is the third novel I have read from this author and I have felt that way about every one of them. The plots are just so compelling, it’s almost impossible to stop. Every chapter leaves you wanting more; more answers, more drama, more revelations. It’s a whole experience.

I would absolutely recommend Hepworth’s work to anyone who enjoys twisted Domestic Dramas with enough scandals, lies and secrets to keep your head spinning.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

I had a ton of fun reading this and look forward to whatever wicked web Hepworth is going to spin for us next!!!

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Review: What Have We Done by Alex Finlay

What Have We DoneWhat Have We Done by Alex Finlay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Twenty-five years ago, when Ben, Art, Jenna, Donny and Nico, were kids, they all lived together in a group home called Savior House. As is sometimes the case, their time there was fraught with abuse and neglect.

Unsurprisingly, through the hardship, they bonded. They were best friends. Their bond took on an even more ominous tone, however, after a particularly traumatic incident occurred in which they all played a part.

In spite of their early traumas, they all grew up to lead fairly successful lives. Forging their own paths, in a variety of different fields, far away from one another.

As our story begins, these kids are now adults. We follow Jenna, Donny and Nico as crazy things start happening to them. Someone is trying to take them out, but why? Could this be linked to their shared past?

We follow them as they start to reconnect and put together what is happening to them, all while on the run, trying to stay two steps ahead from their would-be killers.

In addition to the current action, we also get a past timeline that reveals a lot of the truth behind their time at Savior House, and the event that would ultimately lead to the pickle they find themselves in today.

From the beginning, I was fascinated by this group of characters. Each of them felt unique and compelling. I particularly enjoyed Jenna’s and Donny’s perspectives. They really got this story off on the right foot for me.

I totally understand that this might not work for everyone, but it was so different from other Thrillers I’ve read lately, it honestly felt like a breath of fresh air.

Admittedly, I’m a huge fan of the trope that is like a group of individuals who grew up together, who had something happen many years ago, who reunite as adults to investigate, or put to bed some sort of issue that has plagued them since they were kids.

So, out of the box, this was most likely going to work for me. I just love that vibe. It was giving me It, or even Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi, except for instead of supernatural forces we’re tackling, we have a full-fledged Action Thriller.

Is this OTT? Absolutely, it is, but I didn’t mind at all. I felt like the characters and the backstory were so well done that the OTT-narrative didn’t make me flinch for even a moment.

I listened to the audiobook and would recommend that format. The narration was fabulous and kept me 100%-focused the whole way through.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes action-packed Thrillers. If you enjoyed things like Adrian McKinty’s, The Island, or Falling by T.J. Newman, you should absolutely check this one out.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I was really looking forward to this and it didn’t disappoint.

I feel like all of Finlay’s books have been so different. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he serves us next!

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Review: The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz

The Writing RetreatThe Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Picture it: you’re an aspiring writer, you’re maybe down on your luck, you’re stuck in a dead end job and then you get offered the opportunity of a lifetime.

Your favorite author, we’re talking a person whose words you have read since childhood, who has had a lasting impact on your life…

…oh, sorry. I got too much into my own head there for a moment. Anyway, this author, a ground-breaking author of feminist horror, is hosting a writing retreat for five up-and-coming female authors.

Thousands have applied. Few are chosen. You are chosen. Sure, it’s due to a technicality, but you’ll take it!

This is amazing. You get to travel to her mansion in a remote location and do nothing but write for an entire month. It’s the chance to finish a novel and be published.

Rein in your expectations though, this is a competition and every other writer there wants it as much as you do. It’s going to be a cut-throat endeavor.

Do you have what it takes to survive The Writing Retreat?

Y’all, The Writing Retreat was a journey for me and not necessarily a great one. Starting out I was intrigued by the set-up. I liked how quickly Bartz got us to the retreat, which is the focus of the story after all.

I liked meeting all of the women involved, including the infamous author, Roza Vallo. The setting is lovely. I definitely could picture it and felt the isolation and claustrophobic, creepy feel in my gut.

It’s fairly clear from the start that not all is going to go as expected for these women. This isn’t a casual, write when we feel like it, sort of place. Roza is intense as heck and has certain expectations of the women she has extended this opportunity to.

I liked how the author built the tension. I was suspicious of everyone. There were so many different occurrences that quite literally got under my skin, however, over time I began to fall out of love with all that was happening here.

I expected the interpersonal drama, which will always happen with a group of unrelated women living together under one roof, and frankly, I was living for that. The topics explored definitely went in directions I wasn’t expecting. This got darker than I anticipated, but I do love dark fiction.

I guess where I started to disconnect from the novel was jarring plot twist after plot twist after plot twist. Each one crazier and more OTT than the last. Unfortunately, each consecutive twist brought it farther and farther away from the realm of likability for me.

Let it be known, and if you’ve followed my reviews for any amount of time you know, I am generally a fan of OTT. This toed the line of, dare I say, ridiculous though for me.

I applaud the author for taking risks, that takes a lot of daring. I enjoyed the writing style very much, as well as the initial set-up, atmosphere and character work, but the plot just wasn’t for me

With this being said, my personal opinion should not keep you from picking this up. There are a ton of rave reviews and you could be one of them. If the synopsis sounds intriguing to you, absolutely give it a go.

Further, I really did enjoy the writing style and construction of this story. I will definitely be picking up Bartz’s next novel. I am sure it will be equally as surprising and creative.

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

I definitely recommend this one to fans of claustrophobic feeling, OTT-Thrillers!

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Review: Bright and Deadly Things by Lexie Elliott

Bright and Deadly ThingsBright and Deadly Things by Lexie Elliott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bright and Deadly Things is the latest release from Lexie Elliott, one of my go-to authors. I was so excited for this release and it did not disappoint.

This story follows Emily, an Oxford fellow, who recently lost her husband and is battling overwhelming grief. As she is getting her life back on track, she gets an offer to attend a retreat at the Chalet des Anglais in the French Alps.

This is a bit of a tradition for Oxford fellows and scholars. It’s looked on as a ‘reading week’, where they can go and engage in any academic pursuit they so choose. They live in the Chalet together, drink, dine and engage in what are hoped to be enlightening discussions.

Of course, when you get a bunch of adults living together under one roof, you’re also sure to get a lot of drama.

Also attending are Emily’s BFF, Jana, as well as other friends and coworkers of her and her late-husband’s. There are also a few students, who although Emily doesn’t know them personally, all seem interesting enough.

Most interesting is a girl named Sofi. The kind of girl who all eyes go to when she enters a room. She seems to be the black sheep of the bunch, but is sure to add some entertainment value and a bit of uncomfortablity as well.

Just prior to the trip, Emily walked in on an intruder who had broken into her house. Even though nothing was taken, she’s left rattled by the encounter. Later she hears her office building was broken into as well.

As her time in the French Alps begins, she cannot shake the feeling that someone is after her, or spying on her, or worse. Is it just nerves, brought on by grief and the break-ins, or is it something more?

Bright and Deadly Things had a great set-up. I really enjoyed meeting Emily and going on this journey with her. The rest of the cast were very intriguing as well.

When it starts to feel like someone is after her, messing with her really, I suspected everyone of having it in for Emily.

I really couldn’t suss out who could be behind the mysterious occurrences. I also considered a Murder on the Orient Express scenario; that’s how well Elliott disguised the truth behind what was happening.

You might be wondering, what is the actual mystery here, is there a murder, etc. I don’t want to go into any of that specifically, as I feel it’s best to go into this one knowing as little as possible.

I will say that it is a whole host of things that contribute to a general overriding feeling of dread and anxiety. Here they are at this very remote location, cut off from the world with no phones, wifi, or even electricity. Tensions run high in a competitive academic environment and feelings, amongst other things, are bound to get hurt.

I was really feeling for Emily. A lot of the things happening to her are quite scary. I don’t know what I would have done in her shoes; probably would have just kicked some butt and asked questions later.

One of my favorite things about Elliott’s writing is her deep sense of place. You always know where her stories are set, the environment, local area, vibe, etc. All these aspects are an important part of her storytelling and I love that.

Honestly, I always want that. I want to be able to feel like I am there too, right along with the characters, no matter what they are going through.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable reading experience for me. I always enjoy Lexie Elliott’s writing style. Her sense of place, character work and slow-burn suspense is very well suited to my tastes.

I was pulled into this one from the beginning. I was invested all the way. Elliott kept me in the dark enough to keep me engaged and guessing throughout. I also liked the light ‘is it supernatural, is it not supernatural’ vibes.

The setting and academic atmosphere were great as well. This takes dark academia on a bit of a field trip. We live.

Thank you to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I can’t wait to see where Lexie Elliott takes us next!

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