REVIEW – Unfollow Me by Charlotte Duckworth

{Available March 10, 2020} Unfollow Me starts with a chilling email to Violet, a social media influencer with more than one million subscribers on YouTube.

We learn early on (from the perspective of our two main characters – Lily and Yvonne) that Violet’s social media presence has inexplicably vanished, and no one knows where she is or if she’s okay.

These characters are OBSESSED with Violet – a woman they’ve never met, but think they know due to her constant vlogs of her daily life. It’s very relevant to society today, how many “influencers” have turned into micro-celebrities. They have fans, they have haters, they might even have stalkers. It also gave me MTV Diary vibes (throwback! Remember: you think you know, but you have no idea?!)

Details are revealed as the story progresses, and we do get chapters from Violet’s husband’s point of view as well. However, the majority of the book is confusing (not necessarily in a bad way). I found myself wanting to read more just so I could get some answers and find out wtf is going on.

Unfortunately, the ending was a little lackluster for me. I still enjoyed the book, and enjoyed the perspective it gave on “influencer” culture!

Thank you Crooked Lane Books for the NetGalley ARC.

REVIEW – The Other People by C.J. Tudor

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. This is my first C.J. Tudor book – and it will NOT be my last, not by a long shot. A TL;DR summary? It’s like if Stephen King wrote The Face on the Milk Carton.

What can I say about The Other People? Go in as blind as possible. I had no clue what was going on in this book while I was reading it, and it was such an enjoyable ride! It’s a little disorienting (especially at first). It’s super atmospheric, and honestly a little depressing. The whole vibe just felt very gloomy and hopeless and sad.

The writing – wow. There are a lot of great little snippets and passages throughout this book that are so reminiscent of some of Stephen King’s best bits from his best books. C.J. Tudor NAILS it. If you’re a King fan, you’ll probably be a Tudor fan. (and vice versa! Like the Tudor books you’ve read? Pick up some King!)

This is the first book in quite some time where I have had theories while reading. Not just vague ideas of where it was headed, but straight up THEORIES like pinned to a corkboard and connected with a string.

I had a friend ask me while I was reading this, “It’s supernatural, right?” Ummm…well. I’m not going to tell you. Maybe? Maybe not? Trust me, it’s better if you just don’t know.

There are a lot of connections in this book. A LOT. Some are easy to deduce. Others? Not so much. Honestly – just stop reading my review and go read this book.

Thank you Ballantine Books and Goodreads for the giveaway win.

Let`s Get Cozy! Lighthearted mysteries for every reader

If you’re like me, you like to have some palate cleanser books on hand after you finish a particularly disturbing, heavy or emotionally taxing read. For many, that’s YA or romance. Me? I like a good cozy mystery! (Or, as I explained to a coworker, some “good, lighthearted murder.” I might have a morbid sense of humor…)

I think there’s a cozy mystery out there for everyone – some are funnier than others. Some focus more on the small town setting or bakery/candle shop/bookstore, others focus more on the murder investigation. You may be wondering: what DEFINES a “cozy mystery?” Well, my friends at Kensington Books have a great definition on their cozy mystery website: “Comedic murder mysteries that show you what happens when you put a quilter, a candy shop owner, a baker, a pet sitter or some other wholly inappropriate sleuth on the case to solve a crime.”

Cozies are typically free from gory descriptions (barring very surface-level details), “safe for work” and pretty lighthearted. For a thriller/horror/mystery lover like me, they’re the perfect fluff reads when I need something easy and not-so-nightmare-inducing.

Another great thing about cozies? Most are part of a series, but the books stand on their own. If you want to jump in to the middle of a series, you won’t be too confused (you might read some callbacks to previous books, but most cozies are good at explaining the essential details each time around). Let’s move on to the recommendations! (Each title also includes a link to my review, if you want more in-depth information.)

The Book of Candlelight by Ellery Adams: This might be the PERFECT start for readers who are very much into thrillers and not-so-much into fluffy books. This is one of the heavier cozies i’ve read so far (but it’s still light and snuggly). It’s incredibly atmospheric and the friendships in this book are heartwarming and realistic.

Sealed Off by Barbara Ross: This is a short little book that packs a punch! Revolving around a family clambake business, this one is heavier on the mystery and a bit lighter on the cozy. Clocking in at less than 250 pages, it’s a great choice for a lazy afternoon.

Death Bee Comes Her by Nancy CoCo: Set in the Pacific Northwest, this cozy features Let It Bee, a shop specializing in beeswax and honey products (i’m honestly a little miffed it doesn’t exist in real life). This one also features a cozy mystery staple – a sleuthing pet.

Cobblered to Death by Rosemarie Ross: Any Food Network or Great British Baking Show fans? This is the cozy for you! When a cooking competition contestant is found dead, it creates a tense and eerie atmosphere on set. This is the first in a series, if you’d prefer to start from the beginning.

An Ale of Two Cities by Sarah Fox: Oh, how I LOVED this one! It strikes the perfect balance between light and dark. Our main character owns a book-themed pub (again, a little salty these places aren’t real!) Another great choice for readers looking to get into cozies, but want to avoid the sugary sweetness that some tend to have.

I have more cozy mystery reviews on the blog – just click the “cozy mystery” tag to find the rest.

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Coconut Layer Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke

{Available February 25, 2020} Coconut Layer Cake Murder continues the Hannah Swensen cozy mystery series. This is the most recent book, but only my second that I’ve read.

The mystery is good and interesting. However, our characters spend a LOT of time drinking coffee and trying new cookies (this is fine – the book is pure fluff and a great palate cleanser. But it does get a bit repetitive).

I would recommend these if you’re already interested in the cozy genre, and need something super light (and a little silly). If you’re dipping your toe into the genre for the first time, I would suggest starting somewhere else.

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit by Eliese Colette Goldbach

{Available March 3, 2020} There’s a lot to say about Rust – this story hooked me right from the beginning. Goldbach is from Cleveland, a resilient city with an industrial past (and present, and future).

I connected with a lot in the beginning of this book. Goldbach and I are both graduates of Catholic all-girls high schools. We’re both from cities in northern Ohio (her from the northeast, me from the northwest). Our cities both have strong foundations in industry – hers in steel, mine in glass and cars. Goldbach and I are roughly the same age (I believe she’s a few months older than me).

I’ve never worked in a factory. I’ve never had to and, honestly, have never considered it an option. Reading Goldbach’s account as a woman in her late twenties (at the time) navigating life as an employee in a steel mill was fascinating. I think many of us can agree that when we picture a “factory worker” or a “steelworker” we do not picture a young, college-educated woman. Goldbach’s account dismantled my idea of what a typical factory worker is like (which makes me sound like an idiot, but i’m not afraid to admit I was biased and I was WRONG).

I felt that this book lost its way a bit at times – it meanders from topic to topic, timeline to timeline, with few line or section breaks (but this could be something that is remedied in the finished copy). However, it’s difficult to place a “review” lens on someone’s life experience. There are moments where I forgot I was reading nonfiction (Goldbach is a great writer! And this memoir felt more like a novel sometimes).

This memoir isn’t just about a young woman finding her way in the steel industry. It also focuses heavily on her struggle with mental illness, and is supplemented by observations and events surrounding the 2016 presidential election.

Content warnings: mental illness, rape, discussion of suicide/suicidal thoughts.

Thank you Flatiron Books for the NetGalley ARC.

REVIEW – The Light After the War by Anita Abriel

“No man can wipe out truth and beauty. Human beings were born to create great things, and they will do so again.”

The Light After the War is a post-WWII account of Vera and Edith, two best friends living in Naples, Italy (and eventually ending up in Caracas, Venezuela). The novel is based on the author’s mother’s story of surviving WWII and her experiences in the years immediately following the end of the war.

“When they were together, Vera felt like she and Edith were two girls on a grand adventure instead of orphans alone in the world.”

There was a lot to like about this book. The writing is incredibly vivid and provides a beautiful, delicious description of Naples, before moving on to warm, colorful Caracas. I felt like I was there right alongside Vera and Edith (and it was wonderful!) I loved that both Vera and Edith had career aspirations – Vera dreamt of being a playwright and Edith wanted to be a clothing designer. Some of the most interesting aspects of the book were the plot points that led each woman down her own career path.

“That was the thing about Edith: she believed falling in love was the answer to everything, even escaping the war.”

This is primarily a historical romance, and honestly I would have found it a bit unbelievable (and a little too fluffy) if not based on a true story. (I guess truth really is stranger than fiction sometimes!) It leaned a little too light and airy at times for my taste, but I think romance lovers will really enjoy this story.

“Death is everywhere, but so is life.”

My favorite part of Abriel’s writing was how she tied events and objects from the “present” timeline in the book, to Vera and Edith’s experiences as children and during the war. It was really impactful to get their backstories in small bits and pieces, even at times when you’d least expect it. Ultimately, it’s a very hopeful book but it doesn’t gloss over the realities and horrors of the war. It strikes the perfect balance between joy and sorrow.

I know many avid readers may think the historical fiction genre is oversaturated with WWII novels, but I would urge you to give this one a try – the war is a key part of the story, but it’s not the main focus.

Thank you Atria for sending me a finished copy of this book!

REVIEW – The Chill by Scott Carson

{Available February 11, 2020} A supernatural thriller blurbed by Stephen King? I knew I had to get my hands on this one. And oh man…this gave me probably the STRONGEST book hangover i’ve had in months. I ended up finishing it sooner than I anticipated because once I passed a certain point in the plot, I couldn’t stop reading.

This book grabbed my attention right from the start. Focused on the Chilewaukee Reservoir (or “the Chill” as the locals call it), the novel revolves around an interesting cast of characters, including a sheriff and his son, a DEP officer and her “sandhog” father, and an engineer/inspector who has come to town to evaluate the state of the dam containing the Chill.

There are some strong supernatural vibes early on in this book, some of which reminded me heavily of The Shining (but in a great way, more of a homage vs a plot point being yoinked from someone else’s work). Add a sprinkle (just a sprinkle) of an old-timey cult, and some chilling (sorry…) descriptions of rushing, relentless waters, with secrets buried beneath the surface.

It’s a little slow-going for a bit, but right at the halfway point it takes an unexpected turn and dives right in to straight up nightmare fuel territory (at least for me. One major thing i’m afraid of? Dark, deep water. Guess we can now add dams to my list of fears). Much like a King novel, the real horrors in this book are grounded in reality. Basically, I ain’t afraid of no ghosts but I AM afraid of things that can actually kill me.

Thank you Atria and Emily Bestler Books for the ARC!