REVIEW – Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

“And that’s what it comes down to. We find the families we were desperate for and learn different ways of going about things. Ways that sometimes land us in places/positions we don’t really wanna be in.”

Dear Justyce is the follow-up to Dear Martin and WOW does it pack a punch. I read Dear Justyce in pretty much one sitting – Stone’s writing is compelling and accessible and she makes some stylistic choices throughout that really push the story along and keep you wanting (needing) to know what’s going to happen next.

Quan (who we met in Dear Martin) is an incarcerated teen awaiting trial for the shooting death of a police officer. Quan is smart and caring and…misguided. He faced some tough times as a child and eventually fell in with a group who gave him the care and love he was missing, but not without consequences.

This book really examines what leads Quan (and kids like him) into making some not-so-great choices, and how they can still move forward into a positive future. If you’re not familiar with the school to prison pipeline, i’d recommend doing a little bit of research before diving in to this book. Stone also addresses some of the events in the book in a note at the end, and that’s very much worth reading (especially if these topics are new to you).

REVIEW – The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan

Attention true crime fans: you’re going to want to pick this one up. I hadn’t heard of Tony Costa (the Cape Cod Vampire) before, but WOW was he a piece of work.

Costa was active in the mid to late 1960s and, honestly, got away with a lot of his crimes due to the time period but also some really inadequate law enforcement procedures and protocols. There were moments in this book where I wanted to scream about the missed connections and lack of shared information between departments. Lives might have been saved, but isn’t that the case with a lot of serial killers?

The Babysitter is part true crime book and part memoir – Liza Rodman grew up in Provincetown and Tony Costa was her “babysitter” at times (our idea of a babysitter now is not really what Tony was back then. He would take Liza and her sister on errands with him to get them out of their mom’s hair while she worked or went out on the town with her friends). Liza’s sections alone could have been their own book – she was a child who didn’t really stand a chance with her own mother. Liza’s mother was neglectful and mean and hurtful and irresponsible. Definitely proceed with caution if child abuse (mostly neglect and verbal abuse) is a touchy topic for you.

The book moves at a relatively slow pace but it stands up against the heavy hitters in true crime literature like In Cold Blood, Helter Skelter, The Stranger Beside Me, etc. Tony Costa might not be as well known as Ted Bundy, but he was just as horrible (and probably would have been much worse if they hadn’t caught him in time).

Thank you Atria Books for the ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Fatal Fried Rice by Vivien Chien

I recommend the Noodle Shop Mystery series to pretty much anyone looking to start reading cozy mysteries. The funny part? Fatal Fried Rice is only the second book i’ve read in this series (I know, I KNOW! I’m working on it!)

Vivien Chien writes such delightful, fun stories. Her characters feel realistic and Lana is a main character you love to root for (and want to be best friends with!)

The mystery in Fatal Fried Rice kept me guessing and, as always, the cover gave me an intense craving for some good Chinese food. If you’re a cozy mystery fan, or if you want to try the genre, you can’t go wrong with these books.

Thank you St. Martin’s Press for the ARC!

REVIEW – The Roommate by Rosie Danan

Phew, okay. I had seen a lot of positive reviews for The Roommate, but I didn’t think i’d love it this much! It’s surprisingly sweet (but with no lack of spice…) Clara and Josh are fun a lovable, and i’m excited that Naomi is getting her own book later this year.

The Roommate features Josh who is a…uhh…”performer” with a heart of gold (no, really) and Clara, who is a seemingly uptight, prim and proper socialite from the East Coast. Be prepared to love these characters! Be prepared for some VERY open door scenes (if that’s not your cup of tea, steer clear). And be prepared for a feminist novel that will have you laughing and cheering and swooning all at once.

REVIEW – Fatal Intent by Tammy Euliano

I haven’t read a lot of medical thrillers, but when presented with the opportunity to read Fatal Intent, I couldn’t pass it up. This book gave me SO MUCH anxiety! I had a great time reading this and had a lot of “OMG” and “holy shit!” moments. The pace is a bit slower at first, but when this picks up it doesn’t stop until the very end. This book is incredibly sad and tense and unpredictable.

If you’re super squeamish or bothered by medical events, hospitalization, etc., I’d proceed with caution.

Content warnings: miscarriage, infant death, suicide, death of a spouse

Thank you FSB Associates for the ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Murder at the Beacon Bakeshop by Darci Hannah

There’s so much to love about this book! I was immediately interested when I found out it was set in northern Michigan (in the book, Beacon Harbor is close-ish to Traverse City). When Lindsey buys an old lighthouse in Michigan and quits her cushy job in New York City, she gets a little bit more than she bargained for.

With time, she renovates the lighthouse into a bakery/apartment and gets ready for a successful opening day. However, when her ex-fiance’s new girlfriend ends up dead after eating one of Lindsey’s donuts, she finds herself (and her brand new bakery) stuck in the middle of a murder investigation.

This was such a fun read. Darci Hannah does a great job of portraying life in a small Michigan town. The love interest in this book is DREAMY as heck and the supporting characters are a lot of fun.

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – Last Call: A Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green

Last Call is a great read for fans of true crime – it’s a heartbreaking, gruesome tale of a man who preyed on gay men in the 80s and 90s. Last Call is incredibly well-researched and amazingly written – packing a ton of information into a relatively short book.

Elon Green focuses a lot on the victims of the Last Call Killer and less on the killer himself (this is relatively common among newer true crime books, and for good reason), and does so with great care and compassion.

Last Call might also be a good choice for those new to true crime, since it’s a shorter book and the murders are relatively recent, it’s easy to follow if you’re not familiar with the genre.

Thank you Celadon Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

“He understood that the ghost existed first and foremost within his own head. That maybe ghosts always haunted minds, not places.”

I read NOS4A2 a few years ago and loved it. I’ve since accumulated a few Joe Hill books and they’ve just sat, neglected, on my shelves. I FINALLY picked up Heart-Shaped Box and I regret not reading it sooner! You can tell that this is a debut novel, but that doesn’t make it any less impactful or terrifying or memorable.

Judas and Georgia are great characters – for a book that focuses so much on just two people (with some supporting characters sprinkled throughout) they really anchor the story. You’re rooting for them. They’re flawed, and they can be frustrating, but they feel very real. At its heart, this is a FANTASTIC revenge story.

“Is it cold there? I bet it’s cold. It’s going to get a lot colder before he’s through.”

I don’t scare easily (at least, when i’m reading!) but this has some CREEPY scenes in it. Ghosts appearing at random times in your house will always be terrifying and Hill nails it with Craddock. He’s super creepy (even his NAME is creepy. Craddock. Why…WHY?) and I really shouldn’t have been reading this right before bed, in a dark room, with just my book light for illumination.

The end of this book really pushed it into 3.5/4-star territory for me. I’d highly recommend this for horror fans. I certainly won’t wait years until I pick up another Joe Hill novel.

REVIEW – Always Only You by Chloe Liese

Chloe Liese does it again! I enjoyed the first Bergman Brothers book (Always Only You) so I knew this would be a great choice. Frankie and Ren are delightful as separate characters and, of course, they’re amazing together. Frankie is a big softie under that guarded exterior, and Ren can get pretty fired up even though he seems like a big happy teddy bear.

Liese handles differently-abled and neurodiverse characters so well – and she’s right: everyone deserves a love story. And, as always, the Bergman family is delightful and I love spending time with them.

CONSTANT READER REVIEW – Cujo by Stephen King

“Everything in Cujo’s life should have been right, but somehow it wasn’t. He just didn’t feel good at all.”

Let’s get this out of the way: Cujo would have been way better if it had been a short story. The book is short-ish (at least by King’s standards) but it’s just overstuffed with storylines that you cease to care about once the real action kicks in. However, there’s definitely a reason why this is one of King’s most well-known books. But Cujo (the dog) might be one of the saddest characters in modern literature. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to get snippets of Cujo’s thoughts as he slowly descends into madness and rabies takes control of his brain.

Is it horror? You betcha. King hints at a supernatural element at some points, but that’s an unnecessary part of the story. A gigantic dog (a good boy) tragically gets bit by an infected bat. He slowly loses his mind. In the meantime, a mother and her VERY young son get caught up in the terror and it’s…something. If anything, this book is incredibly claustrophobic and hopeless. Now, i’ve seen the movie (a long time ago, when I was probably way too young) so I knew how the story went. But the reading experience is jarring. The bad parts are…terrible. But the good parts? Incredible.

If you’re an animal lover, this book will rip your heart out (especially one paragraph at the very end…oof). For the record: Cujo was a GOOD BOY. But rabies is a bitch.