REVIEW – Barely Functional Adult by Meichi Ng

“It’s important for you to hold on to your good days; they keep you sane in the face of bad ones.”

Are you a human being who has even just a little bit of life experience? Then this book is for you! Somehow this little blue blob is hilarious and profound and insightful – and Meichi Ng created one of the most relatable books i’ve ever read. I mean, at some points I had to stop and think, “Wait, did I write this book…?”

So now, naturally, i’m convinced that the author and I could be friends:
Hi Meichi! I’m deathly afraid of wasps and would also love to be cheeseburger rich. I’m pretty sure we could be friends. I’m sorry I laughed at the story about your dead fish (RIP Bobo). Thank you for writing such a wonderful book.

If you’re a fan of Hyperbole and a Half, you’ll definitely love this one too.

Thank you Harper Perennial for the finished copy!

REVIEW – The Residence by Andrew Pyper

“It was the dead who did it. The house was full of them.”

Something terrifying is happening in the White House (I mean, the jokes just write themselves at this point…) But seriously. Not long after Franklin Pierce is elected president, his son dies in a horrific train accident. When Franklin and his wife, Jane, move into the White House, that’s when the real terror begins.

PHEW. This book is a doozy. It’s definitely creepy but, more importantly, it’s incredibly sad. It’s hard enough reading about grieving parents, but when you add some really terrifying, demonic elements to that, it’s gut-wrenching. The opening especially is just chilling and heartbreakingly sad.

You see, Jane accidentally summoned some sort of malevolent presence when she was a young girl, and this presence has been tormenting and influencing her ever since. Is it responsible for the tragedy in her life? Probably. This presence seems to feed off of terror and grief and sadness. The book does seem a little repetitive at times (especially the scenes in the boy’s staged bedroom) but there are some parts that will stick with readers long after they’ve left the White House.

Also I would HIGHLY recommend reading the Author’s Note at the end! It’s absolutely terrifying and makes the book that much better. I mean, is it really hard to imagine that the White House is actually haunted?

Content warning: death of a child, suicidal thoughts

Thank you Gallery Books / Skybound Books for the finished copy!

REVIEW – Becoming Duchess Goldblatt by Anonymous

“We have to love other people regardless of their actions and without any hope of reward. Even our enemies deserve our grace.”

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt was the first book I read after the 2020 presidential election, and it was 110% the correct choice. Before you even consider picking up this delightful memoir, you need to first become acquainted with Duchess Goldblatt on Twitter – you have to have a very particular sense of humor to enjoy this one.

“There are hidden benefits to being a fictional person. If people can’t find you, they can’t break your heart.”

The author makes it a point to differentiate herself from her fictional, online persona, but you slowly begin to realize that our dear author is more like Duchess Goldblatt than she originally believed.

That being said, this book is SO lovely. We follow the journey of the person behind Duchess Goldblatt, and what events in her life motivated her to create the account. This book is laugh-out-loud funny and also very emotional (you’ll have a lot of feelings about Lyle Lovett after you read this).

If you’re looking for something heartwarming and hopeful and hilarious, i’d like to officially welcome you to Crooked Path. The Duchess is waiting for you.

“The world is broken, but you are not broken. Things may not be okay, but you’re okay, and you will be. I promise.”

REVIEW – Do Not Disturb by Claire Douglas

It’s been a little while since I read a good whodunit kind of mystery/thriller, and this was a great way to get back into the genre! Do Not Disturb is set in the Welsh mountains and the guesthouse (and town) are equal parts charming and sinister.

Kirsty moves her family out of London after a traumatic event. They decide to start fresh by purchasing a guesthouse (in America we’d call this a “bed and breakfast”) and going into business with Kirsty’s somewhat overbearing (but well-meaning) mother.

When Kirsty’s estranged cousin Selena shows up, some interesting things start happening (dead flowers left at the doorstep? No thank you). Kirsty is skeptical of Serena’s arrival, and the cousins haven’t spoken in years ever since they had a falling out when they were 18.

I was basically suspicious of EVERYONE at some point or another in this book, which made for a fun reading experience. Do Not Disturb is a twisty, spooky read, ideal for thriller lovers looking to get something just a tad bit different.

Content warning: sexual abuse/rape, attempted suicide, child abuse

Thank you Harper Perennial for the ARC!

REVIEW – We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper

We Keep the Dead Close is a very well-researched true crime book with an incredibly elaborate “plot.” Yes, Cooper discusses Jane Britton’s murder and the subsequent investigation, but she also covers the gender politics and discrimination that are rooted deep in Harvard’s history.

This held my interest for maybe the first third, and then slowed down a bit towards the middle. Cooper takes a few detours that are somewhat connected to Jane’s story, but feel somewhat meandering at times. You’ll definitely learn more about archaeology than you ever thought possible in a true crime book. This does have some shades of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – in that Cooper reminded me of Michelle McNamara. Cooper’s obsession with Jane’s case mirrors that of McNamara’s when she was researching the GSK.

Overall, Cooper’s dedication to researching and telling Jane’s story is admirable, and I have to give her major props for the work it took to make this book happen.

Thank you Novel Suspects and Grand Central Publishing for the ARC!

REVIEW – The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

“That’s the problem with summoning demons, you see. Sooner or later, somebody else raises them against you.”

The Devil and the Dark Water was for sure one of my most anticipated books of the year. I loved The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, and i’ll probably pick up pretty much anything Stuart Turton decides to write.

This book is a combination of Sherlock Holmes, Pirates of the Caribbean and Titanic (sound weird? …good.) It’s historical-ish fiction – set in the 1600s but not entirely historically accurate (but that’s not the point! Just enjoy the story for what it is.)

Arent and Sammy- the Bear and the Sparrow – are like a spin on Watson and Sherlock. Sammy is imprisoned on the ship for reasons unknown, and Arent is trying to find out why. There’s also a dead leper, the mark of a supposed devil/demon named Old Tom and some dead livestock to add to the fun.

Sara is married to a total jerk, who just so happens to kind of be in charge of this entire operation. There’s a relatively large cast of characters here, but each person is different enough that it’s not hard to keep them all straight.

What happens in this book? I really can’t tell you. It’s wild and fun and unique. You can’t really begin to try to solve the mystery of Old Tom, you just have to let Turton guide you through the twists and turns of the story. It’s not perfect, but it’s still an amazing read.

REVIEW – The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

“There were so many stories and secrets, tangled threads and loose ends, but Immanuelle wondered if the truth lay somewhere in the intersections between them all.”

Whew. This book is a ride – it starts off really strong, slows down considerably in the middle and picks back up towards the end (but never quite matching the pace of the beginning).

Immanuelle is a young girl in a very cult-ish society. Think Handmaid’s Tale combined with 1600s Salem. Their leader is referred to as the Prophet (I know. Ew.) We don’t really know how this town or society came to be, what year it is, what’s beyond the town…but men are exalted, women are controlled and everyone fears the forbidden Darkwood.

“It was almost as though the forbidden wood sang a song that only she could hear, as though it was daring her to come closer.”

We do learn a lot about Immanuelle’s past throughout the course of the book but it never gets quite witchy enough (at least, it didn’t for me). There are some really amazing scenes, most of which are packed into the first third of the book. Overall, this read a little like YA to me (complete with a somewhat unnecessary romantic plot). But the great thing? Alexis Henderson shows so much promise here – there’s some incredible writing in The Year of the Witching and I would definitely be interested in picking up whatever she writes next.

REVIEW – They’re Gone by E.A. Barres

Deb and Cessy come from different backgrounds, different marriages and have different experiences. And yet when the unthinkable happens, it causes them to connect in an effort to save their lives.

They’re Gone focuses on two very different women who have one thing in common – both of their husbands were murdered on the same night. As you can probably imagine, these murders uncover long-buried secrets that lead to some very dangerous people.

Overall, this is a solid thriller. It’s twisty and exciting. The “big” twist is relatively easy to guess, but I found myself just wondering when and how the reveal would happen, which made it fun to read.

Thank you Books Forward PR for the digital ARC!

TRUE CRIME REVIEW – Mindhunter by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

“Monsters had to be supernatural creatures. They couldn’t be just like us.”

This book is an essential choice for true crime fans – John Douglas is basically the OG profiler. Mindhunter is part true crime book, part memoir, as Douglas outlines his start in the FBI, his time in the bureau, and his coworkers (he never fails to give credit where credit is due).

At times, Douglas’ confidence might come across as arrogance, but you have to remember that he is a man that essentially created the game. He knows what he’s talking about, and he’s not afraid to show off his expertise.

Although slightly a victim of its time (Mindhunter was released in 1995), it’s still a solid true crime read and will likely be loved by scores of “Murderinos” and fans of Criminal Minds. I’d highly recommend watching the Netflix show based on this book – Mindhunter (the show) has the hook that Mindhunter (the book) lacks.

REVIEW – The Bakeshop at Pumpkin and Spice by Donna Kauffman, Kate Angell and Allyson Charles

What a lovely little fall book! This was right book, right time for me. I was looking for something cozy and lovely to read in the midst of horrific and thrilling October books, and this fit the bill.

The Bakeshop at Pumpkin and Spice includes three shorter stories: Sweet Magic, Love Spells Disaster and Sweet On You. These all tie in together in some way – they all take place during the same relative time span, leading up to the town’s annual Halloween parade. And in each story, we get to visit Bellaluna’s Bakeshop – a cozy spot in Moonlight, Maine, that has a reputation for helping people fall in love.

There’s a touch of magic at work here (magic cookies? Sign me up!) and, honestly, a bit more steam than I anticipated (this was a pleasant surprise). If you’re more interested in closed-door/fade-to-black romance reads, worry not – this is steamy but relatively tame.

Thank you Kensington Books and Goodreads for the giveaway win!