REVIEW – The Summoning by J.P. Smith

“There were no such things as ghosts. There was just memory and suggestion.”

Kit, a widow whose husband died on 9/11, is trying to make ends meet – she’s an actress but jobs are few and far between. Her only daughter, Zoey, is in the hospital and the bills are piling up. Kit spends her time masquerading as a medium, providing closure to those who have lost loved ones and making enough money just to scrape by each month. But then she meets an interesting stranger in a bar. And her seances start to feel much more real…

Phew, this was sad. You can’t help but feel awful for Kit. I was concerned at first when I saw that this book included a 9/11 mention, but it was handled really well. Kit’s husband’s death was just a real part of her life. The manner in which it happened didn’t dominate the book or contribute too heavily to the plot.

I hesitate to give too much away because I enjoyed uncovering bits and pieces of Kit’s story as I read. It was difficult to know what was really going on throughout the course of the book, which I feel was intentional. Ultimately, although the story all comes together by the final chapter, things went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. I found that a few ends were left…unfinished. I think a few elements could have been explored a bit more.

Overall The Summoning was a solid, creepy read. Thank you Poisoned Pen Press for the ARC!

REVIEW – The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is a pretty reliable thriller author – i’ve read and enjoyed a handful of her books. That being said, The Night She Disappeared is good, but not great. It’s a little longer than necessary (it feels repetitive at times). But the story is interesting and complex. If you’ve enjoyed Lisa Jewell before, it’s worth a read. If you’re new to her books, i’d recommend choosing another one as your first read.

Thank you Atria Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

“What i’m saying is that when it comes right down to it, everybody suffers in the end.”

First things first, The Devil All the Time is NOT for every reader. If you consider yourself highly (or even remotely) sensitive, maybe skip this one.

Give this a read if you like:

  • Dark, gritty stories.
  • Wholly unlikeable characters.
  • Lovable characters that are morally gray (looking at you, Arvin).
  • Vivid, whipsmart writing.

In short: glad I picked it up. Would recommend to anyone who likes the dark side of literature. On the fence about watching the movie (but the cast is swaying me to give it a try!)

FEATURE – Catch Us When We Fall by Juliette Fay

Equal parts dramatic, romantic and uplifting, Catch Us When We Fall (available Sept. 21, 2021) is ultimately a story about forgiveness and hope. Cass and Scott have a difficult history – Cass is the longtime girlfriend of Scott’s late brother, Ben. Cass and Ben spent the better part of a decade under the influence, while Scott worked to build a career as a professional baseball player. Is the plot a little predictable? Sure. But maybe reliable is the better word here. While this wasn’t personally a favorite for me, a lot of readers of contemporary fiction really love it, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a heartwarming story about complicated (but lovable!) characters. A big thank you to Get Red PR for the free book!

SYNOPSIS: On her own since the age of eighteen, Cass Macklin dated brilliant, troubled Ben McGreavy, convinced he was the smartest person she’d ever known. They partied their way through their twenties, slowly descending into a bleak world of binge-drinking and broken promises, inebriated for most of a decade. Now Ben is dead, and Cass is broke, homeless, scared…and pregnant.

Determined to have a healthy pregnancy and raise Ben’s baby, Cass has to find a way to stop drinking and build a stable life for herself and her child. But with no money, skills, or sober friends or family, the task seems insurmountable. At wit’s end, Cass turns to the only person with the means to help her: Ben’s brother Scott, third basemen for the Boston Red Sox, a man with a temper and problems of his own.

The two make a deal that neither one of them is sure they can live up to. As Cass struggles to take control of her life and to ask for help when she needs it, Scott begins to realize there’s a life for him beyond the baseball diamond.

REVIEW – Petrified Women by Jeremy Ray

Talk about heart-pounding! Jeremy Ray packs so much tension into a short little novella. I had to read this in one sitting, he gave me no choice! I felt like I was right alongside Harley throughout the course of the book.

As the events unfolded, I had a pretty good idea of where it was going, but that didn’t make the payoff any less satisfying. (I mean, I was grinning like a fool at some parts towards the end – what does that say about me?)

In all honesty though, Petrified Women is dark. Even though there are some really fun, satisfying moments for horror fans, the true horror is the reality of Harley’s trauma, both past and present. Maybe we’ve all failed to notice (or conveniently ignored) red flags in a relationship, but Aiden’s are just flapping in the wind, for anyone and everyone to see.

Another great thing about Petrified Women? The author is very forthcoming about the content warnings. He mentioned them when he reached out to me, asking to give the novella a read. And they’re mentioned again at the very beginning of the book. Horror can be fun (and terrifying, of course) but it’s always a good idea to let a reader know what to expect so they can enjoy the story without being blindsided by a plot point they can’t or don’t want to read about.

A big thank you to the author for sending me a digital ARC of this novella!

REVIEW – The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

What an adorable love story! Now, i’m not a fan of The Bachelor/ette or any sort of reality dating series, but I still enjoyed the “behind the scenes” look at a popular TV show (and getting to follow along with Charlie and Dev’s story, of course!)

Charlie is just about the sweetest character i’ve encountered so far in a romance. He’s shy and awkward and uncomfortable, but you can’t help but love him (and you learn why he’s so closed off). Dev is a cookie-eating, boisterous firecracker of a human, but he has issues of his own (on a silly note: cargo shorts? Come on, Dev!)

The Charm Offensive is packed with lovable, memorable characters (and the female friendships, of course, are the best part).

Thank you Atria for sending me an ARC of The Charm Offensive.

REVIEW – The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon

“We don’t know the terrible things that are coming our way… We just see the shiny surface, our own beautiful selves reflected in it. Not the monster lurking beneath.”

I read my first Jennifer McMahon book back in 2019, and I regret taking this long to pick up another one. The Drowning Kind follows Jax, a social worker, and her sister Lexie, who has long dealt with a pretty severe mental illness. Jax and Lexie spent their childhood summers visiting their grandma, and swimming in her INCREDIBLY CREEPY pool. After ignoring a few manic calls from her sister, Jax discovers that Lexie has drowned in the pool from their childhood. As she starts to sort through Lexie’s things and organize the house, she starts to wonder if Lexie’s claims were based on something real…and sinister.

We also meet Ethel, a woman living in 1929, dealing with a later-in-life marriage and struggles to conceive. When a new hotel featuring a natural spring promises healing and miracles, Ethel can’t help but give it a try. The spring does give. But it also takes…

The Drowning Kind had me looking over my shoulder, increased my fear of deep, dark water, and convinced me that I need to reach more of Jennifer McMahon’s books. It’s a great choice for those looking to dip their toe into the horror genre, while leaning a bit more into the mystery/thriller realm.

Content: self harm, infertility

REVIEW – The Family Plot by Megan Collins

You think your family is weird? Meet the Lighthouses. Charlie, Tate, Andy and Dahlia are all named after famous murder victims. Their mother is obsessed with true crime and their homeschooling curriculum has some…unconventional components. After the death of their father, three of the siblings return home for his funeral. However, no one has heard from Andy in more than a decade after he ran away from home and left a disturbing note.

Collins is becoming a go-to thriller writer for me. Behind the Red Door was one of my favorite reads of 2020 (seriously, go read it!), The Family Plot was a unique and eerie thriller, and i’m excited to see what she writes next!

Thank you Atria for the ARC!

REVIEW – The Point After by Sean Conley

“As a kicker there’s not much upside. You’re expected to make every kick.”

The Point After is an absolute DELIGHT. A must-read for football fans and non-fiction enthusiasts alike. Even if football isn’t really your thing, I’d highly recommend this book. Sean Conley is easy to root for – he’s plucky and optimistic, and his personality just pops right off of the page. You can feel his frustration when faced with obstacles. You celebrate his wins.

Equal parts hilarious and emotional, The Point After is a memorable read and will leave you with a smile on your face.

A big thank you to Sean for reaching out and sending me a copy of this book.

REVIEW – That Summer by Jennifer Weiner

I’ve only read two Jennifer Weiner books so far (That Summer and Mrs. Everything), so I don’t know much about her backlist. However, I do know she’s able to turn 400-page books into incredibly fast reads.

That being said, the title and cover of this book are misleading. This is NOT a light, summer read. The main theme of the book is rape, and there’s a lot of “old boys club” nonsense going on. (I’ll be clear: Weiner does not condone the “old boys club” stuff and DOES in fact present it as dangerous.)

I’m not sure if anything here was meant to be a twist or a reveal, but I wasn’t really surprised by anything that happened throughout the course of the book. However, i’m not really sure what Diana was hoping to accomplish (i’m not sure she even knew, herself).

I would definitely recommend this book, as it was interesting and very timely (a lot of #MeToo chatter in this one) but I would urge readers to proceed with caution.

Content: rape, sexual assault, suicide

Thank you Atria for sending me a copy of That Summer!