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!

REVIEW – When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen

“It’s hard to live with certain truths of this world, so we ignore what we can. Choose not to look. We have to do it because otherwise we have to deal with the burden of knowing.”

Combine Kindred with Get Out and you’ll get When the Reckoning Comes – a short but impactful read about the reverberations of the past. The ghosts aren’t what to be afraid of here. There’s a gritty layer of dread and forboding smeared all over this story. Although this was a middle-of-the-road read for me, McQueen has an incredibly promising future.

Thank you Bibliolifestyle and Harper Perennial for the free book!

REVIEW – A Brush with Love by Mazey Eddings

Reluctant romance readers (hi, yes, I am one of you). You have to give A Brush with Love a shot. Or at least remember the name Mazey Eddings – you’re going to be seeing her books all over the place soon.

A Brush with Love is smart and sweet and hilarious. The balance between each element in the story is flawless – Eddings will have you saying “awww” one moment and cracking up the next.

Harper is a dental student working towards a residency in oral surgery. She’s SMART. She’s DRIVEN. She’s…AWKWARD (sometimes). She’s dealing with some trauma and grief from her childhood and she tends to keep everyone at arm’s length. Dan is a first-year dental student, reluctantly trying to live up to a legacy left by his (complicated and not-so-nice) father.

After a meet-cute that’s more like a meet-funny or a meet-omg! Harper and Dan become fast friends and, although their story itself is something of a slow burn, they develop feelings for each other very quickly but it never feels insta-lovey or forced.

The good? A Brush with Love is heartfelt and emotional without being sappy. It’s sweet without being too sugary (come on, that would be bad for your teeth! …I’ll see myself out). Harper and Dan are lovable, Harper’s friends are a GODDAMN DELIGHT. Harper deals with some very real anxiety that is so accurately portrayed on the page, I sometimes forgot that I was reading fiction.

The bad? Most of you are going to have to wait until 2022 to read this. But I have a solution for you: preorder this delightful piece of romcom goodness. It’s basically like sending a gift to your future self.

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

REVIEW – West End Earl by Bethany Bennett

West End Earl was a super delightful and heartwarming romance – Calvin and Ophelia are lovable characters and I found myself rooting for them right from the start.

Ophelia has had a rough life, and she’s spent the last decade hiding who she is just in order to survive. Calvin has to work hard to clean up his father’s affairs (literally.) and finds himself feeling more like the parent than the child when he has to deal with dear old dad.

When Calvin discovers Ophelia’s secret, he immediately works to support her and make sure she stays safe. And, yes, they fall in love in the process (duh!)

I haven’t read the first book in the series yet, but it’s sitting on my tbr shelf and i’ll definitely be picking it up soon! I’m also very excited for book three (you’ll hate Emma and then you’ll love Emma and she deserves to get her own story!)

Thank you Forever for sending me a copy of this book!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – It Takes Two to Mango by Carrie Doyle

Let’s get this out of the way: you’re probably going to hate Plum. She’s pretentious and mean and makes a lot of really nasty assumptions about people. However, Plum does grow as a person (no, really) and by the end of the book you might almost…like her? Or at least tolerate her.

The mystery is interesting (and a bit tough to solve) in this book, and the setting is just fantastic. Overall, a solid start to a new series.

Thank you Poisoned Pen Press for the ARC!

REVIEW – False Witness by Karin Slaughter

“If Callie could stay in this quiet moment, big sister by her side, for the rest of her life, then she would be happy. But that wasn’t how life worked.”

Karin Slaughter continues to remind me why she’s my favorite author. Time and time again I am blown away by her ability to weave an intriguing, emotional, gut-punch of a plot. The first Karin Slaughter book I read was one of her standalones, so i’m always excited when she releases a new one. I think they’re a great introduction to her writing for anyone looking to give her books a try.

False Witness is about two sisters with a long-buried secret. It provides an honest, heartbreaking look at addiction, abuse and sexual assault. It’s full of the twists and “OMG” moments you expect from a Karin Slaughter book. I won’t give too much away because it’s worth diving in headfirst, without taking too close of a look (avoid detailed reviews!)

This book does make mention of the pandemic, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by it. It’s merely part of the story, instead of being a major focus. My recommendation? Definitely read the Author’s Note to get a glimpse into her thought process while writing the book.

As far as content warnings? I won’t list them all here, but please know that if you are a sensitive reader, this probably isn’t the book for you.

Thank you Bibliolifestyle and William Morrow for the free book!

REVIEW – Test Gods by Nicholas Schmidle

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth.”

I don’t know many people who aren’t at least somewhat fascinated by space and space flight/exploration. Now, with Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin mere days away from sending their respective billionaire owners into suborbital flight, this is the perfect time to pick up Test Gods.

Test Gods focuses on Virgin Galactic – the triumphs (and tragedies) of the company as they have worked towards making commercial spaceflight a reality. The main “character” here is Mark Stucky, one of Virgin Galactic’s test pilots. Stucky is a complicated man, and his passion for flight has often interfered with his personal relationships. But he’s whip-smart and quite possibly one of the bravest humans on the planet (and, sometimes, off of it).

Test Gods also has an underlying theme of the relationships between fathers and sons – and the author ties in stories about his own father (there’s a fascinating connection revealed later on in the book!)

Thank you Henry Holt for the ARC!