COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Pulp Friction by Julie Anne Lindsey

{Available April 28, 2020} Pulp Friction is the second book in the new Cider Shop Mystery series (which I am loving, by the way). Winnie’s newly opened cider shop is doing well, and the book opens with a wedding in the orchard’s barn. The wedding atmosphere is super cozy and dreamy and makes me miss summer…until the groom ends up dead and foul play is suspected.

This book solidifies my desire to live in Blossom Valley with Winnie, Granny, Dot and Colton (yes, of course, Colton. So handsome!) This series hits all of the points that make a cozy series great – an adorable small town, a sweet little shop (I want apple cider and delicious pastries all of the time now), a wonderful cast of characters and murder mysteries that are just chilling enough to feel serious without ruining the overall lighthearted vibe of the book.

I had my theories about who the murdered could be in this book and I was spot on in some aspects and WAY OFF in others – which just made the entire experience more fun! This book ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger and sets the series up for a larger story – which I’m guessing will be explored more in-depth in the next book.

Thank you Kensington Books for providing me with the NetGalley ARC!

REVIEW – Have You Seen Me? by Kate White

This has such a great premise – Ally shows up at work one morning, only to be told she hasn’t been employed there for five years. She spends the entire book piecing together the bits of her lost memory. There’s a cold case from her childhood that plays a role here, and overall I was interested to see where the story ended up.

However…it didn’t really end up anywhere. Do we figure out where she was? Yes. Do we find out what triggered her memory loss? Also, yes. (I don’t see these as spoilers, as it’s pretty much explained in the synopsis.) However, the tone of the book shifts in the last 100 or so pages and I found myself going “seriously?” during a few parts.

I think there’s an audience for this book – those who are new to the thriller genre or those who want to read a thriller without too much complexity or gore.

Thank you Harper/Harper Perennial for sending me a copy of this book!

REVIEW – Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Eight Perfect Murders starts off with a plot that aligns perfectly with the current era – it seems that a murderer is following a blog post that Mal wrote some years ago, detailing the “eight perfect murders” from classic thriller and mystery books.

The book is written somewhat as a memoir – we experience everything through Mal’s perspective. From his present-day investigation of the murders, to past memories featuring his deceased wife.

I was intrigued by the overall storyline – I was curious to see who the murderer was, and I definitely had my suspicions. However, although the reveal was surprising, I still found it a bit lackluster.

Regardless of my issues with this book, this was still a decent read. It’s slower than your typical thriller and has a bit of a noir feel to it, if that’s your cup of tea.

I won an ARC of this book through a Goodreads giveaway.

REVIEW – The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

{Available March 31, 2020} Less than a thriller and more of an examination of familial relationships (primarily mother/daughter and brother/sister), The Familiar Dark is a gritty story with an of-the-moment setting. Anyone who has watched Ozark on Netflix will easily be able to picture Eve’s tiny, poor town in Missouri. The book gives off the same gray, unsettling vibe as the show, too.

After Eve’s daughter and her best friend are murdered on a run-down playground, Eve takes it upon herself to investigate the murders and exact revenge on the killer. What she uncovers is more horrific than she could have ever imagined.

There are some heartbreaking twists/reveals in this story, and the entire thing feels very desolate and hopeless. I wasn’t impressed with the ending when I first read it – some of it seems very out of character and almost like a stretch. But the more I think about it, and the more I think about the setting and the personal background of each character…i’m not ENTIRELY convinced that it’s plausible, but i’m starting to come around that maybe it was an inevitable conclusion for these characters. Just be forewarned: it’s dark and it’s sad and there are no winners in this book.

Thank you Dutton Books for the NetGalley ARC!

REVIEW – The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

“…it didn’t matter how afraid or how careful you were – it could always be you.”

The Sun Down Motel pulled me in from the dedication page – anything that mentions Murderinos is sure to be right up my alley!

Carly, our main character, is set on investigating the unsolved disappearance in her family. 35 years ago, her aunt vanished without a trace from her night shift job at the Sun Down Motel. We learn, through dual timelines, that the Sun Down has a little bit of a…ghost problem, a knack for attracting unsavory characters and for facilitating questionable behavior. It also has a history of tragedy and violence. However, that doesn’t seem too out of place in Fell, NY. Fell is…odd. It gave me straight-up Derry, Maine, vibes. It often felt like an episode of the Twilight Zone.

“The world was different at night. Not just dark, not just quiet, but different.”

The parallels and transitions between past and present are excellent. The story is good. It’s a bit tighter at the beginning (and spookier) before focusing mostly on the investigation of a number of unsolved murders. This will likely be a memorable book for many readers, not because of it’s (somewhat predictable) twist, but due to it’s not-so-common premise – a little bit of a ghost story and a little bit of a thriller.

“Some of us like the dark. It’s what we know.”

REVIEW – Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen

{Available March 3, 2020} Please See Us is an absolutely breathtaking debut novel. More of a mystery than a thriller, we follow two main characters in Atlantic City – a teenage psychic struggling to make ends meet and a young woman who has moved back home following a traumatic personal event.

Mullen absolutely NAILS the atmosphere here. I could feel the summer heat and humidity. I could see the rundown and condemned parts of the city – everything felt dull and gray and gritty. The seedy, faded casinos and motels just add to the overall icky and hopeless feeling of this book, which is a testament to the quality of the writing. There is some REALLY good writing here.

I love how Mullen examines the different types of women who end up as victims throughout the story. They come from different backgrounds. They have different thoughts and feelings. Each has a personal journey that led them to Atlantic City and, ultimately, to their deaths. The chapters that focus on the “Janes” are some of the best, and some of the hardest to read. After one towards the end, I found myself needing to pause for a moment before diving back in to the rest of the story.

There are some DARK themes explored here (I mean, besides the obvious…) but every piece feels absolutely necessary to the story.

Thank you Gallery Books for sending me this ARC!

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 Tenant by Katrine Engberg

{AVAILABLE January 14, 2020} The Tenant examines the murder of Julie Stender and her connection to her landlady, Esther. The most interesting part of the synopsis? Julie’s murder has already been outlined in the murder mystery Esther has been writing.

The good? This book is a well-paced mystery/thriller with an interesting premise. The plot is complex and keeps the reader guessing (mostly) until the end. It’s definitely a page-turner; I read over the course of about 15 hours.

The not so good? The characters are so unlikable! I found the detectives to be immature and downright rude at times. The plot might be a bit TOO complex, because I felt like some ends were a bit too loose, and others just left hanging. There were also a few connections that seemed a bit too convenient.

And the wtf? There were a few lines that stood out to me, for being absurd (especially for a book being released in 2020, and especially for a book written by a woman). There were little snarky side comments about the appearance of multiple characters (mostly women). There were also a few times when OxyContin is mentioned and it seems way too casual given the issues so many are having with opioids (but this might be more of an American thing, and not as big of a crisis in Denmark?)

Thank you Gallery/Scout Press for providing me with a NetGalley ARC.

REVIEW – Eventide by Mae Clair

Eventide starts off super creepy and then somewhat plateaus for a bit – with bursts of horrifying and gruesome action in some spots.

Third in a series, Eventide does reference some earlier events which I assume took place in the other books, but this doesn’t negatively affect the reading experience. You could easily read this book without having read the others.

The book includes dual timelines which are interesting at first, but the older timeline lost my attention a bit in the middle. The pay off is decent though, and there are some great reveals if you don’t figure them out first (but realizing what’s coming doesn’t ruin the overall story!)

Thank you Kensington Books for the digital review copy.

REVIEW – The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

If this book isn’t on your radar, it needs to be. From the absolutely brutal beginning to the chilling last chapter, The Chestnut Man holds on and does not let go.

The investigative part of the story is compelling, and keeps you guessing until all of the answers are revealed.

The story explores the worst of humanity, the depths of grief (and the different ways people cope), and the ripple effect that lies and secrets can have.

This book is DARK. It’s incredibly gruesome and can be jarring at times. It is not for the faint of heart. There is also a deep sadness that runs underneath the story (there’s a reveal that’s an absolute gut punch).

Although the book clocks in at just over 500 pages, it’s a relatively quick read with short chapters.