Posted in Reviews

Review: Sign Here by Claudia Lux

Sign Here by Claudia Lux

Recommended: Sure
for a quirky take on hell, for dual timelines that interact/ affect each other, for some small mysteries

Summary

Peyote Trip has a pretty good gig in the deals department on the fifth floor of Hell. Sure, none of the pens work, the coffee machine has been out of order for a century, and the only drink on offer is Jägermeister, but Pey has a plan—and all he needs is one last member of the Harrison family to sell their soul.

When the Harrisons retreat to the family lake house for the summer, with their daughter Mickey’s precocious new friend, Ruth, in tow, the opportunity Pey has waited a millennium for might finally be in his grasp. And with the help of his charismatic coworker Calamity, he sets a plan in motion.

But things aren’t always as they seem, on Earth or in Hell. And as old secrets and new dangers scrape away at the Harrisons’ shiny surface, revealing the darkness beneath, everyone must face the consequences of their choices.

Thoughts

Not gonna lie, this one kind of slowed down for me about 60% of the way through with the narration from the Hell side. I don’t know if it’s because the characters were a bit hard to like (being torturing Hell demons and all) or if I got tired of the constant oddities of Hell being described, but the main Hell character’s journey ended up being not that motivating to me. Wow, that was a long sentence. I started to be more interested in the characters up topside in New Hampshire, which is kind of odd because objectively that’s probably a bit more of the normal, boring story.

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Posted in Reviews

DNF Review: Acts of Violet by Margarita Montimore

Acts of Violet by Margarita Montimore
DNF @ 65%

Recommended: not really, but maybe for you
For folks who love a story that suits audiobook format really well, for folks who love investigative reporting, for folks who enjoy lots of short-form formats mixed together (this is an easy book to read in small chunks because of the natural breaks)

Summary

Nearly a decade ago, iconic magician Violet Volk performed her greatest trick yet: vanishing mid-act. Though she hasn’t been seen since, her hold on the public imagination is stronger than ever. While Violet sought out the spotlight, her sister Sasha always had to be the responsible one, taking over their mother’s hair salon and building a quiet life for her beloved daughter, Quinn. But Sasha can never seem to escape her sister’s orbit or her memories of their unresolved, tumultuous relationship. Then there’s Cameron Frank, tapped to host a podcast devoted to all things Violet, who is determined to finally get his big break–even if he promised to land an exclusive interview with Sasha, the one person who definitely doesn’t want to talk to him.

As the ten-year anniversary approaches, the podcast picks up steam, and Cameron’s pursuit of Sasha becomes increasingly intrusive. He isn’t the only one wondering what secrets she might be keeping: Quinn, loyal to the aunt she always idolized, is doing her own investigating. Meanwhile, Sasha begins to experience an unsettling series of sleepwalking episodes and coincidences, which all seem to lead back to Violet. Pushed to her emotional limits, Sasha must finally confront the most painful truths about her sister, and herself, even at the risk of losing everything.

Thoughts

After not coming back to this for about a week, and forcing myself to pick it up for about 20% prior to that, I am finally calling it on this book for me.

I think this might be a better experience as an audiobook, particularly as I’ve read a few audiobook reviews that said the production value was great with unique narrators for characters and such. Considering about 30% of the writing is from a “podcast” style, this makes a lot of sense to me that it would be effective to be read aloud.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: The Replacement Wife by Darby Kane

The Replacement Wife by Darby Kane
Recommended: eh
For a thriller that relies on mental health issues for the instability of the narrator, for a lot of potential suspects, for a mystery rife with clues

Summary

Elisa Wright is a mom and wife, living a nice, quiet life in a nice, quiet town. She’s also convinced her brother-in-law is a murderer. Josh has one dead wife and one missing fiancée, and though he grieved for them he starts dating someone new. Elisa fears for that woman’s safety, and she desperately wants to know what happened to her friend, Josh’s missing fiancée.

Searching for clues means investigating her own family. And she doesn’t like what she finds. A laptop filled with incriminating information. Other women.

But when Elisa becomes friends with Josh’s new girlfriend and starts to question things she thinks are true, Elisa wonders if the memories of a horrible incident a year ago have finally pushed her over the edge and Josh is really innocent. With so much at stake, Elisa fights off panic attacks and a strange illness. Is it a breakdown or something more? The race is on to get to the truth before another disappearance because there’s a killer in the family… or is there?

Thoughts

If I had to pinpoint the one thing about this that most made me feel fairly ambivalent about it, I’d say it was that there were TOO MANY potential clues and points of confusion. I feel ridiculous saying that about a thriller where the point is to try and solve it through the clues. But man, I felt like I had whiplash with how many little secrets and questions and hints and possible angles came at me during it.

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ARC Review: You’re Invited by Amanda Jayatissa (8/9/22)

You’re Invited by Amanda Jayatissa
Expected Release Date: August 9, 2022

HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO BOY! This was WAYY better than I expected. Kudos. What a ton of fun this was to read!

Recommended: yep
For a flashback timeline mystery, for a tricky narrator, for a mystery where everyone has motive

Summary

When Amaya is invited to Kaavi’s over-the-top wedding in Sri Lanka, she is surprised and a little hurt to hear from her former best friend after so many years of radio silence. But when Amaya learns that the groom is her very own ex-boyfriend, she is consumed by a single thought: She must stop the wedding from happening, no matter the cost.

But as the weeklong wedding celebrations begin and rumors about Amaya’s past begin to swirl, she can’t help but feel like she also has a target on her back. When Kaavi goes missing and is presumed dead, all evidence points to Amaya.

However, nothing is as it seems as Jayatissa expertly unravels that each wedding guest has their own dark secret and agenda, and Amaya may not be the only one with a plan to keep the bride from getting her happily ever after…

Thoughts

The book is almost entirely set in Sri Lanka besides a few portions of current day and flashback that are set in the United States with Amaya. An important note right there: the story does have a good number of flashbacks. You could in fact argue that almost the whole thing is a flashback, as it starts with Amaya being detained and picks up at that point late in the book after establishing how everyone got there. It also intersperses narrated chapters with interview transcripts of people in the story, usually one seen in the previous narrated chapter. I loved this, as I find some variation in the type of text gives the story a lot more texture (texture 😁).

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Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Such A Good Mother (8/2/22)

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is Such a Good Mother by Helen Monks Takhar!
Expected Release: August 2, 2022

Why wait on this one?

  • 1As much as I’m not interested in ever being a mother, I seem to freakin’ love domestic thriller-y stories about intense moms who seem to have their shit 100% together and do social media beauty shots, BUT — there tends to be a dark AF underbelly and I relish it.
  • Y’all the super mom clique is literally called The Circle and if that’s not the most obvious delightful name ever I don’t know what is. They aren’t pretending AT ALL to not be stuck up and awful. I can’t wait. I wonder if they actually are awful people? Hmm.
  • When the blurb has already prefaced the story with a death — a MYSTERIOUS death — I can only imagine what else is coming. Did she not wear pink on Wednesday and they made it so she couldn’t sit with them EVER?

Summary

Rose O’Connell is barely surviving. Her relationship with her husband is on the rocks and their son has isn’t fitting in at his new school, the prestigious Woolf Academy. Their tiny flat in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood–the very place Rose grew up as the daughter of an infamous local con artist–can barely contain her family. Rose can’t catch a professional break either, trapped in the same junior bank teller role for years. Life as the only mom in a nametag and uniform at The Woolf’s shiny school gates isn’t easy.

Not so for those in the elite and secretive Circle, a tight-knit group of mothers who rule the school, led by the charismatic and glamorous Amala Kaur. In exchange for supporting The Woolf’s relentless fundraising and public image drives, the women enjoy lucrative business opportunities, special privileges for their children, and the admiration of the entire community.

After the mysterious death of one of The Circle’s members, Rose dares to hope that filling the vacancy could set her family up for success. And when Amala makes the shocking decision to invite Rose into their clique, her fortunes, self-esteem, and status soar. But the deeper Rose gets inside The Circle, the darker the secrets lurking within every perfectly Instagrammable life. Far from being a dream come true, being inside The Circle could prove Rose’s worst nightmare…

Posted in Reviews

Review: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Recommended: ehhh
For people who don’t care if the octopus is a small part of this and not the heart of it, for folks who enjoy understated stories with quiet character development, for a gentle mystery. Not for likeable characters, engaging plot, or vivid emotions.

Summary

After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.

Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors–until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.

Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late.

Thoughts

Who else came to this book lured in by the promise of narration via octopus? I imagine lots of people, myself among them.

Who else was disappointed by the lack of octopus narration?
🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️

There are a few good chapters of it for sure, but they’re short at two or three pages each and make up overall a small (but impactful) portion of the story. My expectations for this were WAY off, as I thought it’d be closer to 50%, so when I got into this and realized it was mostly narrated from two humans (with the occasional omniscient view of side characters where fitting) I was quickly put off of it. This was not what I signed up for.

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Review: The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

Recommended: yessss
For a story within a story (within a story?), for a lot of twistiness around writing and text and authors, for a good old fashioned murder mystery, for a lovely exploration of Boston!

Summary

The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman’s terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who’d happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.

Award-winning author Sulari Gentill delivers a sharply thrilling read with The Woman in the Library, an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship and shows us that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.

Thoughts

THIS. WAS. SO. GOOD. By chapter two or three I was so giddy with excitement over all that this book was already promising. There’s a text within the text, and it allowed me to come up with 4 or 5 wildly different theories as to what the resolution of the story would be. I got real creative, LET ME TELL YA. And that last line? BOY DO I HAVE THOUGHTS.

Okay. Obviously it’s a murder mystery, so I’ll keep the spoiler talk out (and/or hidden under a spoiler tag at the end). It was freaking fantastic though! It seemed like everyone at one point or another was a suspect. There was one point about 80% of the way through that made me go “OH okay, it’s obviously X.” And then the characters slowly came to that conclusion. But still — I had an extremely fun time all the way up to that point waiting to see what would happen.

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Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Two Nights in Lisbon 5/24/22

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is Two Nights in Lisbon by Chris Pavone!
Expected Release: May 24, 2022

Why wait on this one?

  • 1The setting, of course. I love books set in places that aren’t where I am, and Lisbon, Portugal is one of those places. This seems like a book that will track all through the city so I’ll see it a bit.
  • The mystery! I love a good amnesiac episode of trying to find out who you are. Siri, Who Am I? was a surprisingly good title, and The End of Getting Lost feels like it will have similar vibes to this one as well. Both were fab!
  • Who is the one person she doesn’t want to ask for help!? The blurb ends with that juicy little tidbit, so on top of the “who am i where am I” mystery, there’s definitely going to be some tension elsewhere as well. It must be someone she meets during the process or else she wouldn’t remember them, right? So what new person is catching her attention?
  • OH AND ALSO ITS BY THE GUY WHO WROTE THE EXPATS!!! That book was one I picked up I don’t even know how, and it was SO GOOD. I still think about that book. I recommended it to my mom and she loved it too. I didn’t realize Chris Pavone wrote it as well until literally just now when I saw the byline on the cover and yoooo I’m even more excited and maybe actually preordering this one now. 😍

Summary

Ariel Price wakes up in Lisbon, alone. Her husband is gone—no warning, no note, not answering his phone. Something is wrong.

She starts with hotel security, then the police, then the American embassy, at each confronting questions she can’t fully answer: What exactly is John doing in Lisbon? Why would he drag her along on his business trip? Who would want to harm him? And why does Ariel know so little about her new—much younger—husband?

The clock is ticking. Ariel is increasingly frustrated and desperate, running out of time, and the one person in the world who can help is the one person she least wants to ask.

Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Remarkably Bright Creatures, 5/10/22

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt!
Expected Release: May 10, 2022

Why wait on this one?

  • IT’S TOLD FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF AN OCTOPUS. At least, partially. There are multiple characters, but Marcellus is probably the best one. I think that could be a really fun perspective to imagine hearing from, and that’s frankly what sold me on giving this book a try once I realized it wasn’t nonfiction like I’d hoped, but fiction instead.
  • After reading Soul of an Octopus I’ve learned even more ways to love octopuses (yes that’s correct. You can still hold on to octopi, and octopode, if you’d like. Just be careful of the tentacles. Harhar! Okay, I’m done with this parenthetical). They’re absolutely incredible, and probably also aliens. I have major respect for them.
  • There seems to be some light mystery in this book too, as the octopus investigates the disappearance of the son of the one human he finds… tolerable. It definitely sounds kind of cozy-mystery to me, like something that will have a bittersweet but touching ending and make me cry tears of “it’s just so BEAUTIFUL!” feelings. Also hella curious about how exactly an octopus in captivity investigates? We shall see.

Summary

After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.

Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors–until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.

Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late.

Posted in Reviews

Review: The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller

The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller

Recommended: sure
For a very strange atmosphere, for people okay with embracing a bit of confusion, for people okay with doing a little bit of work to figure out what’s going on, for people who adore a fascinating and gothic world. FYI that there’s not a lot of focus on the bone orchard itself, weirdly. More the results of it, the symbol of it.

Summary

Charm is a witch, and she is alone. The last of a line of conquered necromantic workers, now confined within the yard of regrown bone trees at Orchard House, and the secrets of their marrow. Charm is a prisoner, and a survivor. Charm tends the trees and their clattering fruit for the sake of her children, painstakingly grown and regrown with its fruit: Shame, Justice, Desire, Pride, and Pain. Charm is a whore, and a madam. The wealthy and powerful of Borenguard come to her house to buy time with the girls who aren’t real.

Except on Tuesdays, which is when the Emperor himself lays claim to his mistress, Charm herself. Now—Charm is also the only person who can keep an empire together, as the Emperor summons her to his deathbed, and charges her with choosing which of his awful, faithless sons will carry on the empire—by discovering which one is responsible for his own murder.

If she does this last thing, she will finally have what has been denied her since the fall of Inshil—her freedom. But she will also be betraying the ghosts past and present that live on within her heart. Charm must choose. Her dead Emperor’s will or the whispers of her own ghosts. Justice for the empire or her own revenge.

Thoughts

Well, it was weird and absolutely not what I expected. Not bad, but definitely strange. I felt like an outsider the whole time. Sometimes I missed the subtleties of exchanges that were carefully worded between characters to carry secrets. I only understood when someone laid it out plainly later on, or when an action happened that I was confused by and thought about until I connected it to their previous plotting that I had missed. That feeling lasted, and while it should have been more alienating, it was intriguing in a way as well.

I rather liked that this book was not straightforward to me. I rather liked that I felt a bit offkilter, because it put me on more even footing with Charm and the boneghosts. The scheming and intrigue was at times a secret even from me: that’s how clever our characters are.

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