Friday, October 22, 2021

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould-- The Ghosts Text In This One...

The Dead and the Dark

Logan's reality TV famous dad's are dragging her back to the small town they grew up in for the summer-- and she's not happy about it. Upon arriving, she knows this trip is more than what it seems. Strange things are happening here, including disappearances of several teenagers. Her ghost-hunting dads are being very secretive, and the only person that can help Logan figure this out happens to be the one person she should probably be staying away from.

When Logan and Ashley (the girlfriend of the first teen to disappear) team up and find out that ghosts are real, the danger gets amped up-- and so do their feelings for each other. Will the darkness encircling this dusty town ever lift?

This book starts out deliciously creepy and then goes downhill fast. It seemed to be a case of a good premise, bad execution in my opinion.

I severely wanted to like this book. I mean, do you see the cover?? It's gorgeous!! Also, the description sounded so creepy and mysterious-- and I love a small town under a curse!!  But no-- this fell so flat that I couldn't make myself like it as hard as I tried.

It starts out with a really cool description of something called The Dark stalking a teenage boy, who we eventually find out goes missing.  I was all in!!  What is this Dark??  Then there were the main character's dads, who could've been so cool. They were reality TV ghost-hunters!!  I thought I would be in for some A+ level ghost-hunting... but they were barely in this book.

Basically this book was a debut and REALLY felt like one. The writing wasn't polished, the characters were flat, and the story was kind of just all over the place and didn't even make much sense. It could have been so creepy and legendy and cool, but it was none of those things.

I think it was nice that there was a lesbian relationship-- but I didn't love that the one girl was completely straight beforehand. I get that people (especially teens) are still figuring themselves out, but something about it just felt forced. We get to be in Ashley's head. It was the perfect opportunity for the author to explain how she was bisexual and this was the first time she wanted to act on it. Instead we hear how Ashley is completely straight and wants to fight against the feelings she's having. It just rubbed me the wrong way, but I'm not LGBT so I'm in no way an authority on it.

Now we get to the ghosts.....  and admittedly, I'm picky about my ghosts. But these ghosts were TEXTING the girls.  Say what????  Yeah, that happened. Texting ghosts. I'm sorry, just no to that.

OVERALL: SO MUCH POTENTIAL. But it didn't get there. This book was such a debbie downer for me. It had all the elements of a creepy mystery, but none of the execution. The characters were bland, the writing was unimpressive, and the ghosts were texting people. If you're thinking of reading this, I'd say pass. There are much better, creepier, gayer mysteries out there.

Date Published: 8/3/2021
How I got this book: Thanks to Netgalley/Wednesday Books for providing me with an advanced copy to read and honestly review
Publisher: Wednesday Books / St. Martin's Press / Macmillan

My Rating: 2/5

Character: Logan Ortiz-Woodley
Book: Just for Clicks by Kara McDowell
  • Logan and Claire have a lot in common with their parents being in the spotlight and them just trying to have a normal life.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The Box in the Woods (Truly Devious 4) by Maureen Johnson-- Summer Camp, Horror, and MUCH Improvement

The Box in the Woods

Now that Stevie has solved one of the most infamous mysteries in America, she's unsure of what her next step is. Fortunately for her, while on her summer vacation from Ellingham Academy, she is contacted by an entrepreneur who recently bought a summer camp. Not just any summer camp, this is Camp Wonder Falls, site of a gruesome quadruple homicide in 1978. An UNSOLVED quadruple homicide....

As fast as you can say Kumbaya, Stevie gathers up her friends (minus David) and heads off to be a fake camp counselor/undercover investigator. Once there, she realizes that there's a lot more secrets and death in this small town than she was expecting-- and some of it is still lurking 40 years later!

OH THANK GOD!! I was so relieved upon finishing this book because I wanted to like it so much-- and I did!!  I had such a love/hate (okay, mostly hate) relationship with the first 3 books in the series, but for some reason I kept hoping I would click with one of them and was bummed when I didn't.  This felt like a second chance, and it was!!

Honestly it was like all the things that bugged me in the original series up and disappeared:

  • Stevie & David weren't terrible. Don't get me wrong, I still didn't love Stevie, but she was way more tolerable. And David!!  He didn't suck!! It was almost like he was a normal person.
  • The virtue signaling was at a minimum.
  • THERE WAS A PAYOFF-- we got to know what happened!!!  I was dreading that this was going to be another 400 page book that just ends with nothing, but every thread was tied up!!

Stevie is still a very unrelatable robot person to me- which is fine.  I don't think I'll ever get why she becomes so surprised about hormones and the feelings she gets around David. It’s almost like she’s a complete narcissist and is SHOCKED that she is capable of feeling attracted or care when she likes a boy. At the end of the day, I can get beyond the fact I don't mesh with her because I enjoyed the hell out of the mystery.

The ending was definitely far-fetched, but at least it was something I could've never saw coming. I am also willing to suspend disbelief when something hooks me as thoroughly as this mystery did.

My Fave Parts: Where this book takes place is so good! I love a camp-murder setting. I loved the Ellingham setting too, but summer camp and woods just go with horror slasher stuff. I also LOVED that there were flashbacks to the camp in the 70's. It was cool to read about that time period and I liked getting to know the victims and some of the other characters firsthand.

I would read more books from this series if they are all like this one. And I’m kind of hoping there are more books... which I definitely wasn’t expecting.

OVERALL: Color me shocked, but I kinda loved this book. It was intricate, suspenseful, had an actual ending (yes, I'm still salty about book 1), and had the perfect setting. I recommend this- and I even think you can get away with reading this without reading the original series.

Date Published: 6/15/2021
How I got this book: Thanks to Megan Beatie Communications / HarperCollins for providing me with a finished copy to read and honestly review
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books/ Harper

Reviews of the other books in this series:

My Rating: 4/5

Character: Nate Fisher
Book: Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher
  • I really want Nate to meet the author of the Orman Chronicles because they're so much alike.

Friday, November 6, 2020

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James-- Creepy and Ghosty, But Kinda Repetitive

The Sun Down Motel

When Viv leaves home for NYC in 1982, she doesn't quite end up there. Somehow she gets stuck in a small town in New York called Fell. She gets a job working the night shift at a motel that sits out on the highway and immediately knows that this motel and town has secrets. Missing and murdered women seem to be a theme here and if Viv doesn't want to wind up as one of them, she knows she needs to figure out what is going on....

In 2017, Carly is determined to find out what happened to her long-lost aunt Vivian. Viv disappeared in 1982 while working the night shift at a motel, so Carly travels to the small town to see if there's anything she can find out. Immediately she realizes that Fell is like the town that time forgot. She gets the same job her aunt had, and is determined to find out what this hotel is hiding.

Since this book came out earlier this year, I've been hearing so much about it. How it was such a good, creepy mystery-- so it sounded like the perfect book to read around Halloween time!! To say I was hyped going into this was an understatement. I was 100% on board to love this book (especially because I've been reading and loving mainly Adult Mystery/Thrillers lately).

And I did like this book. But did I LOVE it?? No. I think a list is in order to organize my feelings about this book:

  • The Setting.  This book is set in a motel on the outskirts of a town called Fell.  Both the motel and the town brought some interesting things to the story.  The motel was one of those relics from the past-- those cheap motels that are never updated and probably end up being rented by the hour at some point.  The town of Fell was basically a place where time stood still.  The modern part of this story takes place in 2017, but it was clear little had changed from the 2nd timeline of 1982.  I enjoyed the creepy motel setting and the way Fell felt unchanged by time-- it was endearing in a way and made things easier to figure things out in the 2017 timeline.
  • The Dual Timelines. The first timeline is in 1982 and features Viv, a girl who was originally going to New York City, but winds up in Fell working the night shift at The Sun Down Motel.  While there, she discovers that there's been a string of unsolved murders taking place in and around Fell.  
  • The second timeline is present day (2017) and features Carly, Viv's niece who is determined to find out what happened to her.  Viv disappeared while working the night shift at The Sun Down Motel and has never been found.  Carly has always been curious about why her mother refused to talk about her aunt that she's never seen or met beyond a faded newspaper clipping.  She ends up traveling to Fell and working the same shift that Viv worked at The Sun Down-- all the while looking into what could've happened to Viv.  
  • It was an interesting concept and definitely could've worked, but for some reason it just didn't for me.  The 2 timelines were so similar-- the girls were around the same age, were both very similar in how naive they were, they were both investigating virtually the exact same crimes and coming to the same conclusions, and they were both living in the same apartment and working at the same motel.  Adding to that, the town of Fell was like a time-warp-- it was practically unchanged from Viv's time there to Carly's.  Because of these things, I was forever getting the details confused (was Carly the one who saw the ghost that time, or was it Viv?? Was Carly the one who figured that one detail out, or was it Viv?).  I needed more differences in the characters and their movements to be able to keep things straight.
  • The Ghosts. Normally I do not like a surprise ghost book.  I mean, I don't mind a this place is creepy and may be haunted book, but this was straight up real ghosts in your face from the get-go.  And usually that would bug me and make it feel fake, but here I actually liked it.  The ghosts were scary in a The Sixth Sense kind of way-- they were angry and had unfinished business.  I really think the ghosts saved this book for me.
  • The Mystery. I thought it was an interesting mystery.  Did I think that BOTH Viv and Carly would figure out everything a serial killer was doing when the police couldn't??  I mean, that's kind of far fetched-- but it was a really good mystery to follow despite that.  There were multiple twists and I kind of did love that because I saw the major twist coming, but didn't figure out the minor twist at all (even though the minor twist was kind of unnecessary and didn't really make a ton of sense).
  • The Pacing. The best part of this book (besides the creepy ghosts) was that it didn't drag. It's the kind of book that will hook you and keep you wanting to read just one more chapter.
  • Is it YA or Adult?? I know this is classified as Adult Mystery, but it felt VERY YA to me. It's one of those things where just because a book is about teens, doesn't mean it's YA-- and just because this one is about girls in their 20's doesn't mean it's Adult. I think there's more to those categories than age-- and this one just didn't have the Adult Mystery feel. I don't have a definitive reason why I feel it's YA beyond the fact that the writing felt like YA-- it's just my gut feeling being a reader of both genres, but I feel it works better as YA. One reason could be that it didn't feel as polished or developed as Adult Mysteries usually are. Not that I'm talking crap on YA, it's just that Adult Mysteries usually get pretty deep into their characters and this one was very surface level.

I definitely had mixed and complicated feelings on this one. I think some things could've been done better and that the 2 main characters could've been differentiated better-- but I do not regret reading this. It really was the perfect Halloween-time read and I was happy that it was a page-turner.

OVERALL: I'm in between on this one. I liked the creepy motel and the real ghosts that resided there. I wished the characters were better developed and better distinguished from one another. I do recommend this, and I think if you're looking for an easy Mystery to read, this is your book.

Date Published: 2/18/2020
How I got this book: Library
Publisher: Berkley/ Penguin Random House
Type: Adult Mystery/Thriller/Horror

My Rating: 3/5

Character: Carly (and let's be honest, Viv too-- they're the same character)
Book: I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier-- A+ Dark Mystery

Little Secrets

Life for Marin is pretty much perfect-- successful job, financial freedom, upscale lifestyle, great kid & husband.  Then comes the day when Sebastian, her 4-year-old son, goes missing at a local shopping area.

A year goes by with no answers, and Marin a shell of who she used to be. She barely has the brainpower to think not to mention care about the status of her relationship with her husband-- that is until the PI she hired to find Sebastian comes to her with info that Derek has been seeing a woman behind her back for the last 6 months.  Marin's been numb for 16 months, but suddenly she has one emotion coming to the surface: RAGE.

The more she digs into this mistress, the more she has a focus for all her frustrations.

This is the dark thriller that I NEEDED to get me back into reading again.  This year has been shit, and it's been wreaking havoc on my reading (and blogging) life. This book took me right out of 2020 and dropped me into a story that I couldn't get enough of.  It was such a rollercoaster ride, with twists and unexpected turns.  I wish all dark thrillers could keep my attention the way this one did.

It starts off with Marin's son getting kidnapped.  As a parent, I almost had to put it down before I even really started.  Something happening to my son (and soon to be daughter) is my biggest fear in life.  It would mean my life was completely over-- there's no coming back from that.  So I was very emotionally invested and it was hard to read about.  But I decided I could put my parental fears aside and focus on where this book was going.

And it went to some super unexpected places.  I fully did not expect that this book would go so far away from the missing kid and into such dark and fucked up territory.  But this book was fucked up in all the best ways.  And INTENSE.  It's kind of one of those books that you want to read as fast as you can so that you can stop feeling so damn anxious about what is going to happen.

I love a book where you think you want to root for one or 2 of the characters, but then you realize-- NOPE, they're all kind of toxic and unlikable.  That was this book. In the beginning I felt for Marin and her feelings of grief. Like I said, as a mother it was hard not to put myself in her shoes. But soon I realized that Marin was more than just the grieving, scared mother. She was just as toxic as the rest of the characters in this book.

OVERALL: If you love a dark mystery, you'll love this one. It's just the book I needed to pull me out of my current reality. Very Unputdownable.

Date Published: 4/21/2020
How I got this book: Library
Publisher: Minotaur Books/ Macmillan
Type: Adult Mystery

My Rating: 5/5

Character: Marin Machado
Book: Bad Girls with Perfect Faces by Lynn Weingarten
  • I think Marin would relate to Sasha's need to do dark things.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday- Books With Long Titles

Top Ten Tuesday is a really cool original feature/weekly meme now hosted over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week they post a new Top Ten List that bloggers join in on answering... and today (October 13th) I'm one of them :)

Today's Topic

Top Ten Books With Long Titles

  • Look at me blogging!!!  I've been MIA for many reasons-- and I'm trying to put those reasons aside and get myself back in the blogging mood.  Because I am a blogger and I love blogging about books, and I don't know what I am without it anymore TBH.
  • So, yeah-- back to this post: I'm listing some of my favorite books that have super long titles!! I've read all of these and enjoyed all of them.

1.  The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix- I loved this book. It felt like a fresh take on vampires (although I'm not THAT well read in vampire books), and it was about suburban 90's housewives.  LOVE.

2.  The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White- Fun take on the Frankenstein story. It wasn't perfect, but I really enjoyed it.

Walton- Oh gosh, hard to read this one. It was completely emotion destroying.

4.  Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's Diary by Emma Chastain- HA! This one is one of my all-time LOL books.  I love books that make me happy like this one did :)

5.  Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King- A.S. King will always be one of my favorite authors because her books are special. She's a queen and deserves so much more hype than she gets.

6.  The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith- This wasn't a FAVORITE, but it was cute and fun. The title is a mouthful, so it deserves it's place here.

7.  To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han- Okay, so it's not the longest title ever or anything, but it's a lot to say when you're talking books to someone.

8.  Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten- Same goes for this one, it's not the longest title, but it's a mouthful to say.

9.  The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart- E. Lockhart might be the queen of long ass titles!!  This was a fun prank book.

10.  The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver by E. Lockhart- I saved the best for last!!!  I love this book SO so much and this title is just.... forever long!

What books made your list this week??? Have you read any on my list??