books and reading

The Hollow Places

Thanks to Netgalley for this book!

Several of my friends have read and recommended this book, so I was really excited to get it from Netgalley. I was told that it’s a good creepy book, but I thought it was more silly than anything with a bit of creepiness thrown in. The premise was really intriguing, though. The best part was the snappy dialogue between the characters and in the main character’s internal dialogue.

From Goodreads: Pray they are hungry. Kara finds these words in the mysterious bunker that she’s discovered behind a hole in the wall of her uncle’s house. Freshly divorced and living back at home, Kara now becomes obsessed with these cryptic words and starts exploring the peculiar bunker—only to discover that it holds portals to countless alternate realities. But these places are haunted by creatures that seem to hear thoughts…and the more you fear them, the stronger they become.

So the “hear your thoughts” part really is only a tiny bit of the plot. Kara and her friend, Simon, go through the portal and really discover some horrific things. Kara’s uncle owns a museum full of crazy things, lots of taxidermied animals, especially, so when the portal begins to take over control of Kara’s real life, the silliness begins.

I still really enjoyed this story, even though it was nowhere near as creepy as I had expected. The dialogue was clever and kept me giggling. The secrets of the portal were revealed in a creative way, and Kara was a really likable character. Overall, this was a super fun book!

books and reading

My Sunshine Away

Thanks to Netgalley for this book. Sorry it took me awhile to get to it. I “lost” it on my Kindle and just found it!

Because I requested this book so long ago, I have no idea what made me select it in the first place. And honestly, when I started reading, I didn’t read the blurb, so I didn’t know what it was about at all. What I discovered was a beautiful little gem of a coming of age story.

From Goodreads:

It was the summer everything changed…

My Sunshine Away unfolds in a Baton Rouge neighborhood best known for cookouts on sweltering summer afternoons, cauldrons of spicy crawfish, and passionate football fandom. But in the summer of 1989, when fifteen-year-old Lindy Simpson—free spirit, track star, and belle of the block—experiences a horrible crime late one evening near her home, it becomes apparent that this idyllic stretch of Southern suburbia has a dark side, too.

In My Sunshine Away, M.O. Walsh brilliantly juxtaposes the enchantment of a charmed childhood with the gripping story of a violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love. Acutely wise and deeply honest, it is an astonishing and page-turning debut about the meaning of family, the power of memory, and our ability to forgive.

The book starts (no spoiler because it’s truly the beginning of the book) with a neighborhood girl being raped near her house. The fallout of the crime is profound on everyone on the street. The unnamed narrator is in love with this girl. He has been for years. But as he begins to understand what happened to the girl his view of her changes as she evolves, trying to deal with the trauma.

The prose of this book is gorgeous. There are sections about the city of Baton Rouge with no tie to the plot. So, not only is it a story of this one street, it’s also a love letter to the author’s hometown. My guess is that I selected this book thinking it was some kind of thriller. It’s not at all, but what I discovered was even better. I really loved this book.

books and reading

The Shadows

Hooray for Book of the Month. I’ve only gotten 8 boxes, but I’m hooked. So far, each month I’ve had no trouble picked a book that I am excited to read. The new hardback is only $15 and if you want to add another book, either another monthly pick or an older selection, that’s only $10. Mostly, I pick whatever horror/thriller book is offered, but there are a few other genres that I’ll test out from time to time. This thriller was one that I enjoyed quite a bit.

From Goodreads: You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile–always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet–and inspired more than one copycat.

Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree–and his victim–were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and senile, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home.

It’s not long before things start to go wrong. Reading the news, Paul learns another copycat has struck. His mother is distressed, insistent that there’s something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn’t just the murder.

It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again…

There were some definite plot holes and tropes that I could have done without, bur overall the book really comes together in the end. The urban legend presented in this book was really interesting, as was its origin story. I’ve heard of Alex North because of his first book, The Whisper Man, which I will be reading because I enjoyed this one so much.

books and reading

The Sun Down Motel

I’ve been hearing fun things about this book, mostly that it was a good, creepy book. When I opened to the dedication, I was sold. It’s dedicated to odd girls, nerdy girls, and murderinos. For those not in the know, fans of the podcast, My Favorite Murder are affectionately called Murderinos. With over 500 episodes, the hosts, Georgia and Karen, and certified celebrities in the true crime podcast world. As they should be. They are hilarious, honest, and just like your best friends. The Sun Down Motel, written for people like me (I fit all those categories in the dedication) was as much fun as I was hoping for.

From Goodreads:

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

The story is told from the perspectives of Viv in 1982 and her niece, Carly, in present day. Carly heads to Fell to find out what happened to her aunt. The story is cleverly written that when Viv finds out something interesting, Carly does as well. And there are tiny hidden clues that are easy to miss, but become really important in the long run. This book was exactly as described, a good, creepy book. Part haunted house/motel, part murder mystery, part girl detective. I definitely recommend this one. SSDGM.

books and reading

The Residence

Thank you Netgalley for this book!

This book is described as “gripping and terrifying” so I gave it a chance via Netgalley. I saw it was about a haunting at the White House, but really didn’t skim past that. It wasn’t until I started reading that I realized it was historical fiction, about the real death of Franklin and Jane Pierce’s son, Bennie. Now, how much else of the book is real is up to you. Some events, like Jane writing letters to her dead son, are documented, but I’m guessing that most of the story is fiction.

Sadly, I was neither gripped not terrified while reading. Even though the characters were real people, I felt like they weren’t developed enough. As a mother, I can only imagine the loss Jane felt, and her sadness was noted at length, but Franklin seemed cold to the event.

As a child, Jane saw an entity in her home she named “Sir.” He would visit and guide her from time to time. After Bennie’s death, Sir visited Jane again, and through a series of events, Bennie was resurrected, of sorts. His ghost was corporeal, solid, with a scent, and the ability to move things. As creepy as this sounds, I was never really scared. The events just moved too quickly. I think the scare factor could have been ramped up a lot with some character and plot development. It felt like every event just happened so fast that there wasn’t enough suspense to be truly horrifying. If people like low burn horror, I guess this is a good one, but it just didn’t work for me.

books and reading

PopSugar Reading Challenge 2020

A book recommended by your favorite blog, vlog, podcast, or online book club: Lovecraft Country

A book with the same title as a movie or TV show but is unrelated to it: A Good Marriage

A book that has a book on the cover: The Book of Lost Things

A book by an author with flora or fauna in their name: Night Shift

A book set in a city that has hosted the Olympics: Leaving Atlanta

Book published in the month you were born: Joyland

Book with a map: The Regulators

A book published in 2020: If It Bleeds

A book by a trans or nonbinary author: An Unkindness of Ghosts

A book with a great first line: Still Life With Woodpecker

A book about a book club: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

A bildungsroman: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

The first book you touch on a shelf with your eyes closed: Doctor Sleep

A book with an upside-down image on the cover: Topics About Which I Know Nothing

An anthology: Spoon River Anthology

A book that passes the Bechdel test: The Handmaid’s Tale

A book by or about a woman in STEM: Cress

A book that won an award in 2019: The Testaments

A book on a subject you know nothing about: Concussion

A book with only words on the cover, no images or graphics: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

A book with a pun in the title: Apple Die

A book featuring one of the seven deadly sins: Fairest

A book with a robot, cyborg, or AI character: Winter

A book with a bird on the cover: Census

A fiction or nonfiction book about a world leader: Baal

A book with “gold,” “silver,” or “bronze” in the title: The Devil in Silver

A book by a WOC: Children of Virtue and Vengeance

A book with at least a 4-star rating on Goodreads: The Talisman

A book you meant to read in 2019: Broken Harbor

A book about or involving social media: If We Had Known

A medical thriller: Miracle Creek

A book with a made-up language: Monday’s Not Coming

A book set in a country beginning with “C”: In the Dark

A book you picked because the title caught your attention: The Tresspasser

A book with a three-word title: The Perfect Nanny

A book with a pink cover: Bubblegum

A western: Little Heaven

A book about or by a journalist: The Girl Who Lived Twice

Read a banned book during Banned Books Week: Song of Solomon

Your favorite prompt from a past PopSugar challenge- book set in a hotel: The Shining

A book written by an author in their 20s: Normal People

A book with more than 20 letters in its title: The Bermondsey Poisoner

A book with 20 in the title: Best American Short Stories of 2011

A book published in the 20th century: The Dark Half

A book with a character with a vision impairment or enhancement: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

A book from a series with more than 20 books: Murder on the Links

A book set in Japan: The Devil of Nanking

A book with a main character in their 20s: The Last Time I Lied

book set in the 1920s.: The Collector’s Apprentice

A book by an author who has written more than 20 books: Black House

books and reading

The Dark Half

I read 11 Stephen King books this year, and only one The Shining was a reread. His newest, If It Bleeds, was on the list, of course. But I also made it through The Regulators, The Talisman, Joyland, Black House, Doctor Sleep, Night Shift, Cycle of the Werewolf, and Blockade Billy. My goal is to read them all, and I’m certainly getting close. The Dark Half is one that I’ve never really heard much about one way or the other. I went into it knowing nothing about the plot.

At the beginning of the book, young Thad Beaumont gets headaches. His doctors soon determine he has a brain tumor, but when they open him up, they discover that it is actually part of another human- an eye, some teeth, etc. Apparently, when Thad was in utero, he had a twin that he absorbed. This occurrence is common and nothing ever comes of it. But in Thad’s case, some of the twin’s cells attached to Thad’s developing brain, which later had to be removed.

Fun fact: When I was pregnant with my first, we discovered the same thing. He was a twin, but the other sac was empty, so he ultimately absorbed it. We thought this idea was so funny that we bought him a onesie to celebrate. Let’s hope he doesn’t follow Thad’s path!

Thad grows up to be a writer under his own name and as the pseudonym of George Stark. My guess is that King got this idea as he abandoned his Richard Bachman alter ego. Like Bachman, Stark’s books are violent, graphic, and disturbing. In a silly photo shoot for a magazine, Thad and his wife “kill off” Stark with a mock grave, coming clean about the pseudonym.

Let the games begin. Someone is killing off people who are close to Thad’s career. He claims to be Stark, but how is that possible? When Thad’s fingerprints turn up at a crime scene, the plot goes into overdrive. I can’t say this is King’s greatest book, but I did like it, and the ending was satisfying and well thought out.

books and reading

Every Last Fear

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC.

I’ve been on a NetGalley spree. There are just so many books that sound great, so I request a bunch and see what happens. Usually they will trickle in here and there, but right now I have 5 books to read and review. All sound intriguing, and I’m really excited to discover some new authors. The first book I started was missing some chapters. Either that or the plot was so bad that entire chunks of info were left out. My guess is the former, but in any case, I couldn’t finish it because I was so confused as to what was going on. Thankfully, this one was cohesive.

From Goodreads:

“They found the bodies on a Tuesday.” So begins this twisty and breathtaking novel that traces the fate of the Pine family, a thriller that will both leave you on the edge of your seat and move you to tears.

After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family—his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister—have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain—and they won’t tell Matt why.

The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny—currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte—was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.

When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison—putting his own life in peril—and forcing him to confront his every last fear. 

I was really impressed by this unknown author’s ability to reveal hints and clues throughout the plot. Alex Finlay is the pseudonym, and this is his/her first book (as far as we know…maybe he/she published under a real name), which impressed me. Oftentimes, new authors end up being not so great. But this book was a fun read, had a great twist, and really kept me guessing.