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The Wife Upstairs

Title: The Wife Upstairs

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Genre: thriller

Ugh, this book. It’s supposed to be a modern re-telling of Jane Eyre, which is a book I love. But every single character in this book was awful. Not one redeeming quality between them. And the fact that the title is a spoiler, what in the world? You know there’s a wife upstairs from the very beginning, which is ridiculous. Finding that out as a plot twist would have been so much better.

From Goodreads: Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates—a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie—not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past—or his—catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

I disliked every character: Jane, Eddie, the wife upstairs, all the minor characters, etc. Every one of them was vapid and useless. The fact that Jane desperately wants into their wealthy world tells you what kind of person she is. She is escaping her past, but when you find out what it is, it’s quite a disappointment. This book was a Book of the Month club selection back in Dec 2020. And it’s not one I’ll be recommending. What a disappointment.

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Any Way the Wind Blows

Title: Any Way the Wind Blows

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Genre: LGBTQ+ Ya fiction, fantasy

I have read and loved every single book Rainbow Rowell has written. My favorite is Fangirl, which is where Simon Snow got his start, but her others (Attachments (and Rainbow Rowell in general), Carry On) are just lovely. (minor spoilers for the series) Simon and Baz are just so fantastic together, so Wayward Son bummed me out. Simon was so grumpy (with good reason, but I still was disappointed), but THANK GOODNESS he has figured things out in this book.

From Goodreads: In Carry On, Simon Snow and his friends realized that everything they thought they understood about the world might be wrong. And in Wayward Son, they wondered whether everything they understood a bout themselves might be wrong.In Any Way the Wind Blows, Simon and Baz and Penelope and Agatha have to decide how to move forward.

For Simon, that means deciding whether he still wants to be part of the World of Mages — and if he doesn’t, what does that mean for his relationship with Baz? Meanwhile Baz is bouncing between two family crises and not finding any time to talk to anyone about his newfound vampire knowledge. Penelope would love to help, but she’s smuggled an American Normal into London, and now she isn’t sure what to do with him. And Agatha? Well, Agatha Wellbelove has had enough.

Any Way the Wind Blows takes the gang back to England, back to Watford, and back to their families for their longest and most emotionally wrenching adventure yet.

This book is a finale. It tells secrets and answers questions and lays ghosts to rest.

I loved this book and finished it in just a couple of days. And then I had book hangover. The next book I tried to read wasn’t about Simon and Baz, and I just kept looking at it rather than wanting to read it. Glossing over most of the plot, I will say that I loved each character’s storyline, but having Simon and Baz together again (it’s not perfect, but man is it so much better than the last book) was fantastic. This book was an excellent ending to a fun trilogy. I will miss Simon’s adventures, but I know I’ll be reading these books again one day.

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Chasing the Boogeyman

Title: Chasing the Boogeyman

Author: Richard Chizmar

Genre: thriller, mystery

Thank you Netgalley for this book!

I was introduced to Richard Chizmar because of his collaboration with Stephen King on Gwendy’s Button Box, which was great. I’ve also read his sequel, Gwendy’s Magic Feather, and am really excited for the next Gwendy book. I follow him on Twitter, but haven’t read much else of his. But when I saw that Netgalley was offering this one, I jumped at the chance to read more of his work. And, my gosh, did I love this one.

From Goodreads: In the summer of 1988, the mutilated bodies of several missing girls begin to turn up in a small Maryland town. The grisly evidence leads police to the terrifying assumption that a serial killer is on the loose in the quiet suburb. But soon a rumor begins to spread that the evil stalking local teens is not entirely human. Law enforcement, as well as members of the FBI are certain that the killer is a living, breathing madman—and he’s playing games with them. For a once peaceful community trapped in the depths of paranoia and suspicion, it feels like a nightmare that will never end.

Recent college graduate Richard Chizmar returns to his hometown just as a curfew is enacted and a neighborhood watch is formed. In the midst of preparing for his wedding and embarking on a writing career, he soon finds himself thrust into the real-life horror story. Inspired by the terrifying events, Richard writes a personal account of the serial killer’s reign of terror, unaware that these events will continue to haunt him for years to come.

This book is amazing. One of the best I’ve read this year, honestly. Even though it’s a work of fiction, Chizmar’s family, parents, siblings, wife, kids, etc that he mentions in the book are all real. The town eh grew up in and the streets, locations, etc are real. But the events are not. He says at the end (no spoilers here) that as he was thinking about this book, he knew that his younger self just had to be the narrator. And it works. Who better to tell a story of your hometown? The plot is great, with Richard and his journalist pal, Carly, trying to solve the murders of these girls. The story isn’t true, but it reads exactly like a true crime book. There are even photos of the “victims” and other people involved. Chizmar, I think, writes horror, but this one isn’t horror at all. It’s just a good old-fashioned mystery. Sure, girls being killed is pretty awful, but this book is not graphic at all. I’ll definitely be recommending it to my true crime/thriller fellow readers.

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Survive the Night

Title: Survive the Night

Author: Riley Sager

Genre: thriller

I’ve read all of Riley Sager’s books. Lock Every Door was my favorite. It was just so bonkers. But the rest have been really good and compelling. This book, though. Ugh. From the get-go, it was preposterous. I was so disappointed. The plot was fine, a girl trying to get through the night with this “mystery” guy, but the details were so ridiculous and unbelievable. Bummer because I was really looking forward to this.

From Goodreads: Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father. Or so he says. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there’s nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing–survive the night.

First of all, there is NO WAY Charlie would have gotten a ride from a stranger after what she’s been through. It was wholly unbelievable. The reason she couldn’t have waited two days for her boyfriend to give her a ride was absurd. Charlie also sees movies in her mind. Like she blacks out to the real world and goes into a sort of hallucination and sees a movie, based on real events, playing out. W. T. F. Just ridiculous and unbelievable. It’s like Sager said, how can I make this movie-loving girl more vulnerable… oh I know, let’s give her some mental instability that will play right in to my plot. If you want to read a good road trip thriller, check out No Exit or I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Both do this fabulously and have their own interesting take on the situation. I gave this one three stars because I did finish it and want to see what became of Charlie, but it was just too stupid to give it anything more.

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X

Title: X

Authors: Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

Genre: YA fiction/historical fiction

PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt: A book whose title starts with Q X or Z

Back when I was teaching middle school, I handed my students two excerpts of pieces of writing: “The Ballot or the Bullet” and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” I didn’t tell the kids the authors of either. After they read them, we had a discussion about which was more powerful, better written, more persuasive, etc. Hands-down, they selected “Ballot or the Bullet” as the piece they gravitated toward. Then, I played an audio recording of both authors. I can’t remember if it was the same pieces of writing or not, but the kids immediately switched sides. As powerful of a writer as Malcolm X was, Dr. King’s speaking ability was second to none. The lesson was a really great way to compare the written word vs. spoken word, not to mention how different Malcolm X’s and Dr. King’s beliefs were.

I bought this book on my kindle ages ago but never got around to reading it….story of my life. And I had completely forgotten what it was even about. But since it fit the prompt and was one I already had, it was an easy decision to select this one. I’m so glad I did. Co-written by Malcolm X’s daughter, this book is a fictionalized (based on facts, of course) account of Malcolm’s childhood and teenage years. He’s arrested and incarcerated toward the end of the book, and his prison time is briefly described. At the end of the book, he abandons his last name and changes to X.

From Goodreads: Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s nothing but a pack of lies—after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer.

follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.

But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory when what starts as some small-time hustling quickly spins out of control. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion—and that he can’t run forever.

This book is fantastic. I don’t know much about Malcolm X’s background, let alone details of his childhood. I’ve never read his autobiography (for no particular reason…just never have). As much as I try to educate myself of important Black authors and activists, I am seriously lacking. I’ve never read James Baldwin, Richard Wright, or WEB DuBois. I am making a point to read more current Black authors, learning their stories, listening to their voices, but the formative authors are ones I need to investigate. And this book is an excellent way for young people, as well as for me, to do that.

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Bad Marie

Title: Bad Marie

Author: Marcy Dermansky

Genre: domestic thriller

PopSugar Reading Challenge Prompt: The book that’s been on your TBR list for the longest amount of time (according to my Goodreads “to read” shelf)

It’s no joke that Marie is bad. But I didn’t hate her at all. She makes some terrible decisions, but it’s pretty clear that she isn’t intending to physically harm anyone. She’s selfish more than anything. Her background was pretty rough, but that doesn’t justify her actions. But by the end of the book, I mostly felt sorry for her. She is just lost.

From Goodreads: Bad Marie is the story of Marie, tall, voluptuous, beautiful, thirty years old, and fresh from six years in prison for being an accessory to murder and armed robbery. The only job Marie can get on the outside is as a nanny for her childhood friend Ellen Kendall, an upwardly mobile Manhattan executive whose mother employed Marie’s mother as a housekeeper. After Marie moves in with Ellen, Ellen’s angelic baby Caitlin, and Ellen’s husband, a very attractive French novelist named Benoit Doniel, things get complicated, and almost before she knows what she’s doing, Marie has absconded to Paris with both Caitlin and Benoit Doniel. On the run and out of her depth, Marie will travel to distant shores and experience the highs and lows of foreign culture, lawless living, and motherhood as she figures out how to be an adult; how deeply she can love; and what it truly means to be “bad.”

When the trio escapes to Paris, the story really picks up. The entire time, Marie is taking care of Caitlin as best as she can. She’s a great “mother” for her. The one person in the entire world that she loves is this little girl who doesn’t belong to her. And that, at least, motivates her to make some better decisions. While they are on the run, Marie begins to run out of money, but luckily finds a way to get more, but that leads to more bad decisions. As impulsive as she is, she still has Caitlin’s best interest at heart, aside from keeping her from her mother, of course. This book was really compelling, and I kept reading to see what mess Marie would get into next.

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The Lost Apothecary

Title: The Lost Apothecary

Author: Sarah Penner

Genre: historical fiction, mystery

PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt: a book with a heart, diamond, club, or spade on the cover (look at the top of the vial)

This book was a choice for Book of the Month club, but I’m not really a historical fiction fan, so I didn’t select it. But enough people told me that I needed to check it out anyway because it was really good. And I’m glad I did. I really enjoyed this one, even though a couple parts were predictable. Told in both present and past plot lines, the book gives you a good idea of what life was like back in the late 1700s for the apothecary, Nella and her reluctantly-taken-on apprentice, Eliza. I enjoyed the past story more than the present day, oddly enough. Caroline’s story wasn’t as interesting to me, although I thought she was a great character.

From Goodreads:

A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman. Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

Writing two timelines is really tricky. But Penner did a great job uncovering details in the past timeline that became important in the next chapter of the present timeline. I’m always impressed with authors who can do this. Some authors can’t even get one timeline straight, let alone two. The present day story was a bit dull for me. Caroline is dealing with a cheating husband, an unhappy marriage, a desire for children, which is real, but it just isn’t one that appeals to me. Overall, this book was really great. I read it in just a couple days. Nella and Eliza were great characters, and I would love to see more of them.

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Audition

Title: Audition

Author: Ryu Murakami

Genre: horror

Shout out to Devin from the Book in the Freezer podcast for this recommendation! I don’t read a lot of Japanese books. I know a lot of people like Haruki Murakami, but he’s not really up my alley. A little too out there for my taste. But when Devin recommended this one, it sounded really interesting. Clocking in at under 200 pages, I flew through this book in one day. And oddly enough, the horror doesn’t happen until the very end, and then BOOM. completely, utterly, terribly horrifying.

From Goodreads: In this gloriously over-the-top tale, Aoyama, a widower who has lived alone with his son ever since his wife died seven years before, finally decides it is time to remarry. Since Aoyama is a bit rusty when it comes to dating, a filmmaker friend proposes that, in order to attract the perfect wife, they do a casting call for a movie they don’t intend to produce. As the resumes pile up, only one of the applicants catches Aoyama’s attention–Yamasaki Asami–a striking young former ballerina with a mysterious past. Blinded by his instant and total infatuation, Aoyama is too late in discovering that she is a far cry from the innocent young woman he imagines her to be. The novel’s fast-paced, thriller conclusion doesn’t spare the reader as Yamasaki takes off her angelic mask and reveals what lies beneath.

I got to page 168 before anything awful happened. The book is mostly about the auditions and Aoyama falling for this woman, which is still a really captivating story in and of itself. I had no problem getting hooked into his thoughts and their relationship. But when the horror hits, be prepared. It’s intense and graphic. I had to skim a bit, honestly, because it was just a bit too much for me. Murakami has a handful of other books, all of them around 200 pages, and I will definitely be checking them out. This one was great and will be one I remember for awhile.

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The Book of Accidents

Title: The Book of Accidents

Author: Chuck Wendig

Genre: horror

Thank you Netgalley for this book!

I’ve been meaning to read Chuck Wendig for awhile. I follow him on Twitter. I own Wanderers. I just haven’t gotten around to it, yet. But when I saw this one available on Netgalley, I jumped at the chance to read it. Topping out at over 500 pages and heading for vacation for a week, this book took me forever to read. But if I had had more time, I would have gotten through it much faster because it was excellent.

From Goodreads: Long ago, Nathan lived in a house in the country with his abusive father—and has never told his family what happened there.

Long ago, Maddie was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn’t have—and is trying to remember that lost trauma by making haunting sculptures.

Long ago, something sinister, something hungry, walked in the tunnels and the mountains and the coal mines of their hometown in rural Pennsylvania.

Now, Nate and Maddie Graves are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their son, Oliver.

And now what happened long ago is happening again . . . and it is happening to Oliver. He meets a strange boy who becomes his best friend, a boy with secrets of his own and a taste for dark magic.

This dark magic puts them at the heart of a battle of good versus evil and a fight for the soul of the family—and perhaps for all of the world. But the Graves family has a secret weapon in this battle: their love for one another.

I’ve been reading so many thrillers lately that I forgot this was a horror book at times until something, well, horrifying happen. It also reads a lot like a thriller with a mystery to solve. This book is full of great characters and a really creative plot. What I really appreciated was that things that happened early on in the book that didn’t really make sense were fully explained by the end. The entire plot came together well. I’m glad the horror genre is getting more of a spotlight these days. A lot of people judge the books as just “gross” or “graphic,” but this one had a great plot, a lot of heart, and was well-written. I really enjoyed it.