BOOK REVIEW: A Haunted History of Invisible Women by Leanna Renee Hieber and Andrea Janes

60098288._SY475_Title: A Haunted History of Invisible Women: True Stories of America’s Ghosts

Author: Leanna Renee Hieber and Andrea Janes

Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 44 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History, Paranormal, Horror, True Crime

Read Start Date: September 25, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 27, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: From the notorious Lizzie Bordento the innumerable, haunted rooms ofSarah Winchester‘s mysterious mansionthis offbeat, insightful, first-ever book of its kind explores the history behind America’s female ghosts, the stereotypes, myths, and paranormal tales that swirl around them, what their stories reveal about us–and why they haunt us…

Sorrowful widows, vengeful jezebels, innocent maidens, wronged lovers, former slaves, even the occasional axe-murderess–America’s female ghosts differ widely in background, class, and circumstance. Yet one thing unites them: their ability to instill fascination and fear, long after their deaths. Here are the full stories behind some of the best-known among them, as well as the lesser-known–though no less powerful.

Tales whispered in darkness often divulge more about the teller than the subject. America’s most famous female ghosts, like New Orleans voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, and Bridget Bishop, the first person executed during the Salem witchcraft trials, mirror each era’s fears and prejudices. Yet through urban legends and campfire stories, even ghosts like the nameless hard-working women lost in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire –achieve a measure of power and agency in death, in ways unavailable to them as living women.

Riveting for skeptics and believers alike, with humor, curiosity, and expertise, A Haunted History of Invisible Women offers a unique lens on the significant role these ghostly legends play both within the spook-seeking corners of our minds and in the consciousness of a nation.

My Review: I received this audiobook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I thought this book was well done, but I found it to be more informational than scary. Despite the “horror” classification on Goodreads, I personally do not think that this book fits into that genre. The authors told the tales of female ghosts, but in the context of how women were / are societally perceived, and how this perception spawned such ghost stories. So, for me, it was more a book about the history of ghosts and the societal reasons why ghost stories are created, rather than a compilation of ghost stories.

I hadn’t ever thought to much into how ghost stories came about. It was very interesting to get the authors’ take based upon the historical evidence.

As of the writing of this review this book has about a 3.8 average rating on Goodreads, with about 111 ratings overall. Honestly, this is surprising to me and seems a bit unfair. Most of the lower ratings are from people who say the book is to “feminist” for them, or rag on the authors for not collecting interviews from people who have seen these ghosts, or for not sharing their own personal ghost stories. But I don’t think this was the point of the book. This book wasn’t about the stories themselves per se, but how these ghost stories were formed and how said stories have shaped society in the retelling. It is an interesting and unique perspective to these ghost stories, one which I had never read before.

Therefore, I would recommend this book, especially for those people who like history and ghosts.

10 Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

18045891Title: Sharp Objects

Author: Gillian Flynn

Book Length: 321 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Horror, Contemporary

Read Start Date: September 4, 2022 

Read Finish Date: September 17, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the unsolved murder of a preteen girl and the disappearance of another. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

My ReviewCamille Preaker, now a reported living in Chicago, is sent to her childhood hometown Wind Gap to cover the story of two child murders. To say that Camille had a troubled childhood would be an understatement. The tag line on the cover of the book I rented from the library states: “This family isn’t nuclear. It’s toxic.” That’s a mild way to put it.

Adora, the family matriarch and Camille’s mother is beloved by the small town of 2,000 residents. The Preaker’s are old money, and own the biggest business in town: a hog farm and butchery. When Camille was thirteen, her sister Marian died after a long bout of illnesses. Marian, the more loved child. The more adored child. Camille had always been second best. Soon after, Camille started cutting words on her body until only a small patch of skin on her back was unmarred. By the time she was an adult, she was also an alcoholic.

At the age of 30 she went to rehab for 6 months, a place for girls who cut. Her mother only visited once. “Then, inevitably, came the stories of Marian. She’d already lost one child, you see. It had nearly killed her. Why would the older (though necessarily less beloved) deliberately harm herself? I was so different from her lost girl, who — think of it — would be almost thirty had be lived. Marian embraced life, what she had been spared. Lord, she had soaked up the world — remember, Camille, how she laughed even in the hospital? I hated to point out to my mother that such was the nature of a bewildered, expiring ten-year-old. Why bother? It’s impossible to compete with the dead. I wished I could stop trying.”

Despite this horrible relationship and past, Camille, fresh out of rehab is heading back to the place where her demons grew up — to stay in the very house where they were created. Wind Gap was “the place where [her] sister died, the place [she] started cutting [her]self. A town so suffocating and small, you tripped over people you hated every day. People who knew things about you. It’s the kind of place that leaves a mark.”

For the first time in a long time, Camille sees Amma, the half-sister she knows very little about. “My mother said she was the most popular girl in school, and I believed it. Jackie said she was the meanest, and I believed that, too. Living in a swirl of Adora’s bitterness had to make one a bit crooked. And what did Amma make of Marian, I wondered? How confusing to live in the shadow of a shadow. But Amma was a smart girl — she did her acting out away from home. Near Adora she was compliant, sweet, needy — just what she had to be, to get my mother’s love.”

Gillian Flynn paints the picture of a bleak town in Nowheresville, America, where you are either a winner or a loser. “Old money and trash,” as Camille puts it. Now, two young teenagers are dead, strangled with their teeth pulled out. By all accounts these girls had their troubles — sometimes they were even bullies, but who would do such a heinous thing? Suspects abound, the police seem a tad incompetent, or at best overwhelmed / out of their league. Will the killer be caught before the next girl goes missing?

The mystery keeps you in it’s grip until the end.

I also really love Gillian Flynn’s writing style. Here are some examples:

“I rang the doorbell, which had been a cat-calling screech when I was very young, now subdued and truncated, like the bing! you hear on children’s records when it’s time to turn the page.”

“I drank more vodka. There was nothing I wanted to do more than be unconscious again, wrapped in black, gone away. I was raw. I felt swollen with potential tears, like a water balloon filled to burst. Begging for a pin prick. Wind Gap was unhealthy for me. This home was unhealthy for me.”

This book was published back in 2006 — wow already 16 years ago — so chances are you might have already read it. In case you haven’t yet, please do. This book is just fantastic.

BOOK REVIEW: Local Woman Missing by Mary Kubica

54737068Title: Local Woman Missing

Author: Mary Kubica

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 40 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime, Contemporary

Read Start Date: August 30, 2022 

Read Finish Date: September 2, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Shelby Tebow is the first to go missing. Not long after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, vanish just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen, striking fear into their once-peaceful community. Are these incidents connected? After an elusive search that yields more questions than answers, the case eventually goes cold.

Now, 11 years later, Delilah shockingly returns. Everyone wants to know what happened to her, but no one is prepared for what they’ll find….

In this smart and chilling thriller, master of suspense and New York Times best-selling author Mary Kubica takes domestic secrets to a whole new level, showing that some people will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

My Review: I really struggled between giving this book 3 or 4 stars, but landed on 3 stars. This book is essentially about two women and a 6 year old girl who goes missing in the same town 11 years ago. The story is told by 3 separate POVs, some in the present and some 11 years in the past.

Essentially, the plot of the book is as follows: One woman (Shelby) is found dead, buried in a shallow grave — her husband is sent to prison for her murder. The other woman, Meredith, is found dead in a motel — death by apparent suicide — her 6 year old daughter is missing, and has been for the last 11 years. Meredith left a note saying that her daughter was “safe” and not to bother looking. The daughter, Delilah, is found in the opening scene of the book (after she escapes her captors), but her brother Leo soon suspects that the girl calling herself Delilah is not actually his sister.

I read some Goodreads reviews that said that they didn’t like the way the sentences were written. They were really short — however, this did not come across in the audiobook, so perhaps audiobook in this instance should be the preferred medium. For me, this was an easy listen and one that could be done while doing chores etc.

I liked the suspense of finding out what really happened — this was building through out the entire book. I was entertained and generally liked the book until I got to the end. I was disappointed as to how it all turned out. There was a lot of potential for this to be better than it was — the ending just was not plausible and there seems to be a lot of convenient police incompetence, which would not normally happen. I feel like so many things went wrong just for the sake of the story.

If you want to read this book, please do not read on.

SPOILER ALERT:

I need to give away key elements of the plot to fully state my feelings on why I gave this book 3 instead of 4 stars.

We are told that Leo and his dad always believed that Meredith killed herself after giving away Delilah to some unknown person. Say what now? Does that make sense to anyone? But ok. So they believe this hogwash, which means that they basically have believed the whole 11 years that Delilah is safe and happy living with some kind family.

Did the police really believe that Meredith would go to a motel, kill herself, but before doing that “hide” her daughter somewhere? Essentially give the child away to someone else?  Why would she do that? Meredith was happy in her career, her marriage, her life. The dad was a good guy, husband and father. It just really makes no freaking sense whatsoever. And who would she stash the daughter with? Wouldn’t there be a list of trusted friends?

If there was an Amber Alert out for the girl, how would no one recognize her? How would she be living a good life elsewhere without coming into contact with someone, anyone? A 6 year old girl is old enough to know who her parents are — she is old enough to tell someone. How anyone could have thought she was anything but kidnapped and hidden is ludicrous. And if she was kidnapped, then of course Meredith was murdered. Duh. Also, can’t pathologists figure out it wasn’t suicide by the angle of the wounds? Like, if Meredith was stabbed in the stomach, the angle of the wound would be different than if she stabbed herself in the stomach. Right? Sigh.

Then there is the issue of the girl being found. So Delilah escapes, and the cops take a DNA sample. Turns out, it is not the right girl, but the family keeps on thinking it is Delilah because one detective with a crush of the dad tells him that the DNA results are positive so that he won’t be sad anymore. Uh, what? No one else at the police department checked the file? Was this detective actively lying to everyone? Did she honestly think no one would find out?

By this point in the book, we have almost reached the culmination of the storyline 11 years in the past.

We find out that Shelby was a victim of a hit and run accident (Bea (Kate’s partner) was driving drunk with Meredith in the passenger seat). To hide the crime, Bea and Meredith bury the body in a shallow grave, and then Meredith comes back later to cover her with a blanket. There are so many problems with this. The police eventually arrest Shelby’s husband for the murder (I guess based upon the theory he beat her up or something), but like, hello, how is this even possible? She was HIT BY A CAR! Did the pathologist miss this fact? How did the police think the husband had killed her? And what about the blanket? Couldn’t they tell with forensics that the blanket was placed later — didn’t they look at video surveillance at shops to see who had purchased the blanket? Are the police in this town just crazy incompetent?

I mean these crimes did not take place in 1940 — DNA existed. I watch enough true crime to know that there is ALWAYS DNA left at the scene of the crime. I mean, come on. Was NO DNA testing done on Shelby’s body? And if not, why not? Did Shelby’s husband have an incompetent lawyer also?

The ending is probably the most farfetched, but I won’t spoil that for you. I could go on, but I won’t. I think you get the idea.

As I said above, I would recommend this book as a beach read or something you can listen to while multitasking. As long as you don’t think too much about the plot holes, it’s actually rather enjoyable.

BOOK REVIEW: Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris

58989873Title: Happy-Go-Lucky

Author: David Sedaris

Audiobook Length: 7 hours and 30 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Humor, Essays, Memoir, Short Stories, LGBT

Read Start Date: August 27, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 30, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Back when restaurant menus were still printed on paper, and wearing a mask—or not—was a decision made mostly on Halloween, David Sedaris spent his time doing normal things. As Happy-Go-Lucky opens, he is learning to shoot guns with his sister, visiting muddy flea markets in Serbia, buying gummy worms to feed to ants, and telling his nonagenarian father wheelchair jokes.

But then the pandemic hits, and like so many others, he’s stuck in lockdown, unable to tour and read for audiences, the part of his work he loves most. To cope, he walks for miles through a nearly deserted city, smelling only his own breath. He vacuums his apartment twice a day, fails to hoard anything, and contemplates how sex workers and acupuncturists might be getting by during quarantine.

As the world gradually settles into a new reality, Sedaris too finds himself changed. His offer to fix a stranger’s teeth rebuffed, he straightens his own, and ventures into the world with new confidence. Newly orphaned, he considers what it means, in his seventh decade, no longer to be someone’s son. And back on the road, he discovers a battle-scarred America: people weary, storefronts empty or festooned with Help Wanted signs, walls painted with graffiti reflecting the contradictory messages of our time: Eat the Rich. Trump 2024. Black Lives Matter.

In Happy-Go-Lucky, David Sedaris once again captures what is most unexpected, hilarious, and poignant about these recent upheavals, personal and public, and expresses in precise language both the misanthropy and desire for connection that drive us all. If we must live in interesting times, there is no one better to chronicle them than the incomparable David Sedaris.

My Review: This book is so hilarious I actually laughed out loud. The synopsis on Goodreads makes it sound like a lot of this book is surrounding the events of COVID, but that’s not actually the case. It’s really only a small part toward the end of the book.

I listened to this as an audiobook and it was read by David Sedaris himself. Some of the parts were “narrated” and some of the parts were recordings of Sedaris at a book reading event — you can hear the laughter of the audience in the background.

Although most of the book is funny, Sedaris includes some dark tales surrounding the abuse suffered by Sedaris and his siblings at the hands of their father. Once, when Sedaris was about 10 years old, he complained of a stomach ache in order to get out of going to school the next day. Later that night, when Sedaris was playing with his guinea pig, his father had Sedaris go to the bathroom for a visual “anal exam”. His father, who Sedaris described as some guy who always walked around in his underwear, would also do weird and creepy things to Sedaris’ sisters. For example: “He said of my sister, who was tottering on platform shoes, a straw hat on her head, looking, I’d later realize, a lot like Jody Foster in Taxi Driver: ‘God she’s got a great set of pins!’ I didn’t know what pins were and when I later learned that they were legs, I thought ‘well that’s a…nice…thing…to say about someone, in general, I mean, if that person isn’t, you know, your daughter.'”

A lot of the stories in the book were about Sedaris’ father, now deceased, but who at the time was old and infirm in a nursing home. The creepy man that Sedaris used to know was long gone and Sedaris had to reconcile the horrible man he used to know and dislike, with the affable, rather pleasant person he had become in his old age.

I think it takes a lot of courage to write such private things into a book that will be read by millions.

I highly recommend this book to anyone in need of a good laugh.

BOOK REVIEW: The Secret Benefits of Invisibility by C.W. Allen

60716812._SY475_Title: The Secret Benefits of Invisibility

Author: C.W. Allen

Audiobook Length: 5 hours and 49 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure, Children’s  Middle Grade

Read Start Date: September 10, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 11, 2022

Number in Book Series: 2

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: For Zed and Tuesday, adjusting to life in modern-meets-medieval Falinnheim means normal is relative. Lots of kids deal with moving, starting new schools, and doing chores. But normally, those schools aren’t in underground bunkers full of secret agents, and the chore list doesn’t involve herding dodos. The one thing that hasn’t changed: all the adults treat them like they’re invisible.

When a security breach interrupts a school field trip, the siblings find themselves locked out of the Resistance base. With the adults trapped inside, it’s up to Tuesday, Zed, and their friends to save the day. And for once, being ignored and underestimated is coming in handy. After all, who would suspect a bunch of kids are capable of taking down the intruders that captured their families, let alone the murderous dictator that put them into hiding in the first place?

Turns out invisibility might just have its benefits.

My ReviewI received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. As with the first book in this series, The Secret Benefits of Being Invisible is absolutely delightful! How often as adults to we ignore children simply because they are children? I think we often forget how even young children are capable of so much! Tuesday and Zed are no exception — they manage to save the day in spite of “only” being children, and because of their “invisibility” in the eyes of adults, they are able to take down the bad guys.

This book was much more focused on the politics of Falinnheim, rather than action, so it was a little slower for me than the first book — but then again, I am an adult and not the intended audience of this book. The message of this book is wonderful — even children can be heroes. 

I think that this is a great book for young children (and it’s fun for adults as well) and I would highly recommend it. 

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Other Books in this Series

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Tuesday and Zed Furst are perfectly normal children with perfectly strange parents. Their father won’t discuss his job, their mother never leaves the house without her guard dog, and the topic of the family tree is off limits.

When a last minute “business trip” gets the adults out of the way, Zed and Tuesday decide to get to the bottom of things once and for all. Too bad some thugs with shape-shifting weapons have other ideas. Their escape leaves them trapped in the modern-meets-medieval Falinnheim, where everyone insists their father is a disgraced fugitive. They hope whoever is leaving them coded clues may have some answers, but they’re not sure they’re going to like what they learn.

If they ever want to see their parents again, they’ll need the help of a smuggler with a broken compass, their unusually talented dog, some extremely organized bandits, and a selection of suspiciously misquoted nursery rhymes.

Zed and Tuesday may not have all the answers, but one thing is certain: when it comes to normal, everything is relative.

See my review of Relatively Normal Secrets here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Storm by Tim Lebbon

59431951._SY475_Title: The Last Storm

Author: Tim Lebbon

Book Length: 368 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Post Apocalyptic

Read Start Date: May 30, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 7, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: A gripping road trip through post-apocalyptic America from Tim Lebbon, New York Times bestseller and author of Netflix’s The Silence.

Struck by famine and drought, large swathes of North America are now known as the Desert. Set against this mythic and vast backdrop, The Last Storm is a timely story of a family of Rainmakers whose rare and arcane gift has become a curse.

Jesse stopped rainmaking the moment his abilities became deadly, bringing down not just rain but scorpions, strange snakes and spiders. He thought he could help a land suffering from climate catastrophe, but he was wrong. When his daughter Ash inherited the tainted gift carried down the family bloodline, Jesse did his best to stop her. His attempt went tragically wrong, and ever since then he has believed himself responsible for his daughter’s death.

But now his wife Karina––who never gave up looking for their daughter—brings news that Ash is still alive. And she’s rainmaking again. Terrified of what she might bring down upon the desperate communities of the Desert, the estranged couple set out across the desolate landscape to find her. But Jesse and Karina are not the only ones looking for Ash. As the storms she conjures become more violent and deadly, some follow her seeking hope. And one is hungry for revenge.

My Review: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book took me so long to finish because the first 20% or so was a little slow going. But wow, after that it got really good, and I ended up finishing it in only a few days. The Last Storm follows the POV of several characters: Jesse, a Rainmaker. Katrina, Jesse’s wife. Ash: Jesse’s daughter, who is also a Rainmaker. Cee, a woman who befriends Ash, and Jimi, a son of a murdered man out for revenge against Jesse.

I loved the characters in this book. Jesse, a Rainmaker who gave it all up when his gift accidentally killed three people. To make rain, Jesse plugs himself into an “apparatus” of his own construction, transporting him to what seems to be an alternate reality. From this reality, the rain is brought to our reality through Jesse, as though he were a conduit of some sort. In his last attempt it all went wrong, and creatures came with the rain. He tried to teach his daughter in the ways of Rainmaking, to avoid the same mistakes, but when she started to bring down creatures, just as Jesse had, he became afraid. “What if it got much, much worse than anything [he] was ever capable of? What if she did that in a city?”

Jesse injected her with a serum, trying to suppress her rainmaking abilities. “She was far more dangerous than me, even at that young age. What happened to me was worse than anything my mother brought down, and her father before her. It’s a pattern, a degeneration that seems to follow what’s happened here to the climate. The effect we’ve had on the world. I believe it was reflected in my place, the Shore. Maybe Ash’s Skunkville is even more affected. And no on can control that.”

Mistaking it for attempted murder, Ash ran away — and did not come back. For nine years Jesse lived alone, apart from other humans, tortured with the guilt that he had killed his daughter. His wife, Katrina left in search of Ash, and followed her without success for nine years. Hardened by her time of the road, Katrina is barely recognizable to Jesse when she appears on his doorstep. Ash is trying to assemble another apparatus to start bringing down the rain again, and her parents must find her before its too late. Will they succeed? Or will Ash bring down unimaginable terror with the rain?

Rainmaking is in Ash’s blood and the storm is calling for her. When she’s trapped in the tumult she blacks out for days, weeks, months at a time, finding peace only in the eye of the internalized storm. Ash needs to get it out, but at what cost? She thinks she can control it with the help of Cee, a woman she finds on the road, but she will soon realize that the storm is just too dangerous.

Jimi, the son of the one of the three people Jesse killed all those years ago, thought that the Rainmakers were gone. When he finds out that Ash is alive, he seeks her out to exact his revenge of her and Jesse.

As the character’s paths come closer and closer to crossing, the tension mounts, making for a fantastic page turner.

I also loved the world building in this book  — near future US where climate change has reduced parts of the country into desert — basically wastelands where only the most hardened of people can survive. I also really loved the alternate reality, different for each Rainmaker. A place of tumult and creatures, waiting to use the Rainmakers as a gateway into our world. Will Ash be the Earth’s salvation, bringing only the rain? Or will she instead bring destruction?

I highly recommend this book.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

Title: Dead as a Doornail

Author: Charlaine Harris

Book Length: 295 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Mystery, Horror

Read Start Date: July 17, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 26, 2022

Number in Book Series: 5

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Small-town cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse has had more than her share of experience with the supernatural—but now it’s really hitting close to home. When Sookie sees her brother Jason’s eyes start to change, she knows he’s about to turn into a were-panther for the first time—a transformation he embraces more readily than most shapeshifters she knows. But her concern becomes cold fear when a sniper sets his deadly sights on the local changeling population, and Jason’s new panther brethren suspect he may be the shooter. Now, Sookie has until the next full moon to find out who’s behind the attacks—unless the killer decides to find her first…

My Review: Surprisingly, Sookie doesn’t really have a love interest in this book, so it’s mostly mystery and thriller. A sniper is going around shooting shifters, and of course the cops don’t know the connection between the victims. Jason, now a werepanther, is suspected by the Hot Shot community, even though he is dating one of them. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, Hot Shot is a community of (inbred) shifters who mostly turn into panthers. In the last book Jason was held captive by a Hot Shot resident who bit him numerous times (hence why Jason is not a werepanther).

Unfortunately, Sam is shot, and Sookie is sent to Eric to request a favor….someone to fill in for Sam at the bar. Introducing Fangtasia’s newest bartender, Charles Twining, a pirate vampire. Yes, that’s right. A vampire who used to be a pirate — and he still dresses the part. Now we know something is going to be up with this guy as the bartenders at Fangtasia always have something going on and usually end up dead.

Lucky thing Charles was staying with Sookie (she had a vampire hidey hole left over from when she was dating Bill) because he managed to kill the arsonist that tried to burn down Sookie’s house. Claudine saved Sookie from the fire. There’s something odd going on with this fairy godmother business but we don’t know what yet. For the most part Sookie’s house is okay, except for her kitchen, which in hindsight is great, because now no one will be able to find any forensic evidence from when Sookie killed Debbie Pelt (in self defense, of course).

Why was Sookie targeted? Does it have something to do with the shifters being attacked? Will they find the killer before he kills again?

In other news, Alcide is back in the story as the son of the next potential pack leader. (Colonel flood died). Sookie is dragged into werewolf politics, even though she doesn’t want to be. Things with Alcide get slightly complicated for various reasons that I will not give away, except to say that one of the reasons is that he finds out that she killed Debbie (Alcide’s ex girlfriend who he excommunicated from the pack).

And as if that wasn’t enough, Tara is in trouble, as she’s currently dating a dangerous vampire. To set matters straight, Sookie has to call in a favor from Eric, who requires in exchange for Sookie to tell him what he’s been after: the truth about the time they spent together when he had witch induced amnesia. Now that Eric knows they had a sexual relationship, and that Eric was willing to leave everything behind to become Sookie’s full time lover, how will their relationship progress and/or change?

Wow. So much happened in just one book! As always Harris spins a fun tale of mystery and fantasy that you shouldn’t miss.

I can’t wait to read the next installment.

Other Books in this Series

Book #1: Dead Until Dark:

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Sookie Stackhouse is just a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. Until the vampire of her dreams walks into her life-and one of her coworkers checks out….Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend isn’t such a bright idea.

See my review of Dead Until Dark here.

Book #2: Living Dead in Dallas:

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse is having a streak of bad luck. First her co-worker is killed, and no one seems to care. Then she comes face to-face with a beastly creature that gives her a painful and poisonous lashing. Enter the vampires, who graciously suck the poison from her veins (like they didn’t enjoy it).

The point is: they saved her life. So when one of the bloodsuckers asks for a favor, she obliges – and soon Sookie’s in Dallas, using her telepathic skills to search for a missing vampire. She’s supposed to interview certain humans involved, but she makes one condition: the vampires must promise to behave and let the humans go unharmed. But that’s easier said than done, and all it takes is one delicious blonde and one small mistake for things to turn deadly….

See my review of Living Dead in Dallas here.

Book #3: Club Dead:

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Things between cocktail waitress Sookie and her vampire boyfriend Bill seem to be going excellently (apart from the small matter of him being undead) until he leaves town for a while. A long while. Bill’s sinister boss Eric has an idea of where to find him, whisking her off to Jackson, Mississippi to mingle with the under-underworld at Club Dead. When she finally catches up with the errant vampire, he is in big trouble and caught in an act of serious betrayal. This raises serious doubts as to whether she should save him or start sharpening a few stakes of her own ..

See my review of Club Dead here.

Book #4 Dead to the World

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Sookie Stackhouse is a cocktail waitress in Bon Temps, Louisiana. She has only a few close friends, because not everyone appreciates Sookie’s gift: she can read minds. That’s not exactly every man’s idea of date bait – unless they’re undead; vampires and the like can be tough to read. And that’s just the kind of guy Sookie’s been looking for. Maybe that’s why, when she comes across a naked vampire, she doesn’t just drive on by. He hasn’t got a clue who he is, but Sookie has: Eric looks just as scary and sexy – and dead – as ever. But now he has amnesia, he’s sweet, vulnerable, and in need of Sookie’s help – because whoever took his memory now wants his life.

See my review of Dead to the World here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

56732449Title: The Love Hypothesis

Author: Ali Hazelwood

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 8 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Read Start Date: August 22, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 25, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding… six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

My Review: Apparently this is another “booktok” recommendation — I checked it out of the library as it was on the list of “global popular books”. I went into this not knowing anything about the book, or having any expectations.

I was torn between giving this book 3 or 4 stars. 3 stars because the banter between the characters annoyed me, as did the ridiculous conversation subject matters. It also generally annoys me when characters have very poor communication skills and hold back their true feelings or don’t discuss topics because of “misunderstandings” which could be cleared up in a matter of a few seconds but aren’t just to create tension.

Maybe this is just how rom coms are formulaically, but it just seems so contrived. Additionally, poor communication is a horrible foundation for a relationship. 

My Book Joy summed up the issue pretty nicely: “What kiiiiilled me though, was the reliance on the idiotic thing I often find myself screaming during these kinds of stories: JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER!!! STOP ASSUMING YOU KNOW WHAT THEY THINK AND WANT AND DID! GOOD LORD! COMMUNICATION, PEOPLE! It was particularly frustrating in this book for two reasons. The first is that they’re not high school age — 26 and 34 if I recall correctly — so I would kiiiind of expect them to be better with handling this. To be fair, it did mostly come from 26-year-old Olive who has very little romantic relationship experience. Still, with the other friendships she has, I’d think honest communication would have been a skill she picked up by now.”

It also got tiresome how Adam kept being described as “large”, “big”…if I heard about his “large hands” once, it was 30 times. We get it. He’s a big guy. By big I guess the author meant tall? Because we are also told he has a six pack so he can’t be overweight or bulky. Also, if I heard the words “fake dating” once, I heard it 100 times. I am NOT a fan of repetitive word usage. 

If I only gave ratings on the endings of books, I might have been persuaded to give the book 4 stars, because despite myself, by the end of the book I was listening to it because it was finally grabbing my attention. I won’t say too much here otherwise it would give away the story, but let’s just say things started to finally get interesting.

Would I recommend this book? Eh, I guess? If you are the type of person who really loves the fake dating to real relationship rom com trope and can handle a lot of bad dialogue, then I would say go for it!

BOOK REVIEW: The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

58909880Title: The House Across the Lake

Author: Riley Sager

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 3 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Horror, Suspense, Paranormal

Read Start Date: August 6, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 9, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The New York Times best-selling author of Final Girls and Survive the Night (“a master of the twist and the turn” – Rolling Stone) is back with his most unexpected thriller yet.

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of liquor, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple who live in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is rich; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage is not as perfect and placid as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey becomes consumed with finding out what happened to her. In the process, she uncovers eerie, darker truths that turn a tale of voyeurism and suspicion into a story of guilt, obsession and how looks can be very deceiving.

With his trademark blend of sharp characters, psychological suspense, and gasp-worthy surprises, Riley Sager’s The House Across the Lake unveils more than one twist that will shock readers until the very last page.

My Review: I think the Goodreads synopsis on this book is pretty good, so I won’t go too much in detail regarding the plot. This book reminded me a lot of The Woman in the Window. Lonely / isolated woman who has trouble with alcohol, has nothing better to do than to spy on her neighbors. What she spies through the binoculars is a dysfunctional relationship, but she isn’t believed by anyone (mostly having to do with her alcohol consumption and the fact that she is spying.)

At some point the two books separate in theme, and the House Across the Lake takes it into a totally different and unexpected realm, where there are 2 twists at the end that I was not expecting at all!

I really liked The BiblioSanctum’s take on this book: “I’m just going to cut to the chase here. Whatever you might think is going to happen from the short synopsis I provided above, I guarantee it will be wrong. That’s because for most of the novel, Sager leads you to believe The House Across the Lake is going to be another one of your ordinary run-of-the-mill thriller mysteries with a perfectly mundane albeit exciting explanation that you would expect, if not perfectly predict. In reality though, it’s all just a ruse to make you feel all the more astonished and knocked for a loop when everything—and I mean everything—is turned on its head once he drops the big twist.

And it’s big. Genre-changing big. Without spoiling even the tiniest of details, I’ll just say that there is a supernatural element to this, and that is why I think reactions to the ending will be mixed depending on the type of reader you are. Even speaking as someone who enjoys fantasy and speculative fiction, I felt the twist was a bit too much, too sudden, and too in-your-face, so if you’re more into earthly non-supernatural thrillers, I can see how the bombshell might frustrate or even anger you.”

I got through this book pretty quickly, because I couldn’t stop listening to it (I was listening to the audiobook). If you like thrillers, murder mysteries and ghosts, then I’d recommend this!

BOOK REVIEW: Verity by Colleen Hoover

59344312._SY475_Title: Verity

Author: Colleen Hoover

Book Length: 336 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Romance, Contemporary, Suspense, Mystery

Read Start Date: August 2, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 7, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

My Review: This book was such a mind f***! From the first sentence this book grabbed my attention. I found it very hard to put down, which was a problem since I was reading this book in order to fall asleep. I have read other Colleen Hoover books before (e.g. Ugly Love (see my review here), It End With Us (see my review here)), but this is by far my favorite one.

The main character Lowen Ashleigh is an author who hasn’t had much success — this is mostly because she doesn’t do book readings or tour — she is a self described introvert. This is a shame, because she is in fact a really good writer. Her luck is about to change.

On her way to a meeting with her agent, she witnesses a fatal car accident. Covered in gore, she is approached by a good Samaritan, Jeremy Crawford, who lends her his shirt, so that she doesn’t have to wear her blood soaked shirt anymore. Sparks fly during this encounter, but it doesn’t matter because she is never going to see him again anyway. Right?

Wrong! Fast forward to the meeting, she learns that Jeremy is attending the same meeting. What’s more, he is the husband of best selling author Verity Crawford, who after suffering a near fatal accident, is essentially in a waking coma. Jeremy wants to hire Lowen to co-author the remaining 3 books in Verity’s hit series. Taking this job would change Lowen’s life forever. Verity’s series is already wildly popular and Lowen will be paid a large sum for her work. This is the break she has been waiting for. Despite this, Lowen has some reservations — she does not do book tours.

Lowen, following the slow and emotionally draining death of her mother, is broke and has been recently kicked out of her apartment, so she accepts the job, with the caveat that she doesn’t have to do public appearances, and travels to Jeremy’s home to go through Verity’s office to try to find notes / outlines that will help her write the next books. What she finds is something all together different — a manuscript of Verity’s autobiography, in which she reveals some disturbing things about herself, her relationship with Jeremy, and the circumstances surrounding the death of their twin daughters.

Regarding the alternating story line between Verity’s manuscript and Lowen’s perspective, which added layers of plot: Zainab Chats! writes in her review that “It really felt like each secret that was revealed may have both a literal and deeper meaning to Lowen in regards to how she felt about Verity. And it was very unique because it seemed as she read more and more of Verity’s manuscript she seemed to be even more frightened, of a helpless woman with traumatic injuries.”

I loved the layers of complexity created by this dual narrative.

Verity’s novels are so popular because Verity writes in the villain’s point of view. So what is the truth? Is she really a monster and that is why she can write the part of the villain so well? Meanwhile, Jeremy and Lowen are obviously falling for each other, but then strange things start happening around the house. Door are locked when they shouldn’t be, Crew (Jeremy’s and Verity’s son) talks about his mother as though she is awake, and Lowen even sees an apparition of Verity on the stairs.

What is the truth? What is happening at this house??

What I liked most about this book: It was a total page turner. I wanted to know what happened next. The author kept me, the reader, engaged in the story. I loved to hate Verity as her autobiography was truly heinous–she writes about abusing her kids as babies, about loving one twin over the other etc. Would Lowen and Jeremy finally get together, or were they always going to be stuck in platonic world, seeing as Jeremy was still technically married? What really happened to the twins? Was Verity involved in their deaths? The twist at the end was totally unexpected. It was great!

There was a few downsides about the ending though that left me a little unsettled. Ruminative Philomath says it best: “I don’t understand Verity’s end. It felt forcefully concluded…like there was so much story build-up around her but it turned out to be nothing.”

There’s a reason why this book has been highly recommended on Booktok. I second this recommendation!