BOOK REVIEW: A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

57693172Title: A Flicker in the Dark

Author: Stacy Willingham

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 1 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, 

Read Start Date: June 19, 2022

Read Finish Date: June 24, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, Chloe’s father had been arrested as a serial killer and promptly put in prison. Chloe and the rest of her family were left to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.

Now 20 years later, Chloe is a psychologist in private practice in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. She finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to get. Sometimes, though, she feels as out of control of her own life as the troubled teens who are her patients. And then a local teenage girl goes missing, and then another, and that terrifying summer comes crashing back. Is she paranoid, and seeing parallels that aren’t really there, or for the second time in her life, is she about to unmask a killer?

In a debut novel that has already been optioned for a limited series by actress Emma Stone and sold to a dozen countries around the world, Stacy Willingham has created an unforgettable character in a spellbinding thriller that will appeal equally to fans of Gillian Flynn and Karin Slaughter.

My Review: I had checked this audiobook out from the library without really knowing the plot. I am so glad that I did! Chloe Davis is the daughter of a serial killer, who has been in prison since she was a young child. To say that her life has been affected by her father’s crimes is an understatement. Everyone she meets knows who she is, and she is judged by her father’s actions.

Despite her past, her life is finally coming together. She has a burgeoning psychology practice, she has the love of a good man, and they will even soon marry. The only cockroach in her bowl of cherries? It’s the 20th anniversary of her father’s killing spree, and a copycat killer is on the lose — and the girls he is choosing are linked to Chloe.

Teaming up with a journalist, Chloe plays the amateur detective to try to figure out who the killer is before he strikes again.

I was really surprised by the ending — I did not see the identity of the killer coming. This book kept me guessing with several twists, turns, and false leads. I couldn’t stop listening…I just wanted to find out who the murderer was.

Highly recommended for murder mystery fans!

BOOK REVIEW: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Title: Sea of Tranquility

Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Book Length: 5 hours and 47 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction

Read Start Date: June 17, 2022

Read Finish Date: June 19, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:

A novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

My Review: I’m honestly not sure how to feel about this one. I checked it out from the library because it was written by the same author as Station Eleven (see my review here), which I liked. However, there are a lot of moving pieces in the story and at times it gets a little confusing. There are several smaller stories, which are part of the larger over arching story…but what this means essentially, is that the smaller stories don’t really get too much attention, while at the same time getting too much, if that makes sense.

So for example, the first part of the book is about the character Edwin from the early 1900’s. We get to learn a lot about his character, but in the grand scheme of things, Edwin himself, as a character isn’t all that important. Do we really need to know that Edwin is the son of an Earl who was exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party? Not really. What is important, is his role in the over arching story, i.e., that while in exile he happened to glimpse an anomaly in the time continuum. On the other hand, maybe we do need the background so that we know what Edwin was doing in the woods that fateful day. In this case, however, I would have liked to have more of the story behind the lesser characters themselves.

The book is short, less than 6 hours of listening time. Perhaps it could have benefitted from being longer.

Additionally, like Station Eleven, this book touches on the theme of pandemics. The character Olive Llewellyn is stuck in a lockdown for 100+ days — however, this storyline takes place in the 2100’s, so it’s not COVID-19. There is also mention of various other plagues e.g. Ebola 10 (a made up plague) and a passing reference to COVID-19. I didn’t feel exhausted by this like some other books that have COVID-19 as their central theme.

On the other hand, despite the above, the concept behind the book is intriguing. Time travel, the affect on the time line by such travel, etc. I just wish there had been more of this and less of the other things.

I only gave the book 3 stars, but that’s not to say that there aren’t people out there who absolutely loved the book and gave it 5 stars, for example Theresa Smith Writes.

All in all, I’d have to say it was an entertaining read that is definitely worth it if you have the time.

BOOK REVIEW: Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

Title: Club Dead

Author: Charlaine Harris

Book Length: 274 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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

Read Start Date: June 4, 2022

Read Finish Date: June 17, 2022

Number in Book Series: 3

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 ..

My Review: When Bill goes missing in Mississippi, Sookie is sent by Eric to Jackson to discover his whereabouts. Bill has been working on a secret project for the vampire queen of Louisiana and Eric fears that Bill has been taken as a result and is being tortured for information. Although Sookie is torn about accepting such a mission (since Bill has been cheating on her with a formal vampire lover), she departs for Jackson anyway.

Once in Jackson we meet Alcide, a werewolf. Sparks fly, but nothing happens as both Sookie and Alcide are in relationships with the status “it’s complicated.”

Once again Charlaine Harris spins a tale that is entertaining and nail biting. Will Sookie find Bill in time? Will she hook up Alcide?

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.

Goodreads Monday August 8, 2022

Goodreads Monday is hosted by Budget Tales Book Blog. “Goodreads Monday allows you to post about what books are on your “to read” lists, the progress you have made on your current books and reading challenge, and any other Goodreads news!”

Books I Finished In the Past 2 Weeks:

The Storyteller by Dave Grohl:

So, I’ve written a book.

Having entertained the idea for years, and even offered a few questionable opportunities (“It’s a piece of cake! Just do 4 hours of interviews, find someone else to write it, put your face on the cover, and voila!”) I have decided to write these stories just as I have always done, in my own hand. The joy that I have felt from chronicling these tales is not unlike listening back to a song that I’ve recorded and can’t wait to share with the world, or reading a primitive journal entry from a stained notebook, or even hearing my voice bounce between the Kiss posters on my wall as a child.

This certainly doesn’t mean that I’m quitting my day job, but it does give me a place to shed a little light on what it’s like to be a kid from Springfield, Virginia, walking through life while living out the crazy dreams I had as young musician. From hitting the road with Scream at 18 years old, to my time in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, jamming with Iggy Pop or playing at the Academy Awards or dancing with AC/DC and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, drumming for Tom Petty or meeting Sir Paul McCartney at Royal Albert Hall, bedtime stories with Joan Jett or a chance meeting with Little Richard, to flying halfway around the world for one epic night with my daughters…the list goes on. I look forward to focusing the lens through which I see these memories a little sharper for you with much excitement.

Finished on July 25, 2022. My review is pending.

The Cruelest Month by Louis Penny:

Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat.

It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .

When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil—until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?

Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.

Finished on July 31, 2022. My review is pending.

Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi:

Perfect for fans of Stephen King’s IT, a group of friends return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they first stumbled on as teenagers in this mesmerizing odyssey of terror.

For nearly two decades, Jamie Warren has been running from darkness. He’s haunted by a traumatic childhood and the guilt at having disappeared from his disabled brother’s life. But then a series of unusual events reunites him with his estranged brother and their childhood friends, and none of them can deny the sense of fate that has seemingly drawn them back together.

Nor can they deny the memories of that summer, so long ago – the strange magic taught to them by an even stranger man, and the terrible act that has followed them all into adulthood. In the light of new danger, they must confront their past by facing their futures, and hunting down a man who may very well be a monster.

Finished on August 1, 2022. You can find a link to my review of this book here.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid:

Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them… and what they will leave behind.

Finished on August 4, 2022. My review is pending.

Verity by Colleen Hoover:

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.

Finished on August 7, 2022. My review is pending.

Books I am Currently Reading:

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris:

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…

Progress: 113 out of 295 pages

I have read about 100 pages in the last two weeks. It isn’t much, but it is something.

The Last Storm by Tim Lebbon:

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.

Progress: Edoc approximately 21%

I haven’t even picked up this book in the last 2 weeks.

Hell Spring by Isaac Thorne:

In the twilight of March 21, 1955, eight people take cover in their local general store while a thundering torrent and flash flooding threatens life and livelihood alike. None of the eight are everything they claim to be. But only one of them hungers for human souls, flesh, and blood.

An overflowing waterway destroys their only path of escape. The tiny band of survivors is forced to confront themselves and each other when a peculiar stranger with a famous face tries to pick them off one by one.

Can the neighbors survive the predator in their midst as well as the 100-year flood that drowns the small town of Lost Hollow?

Or will they become victims of the night the townsfolk all remember as Hell Spring?

Progress: Edoc approximately 24%.

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager:

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.

Progress: Audiobook audio file 4 of 10.

To Read List:

Title: Helruna: An Anglo-Norse Tale of Terror

Author: Bruce J. Mitchell

Published: 2022

Number of Pages: 212

Goodreads’ Summary:

Young Bessie and Bryant enjoy everything an old New England family has to offer: hereditary wealth, an historical home on Long Island Sound, generations of connections, an all-but-assured successful future. They have the world in their hands as they enjoy the warm, calm summer water of the Sound on a Connecticut beach, preparing to go off to college in Montreal. Their idyllic life suddenly begins to unravel with the arrival of a new girl in town, a discovery in their parents’ attic, and the unveiling of a familial curse that has pursued their forebears for centuries.

BOOK REVIEW: Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

Title: Living Dead in Dallas

Author: Charlaine Harris

Book Length: 291 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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

Read Start Date: May 16, 2022

Read Finish Date: June 3, 2022

Number in Book Series: 2

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….

My Review: Sookie is back for another tale of vampires and shape shifters. The book opens with a murder mystery–Lafayette the cook at Merlotte’s is found dead in the parking lot. It was rumored around town that Lafayette was into sex parties. Could someone from this scene have done it?

We are also introduced to even more supernatural creatures — a maenad, werewolves, even other shape shifters! The surprises keep coming!

Although the opening of the book was about Lafayette (and we come back to this by the end of the book), the middle of the book takes place in Dallas. Sookie is loaned to the Dallas vampires for an assignment — read the minds of humans to find out where a kidnapped Dallas vampire was taken. Through this adventure we meet a fresh set of characters, learn about an anti-vampire organization hell bent on destroying vampires, and watch Sookie get further ensconced in vampire politics.

Another hit from Charlaine Harris!

Other Books in this Series

Dead Until Dark is the first book in the series.

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 REVIEW: Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi

59120294Title: Black Mouth

Author: Ronald Malfi

Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 12 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Paranormal

Read Start Date: July 25, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 1, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Perfect for fans of Stephen King’s IT, a group of friends return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they first stumbled on as teenagers in this mesmerizing odyssey of terror.

For nearly two decades, Jamie Warren has been running from darkness. He’s haunted by a traumatic childhood and the guilt at having disappeared from his disabled brother’s life. But then a series of unusual events reunites him with his estranged brother and their childhood friends, and none of them can deny the sense of fate that has seemingly drawn them back together.

Nor can they deny the memories of that summer, so long ago – the strange magic taught to them by an even stranger man, and the terrible act that has followed them all into adulthood. In the light of new danger, they must confront their past by facing their futures, and hunting down a man who may very well be a monster.

My Review: I received this audiobook as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Okay so this book was touted as a book for lovers of Stephen King’s It. I thought it also had elements of King’s The Outsider as well.

Jamie, his special needs brother Dennis, and friends Mia and Clay grew up in Suttons Quay, West Virginia. A once vibrant town, Suttons Quay is now desolate in the wake of a mine collapse. The location of the collapse has been dubbed Black Mouth by the towns people, and living nearby the site is a black stain of sorts on the kids. For this reason they become very close to one another.

While strolling through the woods they come across a homeless man living amongst the trees (the Magician). He offers to make them his apprentices by teaching them various magic tricks and they are so elated that they overlook how strange and bedraggled he is. For his last and final trick he wants them to murder Dennis, but in the end, the kids refuse. Instead they start a fire in the woods, which unintentionally kills a woman and her newborn. The kids are sent away for the crime.

Moving on a decade later, Jamie was so traumatized by the past events that he has become an alcoholic, abandoning his brother in Black Mouth with their horrible mother.

Clay is a social worker who takes on the case of a woman accused of murdering her friend. She claims that the murderer was a man who resembles the Magician, and Clay begins to wonder whether the Magician is back at it again all these years later.

Mia now a famous horror movie director living in LA, spots who she believes is the Magician. She gets in touch with the rest of the crew, and getting the band back together, they attempt to piece together the mystery of the Magician so that they can get rid of him once and for all.

What I liked about the book: SPOILER ALERT, I do give away some things.

The characters were well developed and interesting. The pacing was good — I never got bored and I did NOT have to increase the listening speed to 1.25x. While having similarities to It and The Outsider, it was a work apart. Yes the kids went back to their hometown to defeat a monster they met in their childhood, but it wasn’t all supernatural — the monster turned out to just be a man and his copy cat. I kind of liked that because while It was all fiction, this story had more real elements to it.

What I didn’t like about the book:

The animal abuse. I know that writers use this to show how truly evil a person is, but really…I don’t need to read that shit. I don’t like. I don’t appreciate it. I think most of the time its superfluous. It gives me fucking nightmares. I HATE graphic animal abuse. If you are like me, do yourself a favor and skip this part.

Other than that, I liked the book and would 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.

BOOK REVIEW: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

34066798._SY475_Title: A Gentleman in Moscow

Author: Amor Towles

Audiobook Length: 17 hours and 52 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, 

Read Start Date: May 23, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 31, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style. Readers and critics were enchanted; as NPR commented, “Towles writes with grace and verve about the mores and manners of a society on the cusp of radical change.”

A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

My Review: As an aristocrat and general thorn in the side of the Bolsheviks, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to spend the rest of his days in a hotel. “Thus, it is the opinion of this committee that you should be returned to that hotel of which you are so fond. But make no mistake: should you ever set foot outside of the Metropol again, you will be shot. Next matter.”

This book was good, but I didn’t love it. It is essentially the story of a man who is sentenced to live in a hotel for the rest of his life — that’s it. It is written well, but there wasn’t really all that much happening. It seemed like an interesting premise, but at points it got a little boring, and I found myself having to listen to it at 1.25x the normal speed just to stay attentive. The voice of the narrator of the audiobook version drags a little, and sometimes I found myself drifting away to other thoughts.

That’s not to say that this isn’t a good book, or that if you like this type of book you won’t enjoy it. I just usually like a bit more plot motion / action in the books that I read.

BOOK REVIEW: A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

352921Title: A Fatal Grace

Author: Louise Penny

Book Length: 311 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime,

Read Start Date: May 13, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 30, 2022

Number in Book Series: 2

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.

No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?

With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself. 

My Review: This is the second book in the Armand Gamache novel series, and Gamache is back again in Three Pines investigating a murder. CC de Poitiers is an awful woman, hated by everyone, even her lover and family. The first 8-10% of the book is setting the scene for the murder, so Gamache doesn’t really enter the story until afterward.

The murder is imaginative — electrocution by metal chair, outside in the snow during a curling event. Several things had to fall into place, which on its face seemed rather impossible. CC had to have bare hands, in the freezing cold. CC had to be standing in water. CC had to be wearing shoes without rubber soles. And most of all, the chair had to be connected to electricity. How was this accomplished, and by whom? Was it more than just one person?

This series is fast becoming one of my favorites. Not only are the murder plots interesting, but the clues unfold in a natural way — and the author doesn’t make you feel like Gamache is some super smart super hero who figured it out when no one else would. He is just a good cop, with personal flaws, like everyone else.

I really recommend this series.

Other Books in this Series:

A Still Life is the first book in the series where we are introduced to Armand Gamache and the village of Three Pines.

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines – a place so free from crime it doesn’t even have its own police force.

But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets…

You can find my review of Still Life here.

Goodreads Monday July 25, 2022

Goodreads Monday is hosted by Budget Tales Book Blog. “Goodreads Monday allows you to post about what books are on your “to read” lists, the progress you have made on your current books and reading challenge, and any other Goodreads news!”

Books I Finished Last Week:

Title: The Reaper’s Quota

Author: Sarah McKnight

Published: 2021

Number of Pages: 190

Date Finished: July 24, 2022

Goodreads’ Summary:

Meet Grim Reaper #2497. Behind on his work, he must complete his quota of thirty Random Deaths or face termination in the worst way. Faced with an insurmountable task and very little time to complete it, Reaper #2497 struggles to hang on to the one thing he’s not supposed to have – his humanity.

See my review of this book here.

Books I am Currently Reading:

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris:

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…

Progress: 10 out of 295 pages

In the last week I haven’t made any progress. I usually read this book right before writing my own book to get into the first person storytelling groove. Since I have been on vacation this week, I haven’t done any writing.

The Storyteller by Dave Grohl:

So, I’ve written a book.

Having entertained the idea for years, and even offered a few questionable opportunities (“It’s a piece of cake! Just do 4 hours of interviews, find someone else to write it, put your face on the cover, and voila!”) I have decided to write these stories just as I have always done, in my own hand. The joy that I have felt from chronicling these tales is not unlike listening back to a song that I’ve recorded and can’t wait to share with the world, or reading a primitive journal entry from a stained notebook, or even hearing my voice bounce between the Kiss posters on my wall as a child.

This certainly doesn’t mean that I’m quitting my day job, but it does give me a place to shed a little light on what it’s like to be a kid from Springfield, Virginia, walking through life while living out the crazy dreams I had as young musician. From hitting the road with Scream at 18 years old, to my time in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, jamming with Iggy Pop or playing at the Academy Awards or dancing with AC/DC and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, drumming for Tom Petty or meeting Sir Paul McCartney at Royal Albert Hall, bedtime stories with Joan Jett or a chance meeting with Little Richard, to flying halfway around the world for one epic night with my daughters…the list goes on. I look forward to focusing the lens through which I see these memories a little sharper for you with much excitement.

Progress: Audio file Part 9 out of 10

I haven’t made as much progress as I would like on this book (only 7 audio files in the last week). Usually, I’d be finished by now but I haven’t had much time for listening since I’ve been on vacation. I will have to finish this book by today at the latest though since my library loan will automatically expire soon.

The Cruelest Month by Louis Penny:

Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat.

It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .

When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil—until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?

Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.

Progress: Edoc approximately 60%

I was focused on reading The Reaper’s Quota last week so I didn’t get so far in this book (only 10%).

The Last Storm by Tim Lebbon:

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.

Progress: Edoc approximately 21%

I was reading The Reaper’s Quota and The Cruelest Month, so have basically set this book aside for the moment.

To Read List:

Title: Chasing the Reaper

Author: Sarah McKnight

Published: 2022

Number of Pages: 113

Goodreads’ Summary:

The Reaper Chronicles Book 2

Steven Kelton awakens with a vase in his hands, a sniveling man at his feet, and no idea how he got there. He struggles to remember the details of his life as something sinister lurks just around the corner. Death seems to be following Steve at every turn. Stalked by a hooded figure in black, Steve spirals into self-doubt and false memories until only one thing is certain – he must protect those he loves, even if it means staring Death in the face.

BOOK REVIEW: The Reaper’s Quota by Sarah McKnight

59595361._sy475_Title: The Reaper’s Quota

Author: Sarah McKnight

Book Length: 190 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Paranormal

Read Start Date: July 17, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 24, 2022

Number in Book Series: 1

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Meet Grim Reaper #2497. Behind on his work, he must complete his quota of thirty Random Deaths or face termination in the worst way. Faced with an insurmountable task and very little time to complete it, Reaper #2497 struggles to hang on to the one thing he’s not supposed to have – his humanity.

My Review: I received this kindle book as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Grim Reaper #2497 (a.k.a. Steve) doesn’t like being a reaper very much. He only got the gig because he killed his business partner and then died decades later in Prison — see, if you kill someone, whether accidentally or otherwise, you spend your eternal afterlife reaping the souls of other people, until your bones get so old they literally turn to dust.

Steve fulfills his assignments (terminally ill people or other people slated to die) reluctantly, but he hates having to meet his “random death” quota a.k.a the 30 random people that he has to kill, some of whom, without Steve’s intervention, would have had long lives ahead of them. Since he hasn’t been fulfilling his quota lately, he is called in front of the Big Boss and told that he has to randomly kill 30 people in 3 days, otherwise Steve will be executed. The book is basically about Steve going about this grim tasks.

I really loved “The Office” or “Office Space” feel of this book — but instead of TP Reports, there are Random Death quotas. The reapers stand around the office water cooler “drinking” their Elixir (which they can’t really drink because the reapers are literally just walking skeletons) and talking shop. Some reapers are sadistic, some are over achievers, and some, like Steve, do the bare minimum with a modicum of effort. Sitting above the minions, making sure the work is carried out, is the nasty boss with a bad attitude ready to drop the hammer at any moment.

How Steve orchestrates his random kills is borderline ridiculous, which brings some levity into what otherwise would be a somber set of circumstances. Despite the humor, however, it does get rather tedious after a while and I would have liked to have more substance to the story, which is why I’m only giving the book 4 stars instead of 5. The book is 90% focused on the background story of the people that Steve kills and the description of how they die and 10% focused on bringing Steve’s story forward. The book ended with a cliffhanger, which I presume will pick up in a sequel — though I think that the book was short enough that it could have been continued as a Part 2 to the same book.

If you’re in the mood for something short and light, then this book is for you!

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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.