The Couple On Maple Drive by Sam Carrington

57652944Have you heard about the couple on Maple Drive?
Isla barely leaves the house after her brutal mugging. Her boyfriend Zach moved in with her after the attack. To look after her, but something else has happened now. Right on their doorstep.
I don’t want to say that someone’s out to get her…
I just hope they find out the truth before it’s too late.


The Couple On Maple Drive follows the story of Isla who has been suffering from PTSD and retroactive amnesia since being brutally mugged. Her dedicated boyfriend, Zach, moves in to help take care of her and soon Isla starts having flashes of memories from the night she was mugged. Determined to figure out what happened, Isla starts her investigation.

This is the first book I read by Sam Carrington and I was not very impressed. The narrative style alternates between Isla’s POV, her boyfriend Zach’s POV, and the transcript of a true-crime podcast, Christie’s Crime Addicts. This book managed to be a solid 2 ½ stars and I am sorry to say that even with all of the red herrings, I had the killer figured out by 20% of the book. I still managed to finish the book in hopes of a little redemption but as with any thriller, the moment you figure out the culprit there is not much you can do to carry on the story.

The Couple On Maple Drive is scheduled to be published on December 9, 2021. I want to thank Avon Books UK and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: Kindle edition
Published: December 9, 2021 by Avon Books UK
ASIN:000843638X
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Avon Books UK, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 2 ½ stars
Genre: Mystery, thriller

Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Dragonlance: Chronicles #1) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

259836Life-long friends, they went their separate ways. Now they are together again, though each holds secrets from the others in his heart. They speak of a world shadowed with rumors of war. They speak of tales with strange monsters, creatures of myth, creatures of legend. They do not speak of their secrets. Not then. Not until a chanced encounter with a beautiful, sorrowful woman who bears a magical crystal staff draws the companions deeper into the shadow forever changing their lives and shaping the fate of the world.


I absolutely loved it! I was told about this series by a good friend and honestly, I had no idea I was going to enjoy it as much as I did. I love D&D but even that didn’t convince me straight away. I went in knowing this book was written in 1984 and half expecting it to give off a Masters of The Universe nostalgic vibe. I found myself completely absorbed by this fast paced, jam-packed adventure. And yes, it is a bit cliche? Is it a tad cheesy and outdated? Is it full of overdone tropes? Absolutely! But it was also written 37 years ago, way before several fantasy books I love that have certainly also been inspired by this book. I’m so looking forward to continuing with this trilogy and oh, so happy for the recommendation.

 

Format: Mass Market Paperback, 444 pages
Published:Published February 1st 2000 by Wizards of the Coast (First published November 12th 1984)
ISBN:0786915749 
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

A Head Full Of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Paul TremblayThe lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.
To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight.


A Head Full Of Ghosts had been on my TBR for about five years since I read and reviewed Paul Tremblay’s book Disappearance at Devil’s Rockso I was glad to see it displayed at my local library as suggested reading for Halloween.

I have to say that it took me a moment to recollect my thoughts before writing this review. I went into this book completely cold. I never read any reviews on it or even a complete synopsis of the book. I highly advise you to read this book with as little information as possible, which makes writing a review about it even more difficult. 

Head Full Of Ghosts is a book divided into three parts and told from the POV of Merry, the Barretts’ eight-year-old daughter, and her interpretation of the events.

The first part of the book starts fifteen years early by giving us a glance at the Barretts, a fairly normal Massachusetts family composed of dad John, mom Sarah, and the two daughters, Marjorie, fourteen, and Merry, eight. Since the book is told from Merry’s perspective, we get to see the close relationship the two sisters shared with each other. Tremblay overlaps the story by introducing present-day scenes of Merry, now twenty-three, being interviewed by an author who’s writing a book about the events that happened with the family, in particular with Marjorie who started to display signs of acute schizophrenia. As the family’s life starts to crumble apart and Marjorie’s mental illness progresses, John decides to seek the help of a local priest who is convinced that Marjorie’s problems are not mental health issues at all but rather the product of demonic possession and that they should perform an exorcism. 

Without going too much into the plot, it suffices to say that the Barretts not only agree with the exorcism but also allow for the process to be televised in a reality tv show called The Possession. 

So, let me stop right here to tell you that what made this story worthwhile for me was not the concept of exorcism–and that alone might turn off some readers. 

Don’t get me wrong, this book is sheer horror. Not that in-your-face sort of horror, but more like building up tension and suspense. I actually found this book a mixture of terrifying and sad at the same time. 

What I absolutely loved about this book was how Tremblay handled a delicate subject such as mental illness and the pitfalls of today’s society, the internet, misogyny, and the role of religion in the treatment of mental health.

Although this book was written six years ago, Tremblay’s social criticism on this topic is still relevant, especially on a day like today in honor of World Mental Health Day.

 

Format: Hardcover, 286 pages
Published: Published June 2nd 2015 by William Morrow
ISBN: 0062363239 
Source: Library loan
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fiction, horror

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

death-jane-lawrencePractical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town.Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him. By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to.


The Death of Jane Lawrence is a gothic/horror novel very much in the style of The Haunting of Hill House, Crimson Peak, and Rebecca. I have to admit that although I loved those stories, I was not very impressed with the beginning of this novel. Jane Shoringfield is this logical accountant who reaches a point in her life where  she sees the need for marriage. Not necessarily for the romantic aspect of it, but for convenience. She sets her sight on recluse, albeit good-looking, Dr. Augustine Lawrence. After convincing him that the marriage would be beneficial to both of them, they get married with the condition that she is never to set foot in Lindrige Hall, Lawrence’s family manor.

Needless to say, after a series of “unfortunate events” Jane finds herself at the entrance of Lindrige Hall, and instead of finding her dashing, and sharp new husband, she finds a weak and paranoid man who believes Jane is nothing more than an apparition and hallucination. 

From that point, we embark on the more gothic portion of the novel and the mysteries that surround Augustine and his manor. At about 50% of the book, the story takes a turn, and elements of the supernatural and the metaphysical come into play. 

I have to admit that I came into this story knowing this was primarily a horror/gothic/ghost story. What I initially thought set this story apart was the use of logic and the paranormal together. So when you take this novel for what it is, it’s certainly an interesting read, especially during the Halloween season.

The reason I couldn’t give it more than 3-stars was the fact that at times I felt Starling was trying too hard. This novel felt as if it wanted to be so many things at once and in the end, failed miserably. In terms of character development, there was none. All the characters were pretty 2-dimensional, but the novel is pretty gory with strong elements of the macabre which suits the genre.

Possible triggers include descriptions of miscarriage/infant death which may be a sensitive topic for some readers.

The Death Of Jane Lawrence is scheduled to be published on October 5, 2021. I want to thank St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 
 

Format: Kindle edition, 352 pages
Published: October 5th 2021 by St. Martin’s Press
ASIN: B08R2JKC2V
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Horror/Gothic

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

stayYejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage–after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures–Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time–until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does–but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.


In Stay With Me, Adébáyọ̀ introduces us to Yejide and Akin, a Nigerian couple who have been trying to have a baby for many years.

In their culture, it is expected that married couples have children, and when that is not possible, the men are expected to take another wife to produce an heir and carry on the bloodline. When Akin takes on a second wife, it initiates a series of tragic events.

Adébáyọ̀’s prose is both lyrical and fluid. The story is told in alternating POVs, which allows you to get to know the well-developed characters.

Stay With Me is a poignant novel that may leave you with very mixed feelings.

 
 
 
 
 

Format: Kindle edition, 288 pages
Published: August 1st 2017 by Knopf  (first published March 2nd, 2017)
ASIN:B01MTJQK9M
Source: Library loan
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fiction

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

KindredDana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.


This is a story of a woman, Dana, from 1976 who is transported back and forth in time to the 1800s during the slavery era. This is an interesting and important look at slavery in America. In particular, the look without rose-colored glasses.
One of the things that I appreciated about this book is that Butler does not shy away from the brutality of those times. In reality, she marvelously weaves those themes to make it into a compelling story. It is a great story, albeit not without its flaws.
Several things did not work for me in this book. The concept of time travel, although interesting in theory, is always tricky to put into actual practice. The plot from that stance is flawed–no doubt about it.
Much of the book is spent describing the pain of slavery in America, but very little time is put into developing characters and dialogues.
Kindred is a novel that begins and ends with a mystery, and that might be a good or a bad thing depending on who’s reading it.

Format: Kindle edition
Published: February 1st 2004 by Beacon Press (first published June 1979)
ASIN: B009U9S540
Source: Library loan
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Historical fiction

Murder By Page One by Olivia Matthews

Murder by page 1Marvey, a librarian, has moved from Brooklyn to a quirky small town in Georgia. When she’s not at the library organizing events for readers, she’s handcrafting book-themed jewelry and looking after her cranky cat. At times, her new life in the South still feels strange…and that’s before the discovery of the dead body in the bookstore.

After one of her friends becomes a suspect, Marvey sets out to solve the murder mystery. She even convinces Spence, the wealthy and charming newspaper owner, to help. With his ties to the community, her talents for research, and her fellow librarians’ knowledge, Marvey pursues the truth. But as she gets closer to it, could she be facing a deadly plot twist?


Murder By Page One is the first book in the Peach Coast Mystery series. This is a nice, light-hearted cozy mystery. As with most first books in a series, there are a lot of characters introduced and not enough time to explore each character in depth.
We have Marcella Harris, aka “Marvey” who has recently moved from Brooklyn to a small town in Georgia to work as a book promoter at a local library. She soon stumbles into a dead body and when her bestie gets incriminated, Marvey sets out to solve the murder.
This book has all the great elements of a cozy mystery featuring the love of books/library, cats, jewelry making, and small-town drama. Fans of the genre will certainly enjoy it.
Murder by Page One is scheduled to be published on March 23, 2021. I want to thank Hallmark Publishing and NetGalley for providing me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Format: Kindle edition
Published: March 23, 2021 by Hallmark Publishing
ASIN:1952210135
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Hallmark Publishing, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Mystery, Cozy-mystery

The Nesting by C. J. Cooke

The nesting Architect Tom Faraday is determined to finish the high-concept, environmentally friendly home he’s building in Norway – in the same place where he lost his wife, Aurelia, to suicide. It was their dream house, and he wants to honor her with it. Lexi Ellis takes a job as his nanny and immediately falls in love with his two young daughters, especially Gaia. But something feels off in the isolated house nestled in the forest along the fjord. Lexi sees mysterious muddy footprints inside the home. Aurelia’s diary appears in Lexi’s room one day. And Gaia keeps telling her about seeing the terrifying Sad Lady…
Soon Lexi suspects that Aurelia didn’t kill herself and that they are all in danger from something far more sinister lurking around them.


The Nesting is a novel that at first resembles Ruth Ware’s The Turn of The Key, but if you stick to it you’ll soon be in for a big surprise.  Some of the highlights of this book include Cooke’s ability to build a suspenseful, gothic novel. The Nordic folklore sprinkled in the story was certainly a plus. The themes of ecology and preservation were also extremely appealing to me, as well as the descriptions of Norway’s nature and landscape.

Unfortunately, this novel was the case of too many story lines that just were not well put together at the end. The story is told by an unreliable narrator, Sophie (aka Lexi), alternating with Aurelia’s pov and diary entries. Halfway through the book, the story takes a turn and slows down significantly.

Although this book started somewhat interesting, the excessive number of plot holes and the slow pace of the book had me struggling to finish it. I found the ending rushed and too convenient.

I want to thank HarperCollins and NetGalley for providing me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: Kindle edition
Published: September 29, 2020 by HarperCollins
ASIN: B0818ZX2NY
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, HarperCollins, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 2 ½ stars
Genre: Mystery, thriller

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

18801904

West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter. Now, in present-day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that has weighty consequences when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished. In her search for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked into the historical mystery, she discovers that she’s not the only person looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.


Okay, so I finished this book early this morning, but I had to head to work so I couldn’t sit down to write a proper review, so here it goes!
I loved, loved, loved this book. Definitely a contender to my top 5 books of 2020 so far. It is apparent that Jennifer McMahon has gotten most of her inspiration from reading Stephen King (more specifically–Pet Sematary). Although I’m a huge fan of Stephen King, I don’t always enjoy other authors who try to write in the same style. Let me clarify this! McMahon is not really writing in a Stephen King style. She has a style of her own, and it’s a pretty good one.
The book is told from different POVs, Sarah–a woman living in the early 1900s, Ruthie–a nineteen-year-old living with her widowed mother and little sister, and Katherine–a woman in search of explanations regarding the last hours of her dead husband. Although the story is told by multiple POVs, it never feels choppy. McMahon is able to maintain the suspense throughout the novel. There were some pretty awesome hair-raising and goosebumps-behind-your-neck moments, and the writing was superb. I definitely recommend it to fans of this genre. Solid 5 stars.


Format: Kindle edition
Published: February 11th, 2014 by Doubleday
ASIN: B00EMXBD4S
Source: Library loan
Rating:  5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Horror-Thriller

The Little Bookshop of MURDER by Maggie Blackburn

Summer Merriweather’s career as a Shakespeare professor hangs by a bookbinder’s thread. Academic life at her Virginia university is a viper’s pit, so Summer spends her summer in England, researching a scholarly paper that, with any luck, will finally get her published, impress the Dean, and save her job. But her English idyll ends when her mother, Hildy, shuffles off her mortal coil from an apparent heart attack. Returning to Brigid’s Island, NC, for the funeral, Summer is impatient to settle the estate, sell her mom’s embarrassingly romance-themed bookstore, Beach Reads, and go home. But as she drops by Beach Reads, Summer finds threatening notes addressed to Hildy: “Sell the bookstore or die.” Clearly, something is rotten on Brigid’s Island. What method is behind the madness? Was Hildy murdered?


Little Bookshop of Murder is the first book in a new series by Maggie Blackburn. The story follows Summer Merriweather (no kidding!) as she returns to a small island off the coast of North Carolina after the death of her estranged mother. Upon arriving at Brigid’s Island, Summer finds her mother’s sudden death a little suspicious, so with the help of her aunt Agatha, they start an investigation of their own.

I like to start my reviews by pointing out the positives in a book. This book has all the right elements for a sweet cozy mystery. An excellent (although not novel) premise, a lovely cover, and who can resist books about cute bookstores? So, you are probably wondering why I gave such a dismal rating?

The first issue I had with this book was the fact that I could not relate to nor like Summer. It could be because this is book number one, and the author is rushing to introduce all the main players and somehow forgot to elaborate on her main character. But Summer is just simply put the flattest and most unsympathetic character in this book. Here we have a woman whose mother just died. She spends the entire book reminding us of how hard it is that her mother is dead, however, very little–if any, emotion is elicited from the pages. The reader does not get a feeling that this character is missing her dead mother, nor that she even truly cared about her mother. To make matters worse in the likeability rating, we get information early on in the story that Summer left some poor chap standing in the altar, but very little explanation as to why.

So, after you decide you are just going to ignore the poorly written main character and plow through the rest of the book, what you end up with is a very so-so mystery and a complete feeling of disappointment.

On a more optimistic note, this book is number one in a series, and the author has plenty of chances to make it up in the subsequent installments.

Little Bookshop of Murder is scheduled to be published on July 7th, 2020. I want to thank Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for providing me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: Kindle edition
Published: July 7th, 2020 by Crooked Lane Books
ASIN: B0818ZX2NY
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 2 ½ stars
Genre: Mystery, Cozy-mystery