Title: Petrified Women Author: Jeremy Ray Genre: Horror, Novella Date of Publication: May 14, 2021 Publisher: Infinite Ray Publishing
Some pranks go too far. This one could be deadly.
Harley has the perfect boyfriend. Why can’t her best friend see that? He’s nothing like the others, especially the one who still haunts her memories. She’s finally picked a “keeper” with Aiden.
Sure, he’s a bit eccentric. His wood carving hobby is a little odd. His need for isolation while he carves his life-size female figurines is strange. And maybe his obsession with pranks, or “scares” on Harley goes a little too far. But what do you expect? Aiden’s an artist.
Harley has finally picked the perfect boyfriend. That’s why this year, Harley ignores all her best friend’s warnings. She has the ultimate surprise planned for Aiden’s birthday, one that’s going to help her get even in their battle to out-prank each other.
She hides in his apartment, excitedly waiting to pull off the scare of a lifetime…
But then he comes home, and Harley witnesses a different side of her boyfriend. The side that exists behind closed doors when he doesn’t know anyone’s watching.
Is this just one of his scares? Or is there something more sinister lurking behind his playful nature? Harley’s about to find out.
CONTENT WARNING: Sexual Assault Violence Body Horror Strong Language
Petrified Women is a gripping and original novella that packs a lot of horror in its 92 pages.
The story starts off as unsettling as we’re introduced to the protagonist, Harley. She’s dating a man who loves playing pranks–in fact, he calls this his love language. This, in itself, doesn’t seem too disturbing, until she starts to outline the pranks that he’s played on her over the course of their time together. They seem to be designed to petrify her, and her PTSD from a previous abusive relationship doesn’t help matters. This PTSD is viscerally depicted in a realistic and gut-wrenching way that adds another level of horror to this multi-layered story.
Title: The Last Legacy Author: Adrienne Young Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Date of Publication: September 7, 2021 Publisher: Wednesday Books
New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns with The Last Legacy, a captivating standalone about family and blood ties, reinventing yourself, and controlling your own destiny.
When a letter from her uncle Henrik arrives on Bryn Roth’s eighteenth birthday, summoning her back to Bastian, Bryn is eager to prove herself and finally take her place in her long-lost family.
Henrik has plans for Bryn, but she must win everyone’s trust if she wants to hold any power in the delicate architecture of the family. It doesn’t take long for her to see that the Roths are entangled in shadows. Despite their growing influence in upscale Bastian, their hands are still in the kind of dirty business that got Bryn’s parents killed years ago. With a forbidden romance to contend with and dangerous work ahead, the cost of being accepted into the Roths may be more than Bryn can pay.
In The Last Legacy we’re whisked back to the imaginative and fantastical world of Fable and Namesake!
Readers don’t need to have read the Fable duology in order to enjoy this book. Yes, some characters cross over, but Young has done a wonderful job of making this book stand on its own. The worldbuilding is far from skeletal, and if I hadn’t immediately recognized the names of cities and some of the peripheral characters from Fable, I wouldn’t have realized that this book was written after that duology.
The Last Legacy has an intriguing plot that’s not at all predictable. I jumped into this book without reading the description, since Young has quickly become a “read without questioning anything” author for me. As usual, Young has made good use of her lyrical writing style, immediately capturing my attention. That said, the plot isn’t quite as gripping as the plot in her other books, and it took me a little while to get into the swing of what was going on. The atmosphere is foreboding and mysterious, and for the first forty percent of the story, I wasn’t sure where the story was going, or even what type of story it was going to be.
Young has created characters that are incredibly compelling. I love the protagonist, Bryn. She’s a strong–albeit quite ordinary–young woman. I absolutely love books set in magical settings where the protagonist is seemingly ordinary, and she has to use her wits and other strengths to persevere against whatever life or the book’s antagonist throws in her direction. Bryn seems to be the picture of etiquette and what a proper young lady should be–which she should, since she was brought up to be that way. But it quickly becomes obvious that there’s much more to Bryn than meets the eye. Other characters are just as interesting, especially her family members and the mysterious Ezra.
I recommend this book to those who love a mystical young adult mystery set in a dynamic fantasy world.
*Thank you to the publisher, Netgalley, and the author for the ebook to review*
Title: Beneath the Marigolds Author: Emily C. Whitson Genre: Mystery, Thriller Date of Publication: September 21, 2021 Publisher: CamCat Books
When her best friend, Reese Marigold, goes missing after attending Last Chance, an exclusive singles’ retreat on a remote island off the coast of Hawaii, no-nonsense lawyer Ann Stone infiltrates the retreat.
Ann quickly realizes there’s more to Last Chance than meets the eye. The extravagant clothes, never-ending interviews, and bizarre dates hint that the retreat is a front for a reality dating show. Could Reese be safe, keeping a low profile until the premier, or did something sinister occur after all?
Torn between the need to uncover the truth and her desperate desire to get off the island, Ann partakes in the unusual routines of the “journey to true love” and investigates the other attendees who all have something to hide. In a final attempt to find Reese on the compound, she realizes that she herself may never get off the island alive.
Beneath the Marigolds is a fast-paced psychological thriller that mashes up the reality series The Bachelor with Gone Girl.
Told in three parts, the story alternates between the points of view of Ann and Reese. Ann is heading to Phaux Island under the guise of finding love, but she’s really searching for Reese, her close friend who went missing a month earlier. Reese’s point of view scenes begin when she first came to the island, eager to find her soulmate.
There’s a distinct writing style change between the two heroines’ points of view, which made it incredibly easy to recognize whose chapter I was reading. Reese is a flighty, immature-for-her-age, hopeless romantic, and her chapters read as such. Ann, on the other hand, is far more reserved. She’s a realist. She’s a lawyer, who, like her best friend, is unlucky in love. Her chapters have a far more analytical style, and even the way she views what’s happening at the retreat is coloured by her experiences and her profession.
Both Reese and Ann are recovering alcoholics, and this is a theme throughout the novel. Because they’re at a romantic retreat, of course they’re constantly being tempted with alcohol, almost to the point where it seems like the people running the resort want them off the wagon. There’s something sinister going on, and Ann is determined to get to the bottom of it, not just so she can find her friend, but so she can get out of there unscathed.
There are many exhilarating twists and turns in the plot. There were a few developments that sent me reeling, and then I was back to hungrily devouring the book. The final reveal was quite shocking, and it nicely wrapped up a cohesive and entertaining story.
*Thank you to CamCat Books, Edelweiss, and the author for the ebook to review*
Title: The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon Author: Marcy McCreary Genre: Mystery Date of Publication: September 7, 2021 Publisher: CamCat Books
In a family like that, you won’t need enemies.
In the waning days of the Catskills hotel era, Stanley and Rachel Roth, the owners of The Cuttman Hotel, were practically dynasty—third generation proprietors of a sprawling resort with a grand reputation. The glamorous and gregarious matriarch, Rachel. The cunning and successful businessman, Stan. Four beautiful children. A perfect family deserving of respect and loyalty. Or so it seemed.
Fast forward forty years. The Roths have lost their clout. When skeletal remains are found on the side of the road, the disappearance of Trudy Solomon, a coffee shop waitress at the Cuttman in 1978, is reopened. Each member of the Roth family holds a clue to the case, but getting them to admit what they know will force Detective Susan Ford to face a family she’d hoped never to see again.
The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon follows the daughter of a cop as she tries to crack a forty-year-old cold case that everyone thinks has already been solved. In 1978, Detective Susan Ford’s father investigated the disappearance of Trudy Solomon. In present day, the woman has finally been found. Trudy Solomon is safe and living in a retirement home. But she has severe dementia. She’s unable to share with the world where she’s been for almost half a century.
The main point of view comes from Susan as she investigates Trudy’s disappearance alongside her father, who is retired, but compelled to solve this one last case. We also get the occasional point of view scene from Trudy herself. These scenes are present day, but because of Trudy’s dementia, time for her is not quite so linear. Her POV snippets give the reader hints at what really happened, the nature of her relationships forty years ago, and where she went, all through the lens of a woman who doesn’t know who she is anymore. These excerpts are quite fascinating and add another dimension to the book.
Title: Isn’t it Bromantic? Author: Lyssa Kay Adams Series: The Bromance Book Club #4 Genre: Romance Date of Publication: July 20, 2021 Publisher: Berkley
With his passion for romance novels, it was only a matter of time before Vlad wrote one.
Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared, she escaped danger the only way she knew how: She married her childhood friend, Vladimir, and moved to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville.
Vlad, aka the Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more. He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance—both on and off the page.
The bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love—and this time they’re not operating solo. They join forces with Vlad’s neighbors, a group of meddling widows who call themselves the Loners. But just when things finally look promising, Elena’s past life intrudes and their happily ever after is cast into doubt.
Lyssa Kay Adams does it again! This yet another smart, funny, tugging-at-the-heart-strings instalment in the Bromance Book Club series!
Finally, Vlad “The Russian” gets his happy ever after. Just like the other books in this series, his story is a common romance novel trope made fresh again. He’s been married to childhood friend Elena for six years before she asks for a divorce. He’s heartbroken, even though they’re technically not even together, and they haven’t even been living in the same state for the duration of their marriage. How can this be? Because they’re in a marriage of convenience!
For the last three books, Vlad has been an integral member of the Bromance Book Club. He’s provided much-needed comedic moments, and he’s the heart of the group. He’s mentioned his wife only occasionally, and we already knew how madly in love with her he is. However, he’s neglected to mention to his best friends the circumstances surrounding his “marriage”. Vlad married Elena six years ago so she could have her green card to leave Russia and her tragic past behind. They’ve only ever kissed once, and it was during the wedding ceremony.
Title: The Final Girl Support Group Author: Grady Hendrix Genre: Horror, Thriller Date of Publication: June 16, 2021 Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
A fast-paced, thrilling horror novel that follows a group of heroines to die for, from the brilliant New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.
In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?
Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized–someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.
But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.
I absolutely love meta horror stories, and this book takes meta to the next level. Even the chapter numbers are an homage to horror movies–each labeled as a “sequel”, with a subtitle that’s eerily similar to sequels in popular 80s horror movie franchises.
Hendrix casually adds depth to every scene he writes with dry humour and off-hand comments that simultaneously worldbuild, give insight into characters and their motivations, propel the plot forward, and send me into a fit of giggles. For instance, Lynette, the hero of the story, keeps a gun in her fanny pack. The imagery of this alone still puts a goofy grin on my face, and I finished reading this book days ago.
Title: One Last Stop Author: Casey McQuiston Genre: Romance, LGBTQ+ Date of Publication: June 1, 2021 Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.
But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.
Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.
One Last Stop is outrageously hilarious, cleverly written, and incredibly romantic. The entire novel is written with such vivid imagery, some of which is so ridiculous that it shouldn’t work–but it somehow does. It feels like every second line of this book is quotable, like the author could take a line at random and plaster it on the cover of the book and sell thousands of copies for that reason alone.
Now that I’m done gushing about the writing style, it’s time to gush about the characters. August is lonely, witty, a little pessimistic, and an extreme minimalist. She’s an introvert, and she’s quite reserved. She spent most of her childhood helping her mother search for her mother’s brother who went missing in the 1970s, and as a result, she’s basically a grown-up child detective. This personality trait comes into play at various times throughout the story–mostly when she’s trying to figure out what exactly is going on with Subway Girl.
August is a reserved person, but when she sees the gorgeous girl on the subway, she suddenly doesn’t want to be that way anymore. Jane is outgoing and optimistic, and she regularly makes friends with complete strangers on the subway. They’re opposites, and in many ways August and Jane complete each other. Jane doesn’t have any memories, but she knows exactly who she is. August has her memories but she doesn’t know who she is. They’re two sides of the same coin, yin and yang, dare I say, soulmates. Sigh.
Title: Neon Gods Author: Katee Robert Genre: Romance Series: Dark Olympus Book 1 Date of Publication: June 1, 2021 Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
He was supposed to be a myth. But from the moment I crossed the River Styx and fell under his dark spell… …he was, quite simply, mine.
Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that’s ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city’s dark facade.
With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed a myth…a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed.
Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he’s spent years craving, it’s all the excuse he needs to help her—for a price. Yet every breathless night spent tangled together has given Hades a taste for Persephone, and he’ll go to war with Olympus itself to keep her close…
A modern retelling of Hades and Persephone that’s as sinful as it is sweet.
Neon Gods is the first in the Dark Olympus series, a modern-day, sexy and dark retelling of the infamous Persephone and Hades love story.
While I’m somewhat familiar with the story of Persephone and Hades, I mostly know about it from other retellings, since I never really read or even familiarized myself with the original Greek mythology. So my review won’t really be reflecting on her interpretations of the myth and modernization of it. That said, there were some parts that I found absolutely delightful, like the modern-day, non-magical interpretation of how Hermes, the messenger, gets her messages across.
Olympus is a modern-day city, separate from the rest of the world, where we know that places like California still exist. The Upper City and the Lower city are separated by the River Styx, which is painful to cross, so the citizens of Olympus rarely do so. The city is ruled by the Thirteen, and each of them controls a part of the city–for example: Poseidon runs the docks and “rules” the sea. Robert does a wonderful job of worldbuilding while never actually setting aside much time to do so. That said, I was a tad confused at times, since this is clearly a paranormal romance because of the magical barriers keeping Olympus apart from the rest of the world, and separating the Upper and Lower city, but aside from that, there weren’t any magical elements or superpowers. Olympus is filled with greedy and power-hungry men and women who will do whatever it takes to climb up the social ladder.
Title: Gold Spun Author: Brandie June Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Date of Publication: June 8, 2021 Publisher: CamCat Books
If Nor can’t spin gold, she can always spin lies.
When seventeen-year-old Nor rescues a captured faerie in the woods, he gifts her with a magical golden thread she can use to summon him for a favor. Instead, Nor uses it for a con—to convince villagers to buy straw that can be transformed into gold. Her trick works a little too well, attracting the suspicion of Prince Casper, who hates nobody more than a liar. Intent on punishing Nor, he demands that she spin a room of straw into gold and as her reward, he will marry her. Should she refuse or fail, the consequences will be dire.
Gold Spun is a bewitching and fast-paced young adult, fantasy retelling of the fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin.
The worldbuilding in this book is phenomenal. It’s a sign of a truly talented writer when the reader doesn’t even realize that worldbuilding is happening. There are no information dumps, and all the details of the world and how it works, from the geography of the kingdoms and the powers of the faerie are revealed to the readers as they need to know them. In the prologue, Prince Casper is casually thinking about his preference in teas, all the while the reader is subtly learning about the different kingdoms and the fact that Prince Casper is a freaking war hostage held by the King of Faradisia.
Title: The Legacy of Old Gran Parks Author: Isobel Blackthorn Genre: Thriller, Horror Date of Publication: March 1, 2020 Publisher: Terminal Velocity – A Next Chapter Imprint
Set in Cann River in Australia’s rugged southern wilderness, The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is a tale of a remote town haunted by a legacy, a legacy with ominous consequences.
It’s a warm evening in the autumn of 1983 when Miriam Forster rolls into town in her broken down car. Frankie the deer hunter, is up in the forested hinterland with her gun. Old Pearl the fisherwoman sits on her front deck down by the lagoon with her whisky and her dog. And Emily, the English backpacker, scrubs out the pie-encrusted kitchen at the roadhouse.
All is not well. There’s a hoon doing donuts at the crossroads and screaming down the fire trails in the woods; a suspicious-looking city-slicker with two small children, squatting in Fred’s shack down by the lake; a beanie-headed gaunt guy convalescing at the lighthouse; and an acne festooned creature in the hotel room next to Miriam, thrashing about in the night.
Gran Parks is stirring. Who will survive? Who will get away? Who will stay?
The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is an intricately crafted dark comedy thriller/horror.
We’re introduced to Gloria — aka Gran Parks–in the preface of the book, where she’s working at the bar in the small town of Cann River. Her husband comes home late, and it’s clear right away that he treats her poorly. But Gloria has finally had enough. She takes her cleaver to him, killing him and hacking him in half.
The rest of the book is set a couple of decades later, and we’re introduced to several women who now reside in the town or are passing through. The book is told in first person POV from these four women: Miriam, Pearl, Frankie, and Emily. At first it was very confusing, but as I got used to the individual storylines, my disorientation was replaced with a burning need to find out what would happen next. Each of these four women have an interesting subplot, and their storylines intersect throughout. Miriam is a woman who’s passing through town when her car breaks down, and she has to stay at the local inn, where she has a peculiar neighbor. Pearl is an older fisherwoman, and a strange man has moved into her friend’s shack down the road. He’s brought two children he claims are his daughters, but Pearl is convinced that he’s lying. Emily is a young British backpacker who is working at the local diner when she meets a mysterious man who’s taking care of the nearby lighthouse. And, last but not least, there’s Frankie, the hunter, who encounters a dangerous-looking man in the woods where she’s hunting.
While the book is slow to start, the novel is very atmospheric and is for those who love a strong sense of setting in their novels. The novel is set in small town Australia, and every word contributes to the feeling of dread. The setting comes to life in the way that everything is described, from the buildings in town to the local wildlife. The town and its surroundings are described as rundown, decrepit, and everything is rife with a morbid history. The mysterious legend of Old Gran Parks and how her spirit is said to affect women crops up from time to time in casual conversation, creating a cloak of mystery and foreboding that envelops the town and the people in it.
All four plotlines are carefully well laid out, and they have their own compelling twists. The characters themselves are complex and realistic. The book is a dark humor novel, and this becomes more and more evident as the novel progresses. There are a few parts that had me laughing out loud, then embarrassed to be finding something so grotesque and unsettling funny.
I know this isn’t an intentional outcome of the book, but I enjoyed learning Australian slang, and I did have to Google a few words to understand their meaning. The language and setting are strong appeal factors for this book, adding to the authenticity of the story and making it even more of a unique world to escape to. At the end of the book, the author provides a little aside explaining which parts of the story were true and which parts were fiction, which was a delightfully surprising treat.
Because of the frequent switch between character POVs, this book is best read in only a couple of sittings. It would be difficult to put it down for a while and be able to pick it up and get back into the story. I recommend this book to those who want to read a dark thriller with comedic elements, one that has a strong small-town feel and a creepy old legend influencing everything the characters say and do.
*Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours and the author for the ebook to review*