Book Review: The Family Plot by Megan Collins

The Family Plot book in front of true crime shelf

The Family Plot book coverTitle:The Family Plot
Author: Megan Collins
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Date of Publication: August 17, 2021
Publisher: Atria Books


When a family obsessed with true crime gathers to bury their patriarch, horrifying secrets are exposed upon the discovery of another body in his grave in this chilling novel from the author of Behind the Red Door and The Winter Sister.

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse has a lot to learn when it comes to the real world. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has spent the last several years living on her own, but unable to move beyond her past—especially the disappearance of her twin brother Andy when they were sixteen.

With her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house she has avoided for years. But as the rest of the Lighthouse family arrives for the memorial, a gruesome discovery is made: buried in the reserved plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Each member of the family handles the revelation in unusual ways. Her brother Charlie pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister Tate forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic façade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.


My Thoughts

The Family Plot is an atmospheric psychological thriller perfect for fans of true crime and gothic mysteries. The Lighthouses live in a small town where the gossip mill never stops, and their strange habits never cease to fuel it. The entire family is obsessed with true crime. They have a shrine dedicated to the victims of infamous true crime cases. The children were homeschooled, but their education didn’t follow the state-sanctioned curriculum, and they spent most of their time learning about murder and death. 

The book opens when Dahlia (named after the Black Dahlia), returns home following her father’s sudden death. It’s her first time back in ten years. When she was a teenager, her twin brother went missing. He was presumed to be a runaway, and she’s never stopped looking for him. 

This book is rife with mystery and there are many twists in the plot. It’s clear the author is a murderino (not just because of the book’s dedication), as a lot of the book has a focus on the victims, rather than the perpetrators, of true crimes. Those of us who are familiar with the big cases will recognize a lot of the names that get thrown around, both in the dialogue and in the narrative. 

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Book Review: The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon by Marcy McCreary

Picture of book cover

trudy smallTitle: 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.


My Thoughts

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.

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Book Review: Isn’t it Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams

Isn't it Bromantic

Isn't it bromanticTitle: Isn’t it Bromantic? 
Author: Lyssa Kay Adams
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.


My Thoughts

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.

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Book Review: Strange Gods by Alison Kimble

Strange Gods book cover with blanket, book, candle, and black rose

strange godsTitle: Strange Gods 
Author: Alison Kimble
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Date of Publication: July 20, 2021
Publisher: Immortal Works


Spooky arrives at a wilderness boot camp for troubled teens with two suitcases and an ultimatum: either she keeps her head down over the summer or she won’t be allowed home at the end of it. All she wants to do is survive the pyros, bullies, and power-tripping counselors, get through senior year, and start her life somewhere new. She’ll do just about anything to protect that future.

But when an encounter with another camper goes awry and ends with Spooky hiding in the woods, something else finds her. Something ancient and powerful has sent out feelers, hoping to catch a human alone. For its purposes, one human is as good as any other. Even a delinquent teen will do.

If Spooky wants to survive to see any kind of future, she will have to figure out how to gain leverage over a god. And as if the one wasn’t bad enough, a pantheon of dark entities are lining up between her and the life she’s always wanted…

For fantasy fans, comes one girl’s journey through dark worlds of magic, gods, and monsters.


My Thoughts

Allison Kimble has an effortlessly descriptive and humorous writing style. The plot of Strange Gods is delightfully peculiar. It’s original, unpredictable, and engaging. It reminded me a little of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with some of the outlandish things that happen, the odd things characters will say, and the offbeat twists and turns in the plot. Kimble takes the simple “Hero’s journey” plot template and makes it fresh.

Laurel, who prefers to go by “Spooky”, is your typical teenager, despite being sent to a camp for delinquents. She’s an ordinary girl. She’s a little self-centred, but not overly selfish. She’s self-conscious, as demonstrated by how she brings up her over-sized ears frequently in her inner dialogue. She’s desperate for friends and longs for her parents’ acceptance. Oh, and she’s also humanity’s only chance to save Earth from certain doom.

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Book Review: The Therapist by B.A. Paris

The Therapist book photo

The TherapistTitle: The Therapist
Author: B.A. Paris
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Date of Publication: July 13, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press


When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive…

As Alice is getting to know her neighbours, she discovers a devastating secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before.

Alice becomes obsessed with trying to piece together what happened two years before. But no one wants to talk about it. Her neighbors are keeping secrets and things are not as perfect as they seem…

The multimillion-copy New York Times bestselling author B.A. Paris returns to her heartland of gripping psychological suspense in The Therapist–a powerful tale of a house that holds a shocking secret.


My Thoughts

B.A. Paris has done it again! The Therapist is a compelling mystery with countless thrilling twists and turns in the plot.

The novel is told primarily from Alice’s point of view. She and her boyfriend, Leo, have just moved into a gated estate, called The Circle, which is comprised of twelve houses situated around a picturesque square. The beginning of the book is very slow, and I’m not going to lie, I was bored at first. However, the story gradually gets more and more interesting, and by the first twist in the plot, I was hooked. 

The novel also has a past timeline, told from the point of view of a therapist. These scenes are, honestly, quite boring at first, but as the novel progresses, their purpose becomes much clearer, and by the end I was revelling in how clever they were. Despite their apparent boringness, they were brief and few and far between, which made them not distract from the rest of the narrative.

Every single one of Alice’s new neighbours is a suspect. They all have secrets, even the man she loves, who she’s moved in with. Every interaction that she has with other characters has a little hint at the fact that something isn’t quite right in The Circle. It’s clear right away that there’s more to Nina’s murder than meets the eye, but nobody is being forthcoming about what they know.

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Book Review: Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Survive the Night Book photo, surrounded by film noir on DVD and Alfred Hitchcock films

Book Cover Survive the Night

Title: Survive the Night 
Author: Riley Sager
Genre: Horror, Mystery/thriller
Date of Publication: June 29 2021
Publisher: Penguin Group Dutton


It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

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

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


My Thoughts

Before the events of this book, Charlie’s best friend and roommate, Maddy, was brutally murdered by a serial killer named the “Campus Killer”. Charlie is wracked by guilt over the fight she’d had with her just before her disappearance. Having difficulty dealing with her grief, she realizes that she can’t stay at university any longer. She finds a ride back home with a fellow student, someone she hasn’t met before they cross paths at the rideshare bulletin board. Of course, because of this student’s schedule, they have to leave at night. It’s needless to say, (the book is called “Survive the Night”, but this is a book review, so I’m gonna say it), but this car ride is… intense.

Survive the Night is a classic film buff’s fantasy. The plot itself is quite simple, reminiscent of a Hitchcock film. The protagonist is named Charlie, after Teresa Wright’s character in the Hitchcock film “Shadow of a Doubt”. She’s studying film theory, and she is, quite literally, obsessed with movies. This becomes evident right from the very beginning, with the plethora of classic film references. The author mentions Jaws, Silence of the Lambs, and many film noirs and Hitchcock films.  There’s one point where Charlie comments that watching Singin’ in the Rain is the closest you can get to heaven, and I couldn’t agree more. But I digress. 

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Book Review: How Sweet It Is by Dylan Newton

How Sweet it Is book cover

55898107Title: How Sweet It Is
Author: Dylan Newton
Genre: Romance
Date of Publication: July 13, 2021
Publisher: Forever


Event planner Kate Sweet is famous for creating the perfect happily-ever-after moment for her clients’ dream weddings. So how is it that her best friend has roped her into planning a bestselling horror writer’s book launch extravaganza? But the second Kate meets—or rather, accidentally maims—the drop-dead-hot Drake Matthews, her well-ordered life quickly transforms into an absolute nightmare.

Drake Matthews is tired of the spotlight and tired of his reputation as the Knight of Nightmares. He’s really a nice guy! But he’s not prepared for Kate, a fearless agent of chaos in steel-tipped stilettos, or for that sweet sting of attraction he feels for her. She’s inspiring him to take his writing in a whole new direction—one that no one expects. Because now Kate and Drake are changing up the rules, and this plot twist might just surprise everyone . . . including themselves.


My Thoughts

If you’re looking for a sweet, zero angst, fun book, then this is the one for you! The plot is very much like that of a Hallmark movie–with some humor, the setting of a small town just outside of New York City, and adorable interactions between the hero and the heroine. 

Kate Sweet works as an event planner, and her primary focus is on planning Cinderella-like weddings for her clients. The book opens when her best friend, a publicist for a book publisher, reaches out to her for help. She has to plan an infamous horror author’s book launch party in only thirty days. Kate agrees to do this, but this type of event is a lot… spookier than what she’s used to…

Right off the bat, the first chapter sets the tone for the book. Despite the implications that the book’s description gives, there’s very little conflict in this book. It’s light and airy, and despite the hero being a horror novelist, there is absolutely no gore or scary bits (unless you consider accidentally making a child cry at a pumpkin carving contest horror).

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Book Review: The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

The Final Girl Support Group book

Final Girl cover small

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.


My Thoughts

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.

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Book Review: One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop Book photo

one last smallTitle: 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.


My Thoughts

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.

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Book Review: Neon Gods by Katee Robert

Neon Gods book photo

5497small71Title: 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. 


My Thoughts

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. 

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