The Nightmare Man by J.H. Markert

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Genre: Horror, Fiction, Adult, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Mystery Thriller, Crime, Writing, Books about Writing, Holiday, Halloween

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

T. Kingfisher meets Cassandra Khaw in a chilling horror novel that illustrates the fine line between humanity and monstrosity.

Blackwood mansion looms, surrounded by nightmare pines, atop the hill over the small town of New Haven. Ben Bookman, bestselling novelist and heir to the Blackwood estate, spent a weekend at the ancestral home to finish writing his latest horror novel, The Scarecrow. Now, on the eve of the book’s release, the terrible story within begins to unfold in real life.

Detective Mills arrives at the scene of a gruesome murder: a family butchered and bundled inside cocoons stitched from corn husks, and hung from the rafters of a barn, eerily mirroring the opening of Bookman’s latest novel. When another family is killed in a similar manner, Mills, along with his daughter, rookie detective Samantha Blue, is determined to find the link to the book—and the killer—before the story reaches its chilling climax.

As the series of “Scarecrow crimes” continues to mirror the book, Ben quickly becomes the prime suspect. He can’t remember much from the night he finished writing the novel, but he knows he wrote it in The Atrium, his grandfather’s forbidden room full of numbered books. Thousands of books. Books without words.

As Ben digs deep into Blackwood’s history he learns he may have triggered a release of something trapped long ago—and it won’t stop with the horrors buried within the pages of his book.


First Line:

Detective Winchester Mills smelled the Petersons’ barn before he saw it.

The Nightmare Man by J.H. Markert

Horror is one of my favorite genres to read. I love getting scared just from reading a book. Of course, that does backfire on me when I read these books alone and before bed. But that is something I have learned to deal with over the years. So, when I got the invite to review The Nightmare Man, I jumped on it. I am glad that I did because this book was creepy and scary at the same time.

The Nightmare Man had an exciting plotline. Ben Bookman (don’t you love his name!!) is signing books at his local Barnes and Noble when a local farmer approaches him, accuses him of stealing his nightmare, and commits suicide. Meanwhile, Detective Winchester Mills and his estranged daughter, Detective Samantha Blue, are investigating a series of murders identical to the last book Ben has written. This investigation sets into motion a series of events that cause Ben to question his sanity. It also strains an already rocky relationship between Detective Mills and his daughter to the breaking point. But, it also reveals a common source. All murderers had been treated at the Asylum that Ben’s grandfather founded. And there are ties to the disappearance of Ben’s younger brother, Devon, years earlier. How is everything tied together? Why has to crime rate gone up so much in recent years? And why can’t Ben remember the night his grandfather took him into the room with the tree? How does that tie into Devon’s disappearance? And what about the books? What is so special about them? Everything is answered in the jaw-dropping ending.

The Nightmare Man is a fast-paced book in the creepy town of Crooked Tree. I missed where this book should be set (if it was even mentioned). But, if I had to guess, I would assume it was one of the mid-western states.

I loved the characters in this book. Every single one of them, except for Ben’s daughter, was damaged in some way. Also, the main characters (Ben and Detective Mills) are unreliable narrators, with Ben being more unpredictable than the Detective. That added to the general air of confusion going on in the book. I LOVED it!!

  • Ben—I initially didn’t like him and believed he could have done the murders. His marriage was on the rocks, with him thinking that his wife (who was pregnant) was cheating on him, and to add a cherry on top, he was the prime suspect in the murders of a family in Crooked Tree. Years earlier, he was also a suspect in his brother’s disappearance, but Detective Mills couldn’t make anything stick. When he finished his last book, he was on a coke and booze binge and couldn’t remember what happened at Blackstone that weekend. By the end of the book, my view of him did 180. Things were revealed that made me do a double take.
  • Detective Mills—Again, this was another character that I initially didn’t like. He was gruff, a functioning alcoholic, and had a history of abuse toward his daughter. But, he was also pitiful. The love of his life died before him, his relationship with his daughter deteriorated after he hurt one of his grandsons, and he kept having nightmares. He was one hundred percent gunning for Ben for the murders in the barn, but he was also savvy enough to know that something wasn’t right. There was a neat twist in his plotline that didn’t make sense at first. But, at the end of the book, it did, and in a way, he did redeem himself.

The Nightmare Man fits perfectly into the horror genre. The author did a great job thinking up new spins on old fears turned nightmares. I will never look again at scarecrows or the Tooth Fairy the same way. His spin on those (and others) was enough to cause me not to sleep at night. I will never get the visual image of a woman pulling teeth out of a young kid’s mouth and laughing out of my head.

There were two significant storylines in The Nightmare Man. The one with Ben, his demons, his family, and what happened that weekend at Blackstone. The other one was the investigation of the murders, Detective Mills’s relationship with Blue, and the past cases in which he made arrests. Everything is tied together at the end. And after they are tied together, the author throws in a couple of twists that made me question everything I had read.

There are trigger warnings in The Nightmare Man. They are mental illness (and how it was portrayed in the book), drugs, alcohol, torture of children, torture of imprisoned people (in the Asylum), cutting, and implied grooming of a child.

The end of The Nightmare Man was utter chaos. There was so much revealed that it was almost too much to unpack. I had to reread the ending three times to understand what had happened. There were a couple of twists that took me by surprise. There was also a death that I wasn’t expecting. I liked the epilogue, and from the final lines of that, I got the vibe that there may be a sequel. You can’t end a book the way the author did, and there not be a sequel!!

I would recommend The Nightmare Man to anyone over 21. There is explicit violence, explicit language, and moderate sexual situations. See also my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading The Nightmare Man, you will enjoy reading this books:

WWW Wednesday: January 11th, 2023

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Personal:

I hope you all had a wonderful week last week. Mine went ok. I started getting to the school at 2:30, and you know what? My anxiety dropped a ton. Plus, I was getting home by 3:30 instead of getting out of the parking lot at 3:30. Now, don’t get me talking about the parents who decided to walk in front of my car when I went around the side of the school.

Miss R had horseback riding last week (as she does every week). The lesson was fine, but when it came time to put the horse out to pasture, it was a cluster. The entrance to the mare’s pasture was muddy. I didn’t know that, and I almost lost one of my shoes….haha. Miss R went into the pasture to let the horse out (she needed to take off the halter) and sank to her knees. We were a sight. Thankfully, the mud washed off, and Miss R got a big laugh about it.

I have some sad news on Miss B’s front. She got kicked out of the dual college/high school program because she didn’t have a 2.0 average. Per her, she got overwhelmed and burnt out. I was a little ticked off by how they told her. When, you ask? She got an email sent to her early morning on January 5th, and her classes were changed before 8:30 am. When I talked to the guidance counselor (damn skippy, I did, Miss B was hysterical), she was just as pissed as I was. She told me that Miss B wasn’t even on the list of names sent over on January 4th, and the change was made after school hours. But there is a silver lining. She’s enjoying the classes she’s in now (personal finance, math 3, honor English 11, and creative writing) and is looking forward to raising her GPA and being less stressed.

We ended up moving Mr. Z and Miss B’s bedrooms on Sunday. We decided to move the bedrooms because Mr. Z was keeping Miss R up while talking to his D&D buddies online. Plus, she didn’t like his door closed and walked into a couple of embarrassing situations. This new setup is working out fine. Plus, our cats are loving it. Snickers now have free roam of Miss B’s room (including the bed), and they all go in there to lie in the afternoon sun. So a win-win.

Reading:

So, remember when I said I would catch up on reviews this weekend? Well, it didn’t happen. I got busy. Now, I am playing catch-up with reviews….sigh. Right now, I am behind by five reviews. To catch up, I will be writing reviews in the afternoon/at night until I am caught up. That is tricky because my kids have a sixth sense of when I am doing something, so keep your fingers crossed.

The longest book I read this week: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries. This book started off so slow and didn’t get going until (and this is a guess) about 60-75% into the book. Once it picked up speed, I could read it rather quickly. But it took me three days to get through the first 60% of the book.

The shortest book I read this week: The Rom-Com Agenda. I finished it within a day.

How was your week? Read anything good? Did you do anything exciting?

As always, let me know if you have read or are planning to read any of these books!!


What I Recently Finished Reading:

Evil isn’t always learned…sometimes it’s IN OUR BLOOD.

Nearly thirty years ago, Detective Jake Hawksworth and best-selling author Drew McCauley were brought together by a horrific crime. Jake, still reeling from the unsolved hit-and-run death of his wife, and Drew will be reunited once again when a crime from Drew’s novel-in-the-making becomes a devastating reality. Is the kidnapping of Drew’s son somehow linked to the murder Jake is investigating? Was Jake’s wife’s death really an accident? And could the person who has haunted both men for decades be responsible for these seemingly unrelated events? As Jake races to protect Drew’s family, they find themselves on a collision course with fate – derailed by a series of breakneck twists and turns that culminates at an isolated, snow-ravaged house. It is here that long-buried secrets are unearthed and Jake realizes, to his horror, that his hunches are not always right. That the keys to solving his wife’s death and a heinous, decades-old crime have been under his nose all along.


What I am currently reading:

What would you change if you could go back in time?

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .

Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?


What books I think I’ll read next:

Armed with only hazy memories, a woman who long ago witnessed her friend’s sudden, mysterious death, and has since spent her life trying to forget, sets out to track down answers. What she uncovers, deep in the woods, is hardly to be believed….

Maya was a high school senior when her best friend, Aubrey, mysteriously dropped dead in front of the enigmatic man named Frank whom they’d been spending time with all summer.

Seven years later, Maya lives in Boston with a loving boyfriend and is kicking the secret addiction that has allowed her to cope with what happened years ago, the gaps in her memories, and the lost time that she can’t account for. But her past comes rushing back when she comes across a recent YouTube video in which a young woman suddenly keels over and dies in a diner while sitting across from none other than Frank. Plunged into the trauma that has defined her life, Maya heads to her Berkshires hometown to relive that fateful summer–the influence Frank once had on her and the obsessive jealousy that nearly destroyed her friendship with Aubrey.

At her mother’s house, she excavates fragments of her past and notices hidden messages in her deceased Guatemalan father’s book that didn’t stand out to her earlier. To save herself, she must understand a story written before she was born, but time keeps running out, and soon, all roads are leading back to Frank’s cabin….

Utterly unique and captivating, The House in the Pines keeps you guessing about whether we can ever fully confront the past and return home.

Silver Wade has never been one to back down from a fight. Facing off against an organization imprisoning those with psychic abilities has become the biggest challenge of her life. The fact she’s also a shapeshifter would make her a unique specimen in their collection.

New to the world of spies and terrorism, she and her sister cross paths with three teens fighting to stay ahead of skilled assassins, intent on their demise.

Dacien McGreggor is well known among his peers for his calm demeanor in times of stress. When ex-detective Silver Wade crosses his path, his worldview is challenged.

Each member of the team is paired with another according to their psychic ability. Dacien and Silver must set aside their differences and work together in order to survive.

She’s an outsider desperate to belong, but the cost of entry might be her darkest secret in this intoxicating debut of literary suspense following a clique of dangerously ambitious students at the University of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh, Scotland: a moody city of labyrinthine alleyways, oppressive fog, and buried history; the ultimate destination for someone with something to hide. Perfect for Clare, then, who arrives utterly alone and yearning to reinvent herself. And what better place to conceal the dark secrets in her past than at the university in the heart of the fabled, cobblestoned Old Town?

When Clare meets Tabitha, a charismatic, beautiful, and intimidatingly rich girl from her art history class, she knows she’s destined to be friends with her and her exclusive circle: raffish Samuel; shrewd Ava; and pragmatic Imogen. Clare is immediately drawn into their libertine world of sophisticated dinner parties and summers in France. The new life she always envisioned for herself has seemingly begun.

And then Tabitha reveals a little project she’s been working on, one that she needs Clare’s help with. Even though it goes against everything Clare has tried to repent for. Even though their intimacy begins to darken into codependence. But as Clare starts to realize just what her friends are capable of, it’s already too late. Because they’ve taken the plunge. They’re so close to attaining the things they want. And there’s no going back.

What is the cost of an extraordinary life if others have to pay? Reimagining the classic themes of obsession and striving with an original and sinister edge, The Things We Do to Our Friends is a seductive thriller about the toxic battle between those who have, and those who covet–between the desire to truly belong, and the danger of being truly known. 

A FISHERMAN’S DAUGHTER
Miss Poppy Summers is determined to keep her family’s fishing business afloat. Her poor widowed father has fallen ill, and her foolhardy brother has moved to London, leaving her precious little time to read or pursue her own dreams. But she’ll do anything for her family, so she cheerfully spends mornings in her rowboat, casting her nets. The very last thing Poppy expects or wants to find tangled in them is a dangerously attractive man. Especially one with a head wound—who’s convinced he’s a duke.

AND A DUKE OUT OF WATER
Andrew Keane is the Duke of Hawking, but he’s having the devil of a time convincing his fiery-haired rescuer of that fact. The truth is he came to the seaside resort of Bellehaven Bay to escape his life in London. Unfortunately, someone in Bellehaven wants to kill him—and he intends to find out who. He implores Poppy to tend to his injuries and hide him on her beach, reasoning it will be easier to find his attacker if that man assumes Keane is already dead. She wants no part of the scheme but can’t refuse the generous sum he offers in exchange for food and shelter while he recovers. It’s a mutually beneficial business arrangement…nothing more.

ARE ABOUT TO MAKE WAVES
Under Poppy’s care, Keane regains his strength—and a sense of purpose. As they work together to solve the puzzle of his would-be murderer, he’s dazzled by her rapier wit and adventurous spirit; she’s intrigued by his mysterious air and protective streak. Though Poppy’s past gives her every reason to mistrust someone like Keane, the seawalls around her heart crumble in the storm of their passion. But when clues hint at the prime suspect in Keane’s attempted murder, Poppy must decide where her loyalties lie. Torn between the world she’s always known and the one she’s always dreamed of, she’ll need true love for a shot at her fairytale ending.

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Adult, Suspense, Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Psychological Thriller, Audiobook

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

One year ago, Isabelle Drake’s life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her—literally.

Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.

Isabelle’s entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle’s past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust… including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads.


First Line:

Today is day three hundred and sixty-four. Three hundred and sixty-four days since my last night of sleep.

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

As a mother, I was shaken when I read the blurb for this book. How could you not be? It is any parent’s worst nightmare to have a missing child. With that in mind (and knowing there could be triggers), I accepted the publisher’s invitation for this book. I am glad that I did because this book was a great read.

Isabelle hasn’t slept since Mason, her eighteen-month-old son, was taken from his room at night. She has been tirelessly searching for him and making the rounds of tv shows and conventions to state her case. What has suffered in this past year is her marriage. Her husband has moved on with a woman who is a dead ringer for her. The police consider her a prime suspect, and Isabelle is being pushed to her limits. So, it is no wonder she accepts a true-crime podcaster’s invitation. As she interviews for the podcast, memories of her childhood resurface and cause her to doubt everything her parents had told her. What happened to Mason? Did Isabelle do something to him? Or was he kidnapped? What happened to Isabelle when she was a child?

All the Dangerous Things is a slow-starting book that takes place almost entirely in Georgia. The pace does pick up in the middle of the book. But, towards the end, is when the book picks up steam, and it doesn’t slow down until the explosive ending.

The author well wrote all of the characters in All the Dangerous Things. I loved how the author kept me guessing about the main and secondary characters.

  • Isabelle—The plotline pulled me in two different directions with Isabelle. In one direction, I wanted to believe her, but in the other direction, I figured she did kill Mason. With her being such an unreliable narrator, it was up in the air until the end of the book.
  • Ben—He was such a sleazeball. I didn’t like him and thought Isabelle could have done better. When Isabelle was thinking about how they met and when he told her he was married, I was yelling (yes, yelling), “Stay away.” And the night of Ben’s wife’s wake, what they did outside the funeral home, blah. Again, sleazeball and my dislike of him grew as the book continued.
  • Isabelle’s mother, father, and younger sister—-I am lumping them all into one category because together, they are a whole main character (if that makes sense). Something very traumatic happens that involves all three of them and Isabelle. It made sense why they weren’t in the present-day story much. I can’t go much into what I just wrote because of spoilers.

As with any well-written book, the secondary characters did add extra depth to this book. But I wish I could have seen them from another angle (like maybe the police). It would have given me a fresh perspective on the story.

All the Dangerous Things fit perfectly with the mystery, suspense, and thriller genres. The author did a great job of keeping everything under wrap until the end of the book. I couldn’t put the book down; I needed to know what happened to Mason and when Isabelle was younger.

The main storyline with Isabelle, Mason’s kidnapping, and the investigation tore at my heartstrings. I felt Isabelle’s pain over Mason not being there. I felt her frustration over what she saw as the police doing nothing but pointing fingers at her. I even got her frustration with her sleepwalking habit. But she never once let any of those get to her. She harassed the police almost daily (even when they told her they considered her a suspect). She had insomnia because of the trauma of Mason being kidnapped. But, at the same time, she was unreliable. She made me question her because of her blackouts and sleepwalking. Plus, her not sleeping was messing with her head too.

The other storyline with Isabelle, her younger sister, and her parents was heartbreaking. It did detail Isabelle’s struggles with sleepwalking (even at seven years old). But there was something more important going on in the background. Something that I almost missed. Something that did contribute to her sister’s death and Isabelle being blamed for it. When I realized what that was, a lightbulb went off in my head. I felt so bad for everyone involved but mainly for Isabelle.

There are going to be trigger warnings in this book. The most obvious one is kidnapping. But there also is postpartum psychosis, the death of a child, and cheating. If those trigger you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

The end of All the Dangerous Things was one of the best I have read this year. I loved how Isabelle pieced everything together. I felt somewhat vindicated for her. But the author did have a few plot twists that even had me going, “What the heck?” Let’s say that I did not pity who went to jail!!

Three Things I Liked About All the Dangerous Things:

  1. Isabelle’s determination to find Mason.
  2. Isabelle’s relationship with her sister.
  3. How she figured everything out.

Three Things I Disliked About All The Dangerous Things:

  1. What happened to Isabelle when she was younger (and her being blamed too)
  2. Ben. He was such a sleazeball.
  3. The police. They were useless in this book.

I would recommend All the Dangerous Things to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and no sex. Also see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading All the Dangerous Things, you will enjoy reading these books:

Goodreads Monday: Mind Strings by Ryan Julian

This is a weekly meme where anyone can choose a random book from their Goodreads TBR and highlight it. This meme was formerly featured on LaurensPageTurners and was taken over by Budget Tales Book Blog.


The near future. Social media is dominated by strings, which are experiences captured directly from the human mind. The technology responsible for this paradigm shift, string-tech, has become an inseparable addition to conscious thought. The human mind’s ability to detect deception initially made string-tech impervious to corruption, but a few unusual deaths revealed that string-tech had been hacked by someone with murderous intent. Quickly developing a taste for blood and with the ability to seamlessly alter reality, the madman sets in motion plans for an escalating agenda of chaos and destruction. Humanity’s best chance to stop him? –a hapless professor and an agent gone rogue from the FBI.

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: January 3rd, 2023

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Cultural, India, Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Adult Fiction, Literary Fiction, Literature, Asian Fiction, Novels

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Geeta’s no-good husband disappeared five years ago. She didn’t kill him, but everyone thinks she did–no matter how much she protests.
But she soon discovers that being known as a “self-made” widow has some surprising perks. No one messes with her, no one threatens her, and no one tries to control (ahem, marry) her. It’s even been good for her business; no one wants to risk getting on her bad side by not buying her jewelry.

Freedom must look good on Geeta, because other women in the village have started asking for her help to get rid of their own no-good husbands…but not all of them are asking nicely.

Now that Geeta’s fearsome reputation has become a double-edged sword, she must decide how far to go to protect it, along with the life she’s built. Because even the best-laid plans of would-be widows tend to go awry.


First Line:

The women were arguing. The loan officer was due to arrive in a few hours, and they were still missing two hundred rupees.

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

I was intrigued when I read the blurb for the Bandit Queens. I liked seeing a strong woman as the main character in the book. Plus, I was a little curious about how the author would portray Indian life. I wasn’t disappointed; I was shocked at how women in modern-day India are treated. It was eye-opening.

The Bandit Queen is a fast-paced book that takes place mainly in an unnamed village in India. Geeta’s husband, an abusive drunk, had disappeared five years previously. The suddenness of his disappearance caused a whirlwind of rumors to swirl around her. The prominent rumor was that Geeta killed her husband and got away with it. Geeta embraces that rumor and her newfound freedom. She becomes a “self-made” woman and is doing pretty well for herself. That is until the night one of the members of her loan group asks for help killing her husband. That night sets into motion a series of events Geeta cannot stop. But when Geeta needs help, will the women she helped come to her aid?

There are trigger warnings in The Bandit Queen. The author often talks about the sexual assault of girls and women. There are scenes of the aftermath of domestic abuse. There is one memorable scene of attempted rape. There are graphic descriptions of murder. There is animal abuse. The caste system is also investigated in the book. I am sure there is more, but my notes got erased (thanks to my kids). If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book.

The primary and secondary characters of The Bandit Queens are wonderfully written. They were rich and added an extra depth to the storyline, while not needed, that expanded on what was given. They were well-fleshed out, and I connected with several of them. These were characters that I could picture walking down the street or shopping in the supermarket. I am going only to highlight Geeta and Solani. To me, these two were the superstars of the book.

  • Geeta—-I loved her. I wasn’t expecting to at first. She came across, in the beginning, as very standoffish and cold. But as the book went on and I got a good look into her life, I understood why she was that way. I also understood why she embraced what the rumors painted her to be. It gave her a certain amount of freedom that she wouldn’t have been able to have if she didn’t. I was horrified and then amused when Farrah roped her into helping her kill her husband. And when word got out, the fireworks began, and I was giggling the whole time. Geeta wanted no part in killing anyone, yet there she was, helping the twins with the nuisances (aka husbands). I also liked that Geeta, during this time, could look at her past life and reflect on it too. I believe that is why she and Solani reconciled (I am glad they did).
  • Solani—I can’t even begin to describe how much I loved this woman. She was a force to be reckoned with throughout the entire book. I am glad that she saw past Geeta’s husband’s facade and to the real person underneath. She tried to warn Geeta, but that didn’t go over well. Even when they weren’t talking, Solani attempted to be an excellent friend to Geeta. Some things came out towards the end of the book that proves that. I can’t say what because of the spoilers. Also, I loved how Solani embraced herself. She knew she was overweight (having kids will do that to you), and she didn’t care. There was one scene where it was called out, and she was like, “And?

The Bandit Queens have quite a few genres it could fit into. But the top three that fit perfectly into are the Fiction, Mystery, and Adult categories.

The main storyline with Geeta, Solani, the other women, and the killings were wonderfully written. I could see Geeta coming to life as the story went on. She was dragged, kicking and screaming, back into a friendship with Solani and into helping the other women kill their husbands. The humor was very dark in this storyline.

The end of The Bandit Queens was organized chaos, and I loved it. I’m not going to get too much into detail, but I did fear for Geeta. Several things happened that could have harmed her or her friends, and I was anxious reading that part of the book. But the author did a great job of relieving that anxiety. There is an author’s note after the story is over that I appreciated reading.

I would recommend The Bandit Queens to anyone over 21. There is violence, mild language, and very mild sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning section.


If you enjoyed reading The Bandit Queens, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Book Blogger Hop—January 6th, 2023

 The Book Blogger Hop was originally created by Jennifer @ Crazy-For-Books in March 2010 and ended on December 31, 2012. With Jennifer’s permission, it was relaunched on February 15, 2013, by Billy @ the Ramblings of a coffee addict. . Each week the hop will start on a Friday and end the following Thursday. There will be a weekly prompt featuring a book-related question. The hop’s purpose is to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, befriend other bloggers, and receive new followers to your own blog.


Over the last few years, I have seen this Friday prompt show up on several blogs I follow. I decided right before Christmas that I would start participating after the new year. So, saying that here’s this week’s prompt!!


What was the first book you read this year?

I read this for The Cover Scavenger Hunt (through The StoryGraph) prompt. This was a reread for me too. I forgot how much I liked this book!!

Misfire by Tammy Euliano

Publisher: Oceanview Publishing

Date of publication: January 23rd, 2023

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Medical

Purchase Links: Kindle | B&N | Alibris | IndieBound | Indigo | Kobo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

A device that can save a life is also one that can end it

Kadence, a new type of implanted defibrillator, misfires in a patient visiting University Hospital for a routine medical procedure—causing the heart rhythm problem it’s meant to correct. Dr. Kate Downey, an experienced anesthesiologist, resuscitates the patient, but she grows concerned for a loved one who recently received the same device—her beloved Great-Aunt Irm.

When a second device misfires, Kate turns to Nikki Yarborough, her friend and Aunt Irm’s cardiologist. Though Nikki helps protect Kate’s aunt, she is prevented from alerting other patients by the corporate greed of her department chairman. As the inventor of the device and part owner of MDI, the company he formed to commercialize it, he claims that the device misfires are due to a soon-to-be-corrected software bug. Kate learns his claim is false.

The misfires continue as Christian O’Donnell, a friend and lawyer, comes to town to facilitate the sale of MDI. Kate and Nikki are drawn into a race to find the source of the malfunctions, but threats to Nikki and a mysterious murder complicate their progress. Are the seemingly random shocks misfires, or are they attacks?

A jaw-dropping twist causes her to rethink everything she once thought she knew, but Kate will stop at nothing to protect her aunt and the other patients whose life-saving devices could turn on them at any moment.


First Line:

You aren’t gonna let me die this time, are ya, Doc? Oh boy.

Misfire by Tammy Euliano

As I stated in my review of Fatal Intent, I do not read/review medical thrillers. But after reading these two books, I realize I will have to fix that. Like Fatal Intent, Misfire was an excellent read that kept me glued to the book.

There are trigger warnings in Misfire. There are scenes of gore at several points in the book. There is a scene where Kate does CPR on her aunt. There are scenes at the end of the book that broke me. If you want to know what, use the contact me page and ask what they were. Because of spoilers, I won’t include it in the review. I will mention it, but I won’t come right out and say what.

Misfire is a fast-paced book that takes place shortly after the events of Fatal Intent. Kate is still dealing with what Adam did, which included trying to kill her great-aunt Irma, Christian (her lawyer), and killing her husband (and his brother), Greg. Her great-aunt was dealt a more severe blow during that attack, suffering a heart attack and needing a pacemaker installed. Kate noticed that people with Kadence installed were suffering from an elevated rate of heart attacks and disruptions. But, when Irma suffers an attack after a routine visit with her cardiologist, Kate starts digging into the study. What she finds stuns her and also sets off a chain of events which outcomes she didn’t see coming. What happened? Why is Kadence misfiring? Who is behind it?

The characters in Misfire were as wonderfully detailed as they were in Fatal Intent. I liked that they still appeared realistic and made me get invested in their lives.

  • Kate—She was still that great person from Fatal Intent. I liked that she wanted to move forward (and was urged to by Aunt Irma) but was hesitant. She regrets being distant from her friends (like when she helped with Ronnie’s pregnancy). I believe she was so stuck on helping Nikki and Ian because of that. As with the last book, she didn’t want to get sucked into the drama with Kadence. She was moved to action when her aunt was harmed by it and when multiple people died in a horrific accident caused when a Kadence misfired when someone was driving. Her solid moral character demanded that she look into it and discover why it was happening. I don’t think she expected to find out what she found out.

The secondary characters did add extra depth to the book. I loved the extra attention paid to Aunt Irma and Christian in this book. Christian’s secondary storyline broke my heart, and the resolution had me sobbing on the couch. The only character I didn’t care for from the beginning was Nikki. There was something about her that rubbed me the wrong way.

Misfire fits perfectly into the medical thriller and mystery genre. The author had a little spark of romance in there too. The mystery angle of the book was terrific. A twist in the storyline at the end stunned me and made me sick.

The storyline with Aunt Irma, Kate, Christian, and the search for Nikki was well written. I loved how the author took me for a ride with this storyline. I learned more about pacemakers in this book than I would have known about, ever. But that is what made this storyline so good. It was realistic. Also, I couldn’t get over the twist at the end of this storyline. It was maddening, heartbreaking, and just evil.

The storyline with Nikki, Kate, the Kadence device, and Dr. Cantrell was interesting. Interesting because I could see people like Dr. Cantrell doing what he did in the book. Sure, he was not a nice guy who didn’t do the right thing. But, in the end, he did redeem himself a little bit, in his eyes. I wouldn’t say I liked how he treated Nikki and Kate, even with the credible evidence that Kate had about Kadence.

The end of Misfire was equally thrilling and sad. I did not see the twist coming (as I stated above), and it took me by surprise. The author was able to wrap up all the other storylines in a way that satisfied me as a reader. I also cannot wait to read more books in this series.

I would recommend Misfire to anyone over 21. There is graphic violence, mild language, and no sex.


If you enjoyed reading Misfire, you will enjoy reading these books:

Fatal Intent by Tammy Euliano

Publisher: Oceanview Publishing

Date of Publication: March 22nd, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Medical, Fiction, Suspense, Mystery Thriller, Audiobook, Crime

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

End-of-life care—or assisted death

When her elderly patients start dying at home days after minor surgery, anesthesiologist Dr. Kate Downey wants to know why. The surgeon, not so much. “Old people die, that’s what they do,” is his response. When Kate presses, surgeon Charles Ricken places the blame squarely on her shoulders. Kate is currently on probation, and the chief of staff sides with the surgeon, leaving Kate to prove her innocence and save her own career. With her husband in a prolonged coma, it’s all she has left.

Aided by her eccentric Great Aunt Irm, a precocious medical student, and the lawyer son of a victim, Kate launches her own unorthodox investigation of these unexpected deaths. As she comes closer to exposing the culprit’s identity, she faces professional intimidation, threats to her life, a home invasion, and, tragically, the suspicious death of someone close to her. The stakes escalate to the breaking point when Kate, under violent duress, is forced to choose which of her loved ones to save—and which must be sacrificed.

Perfect for fans of Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen

While the books in the Kate Downey Medical Mystery Series stand on their own and can be read in any order, the publication sequence is:

Fatal Intent
Misfire
 (coming January 2023)


First Line:

I dreaded weekends. That alone set me apart from my colleagues-from humans in general-even without all the rest.

Fatal Intent by Tammy Euliano

Medical thrillers are not a genre that I typically read. It’s not that I don’t like them (I do); it’s just that they don’t show up on my radar very often, even when I am looking for a new book to read. So, I was intrigued when I was invited to review Fatal Intent. After reading the blurb, I knew I wanted to read this book. I am glad that I did because it was a great read.

There are trigger warnings in Fatal Intent. The huge, most obvious one is the angel of mercy killings. There are brief mentions of the death of a spouse and child through a drunk driver and the miscarriage. The author also talks about assisted death quite often during the book. This is a touchy subject and one that I am not going to discuss in this blog.

Fatal Intent is a fast-paced medical thriller that takes place in Florida. Kate is an anesthesiologist working at a university (or teaching) hospital. Kate lives with her great-aunt Irma, an eccentric German transplant, and her black lab, Shadow. Kate has had a rough couple of years. Her husband, Greg, severely injured by a bomb while deployed, has been in a coma for a year. She miscarried their daughter because of that. And the cherry on top, the chief of staff, Dr. Walker, dislikes Kate and makes her life miserable at work. Things start to snowball when Kate discovers several suspicious deaths on and off the hospital grounds. At the same time, Kate is accused of misconduct with a student and malpractice by an unpleasant surgeon, and Greg’s brother, Adam, is going ahead with a lawsuit to take Greg off life support. As Kate fights the lawsuit, the inquiry, and the malpratice accusation, she realizes everything is connected. Determined to get to the bottom of everything, Kate soon finds herself in a situation where she needs to make an impossible choice. What choice does Kate have to make? How is everything connected? Did the hospital have an angel of mercy?

The main characters of Fatal Intent surprised me. I was prepared to be annoyed or even not like them. But, right from the beginning, the author made them relatable. Also, she wasn’t afraid to kill off a couple of who I considered main characters. It made what happened at the end of the book so much more poignant.

  • Kate—I liked and connected with her. She had a great relationship with her great-aunt Irma and 98% of her coworkers. She treated her patients respectfully and wasn’t afraid to speak up when she thought something wasn’t right. Her relationship with the chief of staff did confuse me a little at the beginning, but once the author explained it, a lightbulb went off. The only thing that she had a conflict of interest in was Greg. She didn’t want him to die starving to death. But her brother-in-law, Adam, thought otherwise. As for her investigating the deaths, she didn’t intend to become embroiled in that scheme. She was doing what she thought was right. My heart broke for her at the climax of the book. She had to make an impossible decision. No matter what she decided, it was going to hurt her.

I say this in every review, but the secondary characters made this book. Every single one added extra depth to the plotline. I liked how these secondary characters also tied into the main storyline. They had clues about who the killer was, why Kate was being singled out at work, and why Adam was insistent on taking Greg off life support. Secondary characters rarely do that.

If you look above, you see that I put a lot of genres down that this book fits into. The top three out of that group would be medical fiction, mystery, and thriller. Fatal Intent fits perfectly into those genres.

So, a little bit of a warning, the review will get a little longer here. Several main storylines in Fatal Intent are merged about halfway through the book. I didn’t understand why the author had so many until the end. Everything became crystal clear here.

The storyline with Kate, the medical student, and the accusation of misconduct made me so angry. I knew the medical student was up to no good from the moment the author introduced him. There was a point in the book where I thought that Kate would end up losing her job, but the author pulled out her hidden ace. It was mentioned, and I didn’t even think about it until it was mentioned. Of course, the ending to that storyline was very satisfactory and did tie into the storyline with the malpractice, Dr. Walker, and the angel of mercy.

Speaking of that, I was so angry about the malpractice inquiry that Kate found herself in. The surgeon was full of himself, and I couldn’t believe that the chief of staff would side with him instead of remaining impartial. I found it suspicious. Of course, this storyline ended the way I thought it would but still. I wanted to smack that surgeon upside the head and tell him to take it down a notch.

The storyline with Dr. Walker, Kate, and the deaths left a bad taste in my mouth. As I said above, Dr. Walker was so suspicious. His treatment of Kate was borderline abuse of power, and everyone in that hospital knew it. He didn’t want to listen to her when she brought up credible evidence about a new hire. Also, he was too involved with the medical student’s accusation and the inquiry. I wasn’t surprised by what was revealed during Kate’s investigation. I did like that what she turned up had an effect…haha. I was thrilled with how everything turned out. Dr. Walker reaped what he sowed.

The storyline with Kate, Greg, and Adam was one of the saddest ones I have ever read. I got why Kate didn’t want to take Greg off life support. I agreed with her that starving to death was a painful way to go, even if you were in a coma. And like Kate, my distaste for Adam was there from the beginning.

The end of Fatal Intent was heartstopping. The author was able to meld the above storylines together in a way that took me by surprise. A colossal twist (and a heartbreaking decision made) took me by surprise. It is hard to get one past me with thrillers; the author certainly did!! I didn’t see it coming and felt that I should have.

I would recommend Fatal Intent to anyone over 21. There is violence, non-graphic sexual situations (kissing), and language.

I want to thank Tammy Euliano and Oceanview Publishing for allowing me to read and review Fatal Intent. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading Fatal Intent, then you will enjoy reading these books:

WWW Wednesday: January 4th, 2023

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Personal:

I hope everyone had a great (and safe) New Year’s Eve!! I didn’t do much. BK made food, and we watched Hoda and Jenna’s New Year’s Eve special on NBC. We didn’t even stay up until midnight; we ended up in bed at 10 pm….lol.

The kids had a good break. I decided to finish the school year by picking up Miss R from school (there were a couple of incidents with the police in December). But next year, she’s taking the bus home. I need to get to the school at 2:30 to get in line. I think it’s ridiculous that I have to do this, but at the same time, I don’t feel like getting a ticket.

I don’t know if I have mentioned this yet, but I feed a couple of stray cats on my back deck. The black cat (around a year old) was dumped in the storage area behind my house. The grey cat (around six years old) was left when his owners were evicted from the house across from me two years ago. Well, I got to pat the grey cat yesterday, twice, and he rubbed on my leg!! This is big because he’s semi-feral and very skittish. So yay me.

Reading:

I finished going through my want-to-read books earlier this week. I have added a ton of books to both my Kindle Unlimited shelf, and my downloaded to Kindle shelf. While doing that, I found some books I had downloaded from Prime Reading or bought while free and never shelved. I might have an addiction here. Haha.

I didn’t do a ton of reviews doing the break. I plan on catching up this week (or try to, at least). I have two reviews that need to be written by tomorrow and one by Friday. I have one review that I was able to move up a week, one that I am waiting for the publisher to send me an ebook (never got a publication date for that one), one where I couldn’t find the book anywhere (was supposed to get a paperback copy and never got it), and one that I forgot to write (yup, I forgot). But I am not sweating it. The two that need to be done tomorrow are both halfway written. The other reviews, I will get to when I can.

The longest book I read this week: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. This book had been on my must-read list since I first saw it blogged about. Then I read it, and I was “meh” about it. So “meh” that it took me three days to read.

The shortest book I read this week: The Family Game by Catherine Steadman. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I devoured this book!!

How was your week? Read anything good? Did you do anything exciting?

As always, let me know if you have read or are planning to read any of these books!!


What I Recently Finished Reading:

I usually don’t comment about books under the prompts, but this book DESTROYED me. I was in tears for 90% of the book. I told Miss B that this is a book that middle and high schoolers should read. It is a book about the after-effects of a school shooting and showcases one of the victims’ families and the shooter’s family, mainly the younger sister. It is not an easy read but definitely worth it.


What I am currently reading:


What books I think I’ll read next:

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: January 3rd, 2023

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Adult, Suspense, Contemporary, Gothic, Audiobook, Historical, Historical Fiction

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | Alibris | Powells | Indiebound | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins comes a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set at an Italian villa with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.

As kids, Emily and Chess were inseparable. But by their 30s, their bond has been strained by the demands of their adult lives. So when Chess suggests a girls trip to Italy, Emily jumps at the chance to reconnect with her best friend.

Villa Aestas in Orvieto is a high-end holiday home now, but in 1974, it was known as Villa Rosato, and rented for the summer by a notorious rock star, Noel Gordon. In an attempt to reignite his creative spark, Noel invites up-and-coming musician, Pierce Sheldon to join him, as well as Pierce’s girlfriend, Mari, and her stepsister, Lara. But he also sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Mari writing one of the greatest horror novels of all time, Lara composing a platinum album––and ends in Pierce’s brutal murder.

As Emily digs into the villa’s complicated history, she begins to think there might be more to the story of that fateful summer in 1974. That perhaps Pierce’s murder wasn’t just a tale of sex, drugs, and rock & roll gone wrong, but that something more sinister might have occurred––and that there might be clues hidden in the now-iconic works that Mari and Lara left behind.

Yet the closer that Emily gets to the truth, the more tension she feels developing between her and Chess. As secrets from the past come to light, equally dangerous betrayals from the present also emerge––and it begins to look like the villa will claim another victim before the summer ends.

Inspired by Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and the infamous summer Percy and Mary Shelley spent with Lord Byron at a Lake Geneva castle––the birthplace of Frankenstein––The Villa welcomes you into its deadly legacy.


First Line:

Somewhere around the time she started calling herself “Chess”, I realized I might actually hate my best friend.

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

When I read the blurb for The Villa and saw that it was being compared to Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and Mary Shelly, I was interested. While I enjoyed the book, I was disappointed by it. Mari and Emily’s stories didn’t grab me the way I had hoped.

The Villa starts in present-day North Carolina. Emily is a successful author who has been battling a mysterious illness. She also is in the process of divorcing her husband, Matt, who is as greedy as they can get. So, when her best friend, Chess (who also happens to be a best-selling self help author), suggests a girl’s trip to Italy, Emily jumps at it. Emily discovers that the villa they are renting was the scene of a murder in 1974 and where a best-selling turned cult classic novel, Lilith Rising, was written. Jumping headfirst into investigating it, Emily soon uncovers clues that show a different story than what reporters told the world. She also discovers that things are different from what they seem with Chess. What did Emily find about the murders? And what is going on with Chess?

The other part of this book takes place in 1974 in London and Italy. Mari is in a questionable (to me, at least) relationship with a singer/songwriter. Pierce, desperate to hit it big, accepts an invitation to party/work at a villa in Italy. He would be working with one of the biggest rock stars in the world. Mari and her stepsister, Lara, come along and are swept into a world filled with sex and drugs. As tension rise, Mari starts writing a book, which will become an instant bestseller/cult classic, Lilith Rises. Then the unthinkable happens, and Pierce is killed. But, all isn’t what it seems. What happened the night Pierce died? Who killed him and why?

The Villa is a fast-paced book that mostly takes place in a villa in Italy. The author did a great job of keeping the book flow as it hopped from past to present.

The main characters were what made this book a meh book for me. I found them annoying to read. Even when everything was revealed (in both timelines), I still couldn’t care.

  • Emily—I did feel bad for her at the beginning of the book. She was going through a rough patch with writer’s block and her husband wanting half of her book’s earnings. Plus, she had been very sick for a year. But I started not to like her when she got to Italy and started becoming paranoid. Plus, she was boring. The only exciting thing she did was at the end of the book. Also, and I will discuss this later in the review, I couldn’t understand how she didn’t see what was going on with her soon-to-be ex. It was pretty obvious.
  • Chess—I didn’t like her. She rubbed me the wrong way for the entire book. I think she had good intentions, but how she did things was suspicious. She did another thing that is a massive spoiler if I said too much about it. It was an enormous breach of trust to do what she did, even if her heart was in the right place. I also felt she deliberately made it so Emily could never leave her.
  • Mari—My heart freaking broke for her. I couldn’t even imagine the pain she had gone through. The what-ifs were sprinkled throughout the book, more so towards the end, and she was getting sick of Pierce’s antics. I liked that she channeled all of her rage and pain into Lilith Rising. My only quibble was that she was almost too cool with things. Does Pierce want to sleep with Lara? Sure, but only once. Does Pierce want a threesome with Noel? Sure, Mari will do it.
  • Lara—-I didn’t care for her. I felt that everything she did up to a crucial scene was to hurt Mari. It is so hard to explain what happened between Mari and Lara that summer without giving away spoilers.

The secondary characters portrayed in The Villa did add some depth to the plotline. But I felt that Noel and Johnnie’s characters were fillers. Same with Emily’s agent and her ex-husband.

This book was a good fit for the mystery/thriller genre. The thriller angle was very slight and mostly overshadowed by the mystery angle. If the author had expanded the thriller angle to encompass the earlier parts of the book (or even the middle) instead of just the end, I would have enjoyed it more.

The storyline with Emily, Chess, and her ex-husband made me want to gouge out my eyes. I got very frustrated because I figured out both things (the sickness and the spoiler) reasonably early in the book. I couldn’t understand how Emily didn’t figure out the illness (or even her family!!). As for the other thing, Emily did figure it out shortly after I did, but she didn’t want to admit it to herself.

The storyline with Emily, Chess, the murders, the story Emily was writing, and the villa was also frustrating. But in a good way, well, most of the time. I understood why Chess wanted to change her brand and felt that co-writing with Emily would help her. I also understood why Emily didn’t want to do it. The mystery of the murders did help break Emily’s writer’s block, and she was possessive over it. But she also saw why having Chess’s name attached to her work would be good. The villa, in both storylines, did feel very calming to me. It did help both Mari and Emily to heal.

The storyline with Mari, Pierce, Noel, Johnnie, and Lara was my favorite storyline. Mainly because I knew what was coming; I wanted to see the events leading up to it. And you know what? It was good there. It was how I figured it would be. A disorganized mess of a storyline (and that is meant in a good way) that kept me guessing. And the twist at the end of that!!! I was not expecting it.

Mari, Pierce, and Lara’s storyline made me nauseous when reading it. I was surprised to find out Mari was as young as she was (barely 19). When I did the math, I couldn’t believe Mari was under 16 when she ran away with Pierce. Lara was, too (it just occurred to me). It made me sick to think about that.

Mari’s writing of Lilith Rising was very intense. As I said above, she channeled all that rage and pain into this book. I wish it were an actual book because I would have loved to read it.

There are trigger warnings in The Villa. There is semi-graphic sex, drugs, cheating, alcohol, attempted murder, graphic murder, talk of abortion, and talk of a miscarriage. If any of these trigger you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

I wasn’t sure if I liked the end of The Villa. Emily didn’t make the right choice. But I did love the twist on the 1974 plotline. Talk about leaving the best for last!!

Three Things I Liked About The Villa:

  1. Mari. She was the most likable out of all the characters.
  2. Chess and Emily’s friendship.
  3. The 1974 storyline before Pierce was murdered.

Three Things I Disliked About The Villa:

  1. Emily’s soon to be ex-husband. He was a dirtbag.
  2. Chess. She came across as super fake.
  3. Pierce. Ugh, so many things, but see my paragraph about the Pierce, Mari, and Lara storyline.

I would recommend The Villa to anyone over 21. There is language, sex, and sometimes graphic violence. Also see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading The Villa, you will enjoy reading these books: