The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

Publisher: Penguin Group Dutton, Dutton

Date of publication: January 3rd, 2023

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

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.


First Line:

Deep in those woods, there is a house that’s easy to miss.

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

The House in the Pines was on my must-read list since I had seen it on another blog that stated they were looking forward to reading it. So, I was beyond thrilled when I got an email from Penguin House Dutton requesting a review. I couldn’t accept it fast enough. I had planned on reading this book as soon as I got it, but life happens, and it got put on the back burner. I finally read it right after Reese Witherspoon announced it was the book of the month in her book club (and no, it wasn’t because of that). I was let down by it. The House in the Pines didn’t live up to my hype, and I was disappointed.

The House in the Pines is a fast-paced book all over the place. It alternated between past and present without giving the reader a heads-up. I get why the author did it. But it didn’t work for me in this case. It only confused me and made me lose focus on what was going on.

This book mostly takes place in my home state of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, I grew up in coastal eastern MA, not in the west. But, I have been to Pittsfield, which is as pitiful as the book described. I have also been to Amherst (I had friends who went to college there), and I lived a quick 5-minute T ride outside of Boston for years (as well as growing up 25-30 mins east of there).

The characters in The House in the Pines alternated between me liking them and not believing their actions. I know it’s a huge difference there, but that’s how it was with me. The only character that I truly liked was Maya’s mother. She was solid and well-written.

  • Maya—She annoyed me for 90% of the book. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t tell Dan that she was going cold turkey from Klonopin withdrawal. He seemed like a decent person who would have helped her. Instead, she was sneaky about it. She is sneaky for almost all of the book and is borderline obsessed with finding Frank and confronting him about Aubrey’s death. But, as much as I disliked her, I did feel bad for her. She lived with the horror of seeing her friend drop dead before her and blamed herself for Audrey’s death. Her mother, who I liked, was vigilant about Maya’s mental health. I will not get into it here, but I blame her mother for pushing her down the path that led Maya to abuse Klonopin and become an alcoholic; what Maya needed after that traumatic event was a therapist, not drugs.
  • Frank—Oh, man, where do I start with him? He was indeed a scumbag, and I believe he targeted Maya because she was innocent. But, at the same time, I think he might have liked her. It was just the vibe I got from their scenes together. I did figure out his deal reasonably early in the book. The video clued me in, as did the book that Frank suggested Audrey read. But I liked seeing Maya’s journey to get to where I did.
  • Audrey—Even though she is dead, she is a massive part of the book. The author formed Maya’s whole adult identity from Audrey’s death. Maya was obsessed with connecting Frank to Audrey’s death and trying to remember what happened that day. The glimpses of Audrey that I got in the flashback, she was a good kid trying to look out for her friend and got caught up in something much bigger than her.

The House in the Pines was a good fit in the mystery genre. I also have it in the thriller and suspense genres, but they weren’t a good fit. I had everything pegged by the middle of the book. Even the twist didn’t take me by surprise. It fell flat for me.

The central storyline with Maya trying to find Frank, remember what happened that summer, and investigate another mysterious death was interesting. But, as I stated above, I figured everything out by the middle of the book. By the end of the book, I was waiting to see if any justice would be served, and I wasn’t surprised by what happened. But I was happy with what Maya was able to do.

The biggest thing that disappointed me about this book was the lack of closure at the end. Everything was left up in the air. I can’t say anything other than that because I am afraid of spoilers.

The end of The House in the Pines was anticlimactic for me. As I stated above, nothing was resolved. Wait, let me rephrase that. Nothing was resolved with Frank. Maya, on the other hand, was able to get some closure. But for the other stuff, everything still needs to be resolved. It was frustrating to read the end and realize nothing more was happening.

I would recommend The House in the Pines to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and mild sexual situations.

I want to thank Penguin House Dutton, Dutton, and Ana Reyes for allowing me to read and review The House in the Pines. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading The House in the Pines, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Goodreads Monday: Welcome to Sortilege Falls (Grape Merriweather: Book 1) by Libby Heily

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.


Sixteen-year-old Grape Merriweather has just moved to Sortilege Falls and already she knows something isn’t right. A small pack of teenage models, too beautiful for words, holds the town in their sway. The models have no plans on making Grape’s life easy. But no matter how cruel they are to Grape and the other “Normals”, no one can stay angry with them for long.

Grape’s life changes for the better, or so she thinks, when Mandy, the only “nice” model, befriends her. But that’s when the trouble truly begins. Mandy’s friendship places Grape smack in the middle of a medical mystery that has the entire town on edge. One by one, the models fall ill from an incurable disease. Grape quickly realizes that the models’ parents are hiding a secret, even as they watch their children die. To save her only friend, Grape will have to find the truth–and that means putting her life in danger.

Son of the Poison Rose (Kagen the Damned: Book 2) by Jonathan Maberry

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Series: Kagen the Damned

Kagen the Damned—Book 1 (review here)

Son of the Poison Rose—Book 2

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Dark Fantasy

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Son of the Poison Rose marks the second installment of New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry’s epic, swashbuckling Kagen the Damned series.

The Silver Empire is in ruins. War is in the wind. Kagen and his allies are on the run from the Witch-king. Wild magic is running rampant everywhere. Spies and secret cabals plot from the shadows of golden thrones.

Kagen Vale is the most wanted man in the world, with a death sentence on his head and a reward for him—dead or alive—that would tempt a saint.

The Witch-king has new allies who bring a terrible weapon—a cursed disease that drives people into a murderous rage. If the disease is allowed to spread, the whole of the West will tear itself apart.

In order to build an army of resistance fighters and unearth magical weapons of his own, Kagen and his friends have to survive attacks and storms at sea, brave the haunted wastelands of the snowy north, fight their way across the deadly Cathedral Mountains, and rediscover a lost city filled with cannibal warriors, old ghosts, and monsters from other worlds. Along with his reckless adventurer brothers, Kagen races against time to save more than the old empire… if he fails the world will be drenched in a tsunami of bloodshed and horror.

Son of the Poison Rose weaves politics and espionage, sorcery and swordplay, treachery and heroism as the damned outcast Kagen fights against the forces of ultimate darkness.


First Line:

“Repel boarders!”

The cry rang through the ship, tearing Kagen from a dream of his family dining all together, the air filled with conversation and laughter and the smell of the Harvest feast.

Son of the Poison Rose by Jonathan Maberry

I love a complicated fantasy book that takes you down a road you didn’t think it would go. That was what I liked about Kagen the Damned and what I hoped that Son of the Poison Rose would do. This book not only delivered on that expectation but also exceeded what I expected.

Son of the Poison Rose takes place in a complicated but similar world to ours. It was a medium-paced book for about 85%, but it picked up steam towards the end. With how this book ended, any other pacing would have made it impossible to read and retain the information (fast) or made it so dull that people would DNF it after the first few chapters (slow).

Son of the Poison Rose starts shortly after the events in Kagen the Damned. Kagen is determined to discover what happened to his brother, Herepath, to make him turn into the Witch-King. He is not alone in his journey and is aided by his best friends, Tuke and Filia. Their journey takes them from the frozen north to the jungle to uncover secrets left undiscovered for millennia. This book also follows Ryssa as she tries to come to terms with the sacrifice of her lover, Miri, to the god Cthulhu; Mother Frey, as she sets in place a plan to take back the empire; the Witch-King and his cronies dealing with countries that oppose him, and the last two Seedlings, Desalyn and Alleyn, as they try to keep their identities in place and not become Garvan and Foscor, the Witch-King’s children. Enemies are made, countries are destroyed, and alliances are forged as people come together to battle the Witch-King forces. When the dust settles, who will be on top? Will Kagen find out what happened to his brother? Will Ryssa accept Miri’s death? Will Mother Frey get results from everything she’s been doing? Will the Witch-King triumph over his enemies? Will Desalyn/Foscor and Alleyn/Garvan keep their identities?

Son of the Poison Rose is the second book in the Kagen the Damned series. This book cannot be read as a stand-alone book. It will help if you read the first book to understand what is happening in this one.

The characters (primary and secondary) in Son of the Poison Rose were all wonderfully written. The author didn’t write these characters to be loved. These characters got under your skin and sat while you tried to figure out their next move. They were complex and had issues brought to life in the book. The author also didn’t hesitate to kill or maim primary and secondary characters.

  • Kagen—I wasn’t sure what I would get with him when I started reading Son of the Poison Rose. Finding out who the Witch-King was had badly shaken him at the end of Kagen the Damned. I mean, he had found out that his brother executed 2 of his siblings, their parents, and the entire royal line except for the twins. I would have been in shock too. But he didn’t dwell on it much. Instead, he decided to do something about it. He went north to recruit people to his cause. He discovered that magic had reawakened the world in terrifying ways. And he went to a kingdom avoided by other countries to try and find out how to defeat the Witch-King.
  • Ryssa—She didn’t get much page time in the book. But, man, it was intense when the author squeezed her in. She was evolving into something more than herself, something that even the Witch-King feared. I cannot wait to see what she will do in Book 3.
  • Mother Frey—Again, the author gave not much page time to her in the book. And, as with Ryssa, it was explosive when she was in the book. She reminded me of Varys in GoT (with her hands in everything). She manipulated events and people. Plus, she was a tough old bird, and I loved her!! Again, I can’t wait to see what she’ll bring in Book 3.
  • The Witch-King—He was vicious. His bringing in of the monks and turning people of various villages into undead, and allowing his enemies to find and be killed by them highlighted that to me. But I also got the feeling that he was losing power. There were scenes where he talked about killing Kagen, but after everyone left, he cried. That felt like his “real” personality was breaking through. I am curious to see what he will do after what happened in his tower. And I got some insight into why he targeted the Silver Empire.
  • Desalyn/Foscor and Alleyn/Garvan—All I have to say is those poor children. They witnessed so much (like their eldest sister’s rape and murder), and they were forced to do things no children should do. Like, beat each other with a rod when they touched. I did like how Lady Kestrel helped him in the end (she realized what was being done to them was awful). Again, I can’t wait to see where their characters will go in Book 3.

Before I get interrupted or forget, this is a long book. It has 704 pages. So you must read it in more than one sitting. It took me several days to read Son of the Poison Rose.

Son of the Poison Rose fits perfectly into the fantasy and horror genre. If I did have to get technical, this could be shelved as a dark fantasy. But since I’m not getting technical, fantasy, it will be.

I will only take the time to outline some of the main storylines in the book. It would make this book tediously long. I will briefly summarize what I thought of all the storylines. They were insanely good, and I couldn’t get enough of them. Even the little snippets of what was happening in the world once the magic was released were unique. My only complaint was that I thought the author drew the undead/pyramid scenes out toward the end of Kagen’s storyline. But it served its purpose, and I can’t wait to see what will happen in this world now!!

There are some major trigger warnings in Son of the Poison Rose. There are explicit scenes of child abuse, graphic violence, gore, self-mutilation, and sexual situations. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The end of Son of the Poison Rose was a cliffhanger. Usually, I’m not too fond of cliffhangers. They annoy me, but they do their job. I am invested in these characters, and I need to read book 3 to see if there will be any resolution.

I recommend Son of the Poison Rose to anyone over 21. There is explicit violence, language, and sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading Son of the Poison Rose, you will enjoy reading these books:

Book Blogger Hop—January 13th, 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.


This week’s prompt: Are there any new books you’re excited to read in 2023? 

Today’s prompt got me thinking about what book I am looking forward to reading in 2023. There was a lot since I love to read and look forward to every book on my shelf. After some time thinking (and staring off into space; it is part of my blogging process), I picked one book. I decided on one because I didn’t want this post to drag on forever. Short and sweet is a motto that I try to live by (just not with blogging).

And here it is!! Let me know if you have read this book and what you thought of it.


Founded by the mysterious genius known as the Designer, the archipelago of Prospera lies hidden from the horrors of a deteriorating outside world. In this island paradise, Prospera’s lucky citizens enjoy long, fulfilling lives until the monitors embedded in their forearms, meant to measure their physical health and psychological well-being, fall below 10 percent. Then they retire themselves, embarking on a ferry ride to the island known as the Nursery, where their failing bodies are renewed, their memories are wiped clean, and they are readied to restart life afresh.

Proctor Bennett, of the Department of Social Contracts, has a satisfying career as a ferryman, gently shepherding people through the retirement process–and, when necessary, enforcing it. But all is not well with Proctor. For one thing, he’s been dreaming–which is supposed to be impossible in Prospera. For another, his monitor percentage has begun to drop alarmingly fast. And then comes the day he is summoned to retire his own father, who gives him a disturbing and cryptic message before being wrestled onto the ferry.

Meanwhile, something is stirring. The Support Staff, ordinary men and women who provide the labor to keep Prospera running, have begun to question their place in the social order. Unrest is building, and there are rumors spreading of a resistance group–known as “Arrivalists”–who may be fomenting revolution.

Soon Proctor finds himself questioning everything he once believed, entangled with a much bigger cause than he realized–and on a desperate mission to uncover the truth.


I was super excited when the publisher granted my wish for this book. I had seen some reviews on it and what I had read was good. Then I read the blurb and I needed to read this book.

The Rom-Com Agenda by Jayne Denker

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Adult, Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Adult Fiction, Womens Fiction, Chick Lit

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

A Most Anticipated Romance by PopSugar!

Vibrantly funny, endearingly sweet, and a love letter to all things rom com, Jayne Denker’s The Rom Com Agenda is a story of two people finding love right when they least expect it.

You know how the story’s supposed to go…but love makes its own plans.

STEP 1: Find yourself
Leah Keegan is used to being alone, especially after taking care of her sick foster mother for the past year. But now there’s nothing keeping her in the sweet town of Willow Cove. It’s time to move on. Again.

STEP 2: Win back the one who got away
Eli Masterson thought he and Victoria were meant to be together until she decided to jet off to Rome for a year. Eli is determined to win her back. But how?

STEP 3: Become a romantic hero
Changing Eli’s physical appearance is easy, but to turn Eli into the sophisticated-yet-vulnerable ideal man, his girl pals force him to watch classic rom-coms. And take notes.

STEP 4: Fall in love?
Inadvertently drawn into the makeover scheme, Leah ends up being Eli’s guide through the wild world of meet-cutes and grand gestures. Even though she believes Eli doesn’t need to change a thing about himself. Even though she just might be falling for Eli . . . and Eli falling for her.

“The perfect swoony, slow burn, sentimental romantic comedy that we all deserve .” –New York Times bestselling author Jenn McKinlay


First Line:

Leah Keegan was positive she was not meant to be a superhero.

The Rom-Com Agenda by Jayne Denker

Even though I like (and love) other genres, romance is the backbone of my reading experience. I was hooked when I started reading Harlequin book of the month romances in middle school. I also love rom-com. If I am in a bad mood or feeling blah, I can turn on Netflix and find many of them. So, when I got the invite to review from the publisher, I didn’t hesitate to accept it. But I was disappointed with The Rom-Com Agenda. Not that I didn’t like it (I did). The story fell short of my expectations.

The Rom-Com Agenda is a medium-paced book set in upstate New York. Leah had returned to Willow Creek to care for her sick foster mother. Now that her foster mother passed, Leah is at a loss for what to do. She holds multiple jobs, trying to make ends meet, when she overheard a disastrous proposal and break-up. Leah meets that man, Eli, when his sister and her friends are determined to give him a makeover and goes into the shop where Leah works. Leah is welcomed into the group by everyone (including Eli) and learns that Eli is determined to win back his girlfriend. That is when the Rom-Com agenda is formed. Eli must watch every rom-com movie the girls recommend to him to become a swoon-worthy man. They hope that he will learn something from them. Leah volunteers to watch them with him, and a connection is formed. Leah starts to fall for Eli, but she knows she is on limited time. Her foster mother’s son is coming back to town to sell the house, and Leah won’t have a place to stay. So, falling in love is the last thing on her agenda. Will Eli learn anything from the movies? Will Leah have to leave Willow Creek? And most importantly, will Leah and Eli admit their feelings for each other?

I loved the secondary characters and Leah in The Rom-Com Agenda. They were fleshed out, and I did form an attachment to them. The main characters were tough to like. Well, not Leah. She was sweet and reserved. It was Eli, and I’ll explain it in his section below. Let’s say that desperate is never good and comes off poorly.

  • Leah—She was a sweetheart. I wanted to scoop her up and shield her from the bad things in the world. I also couldn’t believe how reserved she was. I get why. I’m not going to get into her backstory, but it was excruciating and affected how she thought other people saw her. She decided to help Eli because she was a kind person and knew he was hurting. I loved seeing her character grow and understand her self-worth.
  • Eli—I couldn’t stand him. He is the reason why I rated this book three stars. He came across as desperate. What he did to Victoria (his ex) was not cool. They had only been dating for maybe two months when she went to Rome for a year. What did Eli do? He proposed marriage and then refused to accept the break-up. I was like, “what the heck, dude?” When his sister and friends decide to make him over (to help him get over her), he obsesses over her. I couldn’t even with him. I wanted to smack him and say, “Helloo, Leah, idiot.” This went on for almost the whole book.

The Rom-Com Agenda did fit into the romance genre, but it was slow-burn. The author went for a more relaxed, natural feel for the romance. While I did appreciate it, I sometimes wished it moved a little faster. But, overall, it was a good fit for the book.

The storylines in The Rom-Com Agenda felt a little meh to me. I was not too fond of that pseudo-love triangle in which the author tried to put Eli, Leah, and Victoria. As I mentioned above, it came across as forced and super creepy on Eli’s end. I did like the storyline where Eli’s friends tried to help him out of his depression, but I did find it odd that they wanted him to watch rom-com instead of him diving back into the world of dating. As for the storyline with Eli and Leah, I did like that one. It was sweet to watch them fall in love (even if Eli didn’t admit it to himself and kept obsessing over freaking Victoria).

There were a couple of trigger warnings in The Rom-Com Agenda. They were the death of a loved one by cancer, mental illness, foster care, and caregiver burnout. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

The end of The Rom-Com Agenda was your typical HEA. I liked that Eli and Leah got their HEA. I would love to see more books in this world. There are several characters that I would like to see more of.

I recommend The Rom-Com Agenda to anyone over 21. There is mild violence, mild language, and very mild sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warnings above.


If you enjoyed reading The Rom-Com Agenda, then you will enjoy reading these books:

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: