Dark Circles by Caite Dolan-Leach

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books

Date of publication: May 10th, 2022

Genre: Thriller, Fiction, Mystery, Suspense

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | Google Play | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

An embattled actress turns to podcasting when she becomes entangled in a dark conspiracy at a spiritual retreat in this absorbing mystery about fame, violence, and our morbid fascination with murder–from the acclaimed author of Dead Letters.

Olivia Reed needs a break. She doesn’t want to think about her name plastered on tabloids or be reminded of her recent meltdown on a Manhattan street. Her micromanaging publicist has just the thing in mind: a remote retreat in Upstate New York–the House of Light. It’s not rehab; it’s a spiritual center, a site for seeking realignment and personal growth. There will be yoga and morning meditation, soft bamboo-blend fabrics and crystals to snuggle.

But Liv will soon find that the House of Light is filled with darkness. A prickly local, Ava, informs her that something twisted is lurking behind the Light’s veneer. There have been a series of mysterious suicides committed by women caught in the Light’s web, and no matter who Ava talks to, no one believes her. To get the truth out and put her celebrity to good use, Liv starts a podcast, seeking to connect the dots and expose the Light’s true intentions. Because beneath the glowing skin of the Light’s inhabitants lie rotten souls, and Liv starts to wonder if anything–even her own life–is how it appears.

Caite Dolan-Leach brings her tantalizing voice, gift for atmosphere, and a cast of delightfully devious and absorbing characters to this riveting novel of suspense.


First Line:

The thing my goddamn manager doesn’t understand is that I don’t need to go on a retreat.

Dark Circles by Cait Dolan-Leach

Dark Circles’ plotline was interesting. Olivia is an actress who has found herself in a bit of a pickle. After a very public, very drunken/drug-fueled temper tantrum, her manager/best friend has decided to send Olivia to a retreat to sober up and maybe come to terms with what set her off. The treat is in Western NY, called House of Light, and seems to be where Olivia can sober up. But, on the first day, two things happen. One: Olivia meets a local who insists that the HoL is behind several suicides/murders in the area. Two: A body washes up on the retreats beach, and it is a former retreat member. Becoming intrigued with the unsolved murders/suicides, Olivia starts a podcast. But, as she goes down the rabbit hole, Olivia becomes obsessed. When she finds a connection between her missing mother and HoL, Olivia starts questioning everything she has been told. But the truth is more terrifying than Olivia knows. What is the truth?

I was not too fond of Olivia at first. She was self-absorbed and couldn’t care less about her harm to other people. Her public meltdown in Manhattan showcased that. She was also reckless and didn’t think things through, which was shown repeatedly during her investigation into the HoL. But, I did start to like her after the first few chapters. She went from what I thought would be a 2-dimensional character to a fully fleshed-out character.

I also liked the secondary characters in Dark Circles. They were a perfect blend of creepy and quirky. They also added that extra oomph that rounded out the book.

I liked that the author chose to incorporate the podcast into the story. From the cheesy ads (don’t we all love listening to those, lol) to the comments after each episode. I loved how they tied into the main storyline. This, too, added an extra depth.

The storyline with the HoL and the murder/suicides was wonderfully written. I was kept on the edge of my bed (because I read Dark Circles in bed). I did not expect it to go the way that it did. The twist in that plotline made my mouth drop.

The secondary plotline with Olivia’s mother was sad. I had a feeling about what was going to be revealed. But the author did an excellent job at distracting me from figuring it out until the end of the book.

The end of Dark Circles was your typical mystery ending. Everything was wrapped up and explained.

I would recommend Dark Circles to anyone over 16. There is violence, language, non-graphic sexual situations, and drug/alcohol use.

Kagen the Damned (Kagen the Damned: Book 1) by Jonathan Maberry

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

Date of publication: May 10th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Horror

Series: Kagen the Damned

Kagen the Damned—Book 1

Son of the Poison Rose—Book 2 (expected publication date: January 10th, 2023)

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | World Cat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sworn by Oath
Kagen Vale is the trusted and feared captain of the palace guard, charged with protection the royal children of the Silver Empire. But one night, Kagen is drugged and the entire imperial family is killed, leaving the empire in ruins.

Abandoned by the Gods
Haunted and broken, Kagen is abandoned by his gods and damned forever. He becomes a wanderer, trying to take down as many of this enemies as possible while plotting to assassinate the usurper–the deadly Witch-king of Hakkia. While all around him magic–long banished from the world—returns in strange and terrifying ways.

Fueled by Rage
To find the royal children and exact his vengeance, Kagen must venture into strange lands, battle bizarre and terrifying creatures, and gather allies for a suicide mission into the heart of the Witch-king’s empire.

Kings and gods will fear him.

Kagen the Damned


First Line:

Kagen Vale woke to the sound of his own damnation.

Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry

Kagen the Damned is a horror/fantasy that was slow to start but gained momentum after the book’s first quarter. I couldn’t put this book down!!

Kagen the Damned had a unique storyline. Kagen is a place guard and the protector of the royal children. He had gone to town on his day off to enjoy some ale and a wench. But when he wakes up, poisoned, and hears the sound of battle outside, he realizes something is seriously wrong. And it is. The Hakkia, led by their Witch-King, have attacked the Silver City and killed the empress and her children. Kagen arrives in time to see the children’s bodies, brutalized beyond recognition. He also attempts to defend his mother, a warrior known as The Poison Rose but is witness to her death. Kagen then has a vision where his gods turn their backs on him and damn him. That pushed Kagen to start drinking heavily and whoring his way around the countryside while avoiding the deadly Ravens (who are the Witch-King’s assassins). Can Kagen pull himself out of his despair and exact revenge on the Witch-King? Can he redeem himself?

There is another storyline running in tandem with Kagen’s. Fifteen-year-old Ryssa, an alocyte with The Garden, and twenty-year-old Miri, a nun with The Garden, run through the Silver City, looking for an escape route. Finding it in underground tunnels, they soon meet up with pirates taking them to a haven. But, Ryssa starts noticing that not all is what it seems with Miri and the crew. And when she finds out where they are heading, she is doubly sure that something will happen to her. What is going on? Can Ryssa trust her instincts, or are they wrong?

I am going to warn you about trigger warnings. They are rape, attempted rape, talk of rape, domestic violence, child abuse, animal abuse, gore, and murder. If any of these trigger you, I strongly suggest not reading this book.

I felt awful for Kagen and didn’t blame him for his actions during the book’s first 30-40%. How would you have acted if an invading force gruesomely murdered everyone you loved (family, friends, coworkers)? And then you find out that the gods you have dedicated your life to have turned their backs on you? My answer: The same way. He had a combination of survivor’s guilt, PTSD, and shame that he couldn’t save the children. What broke my heart the most about that part of the storyline was his anguish about not being able to save the children. Now, saying that, it did seem like the storyline stalled a tiny bit while Kagen was in his depression. When Tuke came on the scene and forced Kagen to come out of his depression, the book picked back up. From that point on, Kagen had a purpose: kill the Witch-King.

Ryssa was almost too innocent to be a part of this book. I got why the author wrote her the way he did but still. It wasn’t until she and Miri got to the island that I began to understand that she had a part to play in Kagen’s storyline and that her innocence was a considerable part of it.

The Witch-King was one of the more gruesome villains that I have read. He gave me shivers every time he made an appearance in the book. His end game was to become Emporer, and I was curious to see if that would happen.

The fantasy angel was wonderfully written. Kagen the Damned is a dark fantasy, and oh boy, did it live up to that genre. This was also one of the few books I have read that mentioned the Elder Ones (Cthulhu and Hastur). It made the book more enjoyable for me to read.

The author wonderfully wrote the horror angle also. This book was like a car accident, I wanted to look away, but I felt compelled to keep looking. I needed to read the next chapter to see what was going to happen and if Kagen would achieve his goal.

The end of Kagen the Damned was interesting. I did figure out who the Witch-King was, and I figured out who his children were early on in the book (well, once they were mentioned). The author dropped enough hints throughout the book that when the reveal happened, I wasn’t surprised. I also wasn’t surprised by what happened with Ryssa and Miri. The author did end the book on a cliffhanger, which I didn’t like, but it did its job. I am going to need to read book 2.

I would recommend Kagen the Damned to anyone over 21. There is graphic violence, graphic violence, and semi-graphic sex scenes. There are also the triggers that I mentioned above.

The Shadow House by Anna Downes

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: April 5th, 2022

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror, Fiction, Suspense, Gothic

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

Extraordinarily tense and deliciously mysterious, Anna Downes’s The Shadow House follows one woman’s desperate journey to protect her children at any cost, in a remote place where not everything is as it seems.

A HOUSE WITH DEADLY SECRETS.

A MOTHER WHO’LL RISK EVERYTHING TO BRING THEM TO LIGHT.

Alex, a single mother of two, is determined to make a fresh start for her and her children. In an effort to escape her troubled past, she seeks refuge in a rural community. Pine Ridge is idyllic; the surrounding forests are beautiful and the locals welcoming. Mostly.

But Alex finds that she may have disturbed barely hidden secrets in her new home. As a chain of bizarre events is set off, events eerily familiar to those who have lived there for years, Alex realizes that she and her family might be in greater danger than ever before. And that the only way to protect them all is to confront the shadows lurking in Pine Ridge.


First Line:

The bones came first. A gift, nothing wanted. Next, a doll, a likeness, a promise. And the blood marks the choice. It finds a face, and then you know.

The Shadow House by Anna Downes

I wanted to like The Shadow House. I am a big fan of thrillers/mystery/suspense, and from what I read, this book was something that I would like. Then I read it, and I was let down.

The Shadow House did have an exciting storyline. Alex is a single mother of two, and she is on the run from the abusive father of her youngest child. Finding Pine Ridge was perfect, and Alex felt that she could make a fresh start for herself and her children. But things start to go sour when she receives weird gifts and overhears a bizarre rumor about a witch living in the surrounding woods. The more she digs into the secrets around Pine Ridge, the more unwelcoming the townspeople become. Can Alex figure out not only who is sending the gifts but why? And will her perfect refuge stay that way, or will it become tainted? And are the rumors about the witch true?

I hate to say this, but I was not too fond of Alex for about 90% of the book. She had a massive chip on her shoulder. She had gotten herself into a bad situation with her ex. Nobody deserves to be treated that way. But my pity was overwhelmed by my dislike of her.

I also didn’t care for Renee when the author switched to her POV. She knew that her husband was abusive toward Gabriel, but she didn’t do anything. Her son was crying out for help/attention/both, and she turned a blind eye. I get that she was dealing with her stuff (overbearing, uber-religious parents and her overbearing husband). It’s a problem when your kid locks himself in his bedroom for hours upon hours and refuses to come out. So, yeah, I didn’t pity her (Gabriel, on the other hand, oodles of concern for him).

I did think that The author very well wrote the mystery angle. I liked seeing Alex’s detective work and where it led her. A couple of twists took me by surprise, and one of those twists was a big one.

Several minor storylines were used as a filler. The one with Ollie and his school was heartbreaking, and considering how the author tied it into another secondary character, it broke my heart even more. Of course, that too was a surprise, and I feel that it got overshadowed by everything else.

The thriller angle was a little “meh.” I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next thrill to show up with bated breath. It was barely there. If there, I should have been glued to my Kindle. Instead, I was putting my Kindle down and getting bored.

I was a little surprised by the end of the book. I was left feeling “meh” about it. I wasn’t expecting Renee/Alex’s storyline to be resolved the way it was. The author made it so that almost everyone had a happy ending. It just didn’t sit right with me.

I would recommend The Shadow House to anyone over 21. There is nongraphic sex, mild violence, and mild language.

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: April 5th, 2022

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

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

THE HUSBAND
A heart surgeon at the top of his field, Stephen Aston is getting married again. But first he must divorce his current wife, even though she can no longer speak for herself.

THE DAUGHTERS
Tully and Rachel Aston look upon their father’s fiancée, Heather, as nothing but an interloper. Heather is younger than both of them. Clearly, she’s after their father’s money.

THE FORMER WIFE
With their mother in a precarious position, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is.

THE YOUNGER WIFE
Heather has secrets of her own. Will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses in all of them?


First Line:

I cry at weddings. Nothing original there, I know – except, perhaps, the reason.

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

I enjoy reading thrillers, and since I had read books by this particular author before, I was pretty eager to read this book. When I read the blurb for The Younger Wife, I knew that I wanted to read it. But then I read the book, and while I liked it, I was very disappointed by the last half of the book.

The Younger Wife has a straightforward plotline with three characters: Heather, Tully, and Rachel. Heather is marrying Stephen, a well-known heart surgeon who is recently divorced from Pam, suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s. But something isn’t quite right with Heather’s relationship with Stephen, and the closer to the wedding date, the more apprehensive she becomes. When Rachel discovers a note, along with almost a hundred thousand dollars, stuffed into a hot water bottle, she realizes that the father she knew is a stranger. He could be responsible for her mother’s sudden decline.

Meanwhile, Tully is dealing with her demons. Everything will come crashing together at the wedding. And when it does, will the question be answered? Or will everything stay the same?

The author did an excellent job of amping up the psychological thriller angle of the book. The way she wrote Heather and Stephen’s scenes (all while Heather was tipsy) made me wonder if Heather was clumsy or if Stephen was behind everything. It wasn’t until Heather got seriously hurt and then announced her pregnancy and what happened after that, that I started believing Heather.

Speaking of Heather, I did start not liking or trusting her. It was how she met Stephen and how fast she fell for him. Of course, she was hiding something, and I was irritated that the author kept dragging it out. I did figure it out about halfway through the book, but I was still surprised when she told Stephen. And I did do an eye-roll with his response. But, by the end of the book, my opinion of her changed, and I liked her.

I liked Rachel, and I pitied her when the author revealed her past trauma. But I did kind of eye-roll with how fast Heather figured it out with the revealed clues. I wasn’t even thinking that when Heather asked Rachel. I also felt terrible that she couldn’t ask Stephen questions about several key things. I also felt horrible that her trauma had such a terrific hold on her, manifesting in an eating disorder.

I was not too fond of Tully. I feel bad saying this because she was such a hot mess for the entire book. But she was awful. If she had even been likable, I might have had a smidgen more sympathy for her. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised when she hit rock bottom towards the end of the book. I wish the author had done it sooner because Tully, after her arrest, was more likable and more relatable. She was still a hot mess, but she was getting help, and by the end of the book, she seemed so much more relaxed.

The wedding storyline and the aftermath were well written. The author kept me guessing what happened until almost the end of the book. I was completely surprised at who killed Stephen and what drove that person to do it. I did not expect that person to do anything.

As I mentioned above, I loved the book until the last half. Then I felt that the author did a 180 and tried to play mind games with the readers. I was not impressed with what she did and how she played everything off. I read those chapters, plus the letter written, with a wide-open mouth. I couldn’t believe what I was reading compared to the evidence given in the first half of the book.

I do want to warn you that several scenes might trigger someone. There are scenes of rape (not graphic), domestic abuse, miscarriage, eating disorders, kleptomania, nursing home abuse, alcoholism, and child abuse. If you think that any of these might trigger you, I strongly suggest not reading The Younger Wife.

I would recommend The Younger Wife to anyone over 21. There are several triggers, which are detailed in the paragraph above. There is also mild violence, language, and very mild sexual scenes.

Quantum Girl Theory by Erin Kate Ryan

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Random House, Random House

Date of publication: March 8th 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

On December 1, 1946, Paula Jean Welden put on a bright red parka, left her Bennington college dorm for a hike, and vanished. Eighteen, white, blonde, wealthy; her story captivated a nation, but she was never found.

Each chapter of Quantum Girl Theory imagines a life Paula Jean Welden may have lived after she left that room: in love with a woman in a Communist cell and running from her blackmailer in 1950s New York. A literary forger on the verge of discovery at the advent of the computer age. A disgraced showgirl returning home to her mother’s deathbed. Is she a lobotomy victim, is she faking amnesia, or is she already buried in the nearby woods?

Or is she Mary Garrett, the hard-edged clairvoyant running from her past and her own lost love by searching for missing girls in the Jim Crow south? A trip to Elizabethtown, North Carolina, leads Mary to a twisty case that no one, not even the missing girl’s mother, wants her to solve. There, Mary stumbles into an even bigger mystery: two other missing girls, both black, whose disappearances are studiously ignored by the overbearing sheriff. Mary’s got no one else to trust, and as her own past tangles with the present, it’s unclear whether she can even trust herself.

This brilliant jigsaw puzzle of a novel springs off from a fascinating true story to explore the phenomenon of “the missing girl“: when a girl goes missing, does she become everyone people imagine her to be?


First Line:

Mary missed her connection in Fayetteville and, still marked from the creases in the bus seat and stinking of diesel, sweet-talked her way into the pickup truck of a lanky Dublin kid headed home for supper.

quantum girl theory by erin kate ryan

I wasn’t too sure about this book when I accepted the review request. I had read mixed reviews for Quantum Girl Theory, and from what I read, either people loved this book or hated it. I had read very few reviews that were middle ground. What ultimately made me accept this book was based on a disappearance in the 1940s that never got solved. I was curious to see how the author weaved her story around Paula Jean Welden’s disappearance.

Quantum Girl Theory is a story about a girl who disappeared and speculations about what happened to her. Mary is a clairvoyant who makes money from finding missing girls—dead or alive but more often dead. She arrives in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, and immediately contacts the parents of Paula, who has recently gone missing. The investigation into Paula’s disappearance will uncover secrets. These secrets people will kill to keep hidden. But there is more to Mary than what people see. Mary has her own reasons for finding these missing girls. Will Mary find Paula? Or will she be silenced before she can tell the truth?

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, this story is loosely based on the real-life disappearance of Paula Jean Welden (I included a link to the New England Historical Society). I am fascinated with anything true crime and was secretly thrilled that Quantum Girl Theory was taking a 60-year-old disappearance and shining some light on it. The author’s research was excellent, and I loved how she took any/all rumors and incorporated them into the book. But, it did fall a little flat for me.

The main storyline (with Mary, in 1961) was interesting to read. I didn’t particularly like Mary. She was so depressing, and it did bring down the book in some parts. I wish I could say that my opinion of her improved as the book went on. It didn’t. She remained the same throughout the book. Not all characters have to be likable, and Mary was not. I did like that the author did that.

I was surprised at how the 1961 storyline went. I wasn’t expecting the other two girls to be added to Mary’s investigation. There was a point in the book where I wondered why the author introduced them, but there is a link to Paula’s disappearance. I was surprised at how and why they were linked. I was also surprised by the common denominator behind all three disappearances.

The memories were fascinating. I did have some issues following along. There were times when I wasn’t sure if it was Mary remembering another Paula’s life or it was Mary’s life. I did have to reread several of those memories to make sure what I was reading (if that makes sense). It did lessen my enjoyment of the book for me.

The end of Quantum Girl Theory did confuse me a little. I couldn’t figure out what was happening, which seldom happened. I did figure it was obvious but then second-guessed myself. I also was irritated because I felt that nothing got wrapped up. That, along with cliff-hangers, are my most significant irritant with these types of books.

I would recommend Quantum Girl Theory to anyone over 21. There is moderate violence, language, and sex/sexual situations. There is also racism and discrimination.

Diary of an Angry Young Man by Rishi Vohra

Book Cover

Publisher:

Date of publication: August 15th, 2021

Genre: Coming of Age, Fiction

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Raghav is an ordinary seven-year-old growing up on the ‘good’ side of Colaba in Bombay. His is a safe, protected world and he is kept well away from the ‘other’, darker side of Colaba, which nevertheless, holds a deep fascination for him with its colorful, busy alleys bustling with activity, people, and mystery – the ‘real’ world as far he is concerned.

But life has other plans and Raghav’s entire world comes crashing down one day. In the space of a few crucial hours, his childish innocence is ripped away brutally, and he also loses the one person who may have made his world right again – his mother. That fateful day alters the course of his life and the ‘other’ side is the only place he can escape his now truly miserable home life and his bitter father who he resents more and more each day. He never tells even his closest friends about the horrific abuse he suffered the day his mother died, the day a fierce, burning anger took root in his very soul.

Now, 20 years later, all his peers and friends are settling down into jobs and the business of growing up. But Raghav is still trapped between his now suffocating relationship with his father, his own inability to find a job and make a life for himself, and the painful memories of his childhood ordeal that still haunt him. And this is when he meets Rani one day, an orphan beggar girl who knows life on the streets of Mumbai, but not in the way Raghav does. He wants to ‘save’ Rani from the beggar mafia and give her a chance at a better life. His strong need to stand up for something, to truly help someone is fueled by the recent Nirbhaya gang rape case in New Delhi, which evokes painful memories of his own past trauma.

Set in Bombay in 1992 and Mumbai in 2012, and inspired by true events, Diary of an Angry Young Man is a coming-of-age urban drama that explores the complex layers of humanity. And the city that engenders them.


First Line:

“Raghav!” Mama’s dulcet voice sounded through the house.

diary of an angry young man by Rishi Vohra

I have found myself reading many books set in Southern Asia or written by Southern Asian authors lately. I enjoy reading these books because I get a glimpse into another culture/another part of the world. So, when the author emailed me to review Diary of an Angry Young Man, it didn’t take me long to accept the invite. I was very excited to read this book, and it lived up to my expectations.

Diary of an Angry Young Man is a coming-of-age story. There are two halves of the book, one set in 1992 Bombay and the other set in 2012 Mumbai. When Raghav is introduced in 1992, he is seven years old and has a pretty good life. His Mama is his world, and when she has a medical emergency that results in her death, he is shattered. But, he is forever changed by a horrendous act of violence. That violence shapes Raghav’s life. Fast forward to 2012, and Raghav is unemployed and can’t get a job. He hangs out with his friends at a restaurant on the bad side of town, gets into fights, and generally is just lost. But everything changes when Raghav meets Rani, a seven-year-old girl employed by the beggar mafia—meeting her sets off a chain of events that will change Raghav and Rani’s life.

It took me one and a half days to read Diary of an Angry Young Man. It was a very fast-paced book. The author seamlessly went from one event to another without breaking that pace. I enjoyed that very much!! Also, the fast pace didn’t hinder the flow of the book. The flow was very smooth.

Raghav’s character felt a little two-dimensional during the 1992 part of the book. But, keep in mind, he was also seven years old. Kids that age don’t have a lot of depth to them. I was a little shocked by what happened to him, and my heart broke for him. No child should have gone through what he did.

I am happy to say that Raghav’s character did gain depth in the 2012 part of the book. The author fleshed out his character and introduced sides to him that I didn’t think he had. He was also a very angry young man, which the author highlighted several times during the book. I did cheer during one of those fight scenes. Let’s say that Raghav finally got to confront the person who hurt him when he was 7.

I felt awful for Rani. She lost her mother to TB and worked for the “beggar mafia.” She told Raghav when he was trying to get her off the streets that the head of the beggar mafia had plans for her. Raghav immediately knew that she would be sold to a brothel and live the rest of her life as a prostitute. I also understood why she left the house a day after Raghav left her there. The streets were the only home she knew.

The coming of age angle was interesting to read. I enjoyed watching Raghav find his purpose in life. It did surprise me how he figured out what he wanted to do with his life.

There was a slight action-angle that showed up whenever Raghav would fight. That I enjoyed because Raghav didn’t come out the winner every time. It was realistic, and I enjoyed that.

There are trigger warnings associated with this book. The main trigger warning involves child abuse (1992 and 2012). There is also talk about true life events in India in those times. In 1992, there was strife with religion that turned to riots. In 2012, there was a gang rape on a bus in New Dehli (I remember hearing about this). So, this is a warning if these trigger you.

The end of Diary of an Angry Young Man was interesting. There was a point where Raghav went to find the head of the beggar mafia that did feel a little Bollywoodish. Raghav says something similar after the police get to the scene, which I found a little amusing. I liked that everyone was on their way to getting a HEA or already got it. I ended the book with a smile.

I would recommend Diary of an Angry Young Man to anyone over the age of 21. There is violence, mild language, and child abuse.

Sip Lake by Joe Basara

Sip Lake by [Joe Basara]

Publisher:

Date of publication: June 22, 2021

Genre: Fiction, Coming of Age

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N

Format Read: ARC

Received From: Author (Book’s former title was Cypress Lake)


Goodreads Synopsis:

Hospital orderly Owen Cloud falls in love, and to him, it seems someone has turned up the volume on the Buzz of Being. Everything is as it always was, only more. Three women he meets help him advance through three phases of love–passion, friendship, and finally generosity of heart.


“Sip Lake is what the locals call it. It’s great fishing, and I’ve got a boat, so why not move up here?”

Sip Lake by Joe Basara

When I first read the blurb for Sip Lake, I was interested. As you can see (lookup), the blurb is small, but it packs a punch. I was very interested in Owen and seeing how his journey with love was going to pan out. By the time I finished the book, I was “meh” about it.

Before I start the critical part of the review, I want to mention a couple of things. Sip Lake was originally titled Cypress Lake. I couldn’t find any mention of Sip Lake on Goodreads. It wasn’t until I googled the author’s name plus Sip Lake did I find out that there was a title change. While it didn’t affect my review, it was frustrating to find out after the fact. The other thing was the formatting on my Kindle was messed up. Again, no effect on my review, but it caused me to read the book very slowly because it was one continuous paragraph. So, what should have taken me a day or two took me a week to read.

Sip Lake was a medium-paced book with a well-written and interesting plotline. There were no twists in the plotline. It was a straightforward book that made me feel old (I was born in 1977).

Owen was an interesting character who had a rich inner life. But I did have an issue telling when his imagination took over. There were certain sections that I had to reread to figure out if it was imagination or not.

The romance angle of the book was interesting. Owen had an interest in several women and had two actively pursue him. I did think that he gave off stalkerish vibes at one point in the book (when he was trying to ask one of his co-workers on a date and kept calling her house).

The end of Sip Lake was typical. It did seem a bit rushed, and everything that happened did seem to come out of left field. I wondered why Owen decided on that person mainly because he was very adamant about his feelings towards her halfway through the book.


I would recommend Sip Lake to anyone over the age of 16. This was a clean book. There was no sex (some kissing), no violence, and some very mild language.

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

The Death of Vivek Oji
The Death of Vivek Ojo by Akwaeke Emezi

Publisher: Penguin Group Riverhead

Date of publication: August 4th 2020

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Queer, LGBT+, Africa

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powell’s | IndieBound | Indigo | Audible | Apple Books | Better World Books

Format read: eBook

Got book from: NetGalley as a Non Arc

Trigger Warnings: Homophobia, Transphobia, Domestic Violence, Rape, Incest, Violence, Drug Use, Alcohol Use, General Violence


Goodreads Synopsis:

What does it mean for a family to lose a child they never really knew?

One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom.

Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations—a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader.


First Line:

They burned down the market on the day Vivek Oji died.

The death of vivek oji by akwaeke emezi

The Death of Vivek Oji is one of the best books that I have read in the past six months (I would say year, but it is only February). I could not put the book down; that is how much I liked it.

I will admit that it took me a chapter or so to get into the book’s rhythm. But once I got the rhythm, the book went fast. There was no lag and no excess storyline. That made for a delightful read.

The Death of Vivek Oji is written mainly from the 1st person perspectives of Vivek and Osika. There are some 3rd person chapters written when describing the events around specific events in Vivek’s life (mainly their death and their mother’s meetings with the Nigerwives). Some people might have an issue with that, but I didn’t, which surprised me. I was quickly able to follow when the book switched perspectives and people.

The author did a great job of showing how repressed Nigerian culture was for gay/trans people. The main scenes that stand out to me were when Vivek grew their hair out, and their parent’s first response was to cut it. Vivek was not allowed out because of how they looked. Their aunt had a preacher beat them to “get the demons out.” It was heartbreaking to read.

I felt for Osita the entire book. He loved Vivek with his whole heart but couldn’t share that love with the world. Instead, the small group of friends Vivek and Osita had known. It must have been so tiring to live like that. My heart hurt for him.

There is sex in The Death of Vivek Oji. I won’t lie and say that it isn’t graphic because it is. 

The end of Vivek Oji’s death was one of the rawest that I have read to date. I am not going to get into it, but it was intense. I do like that Vivek’s parents finally understood their daughter and honored her. But, it was the final scene with Osita that made me cry. That poor, poor man!!


The Death of Vivek Oji was a fantastic book to read. It was fast paced and was able to deliver a heavy plotline with the grace that it was due. I am actively looking for other books by the same author to read!!!

After much thought, I will recommend The Death of Vivek Oji for anyone over the age of 21. There is a scene of attempted rape. There is talk of domestic violence. There is deadnaming. There is graphic sex.

Mad Mischief: A Novel by Susan St. John

Mad Mischief: A Novel by [St. John, Susan]

3 Stars

Publisher: MCP Books

Date of publication: May 22nd 2017

Genre: Fiction

Where you can find Mad Mischief: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book synopsis:

What happens when an elite African safari is transformed into a psychotic journey of survival for a society wife traveling with her narcissistic husband? In Mad Mischief, the shimmering beauty and primal power of Sub-Saharan Africa is the setting for this story of love, deceit, obsession and ultimately, escape and redemption. 

Inspired by true events, Mad Mischief is the haunting tale of Sarah – a woman struggling with the unforgiving callousness of her selfish husband, the sadistic machinations of their safari guide, the unscrupulous actions of a Nairobi shopkeeper, and the enigmatic behavior of a world-renowned photographer who inexplicably appears whenever she is in desperate need of a guardian angel. Her very consciousness altered by an adverse reaction to anti-malarial medication, Sarah barely maintains a vestige of her sanity and personal fortune as she travels through the game parks of Kenya and Tanzania, finally winding up in the city of Nairobi, where she confronts roguish men aiming to take advantage of her drug-induced state of mind. 

The word safari means ‘long journey.’ The events of Sarah’s safari take her on a life-altering rite of passage that begins with an epiphany as she glimpses a matriarchal herd of elephants on her first day in the wild. From that moment on, her life and sanity slip away until she is rescued, and ultimately emerges with a transformed state of mind and a once unimaginable core of strength. 

Susan spent nearly 20 years as Vice President of Sales for a major division of MCA/ Universal Studios, implementing sales programs to increase the attendance for The Universal Studios Tour, The Amphitheatre, the Tourmobile in Washington, D.C., and the hotel concessions at Yosemite National Park. She then went on to create two very successful entrepreneurial ventures, one delivering unique financial services to high-level executives, and the other providing innovative networking and marketing opportunities for a broad cross-section of businesses. She now resides in Montecito, California amidst an eclectic art collection gathered from her travels around the world, with a kitchen full of pots and pans for cooking gourmet dishes. Her passion for culinary masterpieces and wondrous art are very much a reflection of what she has poured into this work of fiction


First Line

The door flew open and a tall, soaking-wet figure catapulted into the room wearing a confident grin on his ruddy face.

Mad Mischief by Susan St. John

My Review:

When I read the blurb for Mad Mischief, I was intrigued. I have read very few books that take place in Africa. I have read even fewer books that take place on a photography safari. Since I am an easy-going reader, I figured I would enjoy reading it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I had to struggle to finish the book.

I did think that the storyline of Mad Mischief was interesting. A woman nearing the end of her rope goes on a safari with her husband and another couple. While on safari, the woman is abused and taken advantage of by the safari guide and husband. Almost suffering a breakdown, the woman soon realizes that she was stronger than she expected.

As I said, I liked the storyline. I thought it was well written and intriguing. The only thing, I didn’t like how the author jumped from past to present and back. I ended up rereading parts of paragraphs, which annoyed me because it broke my reading flow. I hate backtracking to previous chapters.

I felt terrible for Sarah the entire book. Max and her husband bullied her during her trip. She was taken advantage of by many people while in Nairobi. Not one person stepped in to help her, which saddened me. It was clear that she was losing her mind, and people kept using her. Even if she wasn’t my favorite character, I did feel for her.

Mad Mischief had to be one of the angriest books that I have read. Everyone was upset, and Sarah took the brunt of it. I couldn’t get over how everyone treated her. She was their verbal punching bag. It made me sick to read.

The end of Mad Mischief was confusing. It felt forced and rushed. I was left wondering what the heck happened. I was happy with what happened to Sarah, but it came out of left field.

Mad Mischief is not a book that I would read again. I thought that the storyline had promise. But that was overshadowed by unlikeable characters and a plotline that was hard to follow. Also, the anger towards Sarah in was hard to read.


I would give Mad Mischief an Adult rating. There is sex. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would not reread Mad Mischief. I would not recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

The Night Child by Anna Quinn

The Night Child

Title: The Night Child

Author: Anna Quinn

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

Date of publication: January 30th, 2018

Genre: Fiction, Women’s Fiction

POV: 3rd person

Where you can find The Night Child: Barnes and Noble | Amazon

Book Synopsis (from Goodreads):

All Nora Brown wants is to teach high school English and live a quiet life in Seattle with her husband and six-year-old daughter. But one November day, moments after dismissing her class, a girl’s face appears above the students’ desks—a wild numinous face with startling blue eyes, a face floating on top of shapeless drapes of purples and blues where arms and legs should have been. Terror rushes through Nora’s body—the kind of raw terror you feel when there’s no way out, when every cell in your body, your entire body, is on fire—when you think you might die.

Twenty-four hours later, while on Thanksgiving vacation, the face appears again. This time, it whispers, Remember the Valentine’s dress. Shaken once again, Nora meets with neurologists and eventually, a psychiatrist. As the story progresses, a terrible secret is discovered—a secret that pushes Nora toward an even deeper psychological breakdown.

The Night Child is a breathtaking debut novel about split consciousness, saving a broken child, and the split between past and present. It’s about the extraordinary capacity within each of us to save ourselves through visionary means.

Trigger Warning: Child abuse, Mental Illness

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