Jackal by Erin E. Adams

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam

Date of publication: October 4th, 2022

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Fiction, Mystery Thriller, Adult, Suspense, Contemporary, Audiobook, Fantasy

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

A young Black girl goes missing in the woods outside her white Rust Belt town. But she’s not the first—and she may not be the last. . . .

It’s watching.

Liz Rocher is coming home . . . reluctantly. As a Black woman, Liz doesn’t exactly have fond memories of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a predominantly white town. But her best friend is getting married, so she braces herself for a weekend of awkward and passive-aggressive reunions. Liz has grown, though; she can handle whatever awaits her. But on the day of the wedding, somewhere between dancing and dessert, the bride’s daughter, Caroline, goes missing—and the only thing left behind is a piece of white fabric covered in blood.

It’s taking.

As a frantic search begins, with the police combing the trees for Caroline, Liz is the only one who notices a pattern: a summer night. A missing girl. A party in the woods. She’s seen this before. Keisha Woodson, the only other Black girl in school, walked into the woods with a mysterious man and was later found with her chest cavity ripped open and her heart missing. Liz shudders at the thought that it could have been her, and now, with Caroline missing, it can’t be a coincidence. As Liz starts to dig through the town’s history, she uncovers a horrifying secret about the place she once called home. Children have been going missing in these woods for years. All of them Black. All of them girls.

It’s your turn.

With the evil in the forest creeping closer, Liz knows what she must do: find Caroline, or be entirely consumed by the darkness.


First Line:

Tanisha Walker loved the stars. She didn’t memorize the paths of the cosmos of their patterns.

Jackal by Erin E. Adams

When I first read the blurb for this book (and saw the striking cover), I thought this would be a great book to read around Halloween. And I did intend to read this book on or around Halloween. But life gets in the way, and I ended up pushing this book off until mid-January. However, I am glad that I read it when I did. Jackal was a disturbing book, and honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to handle reading it around Halloween.

Some prominent trigger warnings come with this book. I had googled it when I got the approval from Random House, so I knew what I was getting into reading it. The trigger warnings are racism (explicit), fatphobia (moderate), domestic violence (detailed in one scene), alcoholism (explicit), anxiety (explicit, it triggered mine in places), death of a child/children (all explicit, I had nightmares), and kidnapping (moderate to explicit). If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book.

Jackal takes place entirely in the mountain town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It is a fast-paced book that kept my eyes glued to the pages. I could see similarities to where I am living now, as sad as that is.

The author did not write the characters in Jackal to be likable. I don’t know how to explain, except I could see these characters walking the streets of my town. Out of the introduced characters, I liked Liz and Mel the most. Something about them struck a chord with me, and their characters stayed with me long after I finished the book.

  • Liz—She was a freaking mess. She didn’t want to come home to Johnstown and, in fact, had spent almost all of her adult life avoiding traveling there. But she came home because Mel, her best friend, was getting married and Liz was in the wedding. When Caroline was kidnapped, and fingers began pointing to Liz, she was desperate to find her. Her detective work wasn’t the best, but Liz did find some good leads (even when the cops didn’t and wouldn’t). All the while, she depended on the one cop she trusted to help her. I loved how she connected Caroline to the other missing girls.

Jackal fit perfectly into the horror genre. At first (and I had to read Tanisha’s chapter a few times to get it through my thick head) because I didn’t understand what was happening. But the author was able to drop enough hints and build it up so that I did understand. Add in the racial tensions and the tensions over the kidnapping, and this book exploded. There was a mystery angle that added extra depth to the storyline. I liked figuring out who took the girls (all teenagers/pre-teens) and the motivation. I thought that I knew, but yeah, I didn’t.

The author amazingly wrote the storyline with Liz, Caroline’s kidnapping, and the other girl’s murders and how it ties together. The author kept me guessing who the kidnapper was, and she had me think of one person when it was someone else. I loved that the author wrote short chapters about each of the girls who were killed from 1985 and on. I also loved how she tied those killings to Caroline’s kidnapping. There was a part in the book explaining why each girl was killed, and it blew my mind.

The storyline with Liz, the Jackal, Caroline, and the killers was terrific. It went in-depth into the racial and class division in Johnstown. It also explained the Jackal and the motivations behind the killings.

Several smaller sub-storylines added extra depth to the main one. Those more minor storylines explained why Liz was the way she was. They also illustrated several other things brought up in the book. Put it this way; I will never look at a baggie of popcorn the same way again. Talk about disgusting!!!

The end of Jackal was interesting. I will not say a lot, but Liz was fantastic. The author explained the Jackal’s roots (and it did surprise me). There is also a small scene at the end where Caroline lists every girl killed. But other than that, I can’t say anything more because of spoilers.

I recommend Jackal to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and non-graphic sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning above.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam, NetGalley, and Erin E. Adams for allowing me to read and review Jackal. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading this review of Jackal, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Dead and Gondola (Christie Bookshop: Book 1) by Ann Claire

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam

Date of publication: November 1st, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Fiction, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Holiday, Christmas, Adult, Contemporary, Audiobook

Series: Christie Bookshop

Dead and Gondola—Book 1

Last Word to the Wise—Book 2

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

When a mysterious bookshop visitor dies under murderous circumstances, the Christie sisters and their cat Agatha call on all they’ve learned about solving mysteries from their favorite novelist in this new series debut.

Ellie Christie is thrilled to begin a new chapter. She’s recently returned to her tiny Colorado hometown to run her family’s historic bookshop with her elder sister, Meg, and their friendly bookshop cat, Agatha. Perched in a Swiss-style hamlet accessible by ski gondola and a twisty mountain road, the Book Chalet is a famed bibliophile destination known for its maze of shelves and relaxing reading lounge with cozy fireside seats and panoramic views. At least, until trouble blows in with a wintery whiteout. A man is found dead on the gondola, and a rockslide throws the town into lockdown—no one in, no one out.

He was a mysterious stranger who visited the bookshop. At the time, his only blunders were disrupting a book club and leaving behind a first-edition Agatha Christie novel, written under a pseudonym. However, once revealed, the man’s identity shocks the town. Many residents knew of him. Quite a few had reason to want him dead. Others hide secrets. The police gather suspects, but when they narrow in on the sisters’ close friends, the Christies have to act.

Although the only Agatha in their family tree is their cat, Ellie and Meg know a lot about mysteries, and they’re not about to let the situation snowball out of control. The Christie sisters must summon their inner Miss Marples and trek through a blizzard of clues before the killer turns the page to their final chapter.


First Line:

I swung open the heavy oak door and blinked at the figure taking shape in the blizzard.

Dead and Gondola by Ann Claire

I love mysteries set in bookstores and/or small towns, and this book has both. It was a given that I would accept the invitation from the publisher. I am glad that I did because this was a great mystery.

Dead and Gondola is the first book in the Christie Bookshop series. So, my usual drivel about reading previous books does not apply here. You can safely read this book and not wonder about storylines or characters.

The plotline for Dead and Gondola was interesting and engaging. Ellie has returned to her hometown to help her older sister run their family’s acclaimed book shop, The Book Chalet. Ellie wasn’t expecting an older man to show up at the shop, looking for a woman named CeCe and carrying a rare book. She also wasn’t expecting to witness that same older man get murdered. And she certainly wasn’t expecting her long-time employee to disappear simultaneously. With the roads out of town closed, Ellie takes it upon herself to investigate. What she discovers shocks her to her core and throws suspicion at everyone in her village. Who killed the older man? Why did her employee disappear? What connects the two?

Dead and Gondola is a medium-paced book set in the fictional town of Last Word, Colorado. I loved the description of the town. It is a ski town, and the author did go into what it was like living in a town that relies on skiing for income. But she also showed what living in a small town was like.

The characters in Dead and Gondola weren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked them to be. But, seeing this is the first book in the series, I expect some character growth in the later books. Besides that, I loved seeing the assortment of people that made up Ellie’s world. They were as unique as the town was. I also liked the darkness in this town and the people.

  • Ellie—I liked her, but she annoyed me during parts of the book. There were points in the book where I couldn’t connect to her. She became almost obsessed with discovering who murdered the older man and why. I did feel bad for her when the murderer was revealed. Honestly, I was shocked and understood why she felt that way. Also, I did like her flashbacks to childhood and reading. I was the same way!!

The storyline with the older man, the mysterious CeCe, his murder, the book, and Ellie was well written. The author took me on a ride with this one. It had more twists and turns in the plotline than a mountain road. And the red herrings!!! There were a lot of them. I loved the twist the author put into this plotline. And who the murderer was!! I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t who I was expecting it to be.

The storyline with Mrs. Reed, her disappearance, the shop, Ellie, and Meg was also very well written. I was with Ellie for almost half the book. I thought something terrible had happened to her. But then she was found, and I couldn’t help but be slightly irritated by Ellie. I was like, “Leave the poor woman alone!!” Then the author had a twist in this plotline that had me shaking my head. And the author led me to believe one thing when the opposite happened.

Dead and Gondola fit perfectly into the cozy mystery genre. The author kept me guessing a few things (see above), and a big twist at the end of the book took me by surprise.

The end of Dead and Gondola was interesting. The author was able to wrap up the main storylines in this book in a way that I enjoyed. But she did leave enough wiggle room for book 2. I can’t wait to read book 2!!

I recommend Dead and Gondola to anyone over 16. It is a clean book (no kissing, no sex), but there is some mild language and violence.

I want to thank Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam, NetGalley, and Ann Claire for allowing me to read and review Dead and Gondola. All opinions expressed in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading my review of Dead and Gondola, then you will enjoy reading these books:

The Devil You Know (Detective Margaret Nolan: Book 3) by P.J. Tracy

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: January 17th, 2023

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

Series: Detective Margaret Nolan

Deep into the Dark—Book 1

Desolation Canyon—Book 2

The Devil You Know—Book 3

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan returns in The Devil You Know, the next book in the series where P. J. Tracy “seems to have found her literary sweet spot” (New York Times Book Review).

Los Angeles has many faces: the real LA where regular people live and work, the degenerate underbelly of any big city, and the rarified world of wealth, power, and celebrity. LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan’s latest case plunges her into this insular realm of privilege, and gives her a glimpse of the darkness behind the glitter.

The body of beloved actor Evan Hobbes is found in the rubble of a Malibu rockslide a day after a fake video ruins his career. It’s not clear to Nolan if it’s an accident, a suicide, or a murder, and things get murkier as the investigation expands to his luminary friends and colleagues. Meanwhile, Hobbes’ agent is dealing with damage control, his psychotic boss, and a woman he’s scorned. But when his powerful brother-in-law is murdered, he and Nolan both find themselves entangled in a scandalous deception of deadly proportion that shakes the very foundation of Hollywood’s untouchables.


First Line:

The ocean was singing in the hushed undulating tones of low tide on this still, damp night.

The Devil You Know by P.J. Tracy

While reading this book, I realized I need to read more mysteries that are only mysteries. I read romance, paranormal, and horror mysteries but never just plain secrets (if that makes sense). So, I was eager to read The Devil You Know. While I liked the book (and the story), I needed clarification during parts of the book. I don’t particularly appreciate being confused when I am reading. That did make for a less-than-ideal reading situation for me.

The Devil You Know had an exciting plotline. Detective Nolan has been assigned a disturbing case. A famous actor has been discovered dead in a rockslide. The death is suspicious because the day before, he had been the subject of a deepfake video that ended his career. Within a few days, the top executive where that actor worked is found murdered. The person that links the actor and the executive: the agent representing him and his family ties to the executive. It is up to Nolan to determine if the actor was murdered, committed suicide, or died in an accident. While doing that, she is assisting in the murder investigation of the executive. What Nolan finds out is so earth-shattering that it will shake her to the core. What does she find out? Who was willing to frame a well-liked actor in a deepfake video? Why? And how is the executive’s death connected to it?

The Devil You Know is the 3rd book in that Detective Margaret Nolan series. While readers can read this as a standalone, I recommend reading the books in order. Some parts of the book made me scratch my head because I didn’t know the backstories.

The characters in The Devil You Know were well-written, but I felt a certain disconnect with them. If I had read the first two books, I would have understood more about Nolan’s background. I also would have understood more about some of the secondary characters.

  • Detective Nolan—I liked her. She was smart, and she worked well with others. But there was also a sad element to her character. I feel it was because of her brother’s death (which is linked to another secondary character). She also emphasized with the victims’ families and, weirdly enough, the murderer. I loved seeing her process of finding out who the murderer was.

The Devil You Know fits perfectly in with the mystery genre. I loved the red herrings that she put out!! Talk about distracting, and I did feel bad for those two women (as vile as they were). The author kept me guessing until the end.

The storyline with Detective Nolan, the actor’s death, the deepfake, and the investigation were wonderfully written. The author had me double guessing if it was an accident (because of testimony from his friend/hostess of the party). Even when it was determined a murder (and no, not a spoiler, the detectives figured it out fairly early), I loved watching the investigation turn to suspects. There was another murder (with the same MO) and the revelation of the murderer. I was shocked at who it was because I didn’t see it coming. I also did feel bad for that person because of the trauma that person endured. But still, no excuse. Oh, and let’s not forget the deepfake. That was the cherry on top of this whole investigation. Once they figured out who it was, it was all downhill.

The storyline with Detective Nolan, the executive’s death, and the investigation were as wonderfully written as the first investigation. The author kept this one more under wraps than the other investigation. But still, I liked seeing how the detectives investigated it in tandem with the actor’s murder. There was a twist to that plotline that wasn’t revealed until the very end of the book. One that made me go, “Holy crap.” Because whoever went to jail for his murder didn’t kill him. The real killer’s identity stunned me.

The storyline with the agent, murders, his relationship with the movie star, and then his murder did take me for a ride. For the longest time, I thought the same thing Detective Nolan did. He did it and covered it up. Of course, there were a few red herrings sprinkled in that storyline. The big twist in that one was how the detectives figured everything out. I won’t say what, but he was a pretty intelligent guy for doing what he did.

I went back and forth on putting a trigger warning on this book. I ultimately decided to do it because what was discussed was disturbing. My trigger warnings are mentions of child pornography, deepfake videos, drug use, and alcohol use. If any of these triggers you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

The end of The Devil You Know was okay. The author wrapped up the first two storylines, and I thought they were over. But then the author tacked on that final chapter that blew everything about the second murder out of the water. It was indeed a twist that took me by surprise.

I would recommend The Devil You Know to anyone over 21. There are language, violence, and sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warnings.

I want to thank St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books, NetGalley, and P.J. Tracy for allowing me to read and review The Devil You Know. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading The Devil You Know, you will enjoy reading these books:

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:

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:

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:

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:

Fatal Intent by Tammy Euliano

Publisher: Oceanview Publishing

Date of Publication: March 22nd, 2022

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

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

End-of-life care—or assisted death

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

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

Perfect for fans of Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen

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

Fatal Intent
Misfire
 (coming January 2023)


First Line:

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

Fatal Intent by Tammy Euliano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: January 3rd, 2023

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

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

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


First Line:

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

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Things I Liked About The Villa:

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

Three Things I Disliked About The Villa:

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

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


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

Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: September 15th, 2020

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

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life. The car abandoned miles from home. The note found at a nearby hotel. The shattered family that couldn’t be put back together. It happens all the time. Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over. She doesn’t want to be found. Or at least, that’s the story. But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?

The night Molly disappeared began with a storm, running out of gas, and a man in a truck offering her a ride to town. With him is a little girl who reminds her of the daughter she lost years ago. It feels like a sign. And Molly is overcome with the desire to be home, with her family—no matter how broken it is. She accepts the ride. But when the doors are locked shut, Molly begins to suspect she has made a terrible mistake.

When a new lead comes in after the search has ended, Molly’s daughter, Nicole, begins to wonder. Nothing about her mother’s disappearance makes sense.

Nicole returns to the small, desolate town where her mother was last seen to find the truth. The locals are kind and eager to help. The innkeeper. The bartender. Even the police. Until secrets begin to reveal themselves and she comes closer to the truth about that night—and the danger surrounding her.


First Line:

The sky grows dark as I drive.

Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker

I have had Don’t Look for Me on my TBR for a long time. I originally had gotten it as an ARC before the pandemic started. I ended up not reading it because I got overwhelmed with being stuck inside and teaching three heartbroken kids. I didn’t read anything for almost a year (until I sent my youngest back to school). So why review Don’t Look for Me now? It was two things. The first one: I decided to try and clean up any/all of my NetGalley reviews from that period (and earlier this year, yikes). If I had to pay for the book, it was all good; I’ll pay for it (which ties in with the second thing). The second: I decided to get Kindle Unlimited. The first thing I did was go through all sixty-something books and download what was on KU. And that brought me to reading and reviewing Don’t Look for Me. I absolutely couldn’t put this book down!! It was that good!!

Don’t Look for Me had two exciting storylines. One storyline follows Nicole and her quest to find her missing mother, Molly. As she digs into Molly’s disappearance, she sees similarities to another woman who went missing ten years previously. What is the connection between the disappearances?

The second storyline follows Molly, the events leading up to her kidnapping, and what happened to her afterward. Molly is drowning in guilt over her nine-year-old daughter’s accidental death four years ago. That death shattered her family, who all blamed her. The night she is kidnapped, Molly accepts a ride from a stranger with a daughter the same age her daughter was when Molly accidentally killed her. That ride leads to her imprisonment. As Molly plans to escape, she is forced to deal with her daughter’s death. Will Molly escape?

Don’t Look for Me is a fast-paced book set in the fictional town of Hastings, Connecticut. This book starts a little slow. That allowed the author to explain Molly’s backstory. Once the author explained, the book picked up the pace and didn’t slow until the explosive end.

The characters in Don’t Look for Me were not likable. I cannot stress this enough. Except for Molly, I was not too fond of any of the main characters. Each character had complex issues the author could go into without taking away from the storylines.

  • Molly—My heart broke for her. I want to clarify; she was the only character in this book I liked. She didn’t deserve the scorn and hatred of her husband and children over what happened. It. Was. An. Accident. I cannot stress this enough. I loved seeing her gradually come to terms with her child’s death and her role in it. I also liked that she resolved not to leave Alice behind when she finally escaped. Of course, she used her resources as a chemistry teacher to do something I had no idea could be done. Honestly, I wanted to google it but was afraid I would get put on some watch list….lol.
  • Nicole—I didn’t like her. Scratch that; I couldn’t stand her. The things she said to Molly during their last confrontation were horrible. She self-medicated with alcohol and sex. I figured out why she was doing that early in the book. But, as much as I didn’t like her, I did like her resolve to find Molly. Nicole had seen something in Molly’s notes that changed everything, and she was determined to bring her home. But, she was like a bull in a china shop with her investigation.
  • Jared Reyes—-He was shady AF. Right from the get-go, I didn’t like him. He was almost too helpful to Nicole. It made me wonder what he was hiding. I did think his backstory was awful. It made his dedication to his job and Chief Watkins understandable. Still, I thought something was off with him.
  • Alice—She annoyed me. No nine-year-old talked the way she did. I have a nine-year-old, and I know she doesn’t have the vocabulary that Alice did. I also thought she was very messed up. She kept bringing up Molly’s dead daughter and telling Molly how bad Molly was for causing her death. I had a WTF moment while reading that. What typical nine-year-old would say that?

The secondary characters in Don’t Look for Me added the extra oomph that the book needed. The author did a great job of having them cast red herrings all over the place.

Don’t Look for Me fit perfectly into the psychological thriller genre. I also thought it fit into the mystery genre (Molly’s disappearance).

The author amazingly wrote the storyline with Molly, her kidnapping, her family, and her youngest daughter’s death. I did not figure out who kidnapped Molly. So, when it was revealed at the end of the book, I was shocked. As for her youngest daughter’s death, I was heartbroken by how much pain Molly was in. And I was disgusted by how her husband and surviving children treated her. DISGUSTED!!! There was a point in this plotline that I wondered if Molly would have been better off staying with the kidnapper and Alice.

The storyline with Nicole, Molly’s kidnapping, and her detective work was also as well written as Molly’s. I didn’t like Nicole, but I understood she was hurting. I also understood that she felt guilt over Molly disappearing and blamed herself. I enjoyed reading about her working through her emotions and realizing that she might need help. She was a good detective. I didn’t see the twist in her plotline coming, either. That also took me by surprise.

The storyline with Molly, Alice, and the kidnapper was exciting but less interesting than the other two main storylines. Again, another twist in this book took me by surprise. I didn’t expect what happened to happen.

The end of Don’t Look for Me was chaotic. The author brought together and then closed everything storyline in the book. She did it in such a way that I was left satisfied as a reader. I loved the epilogue but didn’t like what Molly felt she had to or wanted to do. But it was a closure I didn’t know I needed until I read it.

I recommend Don’t Look for Me to anyone over 21. There is language, mild to moderate violence, and sexual situations.

I want to thank NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Wendy Walker for allowing me to read and review this book. I got this book first as an ARC and then downloaded it on KU to read.


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