Friday, December 30, 2022

Where will 2023 take me next?

2022 was a whirlwind of adventure, both in my reading and in my personal life.

I didn’t meet my reading goal, but I sure had a good time trying.

I survived 45 thrillers, fell in love roughly fifty times, read over 30,000 pages, and DNFed a record 20 books.

I learned about honey bees, yelled at a whole lot of characters, found myself trapped on several islands, and challenged myself to read a non-fiction a month.

While the pages of my book took me to Cuba and London and countless city streets, in real life we traveled to Las Vegas, Mexico, Tennessee, and Canada.

I flew on over 40 planes, had my bags lost three times, found a favorite airport bookstore (Compass in SFO) and relocated to a tiny, rural town in northern British Columbia.

I read in planes, trains, boats, and taxis, at more than ten hotels, inside too many airport terminals, and sent my girlfriend, CeCe, countless crying selfies admitting to public book-induced tears.

I spent a lot of this year far away from family, friends, my love, and our dogs, but am learning to embrace and appreciate more the times we get to be together.

I got to watch as friends who rarely read started picking up books, happily discovering that my Bookstagram page isn’t just for book friends, but for all friends.

It was a full year, with ups and downs, and I’m taking its lessons with me into 2023.


Who knows what 2023 will deliver me, but I’m excited for this next journey. CeCe and I already have our next two trips booked, so don’t worry, there’ll be more airplane reading and tears to come!

0/100 📚 starts January 1

Thursday, December 15, 2022

The Widowmaker by Hannah Morrissey

The Widowmaker
by Hannah Morrissey
Series Black Harbor (#2)
Published December 6, 2022 by Minotaur Books

A wealthy family shrouded in scandal; a detective tasked with solving an impossible cold case; and a woman with a dark past collide in Hannah Morrissey's stunning new Black Harbor mystery, The Widowmaker.

Ever since business mogul Clive Reynolds disappeared twenty years ago, the name "Reynolds" has become synonymous with "murder" and "mystery." And now, lured by a cryptic note, down-on-her-luck photographer Morgan Mori returns home to Black Harbor and into the web of their family secrets and double lives. The same night she photographs the Reynolds holiday get-together, Morgan becomes witness to a homicide of a cop that triggers the discovery of a long-buried clue.

This could finally be the thing to crack open the chilling cold case, and Investigator Ryan Hudson has a chance to prove himself as lead detective. If only he could stop letting his need to solve his partner's recent murder distract him. But as Morgan exposes her own dark demons, could her sordid history be the key to unlocking more than one mystery?

4 Stars

The Widowmaker is the second in the Black Harbor series by Hannah Morrissey, but it is a standalone entirely. Beyond the setting, The Widowmaker is entirely unique as it follows photographer Morgan Mori and Detective Ryan Hudson, separately, as their lives intertwine when two investigations Hudson is involved in collide. Morgan has finished photographing the famous Reynold's family Christmas pictures when she witnesses the murder of Officer Garrison at a gas station. As the sole witness there's no one else who knows Garrison's final words to Morgan. Hudson is placed on a cold case involving the Reynolds' to keep him away from the investigation into his former partner's death. Somehow Morgan is the key to both cases and it'll take a skeleton key to open her up.

Written like a psychological thriller with police procedural touches, The Widowmaker is an incredibly interesting and unique read. While I didn't love the audio, I was totally enthralled with the story and desperate to know what would come next. It heavily features a past storyline, that of Morgan's youth, and it's as dark as they come. This could feel like a heavy read for some, but it's totally rewarding when you reach closure as well. I never truly connected with the characters, but rather felt like I was watching a movie play out in my head and if I could have finished it in two hours I would have. It's addicting. A solid second go at thriller writing from Morrissey and a new dark read for my shelves and yours.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The Family Game by Catherine Steadman

The Family Game 
by Catherine Steadman
Published October 18, 2022 by Ballantine Books

A rich, eccentric family. A time-honored tradition. Or a lethal game of survival? One woman finds out what it really takes to join the 1% in this riveting psychological thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of Something in the Water, Mr. Nobody, and The Disappearing Act.

Harry is a novelist on the brink of stardom; Edward, her husband-to-be, is seemingly perfect. In love and freshly engaged, their bliss is interrupted by the reemergence of the Holbecks, Edward's eminent family and the embodiment of American old money. For years, they've dominated headlines and pulled society's strings, and Edward left them all behind to forge his own path. But there are eyes and ears everywhere. It was only a matter of time before they were pulled back in . . .

After all, even though he's long severed ties with his family, Edward is set to inherit it all. Harriet is drawn to the glamour and sophistication of the Holbecks, who seem to welcome her with open arms, but everything changes when she meets Robert, the inescapably magnetic head of the family. At their first meeting, Robert slips Harry a cassette tape, revealing a shocking confession which sets the inevitable game in motion.

What is it about Harry that made him give her that tape? A thing that has the power to destroy everything? As she ramps up her quest for the truth, she must endure the Holbecks' savage Christmas traditions all the while knowing that losing this game could be deadly.

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4 Stars

Horrifying, absurd, and an absolute good time. The Family Game is Catherine Steadman's fictional take on rich in-laws and the games they play. We've all heard of the in-laws who don't welcome in new partners very easily and believe in good family names, but the Holbecks take it a step further. They seem to love their son and brother, Edward's, new fiancee, Harry, but lurking behind their closed doors are a series of tests. Presented as games, Harry must use her thriller writing skills and adept survival techniques to survive the Holbeck's games that teeter on the edge of life or death.

You've got to suspend your reality a bit, but once you do, The Family Game is a darn good, addictive read. It feels wordy at first, with full descriptions that don't seem to jive with the story at first, but after completing the read I feel like Steadman was giving us time to breathe before the novel took off at lightspeed. With complex characters, a well-developed plot, and twists you cannot possibly see coming, The Family Game is an over-the-top fictional thriller that is impossible to put down. Steadman pulled out all the stops for this novel, capturing all your usual character tropes and plot points that drive a thriller, while blending in a horror storyline that seeps in slowly and then takes over. Unpredictable and as wild as a circus, The Family Game took me by surprise and is totally worth the read.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

The Quarry Girls by Jess Lourey

The Quarry Girls
by Jess Lourey
Expected publication: November 1st 2022 by Thomas & Mercer

Minnesota, 1977. For the teens of one close-knit community, summer means late-night swimming parties at the quarry, the county fair, and venturing into the tunnels beneath the city. But for two best friends, it’s not all fun and games.

Heather and Brenda have a secret. Something they saw in the dark. Something they can’t forget. They’ve decided to never tell a soul. But their vow is tested when their friend disappears—the second girl to vanish in a week. And yet the authorities are reluctant to investigate.

Heather is terrified that the missing girls are connected to what she and Brenda stumbled upon that night. Desperately searching for answers on her own, she learns that no one in her community is who they seem to be. Not the police, not the boys she met at the quarry, not even her parents. But she can’t stop digging because she knows those girls are in danger.

She also knows she’s next.

5 Stars

I stayed up for too late reading one night, unable to stop turning the pages as I sought out a "happy scene" to close the book at. It didn't happen, I read all night and dreamed of tunnels holding terrifying secrets well into the morning. The Quarry Girls isn’t a scary read per se, but it’s a thriller tinged with reality and the creepiness of it seeps into your bones in a different way than a fictional scare. Jess Lourey gives readers a glimpse into the town and the fears she and many others faced growing up. Corrupt police, serial killers on the loose, missing women, and young teens on the cusp of adulthood trying to do anything to seem older.

Elizabeth McCain, known as Beth to her friends, has gone missing from the local diner in St. Cloud Minnesota. Has she run away, has she gone missing, or has the serial killer they've tracked to town got her? With the cops keeping things quiet, Heather and her friends continue to live as normal, with her friends embracing the new, older man in town with his offers of fame and attention and the tunnels continued to be seen as a safe space to roam. One night though, things go awry and Heather and her friend Brenda see something they shouldn't have. Heather realizes her friends are growing up and the terrors that wait adult women are coming for all of them. The girls of Pantown should be afraid, but as Heather tries to investigate on her own she finds herself questioning if there is a single man she can even trust.

The girls of St. Cloud, Minnesota are being forced to grow up and the Pantown tunnels and quarries are being used by dark men to hide their truths. Heather is sweet resilience, her naivety believes in people, while Beth is hard resilience, forged in stone and desperation. The two perspectives are jarring to switch between, it gives you a sense of foreboding, that there’s just no way the town won’t do the same to Heather. Heather sees the writing on the wall, the what's to come, but she's doing all she can to keep herself, her friends, and her younger sister from becoming the girl who is next. She cannot escape the truth though, not as her mom and her best friend's mom begin to reveal the past that has shaped them into the pliable women they are today. The older men keep secrets, the younger men keep secrets, and the girls are left following string into the dark, wet quarries.

Atmospheric, terrifying, and so well written, The Quarry Girls is another stunning release from Jess Lourey.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen

Other Birds
by Sarah Addison Allen
Published  August 30th 2022 by St. Martin's Press

An enchanting tale filled with magical realism and moments of pure love that won’t let you go.

Between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.

Right off the coast of South Carolina, on Mallow Island, The Dellawisp sits—a stunning old cobblestone building shaped like a horseshoe, and named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment at the Dellawisp she meets her quirky and secretive neighbors, including a young woman with a past, two estranged middle-aged sisters, and a lonely chef, and three ghosts. The sudden death of one of Zoey's new neighbors sets off a search that leads to the island's famous author and to a long-estranged relative of the sisters.

Each of them has a story, and each story has an ending which hasn't yet been written.

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5 Stars

Oh my sentimental little heart was going to love this book no matter what was in the pages, but wow I did not expect this beautiful, unconventional story. I love Sarah Addison Allen, I've been reading her books with my family since I was in high school, with my grandma giving me my first one, and then continuing to facilitate my love of her by sharing her books with my aunt and my cousins. We all love her books, they feel like home, especially with their lush locations and the realistic magic. The peaches that grow, the love that blooms, and in the case of Other Birds, the birds that carry the past in them. I literally tear up thinking about how much this book meant to me, especially with my Grandma now passed and my own unconventional family.

Unrelated to my own personal ties, Other Birds is a stunning release from Sarah Addison Allen, one that I have long awaited and one that is distinctly different than her previous releases. While we've read the love stories and the magic of that love, Other Birds follows the outcasts, the left behinds, the runners. It's not so much about the unloved, but rather, those who have yet to learn how to love and be themselves, who don't know how to accept that loneliness is part of life. It's a magical, woven story with unique characters, with equally unique journeys, who are all at the same place at the same time and there's a reason for it. The Dellawisp is unassuming, it's residents even more so, but the birds that live in its trees hold their stories and when Zoey arrives to take over her mother's condo, it's time for the birds to let those stories be told.

Other Birds feels like a story about the people who feel like misfits, but who truly fit in just as they are, it's a matter of them discovering those qualities in themselves are the very best parts of them. It's their unique stories, from wilting to blossoming, that make them special and it takes others who know that same experience to appreciate it. It's the small parts of their stories that are all connected, that truly is magical, even more so than the birds that keep causing messes. It's beautifully written, each character's voice is distinct, and it's the kind of story I don't think one can ever forget. It's a book I know I'll return it and I think others will too.

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