Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 25. A wealthy character

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name

Every time I doubt Riley Sager he manages to pull it out, somewhere around the middle…Lock Every Door was one of his more popular novels, I believe, and I can see why. It has all the great makings of gothic horror but pulls out all the stops in modern twists and turns.

Left jobless, boyfriend-less, and homeless all in one day, Jules can’t believe her luck when she finds a job posting for an apartment sitter. Despite the weird rules provided by the manager, Jules can expect $1,000 at the end of each week she spends on the twelfth floor of the famous and mysterious Bartholomew apartment building – so she eagerly accepts the job.

While the other tenants living at the Bartholomew provide intrigue enough, Jules manages to befriend one of the other apartment sitters, Ingrid. When Ingrid goes missing, however, far more of the “quirks” she enjoyed about the Bartholomew before are cast in a new light. As she struggles to locate her new neighbor, the “haunting” of the apartments comes to a head.

Really, this book is about the ambience. The Bartholomew is a stunning setting for this gothic horror with a modern vibe. The novel is rich in details about the building and I could absolutely see it in my mind as I read. This is definitely something Sager excels at that I don’t see in many of his novels, but wish I did – I’m a sucker for a good setting in a horror novel (The Return, anyone?).

Like many of Sager’s works (which I will get around to later when I review The House Across the Lake) Lock Every Door starts real heckin’ slow. The first half of every Sager is just setting you up to believe that you know exactly where this is going, that we are on a predictable train ride to the full conclusion. But no. No no. The second half will have your head spinning, and the last twenty pages always damn near knocks your head right off your shoulders. Like I frequently say of Tessa Bailey, I was in doubt, but I have learned better: never doubt. Sager impresses me, and I like his writing style that’s easy to fall into and enjoy.

On a similar note, this book is masterfully crafted. Each and every detail, every offhand remark has a point. Do you ever read a book and wonder if it could’ve been written backwards? The mystery is just too perfect, the hints just too well placed. I think that impressive plotting is part of what made this book such an instant hit, and the reason people have been hooked on Sager for years now.

I liked that each and every character was complex and enjoyable. It is truly quite a cast, and it gives me Murder on the Orient Express vibes for sure. Just really unique characters with their own distinct story and ~vibe~. I loved Ingrid, the other apartment sitter, despite not wanting to. Her happy, bubbly personality is not only charming, but necessary to the story, in order to make Jules drawn to her and concerned by her disappearance. I liked Jules, too, but her character veers toward outgoing where I think I would be more reserved in the same situation. She’s not unlikeable, but for me, she wasn’t totally relatable, either.

All in all, I think it’s pretty clear I’m recommending this book! It wasn’t my favorite of his, hence the four stars, and I think that’s partly because the beginning was so dull in my eyes. I was waiting for things to get interesting, and thought it would happen a lot sooner than it did. However, overall, this is a damn solid mystery thriller, and I loved it!

Have a most excellent weekend, peeps!

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 4. Title starting with the letter “F”

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 43. Author who’s published in more than one genre, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover

I knew, reading the back of this book after I picked it up at Gibson’s last week, that this one was going to be a wild ride. I seemed to have hit the nail on the head with that one. This book may just be one of the most ridiculous I’ve read as of late, and I absolutely loved it. It’s more like 4.75 stars to me – this just really exceeded my expectations!

Finlay is a recently single mom with a long-overdue deadline on her new romantic suspense book, and now apparently, an overdue electric bill. All in one morning, her daughter cuts off her hair, her ex fires her nanny, the electric gets turned off, and she gets mistaken for a hitwoman at her local Panera. In her attempt to explain the mistake to the stressed-out woman who hires her to kill her husband, she accidentally accepts the job – and gets swept into a world of crime and a real-life murder investigation.

And yes, this book really is just as ridiculous as it sounds. AND I LOVED IT. I laughed, I cringed, I even teared up a bit. The writing is witty and smart. The story, this crazy plot, is still masterful for all that it makes me giggle. And the characters are fantastic.

Of course, Finlay is the star of this show, and I really loved her character. She has so much growth from start to finish. She’s smart and relatable. I think her dire situation in the start of the book makes her more susceptible to all that’s to come after, but it also makes her better to think on her feet. She’s an unlikely heroine, but a heroine all the same.

Funny as this whole narrative is, it made me think of an article I recently saw comparing motherhood to the hero’s journey. We exclude mothers from the narrative of the hero for a multitude of reasons, as listed in that incredible excerpt, including: “we’ve all just internalized that the word “mommy” automatically diminishes whatever noun comes after it” (From Jessi Klein’s I’ll Show Myself Out, which the article above is an excerpt of). Our heroine, Finlay, is a single mom, a writer, a divorcee – quite a few nouns we don’t give much weight to, and further, she’s not exactly exceeding at these endeavours when we start the story. But by some perfect storm, some complete accident, she ends up on a whirlwind that brings her first stress, pain, and confusion, but then success, money, stability – and the respect of those around her. Fundamentally, nothing changed, but Finlay’s confidence blooms. Her comfort in not being a perfect version of someone else brings the character to another level. I’ll leave you to make your own connections on what that means, and what it means to you.

My absolute favorite character was Finlay’s nanny, Vero. She comes back into the story after that original firing, and she is hysterical and naive, but really on top of her shit. At first I was a little suspicious of her, but as the story went on, she really grew on me. I really hope the sequel brings her in a lot more! Vero and Finlay’s easygoing friendship was warm and sisterly, and I loved the effect on both of them, even if it was for weird reasons! I think the two play off each other nicely and bring the story to life even more.

Pro tip for reading: don’t read the last page in this one! I always store my bookmark on the very last page, not just in the back of the book, while I’m reading – and this ending pretty glaringly gives away a good twist/cliffhanger for the sequel.

Suffice to say, I can’t wait to pick up Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead. I have a Barnes & Noble gift card in my wallet calling my name, telling me forty-five minutes really isn’t that long to drive if I can have the sequel right this second…

Have an excellent week, friends!

Book List: My Most Anticipated Books for Summer 2022

Book List: My Most Anticipated Books for Summer 2022

I love when these particular lists come around, because it’s an easy out for thinking too hard. It’s always hard to narrow down what I’ve already read for a list, but naming things I want to read? Easy peasy. I’m all over it.

I wrote up a book list earlier this year naming all the books I was excited to read for the first half of 2022; and I was all set to address the second half in its entirety… but there’s tons coming out just this summer that never even made my original list. Because of that fact, I’ve decided to just hit the coming summer 2022 reads!

Let’s do it!

My Killer Vacation by Tessa Bailey

Tessa. Bailey. Is writing. A murder mystery?!? *Cries in bibliophile*. I NEEEEEEEED ITTTTTT! No but seriously, I’ll read anything this woman writes but especially this. After discovering a corpse in the bedroom of their vacation cabin, our heroine meets a brash bounty hunter out to catch the killer, and they form an epic sleuthing duo. This murder/romance sounds like the perfect book to bring on my vacation later this month, for a taste of all my favorite genres in one sitting. This “the grumpy one likes the sunshine one” story is everything I need! My Killer Vacation will be out June 6, 2022.

The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay

I JUST discovered this one when looking through the upcoming summer releases by authors I’ve read, and I have to say, this sounds like it’ll be a good one. As I reflected on in my review of Survivor Song, I think Tremblay has clear talent, but the apocalypse genre wasn’t the right one for him. 80’s slasher-type deal? Definitely. And that’s the direction this seems to be taking; it sounds like it will be ripe with violence and gore, which I don’t usually like, but thought Tremblay did exceptionally well in Survivor Song. This sounds like the book that will give me a better idea of how I like him as a writer. The Pallbearers Club will release July 5, 2022.

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This one has been on my list for soooo looonggggg. I would kill for a copy of this right now. After Mexican Gothic and Velvet Was the Night, I’m kind of hooked on Moreno-Garcia. Frankly, I wasn’t even sure what The Daughter of Doctor Moreau was about before writing this paragraph, I just hit the “Want to Read” button on Goodreads so fast… but really, it sounds like a return to the dark fantasy elements I loved about Mexican Gothic, with the moral and ethical drama of Velvet Was the Night. Monsters and shady characters: this is going to be a good one. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau will release on July 19, 2022.

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey

I’ve yet to read anything by Sarah Gailey, actually, primarily because it typically leans more heavily toward fantasy, but Just Like Home will make its home in the horror genre. I’ve heard plenty of good things about Gailey, and this particular novel comes with recommendations from the staff at Gibson’s – so suffice to say, I need it. This book will follow our main character Vera as she returns to her family home…the same home her father, a serial killer, hid his crimes, and where they will come back to haunt her. Just Like Home will also release July 19, 2022 (looks like I’ll be needing July 19th off, amiright?).

The Kiss Curse by Erin Sterling

I actually thought, when headed to the bookstore the other day, that The Kiss Curse was already out. I was all prepared to buy it, only to discover I’d be waiting another few months to get it. This late fall release will be the sequel to The Ex Hex, which I sort-of enjoyed but also had a lot of constructive criticism for, frankly. I need more witchy content and less bitchy content, lol. However, I’m more excited for The Kiss Curse because it follows Gwyn, Vivi’s cousin and an awesome supporting character from the first book. I liked her much better and see very few ways this could be screwed up, unless Sterling completely changes her snarky and sassy character. The Kiss Curse will be on shelves September 20, 2022.

Well, my reading tastes are anything but refined, but that will make for an excellent summer of reading.

Very excited for these! What are you most anticipating for this summer? Which books will be hitting the beach with you?

Have an excellent weekend!

Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 5. Chapters have titles

Other Possible Prompts: 23. An author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 36. Recommended by a favorite author

Not a lot of prompts for this one! I want to be able to fill it in somewhere but none of these feel too good as a fit. I may end up moving this around later on.

I picked up Survivor Song last summer and finally got around to reading it this year. I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t wow me. Let’s jump in!

A unique and very powerful, fast-moving strain of rabies has hit New England. People are quarantined to their homes until they can vaccinate enough animals to reduce the threat. Meanwhile, people getting bit are reacting within hours, becoming feverish, delusional, and very, very violent.

After nine-months pregnant Natalie is bitten by a crazed man who kills her husband, she meets up with her best friend, Rams – a pediatrician in the area who was about to be called in for her shift at the now overrun hospital. Time is running out for Natalie to receive the rabies vaccine to slow the spread – but what’s worse is that they cannot guarantee it will work. Navigating a world fraught with misinformation and government neglect, the two race to get Natalie to a working hospital to deliver her child before infection digs in its teeth.

First things first, this book is not for the faint of heart. Like, at all. There are some scenes so brutal and gory, I was gagging just reading them. I feel like it has to be, given the situation, but it can be really hard to read if you don’t like that stuff or can’t stomach it (which is me, most of the time).

It’s in these moments, though, of extreme gore or pain or anxiety, that I can see why Tremblay is a revered horror writer. He is quite good. The scenes he depicts are well written and most certainly horrifying….I just don’t know as if the apocalyptic stage is for him. I am curious to read some of his other, more paranormal/ghosty novels now. I might pick up one or two just for comparison’s sake.

This book is also quite difficult to read post-COVID quarantine, if that affected you mentally (which I think it has to all of us, in one form or another). You may think you’d be okay to read this, but there are some stark connections to humanity that don’t paint either situation in a pretty light – and it can be very hard to read without getting upset. Especially given its release time, and the dates that they used, I think it’s fairly obvious COVID was always meant to be the inspiration, but some of the similarities are jarring. People’s response to misinformation was especially nerve-wracking.

I found Natalie’s character to be quite annoying, which made me feel bad in the end, because she’s obviously going to be a quite different person in such a stressful situation. Rams handles it better, but Rams is also in a position to handle it better. I’d be freaking out if I were Natalie too…but her freaking out is pretty darn annoying sometimes.

I think this one just didn’t ~wow~ me. It’s pretty hard to wow me as of late. This is a good story but it just didn’t have me like “better recommend this to someone, stat”. Nah. Like I said though I think Tremblay spins a good yarn, maybe this just isn’t his wheelhouse. I think this one primarily became so popular because of COVID and the parallels between the two.

Have an awesome week, friends.

Reading Update: June

Reading Update: June

JUNE!! One of my favorite months of the year. My birthday. The perfect weather. And though I’m not a kid anymore, the perfect nostalgia of the coming summer break.

^It me.

Summer reading is COMING!! Usually I’m a pretty consistent but slow reader until the summer hits, primarily because I used to have a summer vacation to read…now that I don’t, I’m not sure why I still grip on tightly to the idea that I’ll have more time to read, more flexibility to sit up until 3am to finish the book I just started. All the same, it’s a great feeling to be on the cusp of.

And I am plenty-well stocked for the summer. I have so many books on my tbr, but I do feel like I’m legitimately knocking them out, at least. But for this reading update, I want to take the time to evaluate my 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge progress. Prepare yourselves, because I have turned reading into a science trying to complete this challenge.

Behold, the color coded spreadsheet I built just to figure this out:

I didn’t want to have to pick what I was reading just to meet the prompts; I really don’t read like that and thought I could get away with just picking up books and making them fit after the fact…but as I write this, I’ve read 34 books this year and haven’t quite completed that many prompts, truthfully.

Some of the prompts, I’ve completed, but haven’t designated a certain book to fill the spot just yet. That’s what the purple highlight is for. Red highlight indicates a prompt I haven’t completed at all yet (so, definitely what I need to be focusing on in the latter half of the year). And all the yellow highlights are the books I have tentatively chosen to fill those prompts.

My hope behind using the online spreadsheet was that I could Command+F and find all the times a book met a prompt, so I could choose just one slot and block off the rest. It’s a whole thing and I’m tired just thinking about it. However, I know that I definitely need to buckle down now and figure out how many prompts I can actually designate complete at this juncture!

To start, I’m going to go through all my purple highlights and pick one of the books to fill the spot. If that book is already in a different spot, I’ll work backward until I can pull enough of my bonus books into place that I’ll have completed more prompts. I’m guessing I’ll still have a bonus or two, but I think this could work!

Yeah, easier said than done. This is a seriously intense puzzle and I’m convinced I may actually be better off just reading more books than trying to move them around!

I did make a couple successful switches, though. Including books who don’t have published reviews just yet, here is my current list:

  1. A Second Person Narrative: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
  2. Featuring a Library or Bookstore: Well Matched by Jen DeLuca
  3. Title Starting with the Letter “E”: The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling
  4. Title Starting with the Letter “F”: Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
  5. Chapters Have Titles: Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay
  6. Household Object on the Cover: The Godparent Trap by Rachel Van Dyken
  7. A Non-fiction Bestseller: The Home Edit by Clea Shearer & Joanna Teplin
  8. Involving the Art World:
  9. A Book That Sparks Joy: She Sheds Style by Erika Kotite
  10. A Book Based on a Real Person: unlock your storybook heart by amanda lovelace
  11. A Book with Less than 2022 Goodreads Ratings
  12. Set on at Least Two Continents: The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill
  13. Includes a Club
  14. A Character with Superhuman Ability: Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune
  15. A Five-Syllable Title: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
  16. A Book You’ve Seen Someone Reading in a Public Place
  17. A Book Picked Based On Its Spine
  18. Jane Austen-inspired
  19. A Book that has an Alternate Title: Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman
  20. Related to the Word “Gold”
  21. Published by Simon & Schuster
  22. An Unlikely Detective: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  23. Author with an X, Y or Z in their Name: Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon
  24. Address a Specific Topic
  25. A Wealthy Character: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
  26. Has an “Author’s Note”: Heartstopper: Volume 4 by Alice Oseman
  27. Includes a Map: Devolution by Max Brooks
  28. Award-Winning Book from Your Country: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
  29. Over 500 Pages Long
  30. Audiobook is Narrated by the Author: Bag of Bones by Stephen King
  31. Technology-Themed: Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood
  32. A Book That Intimidates You: The Burning by Tim Madigan & Hilary Beard
  33. A Bilingual Character: The Wedding Crasher by Mia Sosa
  34. An Author’s Photo on the Back Cover
  35. From the Villain’s Perspective: Cackle by Rachel Harrison
  36. Recommended by a Favorite Author: How to Love Your Neighbor by Sophie Sullivan
  37. Set in a Rural Area: The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager
  38. Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover!: The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain
  39. A Middle-Grade Novel: 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson
  40. A Book with Photographs Inside
  41. Involves a Second Chance: Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper
  42. An Indie Read
  43. Author Who’s Published in More than One Genre: Gwendy’s Final Task by Richard Chizmar & Stephen King
  44. An Anthology
  45. A Book with Illustrated People on the Cover: The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox
  46. A Job Title in the Title: The Therapist by B.A. Paris
  47. Read During the Month of November
  48. Redo One of This Year’s Prompts but with a Different Genre
  49. Book Title Starts with the Same Letter as Your First Name
  50. A Person of Color as the Main Character: Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
  51. The Word “Game” in the Title
  52. Published in 2022: Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins

Even as I’m going through it to write it down I’m realizing more of the ways I can move this around and make it work even better, especially based on what I still plan to read this year. And after going back several times, I’ve managed to fit all 34 of my reads so far into the list! Another great thing: there’s only eight prompts remaining that I haven’t filled at all yet. I need to buckle down and focus on those now!

I’ll update all the posts that got switched around, as well as The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge page soon to reflect these! Glad I took the time to rearrange them and prep for the remainder of my reading year.

Anyone else doing the challenge? Is it time for a mid-year check in??

No more content today, friends, because that has successfully zapped all my energy.

Hope you have a fabulous Friday and weekend!

The Home Edit by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin

The Home Edit by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 7. A non-fiction bestseller

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 6. Household object on the cover, 24. Addresses a specific topic, 30. Audiobook is narrated by the author, 40. A book with photographs inside

I recently got a job as a professional organizer and decided to pick up The Home Edit (though that’s not the company I’m working for – just happens to be the easiest-to-access literature at the moment!). At the same time, I started watching the show, which kind of felt like a mistake because I ended up letting their TV personalities bleed into my reading experience. But I digress.

The Home Edit is set up as a how-to game plan to tackle the chaos of your home, and rein it in with baskets and labels. It establishes some principles and ground rules for organizing, and then takes you room by room with tips and tricks and inspiration photos. The book itself is laid out in Clea & Joanna’s preferred order based on project size and emotional weight.

If you need a sense of zen, just perusing the photos of this book ought to do it for you for a little while, at least. I really liked a lot of these spaces, and they look straight out of a magazine. Looking a little closer, though, I don’t know if I would choose to do things the same way they do in many instances. I’ve felt that way sometimes on the job myself. Not everyone is going to organize the same space the same way, which I think might be part of the problem! We can use principles that apply to most everyone to guide us (keep your utensils toward the front of the drawer, alphabetize or rainbow order whenever possible to assist your brain to stay naturally organized…) but your use of items and preferred systems could be totally different than Joanna & Clea’s, or mine, or anyone else’s.

But again, I guess that’s not book criticism!

As for the book, anyways, I liked it overall but was not generally wowed by it. It didn’t feel revolutionary or life changing. Maybe when it came out, it was, but I feel like these might be pretty basic steps for organization by now. Especially in a post-COVID world, where we all became pretty organized anyways… or at least tried.

Further, there’s not enough of the ~process~ in this book. I want to read about how you went from nine boxes of expired cereal to decanted and labeled jars of Cheerios. I think I like the decision making process, the part that comes in between, more than I like the Instagram-able after, which I think is what Joanna and Clea focus on.

That said, much of the advice and principles for organizing are GREAT. The “no guilt” and “do I really need it” guidelines are things I use ALL. The. TIME with friends and family when I help them purge and clean. It doesn’t work on everyone, admittedly, but reading it in this book was like preaching to the choir. A lot of their rules were much the same, and definitely steer the ship so-to-speak for your organizing projects.

I liked this book, but I originally intended on reading the rest of the “series”, if it can be called that, and now I’m not sure. We’ll see where the breeze takes us.

Have a great week friends!

Adventures in Book Hunting: Volume 5

Adventures in Book Hunting: Volume 5

In which we spend gift cards at Barnes & Noble Newington!

Happy Friday, people!! The weekend cannot come soon enough.

This past Sunday during the holiday weekend I had the pleasure of visiting my most local (if you can believe it, 45 minutes away) Barnes & Noble to spend a gift card from my awesome parents, for helping them purchase their home (real estate is my day job, reading is my career).

I had a long list to purchase, as per the usual, but realized almost as soon as I got there that a lot of them actually aren’t out yet? So it really seems like a great time to run another “Most Anticipated” list for the rest of 2022! I won’t spoil those surprises, but tune in on the 17th for my full thoughts!

What was on my list, though, definitely got purchased. 1) Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead by Elle Cosimano. I *adored* Finlay Donovan is Killing It; it was totally unexpected and enjoyable. I initially read it because it was supposed to be like Only Murders in the Building, and while it has the casual humor of the show regarding seriously violent subjects, it doesn’t have the same ambience. I loved it all the same and cannot wait to read this sequel.

2) One Night on the Island by Josie Silver. I follow another book blogger on Goodreads with the username “chan ☆”, and I have a love/hate relationship with her reviews. It’s my understanding that she primarily vlogs, but I don’t really like social video content, so I’ve never watched any of her stuff. Mostly, I just awe at how many books she can consume in a 24 hour period and scoff at her few sentence reviews that almost always disagree with my own thoughts. When she shelved this as read and “dnf”, I figured I’d probably like it, lol. I really enjoyed The Two Lives of Lydia Bird, even though it broke my heart a thousand ways to Sunday. I’m excited for this one and love the concept of the shared vacation spot as a trope. I’m betting it’ll be cute!

3) My Favorite Thing is Monsters Vol. 1 by Emil Ferris. I don’t even remember how this one fell across my Goodreads dashboard, but I’m definitely in a noir mood as of late, and this fits the bill. I love a good graphic novel every once in a while, but the price tag on this bad boy had me like 0_0. I get it, though. Art AND writing? You earned it. I’m excited to read this interesting-sounding novel, with fantasy grounded in reality, and the past informing the present.

The other two things I *accidentally* picked up were Breathless by Ann McCulloch and The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon. I’ve been interested in Jennifer McMahon’s books before but I wasn’t sure how I would like the writing style, or if the plot itself would really carry the book. This one definitely sounds like it can, and it sounds from the synopsis that the writing style will also be pretty darn good. Breathless also sounds like a great mystery, but I primarily decided to pick up that one because it was one of the Book of the Month choices for this month. I don’t like the cover art so much (feels very generic), but once I read what it was about, I decided it’d be a good one. I picked both up off a table that suggested they were nail-biters with great twist endings. Wish I could remember what the table said exactly, but I trust their judgment!

Here’s my fresh stack in all it’s glory:

I also checked out the strategy games. Strategy games, while extremely expensive, are kind of my weakness. I checked out the game Furnace; I was drawn in by the art style but it seemed more up Nate’s alley than mine (so I handed it off to him!). I was also interested in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a Disney game based off the ride of the same name, and I liked that it seemed easy enough for the whole family to learn and play. Mostly I think I’m just overly-excited for my upcoming trip to the parks. I ended up passing on both in the end, which my wallet appreciated when the gift card didn’t cover it all, lol.

All in all a successful B&N trip on my first day off in a WHILE! Glad to restock while I had the chance.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Bag of Bones by Stephen King

Bag of Bones by Stephen King

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 30. Audiobook is narrated by the author

Other Possible Prompts: 21. Published by Simon & Schuster, 25. A wealthy character, 29. Over 500 pages long, 37. Set in a rural area, 43. Author who’s published in more than one genre

After listening to Bag of Bones this week it has swiftly become one of my favorite King novels. I love the paranormal aspect, the creepy history, and the depth of this story that becomes more and more realized with each passing page. Aaaand I get to fill the read by the author prompt without listening to a memoir?? Major win.

After the unexpected death of his wife and his subsequent writers block, author Mike Noonan packs up and heads for their summer home just outside of Castle Rock, Maine: Sara Laughs. Just as soon as he arrives, it seems that the home and whatever is growing within it has called out for him personally.

With a chance encounter on the fourth of July, he meets young widowed mother Mattie Devore and her daughter Kyra, who are in the throngs of a custody battle with her millionaire father-in-law, Max Devore. The more time Mike spends with the Devores, the larger the connection grows between them, and the more history he unearths – but despite the haunting that’s creeping in around Mike at Sara Laughs, he knows he can’t leave just yet…

This is a damn good ghost story is what this is. I love a good ghost story, and this one nails it perfectly. Just the right amount of intrigue with a touch of cold air on the back of your neck, and this hits the sweet spot. The story in Bag of Bones is incredibly dramatic and compelling even without the paranormal, but that part of it is just the perfect King touch.

There are some King books that I will simply never read and don’t feel the need to, but I was actually pulled into the idea of reading Bag of Bones after a chance recollection that I had seen the made-for-tv movie of it as a pre-teen. And if you know the subject matter of Bag of Bones, you know it’s not really the kind of scary movie a twelve year old should be watching. My mother found me watching it right towards the tail end, and promptly asked me to turn it off: so I never saw the end of it. Going into this book, I remembered some of the story, especially the more gruesome parts that had haunted me, but I didn’t remember enough to make this book unenjoyable or unsurprising. I really liked this call back and enjoying it at an older age.

I know I’m a frequent proponent of getting King a better editor, but this is one time where I couldn’t get enough of it all. I wasn’t bogged down by the setting descriptions, wasn’t bored by the interspersed dream retellings, certainly wasn’t hating on all the character relationships and dynamics. This is why I really feel like this is one of my favorites. The story carries itself without needing the benefit of being under five hundred pages. King had me from page one to page five hundred forty-four.

I also liked Mike Noonan a great deal more than I like most of King’s men (ha, ha). He’s far more likeable and his relationship with Ky is emotionally compelling. He feels less misogynistic, more thoughtful and caring, even if he is more sharply male in the way King seems to write them, if you know what I mean. Mike was just an alright main character, and I rooted for him in the way I rooted for Mattie and Ky as well.

While I don’t love the background of Sara Tidwell and the Red Top Boys – music/performing as a narrative just isn’t something that interests me, as I’ve mentioned before – their historical importance and the way their presence ties race and racism into the story is masterful. Additionally, having listened to the audiobook, having their jams come through my speakers once in a while was fine by me, too. It becomes more of a theatrical show than a book at that point!

Overall, I think it’s pretty clear that I enjoyed Bag of Bones. It’s definitely going to be one of my new favorite King novels, alongside The Mist and Gwendy’s Button Box. If I liked this one, what others would you recommend? (I’ve read The Shining, It, Carrie, Pet Sematary, all of the Button Box books, Elevation, Cujo, Sleeping Beauties, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and of course, The Mist…I had no idea I’d read that many, to be honest, and I don’t think I would’ve bothered to list them all out if I knew there was that many lol).

Have an awesome week, peeps!

Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins

Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 52. Published in 2022

Other Possible Prompts: 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover

I think I liked this one while reading, but when I look back I’m far less impressed. Not to mention, the second half just grated on my nerves. Let’s jump into it!

After her fiance of three years cheats on her with their realtor, Dani finally snaps. She calls off the wedding and swears off guys altogether – but it really feels like her ex, Sam, got off scott-free. So, together with her cousin and her new landlady, she conspires to buy the lot next door to his house and build a girls retreat – a “spite house”.

As an interior designer, Dani takes the lead on the project, but she needs an architect. The grumpy and off-putting Wyatt volunteers himself, much to Dani’s chagrin – as the time they’ve worked together at their company has not left warm and fuzzy feelings – but once they start working together, sparks seem to be flying in spite of Dani’s no-man rule. If only her revenge wasn’t getting in the way…

I was really digging this romance through the first half, with lots of tension and quips with the “hate” start to their romance, but then they totally lost me through the second half. It started strong, but then I really saw Dani get needy, and Wyatt get truly horrible at communicating. Neither are terribly attractive features, and as a functioning adult, I couldn’t fall into a romance where these two clearly had some growing up still to do. It (spoiler alert) destroyed their good chemistry, and made me disinterested in their success as a couple. As a whole, I quite enjoyed the novel, but the romance does not carry it start to finish.

In fact, the drama of the house build carries the second half. I rooted for Dani in all aspects except her needy romantic self. Mia and Iris were my favorites, because their sass and wisdom make them great supporting characters, but Dani is pretty solid, too. Wyatt, however, was a no from me. I always want the grumpy ones to be Mr. Darcy types, but he falls flat. I just don’t want the chiseled asshole archetype anymore. No soft and squishy insides here.

The “spite house” itself is an interesting concept…but the antics became a little much for me. It overtakes so much of the novel, but I can’t tell if it’s *supposed* to make me uncomfortable or not. It did. It was too much. Too try-hard. Just a build a gorgeous house, block his view, and be done with it all – why do we have to make your ex so mad?? I’m the queen of boundaries, the queen of let it go – this was very much the opposite of establishing a boundary and letting it go.

I can’t decide if I want to recommend this or not. I think I do. I would read Anna Collins again, but this definitely doesn’t top my favorites. I’m curious to see how a second novel pans out.

A copy of Love at First Spite was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

That’ll about do it. Big “meh” vibes from me as of late. Enjoy the weekend!

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 1. A second-person narrative

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 21. Published by Simon & Schuster (audiobook), 33. A bilingual character, 37. Set in a rural area, 41. Involves a second chance, 50. A person of color as the main character

This book was decidedly not my brand of weird. Luckily, it’s all going to be worth it because it helps fill my second-person narrative spot, which I thought for sure would be a tough one.

Ten years ago, four friends (Ricky, Lewis, Gabe, and Cass) completed what they refer to as the “Thanksgiving Classic”: the week before Thanksgiving, they did unspeakable horror in a hunting accident on their Blackfoot reservation. Haunted by their actions, their guilt hunts them down one by one.

While this book is no doubt disturbing, the story didn’t really do it for me. While I can’t ruin the event of the Thanksgiving Classic for you, what spurred the nightmare that unfolds in this book is not quite the line-crosser that I was expecting. While horrible, it was truthfully an accident that just spiraled out of control. I think Jones was relying on the cultural significance of their actions bearing down heavier on the meaning. Maybe I’m completely jaded or just plain missing the point, but the horror of this doesn’t reverberate and stick with me. I certainly don’t see how it haunted Lewis, whose storyline is my favorite throughout the book.

Lewis’ story lasts for about half the novel, and seems like a slow descent into madness, until it’s a very fast descent into madness. This is the part that felt truly like horror to me and that I really enjoyed. He was a man tortured, and his own feelings of guilt added the level of depth the story needed to be truly scary. In contrast, the latter half of the book gets even weirder, but Gabe and Cass do not feel the same levels of guilt over the Thanksgiving Classic, and it changes the narrative. Instead, they are more focused on their heritage, honoring their culture, and the Thanksgiving Classic does not fit into the narrative of those things. It’s a different feeling altogether.

I got kind of lost at times because of the shifting focus of the narration and the fast pace of the novel. I had to keep rereading as I lost energy and got bogged down in all the details. I think under different circumstances, a different subject matter, it may not have lost me. And I certainly don’t mean the “Indian” piece of it – I actually thought the cultural aspect of this was very interesting; the inner monologue regarding their cultural feelings of guilt or worry about addiction, heritage, etc. are all very enticing parts of the novel, which make the focal point a lot stronger – but it’s actually that focal point that bored me to begin with.

Honestly, the talent potential is here though. Like, this definitely didn’t turn me off to Jones’ writing in general. I still plan to read My Heart is a Chainsaw this year. He does write with a haunting air, this story just wasn’t the one for me. It’s a very particular brand of horror that I simply do not subscribe to. It was weird, it was freaky, but it wasn’t for me.

Not for me. Maybe for you? This is definitely an issue of personal preference and more a subjective than objective dislike and review of this story.

Have a great week. 🙂