Gallows Hill

GALLOWS HILL is the first Darcy Coates I’ve read. I’ve seen her books at B&N, but have never bought one. After reading GALLOWS HILL I’m going to read her backlog.

She has such VIVID descriptions in her writing. The character’s movements, thoughts and fears are expressed in real time. It’s rare when reading horror that I’m actually scared. I often have a hard time of utilizing suspension of disbelief. I don’t have this issue while watching a movie. Ha!

But Darcy’s writing of each sentence is so purposeful and intentional that everything comes together in a way that makes sense. Even when it shouldn’t.

Margot’s parents died leaving her their family legacy winery. Her parents gave her up when she was eight years old, so she has a lot of questions. When she travels to the winery’s odd town and spends the night in the creepy family house she has even more questions.

Margot has to figure out her place in this new life along with the people her parents employed. She’s also sure there is something sinister inside the house that caused her parents death.

No spoilers, but let’s just say Margot had good reasons to be fearful.

The only issue I had with GALLOWS HILL was this was a one-character driven story. She was a lonely child who became a lonely adult. Several of Margot’s parents employees became her family. However, most were older than her.

A big chunk of the book was about the movements Margot made. I wish there had been more of a friendship/relationship with characters closer to her age. I felt like there was a puzzle piece missing in the story and that may have been it.

Nonetheless, I loved this book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for an e-copy of GALLOWS HILL to review.

I rate GALLOWS HILL four out of five stars.

Nothing More to Tell

Every now and then I read a YA mystery book and wish these types of books existed when I was a teen. Don’t get me wrong, Sweet Valley High was a great series. I won’t even try to compare anything to my beloved Nancy Drew.

But there’s something about Karen McManus’ books that bring out old-fashioned mystery nostalgia for me.

I’m not sure if it’s the fast pacing, the quick-read, the flawed characters, the stupid mistakes or the character growth that makes getting through Karen’s whodunit is a fun journey.

This time our main character becomes an amateur sleuth at her high school to unveil who killed a teacher.

This book had SO MANY red herrings. I love when I try to guess the killer and get it wrong every time. That’s what happened for me in this book.

NOTHING MORE TO TELL would be a great read for teens starting high school that won’t feel like the “dreaded summer reading” books. It’s a mixed bag of mystery, romance and, of course, murder.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for an e-copy of NOTHING MORE TO TELL to review.

I rate NOTHING MORE TO TELL five out of five stars.

Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief

Bill Mason, jewel thief extraordinaire, details his heists which included stealing from celebrities popular in the 70s and other high-profile people.

I have mixed feelings about this 2005 book. I was amped to read it because I love any story (true or not) about jewel heists. I went into it hoping I’d find out all sorts of juicy details about how jewel thieves operate and what happens to the jewels AFTER the heist. It’s not like a thief can walk into Jareds and receive money for stolen goods. And while the book did provide some of what I was after, Bill Mason (our thief and author) focused too much on his prison time and hanging out with his drunk lawyers DURING his trials.

Bill is a big talker and he is proud of his heists. And he should be. In CONFESSIONS OF A MASTER JEWEL THIEF we get the backstory on his biggest heists. He fancies himself as possibly the country’s greatest jewel thief. He may well be. But he is severely missing a moral compass in describing his escapades.

Phyllis Diller, Armand Hammer, Bob Hope and Robert Goulet were a few of his victims. In his mind this was okay because they had so much money (and insurance) they could easily replace the items, eh?

One would not expect the country’s best jewel thief to have scruples, so it wasn’t a big surprise. Many times Bill tried to rationalize his illegal activities. He didn’t really need the money, but it was the planning of each heist that got his motor running.

Even though he had a wife and three kids, the siren call of the jewels got him every single time.

The book details his heists which occurred mostly from the 60s to the 80s. He was in jail off and on during those years. He was followed a LOT by the FBI and local police departments. And for that he was proud.

Yet, he could not understand WHY they were so focused on him when there were actual crimes, like murders, being committed. It never really sunk in for him that his activities were illegal and when he was brought in for questioning he always found a way to prove the cops wrong.

I did learn that lock companies are idiots. A huge lock company (that I won’t name) would mail him the keys to entire hotels when he would give the lock numbers on hotel letterhead. They literally gave him the keys to the jewels. He pointed out how people take for granted the smallest things like having the smarts to lock their balcony doors.

I suppose my beef with Bill is his wife was always left to cleanup his mess with the feds, the cops, their friends, their neighbors … and meanwhile Bill was stealing gems and other women’s hearts.

He also had a knack for hanging out with people who he admits were bad news, he knew from the start they were bad news and yet he’d hang out with them anyway. Even though he was always on parole and being followed.

However, I did find his sense of humor fun. I appreciated that he did not take anything from Carol Channing because he thought she “was too nice to steal from.”

Bill, who almost always worked alone, talks a lot about his prison time and how terrible it was for him, but he’d get out and go right back to plotting more thefts. He also had terrible tastes in lawyers. Alas, CONFESSIONS OF A MASTER JEWEL THIEF was a hoot.

I rate CONFESSIONS OF A MASTER JEWEL THIEF three out of five stars.

Death by Bubble Tea

DEATH BY BUBBLE TEA, by Jennifer Chow, pours a fun cozy mystery into a light-bulb glass (when you read this book, you’ll understand the reference).

This book, by Jennifer Chow, had so many things going for it. Family loyalty, the FOOD (holy moly, the food), and MURDER. This was a fun, relaxing mystery which was just what I needed during a stressful week. While cozy mysteries are on the lighter side of a murder mystery, they often provide the comfort and, well, cozy relaxing read we sometimes need.

Yale just got laid off at her beloved bookstore job. Her Instagram-worthy cousin, Celine, is visiting from Hong Kong. Yale is tasked with teaming up with Celine to have a food cart at a night event in their town. Someone dies after drinking Yale’s tea. All clues point to Yale and Celine and – there’s your mystery.

I loved Yale. She reminded me so much of myself in my twenties. She was a shy introvert who turned to books for companionship. Celine started off snobby, but grew into someone who valued things other than money by the end of the story.

I thought the pace of solving the mystery was a tad slow. DEATH BY BUBBLE TEA needed more conflict and perhaps red herrings.

I can’t wait for Jennifer’s next book. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Yale finds a love interest. That gal desperately needs one. For the next book I’m going to start reading it with a hot bowl of noodles and bubble tea.

Thank you NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for an e-copy of DEATH BY BUBBLE TEA, by Jennifer J. Chow, to review.

I rate DEATH BY BUBBLE TEA four out of five stars.

Slenderman, Online Obsession, Mental Illness and the Violent Crime of Two Midwestern Girls

Kathleen Hale takes a deep dive into the 2014 Slenderman stabbing case. Two young girls stabbed their classmate as an act of loyalty to the online folk lore figure, “Slenderman.”

I remember reading about the Slenderman case when it happened. I’ve always been fascinated with what was the reasoning that drove the two girls to plot and stab their friend – at 12 years old.

This story has layers upon layers of information about mental illness and how that relates to our online usage, not to mention what “tales” are believed by children. We could also go into a deep analysis of medication for mentally ill children and whether they could ever be functioning adults after committing a horrendous crime, but alas, it’s too much to cover.

For the review, I’ll stick to Kathleen’s writing of SLENDERMAN. I learned a LOT. I remember hearing about the case and following it slightly in the news.

The book delves into what happened with a lot of details and WHY the stabbing happened. We also learn of the aftermath – the interrogations, the detention center, mental institution, therapy, court cases, medications (or not). We also learn a bit about what happened to all three girls’ families in the years to come.

It was obvious Kathleen researched the case thoroughly. The details she wrote were helpful in seeing what really happened.

I wish she had been able to find out more about how the families are currently doing. I hope everyone involved has found a way to move on, but I’m sure it’s still something they deal with each day.

Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for providing me an e-book copy of SLENDERMAN, by Kathleen Hale, to review.

I rate SLENDERMAN, by Kathleen Hale, four out of five stars.

You’re Invited

That tagline: She’ll Wish She’d Never RSVP’D – so good! I love it.

Okay, okay, okay, I was SO excited to read YOU’RE INVITED by Amanda Jayatissa. I loved her first book, My Sweet Girl. YOU’RE INVITED did not disappoint.

Set in Sri Lanka, Amanda weaves a tale mostly told by our unreliable narrator, Amaya. She is determined to not let the wedding between her ex-best friend, Kaavi, and her ex-boyfriend, Spencer happen.

The story is told from a couple of points-of-view mixed in with interviews after Kaavi disappears on the day of her wedding.

The plot revolves around marriages and weddings. Particularly those in Sri Lanka. We see Kaavi dealing with the pressure from her family and community to get married before she’s deemed “too old.” We get glimpses of how arranged marriages work, how extravagant (and costly) weddings are in Sri Lanka.

The STRESS of making all these working parts come together is excruciating for Kaavi. And here Amaya, who has her own secrets and life issues, comes in like a wrecking ball ready to destroy the entire event.

I loved how the story would give little hints and breadcrumbs of secrets or twists and in the end everything comes together.

YOU’RE INVITED was a popcorn thriller that made for a great weekend of reading for me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me an e-copy of YOU’RE INVITED to review.

I rate YOU’RE INVITED five out of five stars.

One of the Girls

Greece is the backdrop for Lucy Clarke’s locked-estate mystery. ONE OF THE GIRLS is told by multiple characters who each have their own set of secrets.

I love plots set at bachelorette parties – ESPECIALLY British ones, called “hen-dos.” Throw in a locked-estate mystery in Greece alongside six women who have frenemy pasts and ah, this makes for a great summer read by Lucy Clarke.

Told from each woman’s point-of-view ONE OF THE GIRLS is a story that weaves each character together. These were childhood best friends, lovers, a future sister-in-law and a new-found friend all tied together by the bride’s upcoming nuptials.

The story dips in and out of the Greece waters on an estate that overlooks a cliff … you can see where this is going.

Secrets of past and present are told. There’s lots of day-drinking, skinny-dipping, backhanded compliments, open snark – this story has it all.

The one issue I have is the six points-of-view are a bit hard to keep up with.

This would be a good read for those who like mysteries (duh), dream of traveling to Greece, have close female friendships or have lost close female friendships.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for an e-copy of ONE OF THE GIRLS to review.

I rate ONE OF THE GIRLS four out of five stars.

The Swell

How about this cover? Beautiful! THE SWELL is Allie Reynolds follow-up to “Shiver.” THE SWELL takes readers on a surfing adventure with characters straight out of a wanna-be cult ready to protect THE SWELL against … anybody else.

I love when a book transports me to a completely different world than the one I live in. Twice now Allie Reynolds has plopped me right into settings that, if I’m being honest, I would be found dead on the first day.

THE SWELL sends us to a dangerous outdoor world in which a mini-cult has the mindset of living day-to-day with no real jobs and facing your freaking fears, even if that includes a load of mental and physical pain.

The swell – aka Mother Nature’s hidden cove in Australia – may be the true villain in the story. Imagine heat and waves upon waves featuring jagged rocks and cliffs. Maybe you could survive surfing. However, if you jumped from one of these cliffs would it be fun or would it be the equivalent to dying on cement? Who the heck knows? Just go with it, mate! Ahhhh, this is the antagonist that would kill me on the first day.

However, I’m so naïve and trusting, the merry band of “the tribe” would do me in before supper.

Kenna is out to save Mikki. Convinced that her best friend since childhood is in an abusive relationship she jet sets from London to Australia to save her. To Allie’s relief, it appears Mikki’s boyfriend is a somewhat okay dude. But when he takes them both on a trip to The Swell, all hell breaks loose.

Last year I went from freezing on the sofa imagining being locked on a snowy ski mountain while reading Allie’s debut, “Shiver,” to this summer pretending I’m sunburned and sun-drained on the sofa reading THE SWELL.

Allie has the ability to make you feel like you are one of these nomad characters. I kept picturing myself with this group of people. They are just a bunch of surfers, living off adrenalin (with not much food) and are in great physical shape just doing their best to keep the swell a secret. They want the place to themselves and will do anything to make that happen.

I can’t wait to see what setting Allie takes us next. Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for providing me an e-copy of THE SWELL to review.

I rate THE SWELL five out of five stars.

This Might Hurt

An intricate web of a plot involving a cult AND a female magician.

Thank you NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me an e-copy of THIS MIGHT HURT by Stephanie Wrobel.

I loved Stephanie’s first book, Darling Rose Gold, so I was excited to be able to review her second book, THIS MIGHT HURT.

The story revolves around hard-worker Nat who is forced to find her estranged younger sister, Kit, at a program meant to help attendees improve their lives – in the fiction world, that’s code for a “cult.”

THIS MIGHT HURT provides a deep delve into the main characters’ pasts – which is needed, but becomes confusing right away. We get two backstories of two different sets of sisters. Once you figure out who means what to the plot, then all is well.

What I loved about the book is one of the sisters grows up wanting to be a … magician. This was such a unique career for a female character. She worked very hard at life, mostly due to her rigid, cold, father who naturally does not want her to be a magician. She loves Houdini, tricks, stunts, immunity to pain so much her hard work eventually does pay off. She becomes somewhat popular in the magician world.

This story deals with grief, familial guilt, loyalty to past relationships and devotion to new ones. There were several scenes which were a bit hard to read. However, I think everything in the story was necessary to make the plot work.

While the story wasn’t a mystery, it’s certainly a psychological thriller. There are head games at every twist and turn.

This is a good story for fans of Stephanie’s first book, cults and characters doing extreme things to make their lives right.

I rate THIS MIGHT HURT four out of five stars.

Good Rich People

Author Eliza Jane Brazier spins a tale of a dangerous game among the rich and poor in GOOD RICH PEOPLE. (I love this cover!)

Thank you NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me an e-book copy of GOOD RICH PEOPLE. This book is … WEIRD. In a GOOD way.

This is a story about rich versus poor. Or is it poor versus rich?

Lyla and Graham are very rich. They get bored easily. As does Graham’s mother, aka Lyla’s mother-in-law. They like to play games. The object is to destroy their latest tenant – always somebody who needs help and is specifically chosen by Lyla’s mother-in-law.

We find out about the past tenants and their newest tenant, Demi, who has her own treasure trove of secrets. Demi is the Draw Four card to their UNO game. She is the Go Straight to Jail card in their Monopoly game.

While I don’t think people with loads of money to burn have fun trying to destroy other’s lives, I do think they get bored quite easily. I have no money, you see, so I’m never bored. le sigh.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this story, but I ended up enjoying it. It will make you mad, sad and glad you aren’t Lyla.

GOOD RICH PEOPLE, with the perfect cover, publishes on January 25!

I rate GOOD RICH PEOPLE four out of five stars.