The Girls Are All So Nice Here

THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE is the debut Adult novel by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn. She has written several award-winning Young Adult novels.

A lot of people think of their high school years as the best time in their life. For me, a couple of my college years were the best of my life. I am quite old now, late 40s, but that time during college… it was so fun, so exhausting and I had a fantastic nest of friends.

They weren’t all classmates, but I had a hilarious group of “work” friends who were various ages. We all worked at a local retail warehouse, hence the exhausting part, and sometimes I wish I could transport myself right back to that group of people during the age of Seinfeld, Mariah Carey – before her ego became too big – and dinner get-togethers in my duplex.

However, today I am a complete SUCKER for stories involving how dark, tragic events during college years affect the life path the characters take – both good and bad.

In THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE, the debut Adult novel by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, we have a character who has done a pretty good job of leaving behind her college days where a tragic event happened that she may or may not have been involved in. Ten years later, she’s in a loveless marriage (from her point-of-view) and is being summoned to a college reunion with all of her frenemies who know the secrets she’s hidden from her husband.

A lot has changed in the years since Ambrosia Wellington graduated from college, and she’s worked hard to create a new life for herself. But then an invitation to her ten-year reunion arrives in the mail, along with an anonymous note that reads “We need to talk about what we did that night.”

It seems that the secrets of Ambrosia’s past—and the people she thought she’d left there—aren’t as buried as she’d believed. Amb can’t stop fixating on what she did or who she did it with: larger-than-life Sloane “Sully” Sullivan, Amb’s former best friend, who could make anyone do anything.

At the reunion, Amb and Sully receive increasingly menacing messages, and it becomes clear that they’re being pursued by someone who wants more than just the truth of what happened that first semester. This person wants revenge for what they did and the damage they caused—the extent of which Amb is only now fully understanding. And it was all because of the game they played to get a boy who belonged to someone else, and the girl who paid the price.

Alternating between the reunion and Amb’s freshman year, The Girls Are All So Nice Here is a shocking novel about the brutal lengths girls can go to get what they think they’re owed, and what happens when the games we play in college become matters of life and death.

CONTENT WARNING: The topics this book discusses are bullying, the shaming of women’s sexual activities, rape, drug use, abortion and suicide.

The literary critical magazine Kirkus best described the book as, “A sharp, pitch-black thriller that takes the mean-girls trope to another level.”

Sharp is definitely how I would describe THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE. Sharp: as in prickly and be super careful while being around certain people.

Running from her college years is no longer an option for Ambrosia Wellington. She is forced to attend her 10-year reunion where she must solve a mystery that occurred during her first semester.

Amb is not the quintessential likeable character. She’s not quite as unlikeable as Amy Dunne from Gone Girl, but she’s someone who doesn’t want to make much of an effort to solve the things that she is running from until forced to. She wasn’t a classmate people especially wanted to be friends with and actually became a campus pariah as the years went on.

I thought the mystery itself was interesting in that Amb was forced to solve the damn mystery herself in order to move on with her life. There needed to be a bit more character development of Amb such as information about her career and instances of things she actually cared about. Something other than just the focus on aspects of her marriage.

THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE is perfect for readers who want a mystery that will have them stepping back in time in remembrance of their own college years with the knowledge they no longer have to deal with past frenemies.

I rate THE GIRLS ARE ALL SO NICE HERE three out of five stars.

People Like Her

PEOPLE LIKE HER takes a fictional look at the dark side of being an Instafamous mommy influencer.

What a great tagline this book has: “Followed by Millions, Watched by One” – it perfectly sums up the plot, yet encapsulates our obsession with social media.

In this debut from wife/husband duo, Ellery Lloyd (also a great author pen name), PEOPLE LIKE HER explores the pros and cons of being Instagram famous. The plot deals with the murky, dangerous side of being well-known in the influencer world.

To her adoring fans, Emmy Jackson, aka @the_mamabare, is the honest “Instamum” who always tells it like it is. 

To her skeptical husband, a washed-up novelist who knows just how creative Emmy can be with the truth, she is a breadwinning powerhouse chillingly brilliant at monetizing the intimate details of their family life.

To one of Emmy’s dangerously obsessive followers, she’s the woman that has everything—but deserves none of it.  

As Emmy’s marriage begins to crack under the strain of her growing success and her moral compass veers wildly off course, the more vulnerable she becomes to a very real danger circling ever closer to her family.

In this deeply addictive tale of psychological suspense, Ellery Lloyd raises important questions about technology, social media celebrity, and the way we live today. Probing the dark side of influencer culture and the perils of parenting online, People Like Her explores our desperate need to be seen and the lengths we’ll go to be liked by strangers. It asks what—and who—we sacrifice when make our private lives public, and ultimately lose control of who we let in. . . .

I have a love/hate relationship with Social Media. There are a lot of good things about it: meeting new people (Hello, Bookstagram community!), learning more about your hobbies, being introduced to things you never knew existed. The bad things include FOMO, comparing yourself to others, finding you may not be the special snowflake you thought you were, the sadz feelings of not keeping up with the Joneses, etc…

And then there are the psychos, trolls and stalkers. The book discusses what happens when Emmy’s followers take her seriously. So seriously in that she’s blamed for the horrible events that happened to followers listening to her advice.

PEOPLE LIKE HER also takes a deep look into the fake façade influencers show. Emmy herself admits to being the opposite of the mom she portrays on Instagram. She’s not perfect, she’s very flawed and she knows this. Yet, she becomes addicted to the power, and money, that being a successful mom influencer can bring.

Wife/Husband author duo, Ellery Lloyd, aka, Collette Lyons, who worked as a journalist and editorial content director, and novelist Paul Vlitos, wrote PEOPLE LIKE HER – the novel unravels the frightening aspects of being Instagram famous.

The book takes a path that, at times, becomes unbelievable. However, this is a popcorn thriller in that you’ll want to read to the end because you must find out what happens to this family, YET it’s not a story you would nominate for Book of the Year.

After you spend a couple of hours reading your favorite Mommy Blogger and question whether you will ruin your kids’ lives because you haven’t been feeding them organic bananas, relax on the sofa, read PEOPLE LIKE HER and realize you are actually the best mommy in the world.

I rate PEOPLE LIKE HER four out of five stars.

Just a housekeeping note: For books I read on e-readers, I’ll try to liven up the cover photos. This is something I’ll hopefully get better at as time goes on. Also, reviews of books I have access to the jacket flaps, I’ll post the description directly from the flap. For e-reader books, I’ll post the Goodreads description. Also, I’m still working on the blog menu tabs, as some are still not working correctly. (insert emoji grrrr face here)

Shiver

SHIVER reunites a group of pro snowboarders who find themselves abandoned at a French Alp ski resort.

British-born author Allie Reynolds used her knowledge of being a pro-snowboarder for her locked-room (ski resort) mystery. This book is an homage to the snow (of course!), competitiveness, the dangers of Mother Nature and old crushes.

When Milla accepts an off-season invitation to Le Rocher, one of France’s most exclusive ski resorts, she’s expecting an intimate weekend of catching up with four old friends. It might have been a decade since she saw them last, but she’s never forgotten the bond they forged on this very mountain during a winter spent fiercely training for an elite snowboarding competition.

Yet the moment Milla and the others arrive for the reunion, they can tell something is wrong. The resort is deserted. The cable cars that delivered them to the mountaintop have stopped working. Their cell phones: missing. And inside their ski lodge, an icebreaker game awaits, designed to draw out their secrets. A game meant to remind them of Saskia, the enigmatic sixth member of their group who vanished the morning of the competition years before and has long been presumed dead.

Stranded in the lodge, with a looming snowstorm making escape even more impossible, Milla realizes there’s no one on the mountain she can trust. Because someone will stop at nothing to find out the truth about Saskia. And if Milla’s not careful, she could be the next to disappear.

I’ve only been skiing once and it was a disaster, to say the least. However, I’m drawn to stories with snow, the coldness and being stranded with people you know (and despise). For a locked-room mystery, this setting is unique. Combine that with the whole snowboarding aspect, which I admittedly know nothing about, it makes for a different type of whodunit.

Author Allie Reynolds used her past experience as a pro snowboarder to describe the thrills and danger that comes along with jumping into the sky for competitions.

Allie uses snowboarding jargon in describing all of the dangerous twists, turns and leaps the characters endured during their competitive years. She also details the longing and want Milla has driving her to keep trying to beat Saskia … even when she shouldn’t.

We learn about her relationship with Saskia, who is the ultimate Frenemy. Yet, Milla is no innocent bystander. She fights back just as hard as Saskia gives.

The side love-interest story was another locked-room mystery trope we don’t see often. Milla’s crush of years ago is standing right in front of her again and this time, too much is on the line for her to walk away without investigating what’s there between her and … Ahhhh, I can’t tell you which guy he is! You have to read it for yourself.

Although it’s now warm April showers for a lot of us, grab yourself a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and settle in on a Friday night with a warm blanket and SHIVER.

I rate SHIVER four out of five stars.

The Lost Village

Blair Witch Project meets Midsommar in this mystery chocked full of creepy folk lore, a cult and family loyalty.

Cold, grey abandoned towns leave behind a lot of questions. What happened to cause the demise? Was there one big event or lots of little incidents that forced the once-thriving area to die? Where did the people who resided in the town go?

In Camila Sten’s debut adult thriller, THE LOST VILLAGE, the 900 residents of Silvertjärn, Sweden disappeared in 1959. All that was left of the town were dirty dishes left on tables, schoolbooks open on the desks, a deceased woman tied to a pole and a newborn left behind in the nurse’s office.

Documentary filmmaker Alice Lindstedt has been obsessed with the vanishing residents of an old mining town, dubbed “The Lost Village,” since she was a little girl. In 1959, her grandmother’s entire family disappeared in the mysterious tragedy, and ever since the unanswered questions surrounding the only two people were left – a woman stoned to deah in the town center and an abandoned newborn – have plagued her. She’s gathered a small crew of friends in the remote village to make a film about what really happened.

But there will be no turning back.

Not long after they’ve set up camp, strange things begin to happen. Equipment is destroyed. People go missing. As doubt breeds fear and their very minds begin to crack, one thing becomes startlingly clear to Alice.

They are not alone.

They’re looking for the truth …

But what if it finds them first?

Come find out.

CONTENT WARNING: Heavy topics in THE LOST VILLAGE include depression, rape, abortion and attempted suicide.

Understanding mental illness is a major theme of the book. Sten stated in the book’s foreward she wanted to highlight female mental illness. “There are three female characters in the book suffering from mental illness, and they are all perceived and treated differently,” she said.

THE LOST VILLAGE, a mystery set in Silvertjärn, Sweden, is considered Scandinavian/Nordic noir.

Sten also weaved a fascinating cult storyline into THE LOST VILLAGE. I’m a sucker for cult plot and it was easy to see how the town, living on hopelessness, could easily become followers of a charismatic preacher. I would have liked for Sten to develop the leader more because we get small glimpses of him instead of an encompassing side plot into how he gathered his flock of followers.

The book has mixed reviews because while it has been compared to a cross between Blair Witch Project and Midsommar, it’s not as “scary” as some readers would have liked.

The story kept me intrigued from the start and I was dying to know exactly what happened to the citizens. I loved the creepy setting, the coldness and the rain. Sten’s descriptions made way for the sense of impending doom throughout the book.

Often compared to Blair Witch Project and Midsommar, THE LOST VILLAGE kind of made me want to watch Blair Witch Project. I’ve never seen that movie before, but now that I know – spoiler alert! – the entire movie was just a fictional movie, meh… I have seen Midsommar and Florence Pugh was the BEST thing about that movie. However, I can see the similarities between those movies and this book.

I’ll stick with THE LOST VILLAGE instead.

I rate THE LOST VILLAGE 4 out of 5 stars.