Review: Dark August by Katie Tallo

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★★★½

HarperCollins | 2020

Filed Under: A Polite Canadian


I normally wouldn’t pick up a book like this because it’s thicc and sounds more like a contemporary with hints of suspense, but it’s set around my hometown in Niagara, Ontario so how and why would I pass up reading that? Obviously, I wouldn’t because here we are.

Do you know how many books are based in the Niagara area? Like, one. This one. Why? Because let’s get real, Niagara isn’t a thriving metropolis.

Maybe it used to be, but by the time I left most areas had nicknames like “the armpit of Niagara” or “the butthole of Niagara.”

Where did I live? The fucking taint. 

Like a taint, this novel is dark and gloomy; a family mystery wrapped around some community politics.

Augusta “Gus” Monet is basically a poor, aimless girl with little to her name and an abusive, shady AF boyfriend. When her grandmother dies, Gus comes into a little (seriously, very little) inheritance in the form of her grandmother’s house and whatever is inside of it, including an old dog named Levi. And the dog is honestly the best part of the whole novel, but I did spend a lot of time being paranoid something terrible was going to happen to him. If you’re the kind of person (like me) who needs to know if the dog dies going into a story, let me know and I’ll totally spoil it for you, no questions asked.

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Review: Bluebird, Bluebird (Highway 59, #1) by Attica Locke

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★★★

Mulholland Books | 2017

Filed Under: Makes Racists Afraid Again


This is a tricky review to write because there are two different elements to this book that require attention. The first is the atmosphere and setting and all the social issues that go along with it writing a novel set in a small one-horse Texas town with deep ties to America’s racist history.

The other is the mystery itself, because this is a mystery novel. Why were a black man and a white woman murdered together, and who did it?

The setting and the mystery work together and separately, propelling the plot forward while also giving the reader a glimpse into what small-town southern life is like when the local bar is full of Aryan Brotherhood members and up the road is a black-owned Jim Crow-era restaurant.

Honestly, is it just me or is the idea of travelling to the U.S. as an outsider just like, no thanks? I’m gonna quote Bowie here and say, I’m afraid of Americans. Obviously not all Americans, but let’s not parse this out like certain turds insist on doing with #notallmen. I’m married to a New Yorker and I love him and he’s wonderful. But still, as a whole? No, thanks. I think if I was going to travel to the U.S., I’d pick all the blue states for my destinations. I feel my risk of running into bigoted, racist assholes and people carrying guns for no reason is significantly lowered. I don’t want to die just because I wanted to see the Grand Canyon, you know what I mean?

But, I digress…

American Usa GIF by CTV Comedy Channel
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Review: The Girls Weekend by Jody Gehrman

“Bitter, cold, barren. These are words thrown at women without children. Like we’re a Montana winter. Either we’re to be pitied or we’re to be blamed, depending on how much choice we had in the matter.”

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★★★½

Crooked Lane Books | 2020

Opening Hook: The horror of a baby shower invitation

Main Character: Flirty, Thirty and Thriving

Plot Twisty-ness: This is why I hate baby showers


If you’re looking for an easy read that will still satisfy your need for murder and mayhem, then I’m going to recommend this book. Honestly, it’s nothing special. It isn’t deep or complex, the plot elements are basic and it’s on the lower side for page count, but I actually mean none of that in a bad way for once in my life. Sometimes you just want to read a book in your preferred genre that isn’t going to require a lot of brainpower or emotional investment. And that’s this book.

It’s fun, it’s light, it’s a little bit sinister and it’ll keep your attention firmly on its fictional world instead of on our real, sucky one.

In the middle of a stressful pandemic, that’s exactly what I was looking for. And it’s what I got. I mean, I’m not going to give it 5-stars just for that, but on a fantasy five-star scale that exists only for soapy-mystery novels, it would get a full fist. Wait… no. Forget I said that. Ew.

Anyway, the cherry-on-top is that Gehrman infused this female-centric, locked-room mystery with all the feminist sparkle and questions about expectations of women that I love and relate to.

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Review: The Return by Rachel Harrison

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★★★½

Berkley | 2020

Opening Hook: Not Reese Witherspoon in Wild

Main Character: Hopeful, despite the rotted teeth

Plot Twisty-ness: Unexpected body horror


This was definitely interesting. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but this time that isn’t a bad thing. It’s a novel I won’t soon forget and the catalyst for my decision to not read horror novels involving teeth for the rest of my fucking life. Thank you very much.

This is hard to review because it’s essentially a spoiler minefield from beginning to end, but I’ll do my best to explain why you should read this book if you’re looking for, what I’m calling, Girls’ Weekend Horror.

Honestly, I didn’t hate this. I might have actually really liked it. I think my expectations were tempered by the abundance of disappointed reviews I came across before I ever cracked this one open – and by cracked open, I mean swiped open because #netgalley. I get some of the criticisms, but for me, I had a good time. And I wasn’t even high!

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Review: Behind the Door (Kathy Ryan, #2) by Mary Sangiovanni

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★★★

Lyrical Underground | 2018

Opening Hook: Don’t Dead, Open Inside

Main Character: Basically M.I.A

Plot Twisty-ness: Lost in the forest


Eh, so this was a bit weird. Not terrible, but not great either. Because I’m so behind in reviews, I read this months ago and honestly, I’m still not really sure how I feel about it outside of one thing: editor needed.

This is the second novel in the Kathy Ryan series, but it can be read as a standalone because she’s barely in it. And when she is, there’s no information presented about Kathy that has too much bearing on the novel as part of a series. Really, without this being strictly marketed as in a series starring Kathy Ryan, I would never have known.

Seriously, why is she not in this book at all until like the 50% point? The chapter plotting is just so fucking weird. I’m sorry. Whoever saw this book plotted out and thought, “yes, good job,” was on drugs. And not the good kind.

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Review: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

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★★★½

Dutton | 2019

Opening Hook: Catching your BF bending someone else over a couch.

Plot Twisty-ness: The entitlement of the rich.

Main Character: Every millennial woman.


If I had never read Final Girls or The Last Time I Lied, would I be giving this a higher rating?? Maybe. Please don’t look at my less-than-enthused review as a reason to not read this book, because everything Sager writes is a book to read, imho.

However, this third novel by Sager is just not as strong an offering as his previous two. Again, just my fangirl opinion.

I truly do love Sager. He and I should obviously be best friends because we like all the same things. And he’s built a writing career around paying homage to those favourite influences in the most satisfying way for me as a reader.

Lock Every Door is Rosemary’s Baby meets the United States poverty gap and healthcare. There are some elements included in the plot that are a bit misleading – is it a ghost story? Horror? Is there something satanic going on? But Sager takes that part of Rosemary’s Baby and flips it on its head to create commentary about U.S. healthcare and income inequality.

Now there’s a horror story, she says in Canadian.

That’s all I’ll say about that because I don’t want to get into spoilers.

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Review: White Out (Badlands Thriller, #1) by Danielle Girard

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★★★

Thomas & Mercer | 2020

Opening Hook: Get winter tires.

Main Character: I don’t remember.

Plot Twisty-ness: Small-town amnesia.


If you’re sick to death of this extreme heat, which I always am even before it starts, then this snowy thriller is the perfect read to cool off this summer. How’s that for a goddamn tagline, huh? I should do this shit professionally. Someone pay me. Oh, and today is the official pub day!

Alright, so I was offered this book by the author, Danielle Girard, in exchange for a review. These authors know what they’re getting into when they ask me to review their books, so I’m always honest even when it’s negative, and I don’t feel bad about it.

Fortunately for all of us, I don’t really have too much to say that’s negative about this first instalment in the Badlands series… except like two things… three things… four things… Okay, whatever, we’ll count them up at the end.

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Review: Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus

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★★★

Delacorte Press | 2019

Opening Hook: Jamie Lee this Prom Queen ain’t.

Main Character: A Murderino Nancy Drew.

Plot Twisty-ness: Boiled chicken without seasoning.


Ughhhhhh…

Here we are again. Welcome to yet another edition of “Krystin tries to read YA!”

Aside from Undead Girl Gang, which I totally fucking loved, I feel like I’ve been trying for 84 years like that lady from Titanic to get into YA mystery/thrillers and it’s just one disappointment after the next.

That’s not to say that the books aren’t good. Okay? Calm your energy. I’m not here to shit on your genre of choice. In almost every case, it’s has been an “it’s me, not you” situation. I am just not the right audience for this genre.

I wish I was! I would love to relax with a YA thriller because the R-rated shit can get to be a bit too much. Being constantly inundated with the most heinous plotlines can warp a person who also watches too much news. This planet is a dumpster fire. Yes, I see a therapist regularly, thank you.

I feel like a YA thriller would really help me unwind. Alas, of the 55 books on my “young-adult” Goodreads shelf, I have like 3 of them.

THREE.

Overall, these books make me feel very much like…

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Review: Anything For You (Valerie Hart, #3) by Saul Black

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★★★

St. Martin’s Press | 2019

Opening Hook: Body parts in the desert.

Main Character: Clearly written by a man.

Plot Twisty-ness: What it lacks in thrills, it tries to make up using oral sex.


First things first, if you’ve never read Saul Black before (aka Glen Duncan) do not get to know him by reading this book. I would suggest reading the very first Valerie Hart novel, The Killing Lessons, and if the style works for you, then you’ve got a new thriller series to read!

I say this because Saul Black is a graphic and gritty author with dark plot points and character arcs that flow from book to book. It’s important to understand the whole character and how he writes the plot around that character, to know whether or not his writing works for you. But it works as a standalone as well, if you’re okay with missing some character building.

There’s also a lot of descriptive sex and violence. So…..

Those of us with more delicate sensibilities would call Black crude or vulgar, and it will knock you off balance if that’s not the kind of writing you are expecting or like. The rest of us will be into his writing style because it’s honest and visceral, and we like gross shit.

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Review: The Substitute by Nicole Lundrigan

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★★★

Spiderline | 2017

Opening Hook: Just hanging around.

Main Character: Seeming guilty might be a fetish.

Plot Twisty-ness: Too much soda.


Okay, so this wasn’t exactly a grab-you-by-the-tits kind of thriller. If that’s what you’re expecting, temper your expectations accordingly. This is slower, but eerie, like a guy walking behind you – he just gives you the creeps but it’s not like he’s done anything but be a man alone on a sidewalk. Depending on your mood, this is either going to hit you as slow and boring or as a slow-burner that is chilling and twisty.

For me, when I read this, it was slowwwwwww like watching a sloth cross the street, which in any other circumstances I would love to do because sloths are my favourite.

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That said, I feel like it’s totally on me being in a bad headspace for a slow-burning thriller considering I’ve been stuck in the fucking house since mid-March. I can’t do slow or boring or any combination therein. I need my thrillers to be genuinely thrilling, mysterious and wild if I’m going to forget I’m looking at the same walls every day, all day. HOW MANY MORE WALKS CAN I TAKE MY DOG ON? We’ll find out…

Listen, I’m very grateful for all the people doing the front-line and essential work. But also, I’m getting cabin fever so let me express that, thank you and fuck off.

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