Review: Death in the Family (Shana Merchant, #1) by Tessa Wegert

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★★★★

Berkley | 2020

Filed Under: “Everything all right?” / “Yep, two corpses, everything’s fine.”


If you are looking for a modern Agatha Christie/Clue style locked-room mystery, may I suggest this fucking book to you?

Because I’m gonna.

This novel is such a throwback and I ended up liking it a lot… once I got past my assumptions of what the novel was going to be.

Apparently, it’s very easy for me to get used to the vibe of those fast-paced thrillers that are constantly trying to outdo the previous new release with twists and shocks. Read enough of them and I guess I can forget about the beauty in a subtle, classic mystery. Death in the Family was a needed reminder for me.

When I first started this, the tone and pace weren’t working for me. But that’s because I’m a stupid bitch. And almost immediately I realized I was looking for that other kind of thriller in the writing, which is actually really shit of me. Obviously, I need to switch up my current genre choices because it’s clouding how open I am when I start a new book.

I mean, not to get too fucking deep about it, but yeah…

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Review: When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain

“What is all the suffering for if not so we can see how alike we are, and not alone? Where will the mercy come from, if not from us?”

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★★★★

Ballantine Books | 2021

Filed Under: Hello darkness, my old friend


Well, I tell you what, if you’re in an emotional funk or mentally teetering on the edge of another bout of panny depression, do not read this book for the love of Thor and Loki’s butts in those toit-like-a-tiger outfits. Because this novel is sad, bitch.

I needed a nap and some serotonin by the time I was finished with it.

Detective Anna Hart is going through a hard time. She’s lost a child, lost herself and is about to lose her marriage. Hart decides the only way she might be able to find some perspective and some healing is if she leaves her current situation behind. She needs space to get herself together if there is any chance of moving past her grief and keeping her family.

She leaves San Fran for the small, country town of Mendocino, California where she grew up. Her dark present is about to compete with the tortured ghosts of her past in Mendocino. I mean, honestly, someone take this woman to an amusement park for the day. Just give her a reprieve from trauma. Everywhere you look with her it’s like dead parents, abandonment issues, dead foster parents, dead child, broken marriage, dead high school friends…

I’m not sure I’ve ever read a novel where one character was getting all of the dark shit, all of the time.

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Review: The Jigsaw Man (Inspector Anjelica Henley, #1) by Nadine Matheson

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★★★★½

Hanover Square Press | 2021

Filed Under: Hello, Clarice…


I haven’t read a police procedural this pure and detailed since Meg Gardiner’s last release. And y’all know how much I love Meg Gardiner. And if you didn’t, now you do because I just said it again.

If you are a fan of serial killers… wait, I don’t mean like a fan fan. That’s just weird. Get better idols, as Bailey Sarian would say. No, I mean if you are a fan of serial killer fiction – of the mystery and the pursuit and the suspense and the twisted games – then you want to read this novel.

It is a fucking fabulous police procedural. And I don’t say shit like that very often.

You want gritty? You got it. You want fucked up? It’s coming in hot. You need detailed and immersive? Buckle your seatbelt and keep your hands in the ride at all times.

But listen to what I’m saying, this is a procedural. If you do not like being in the narrative passenger seat of a police investigation, this probably isn’t going to be for you. And that’s totally legit. Why? Because all of this shit is subjective, Donna! It’s okay that we don’t all like the same things! That’s life.

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Let’s get that through our collective skulls, shall we? But I digress…

This is not a thriller. This is an investigation. And in my opinion, novels that pull off a really good procedural plot with this much perfection are few and far between. And it’s a debut novel? Fucking insanity.

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Review: Do No Harm by Christina McDonald

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★★★★½

Gallery Books | 2021

Filed Under: The horrors of American health care


This is a story that can only take place in the United States. Almost anywhere else it’s like, “Oh you have cancer? Your medical treatment will not require you to remortgage your home, go bankrupt or start selling meth to pay for it.” Or in this case, write and sell opioid prescriptions in a rapidly evolving drug ring you were not at all prepared to be involved in.

But in the U.S., if your kid has rare and aggressive leukemia, you need to jump through hoops made of red tape – and also the hoops are on fire – before you even know if your insurance company is going to allow you the chance to save your child’s life.

Who thought that was going to be a solid, practical health care system? I just…

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Review: Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

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★★★★

Minotaur Books | 2020

Opening Hook: The First Wives Club


I’m a fan of Jennifer Hillier even though I’ve previously only read one other book by her – Creep. It made such an impression on me that I’ve picked up her work a few more times, but being that my TBR pile is so fucking huge this is only the second book of hers I’ve gotten around to actually reading and not just looking at on my shelves.

Little Secrets has done nothing but convince me even more that Hillier is one of the best psychological thriller authors out there.

This book is basically about two of my greatest fears – a cheating husband and a kidnapped child. And no I don’t have any biological children of my own, but I do have a dog and that’s basically the same thing… *waits for mothers to scream at me about how it’s not the same thing at all…*

Obviously, I know having a pet and having a child is not the same same, but I love my dog more than anything. He’s my baby proxy. And if someone kidnapped him I would LOSE MY FUCKING MIND. I would tear the space-time continuum to shreds until I got him back.

Now, if my husband cheated on me I would lose my mind as well, but in a much different way. It’s just in his best interest if he stays loyal.

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Review: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

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★★★★

St. Martin’s Press | 2020

Filed Under: Sarah Keonig’s soothing tones


Remember when I was on the blog tour for this last August and said I’d have a review posted “soon?” Man, I’ve got some hilarious jokes.

Listen, I’m blaming everything on 2020. I’m double-digits deep on back reviews and triple digits up in unread ARCs because I just… couldn’t. And I didn’t know how to even explain what was wrong/is wrong with me. But it’s literally all the Pandemic’s fault. I have the science to back it up! Research shows that the high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) that we have been producing extra for a prolonged period because of the pandemic, can inhibit perceptual learning and memory formation. This interferes with our ability to assimilate facts and focus on work. So, if you’ve been having trouble working, reading and or just general concentration has been difficult for you, then this is why. STRESS, bitch! That you got from a Panny!

I just learned this after a whole fucking year of screaming at my husband, “why can’t I do any of the things I like to do?”

Now I know.

I had big plans for last year. I was going to get my reading life organized, tons of reviews posted and make a serious dent in my ARCs, None of that happened. Now, we’re days away from the one-year anniversary of this goddamn pandemic. How can it be March 2021 when I’m still processing March 2020!?

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Anyway, it’s officially six months since I was supposed to review this book, so let’s get this shit posted.

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Review: Nothing to Lose (Ziba MacKenzie, #2) by Victoria Selman

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★★★★

Thomas & Mercer | 2019

Filed Under: Déjà vu


Listen, I like this series!! Maybe it won’t sound like it for the bulk of this review, but I do. I like the character of Ziba. I think she’s interesting, layered and a tough female character in this genre. But this sequel to Blood for Blood persists in my biggest problem from the first book – Ziba, and the rest of the cops, are starting to seem really fucking dumb. Ziba is described as a highly skilled criminal profiler and ex-special forces badass, but she consistently whiffs on seeing the very obvious answer to a mystery. She takes FOR👏EV👏ER to pick up a clue the reader will catch immediately. That’s a problem.

This is mostly an author issue. The being, you think you’re writing something very twisty and hard to figure out, but objectively you’re not, so the highly-skilled main character doesn’t live up to the big description she’s been given. The reader will be screaming “HELLOOO!!! How are you not getting this?!” at Ziba about halfway through.

I wish it wasn’t so. I truly do. Because this UK-based crime series is heads above other UK-crime series in a lot of ways – no recycled tropes or character types, and no fucking book covers of a woman in a red coat walking through some kind of goddamn field.

Where are you going, lady?! The crimes happened in central London! There’s nothing in that field!

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Review: Cut to the Bone (Agent Sayer Altair, #3) by Ellison Cooper

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★★★★

Minotaur Books | 2020

Opening Hook: STEM stands for Soon They’ll End up Murdered

Main Character: Still waiting for that inanimate object to come to life

Plot Twisty-ness: Goes over the conspiracy top


Not that it matters in the long run, but I wish this had a single-word title. The first novel is Caged, the second is Buried. And the third one, Cut to the Bone, is fucking up the title flow for me. But whatever, I’m weird so shit like this bothers me. I’ll talk to my therapist about it.

Then again, sticking too closely to a title gimmick can become fucking stupid. Just look at literally any series by James Patterson. At this point, most of his titles don’t even make sense to the plot.

But enough about my arch-nemesis…

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What really matters here is that Ellison Cooper is getting better and better at producing quality thriller stories with each new novel. Cut to the Bone is non-stop action from the very first chapter, and while some moments got a little too extra for me – things I won’t mention because of spoilers – overall this was an intelligent and intricately plotted novel that should be on every thriller fan’s TBR. I would, however, suggest reading the whole series from the beginning because I feel Cooper’s strongest attribute as a writer are character arcs which evolve with each new novel. She really knows how to keep a long-game plot rolling.

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Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

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★★★★

Wednesday Books | 2019

Opening Hook: You know when you get shipped to the woods so you don’t steal someone’s husband?

Main Character: Raging Feminist Buzzkill

Plot Twisty-ness: Doing magic mushrooms


First of all, every time I look at that cover, for a split second I see a vagina. It looks like the cover of the Vagina Monologues or something. Remember that shit? Anyway, I’m not sure if that’s on purpose because of what this novel is about or if my brain is officially fried, but here we are.

My vagina is a YA novel cover.

This book was a trip. It’s not perfectly executed, but it’s right on the cusp of being something perfect so I’m focussing on that.

The plot is literally so 👏 fucking 👏 good. If you’re like me – a raging feminist – you’re going to want to read this.

Basically, we’re in some M. Night Shyamalan The Village shit where girls are banished to live together at an isolated camp in the wilderness during the year of their 16th birthday. This is their “Grace Year.” The reason being, once a girl turns 16 she comes into the “magic” powers that all women hold over men that will end lives, destroy marriages and steal husbands away.

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Review: I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

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★★★★

Margaret K. McElderry Books | 2020

Opening Hook: False confessions as a pastime

Main Character: Twinning with a missing local

Plot Twisty-ness: Definitely thought LSD was involved


Okay, first of all, can we all take a moment to appreciate how much fun it is to say the author’s name? KIT FRICK. It brings me so much joy. Or maybe pandemic lockdown is seriously getting to me. But, her name is like a little something extra to go with a really good book.

YEAH, I SAID.

It’s a YA mystery that was actually good! And no, I didn’t hit my head or get high while I read it. I’m as shocked as you are. (Lockdown is definitely getting to me???)

I mean, it’s not as if I never like YA novels, but it is a 1:10 ratio. There’s got to be something really different, honest or grounded about a YA mystery for me to get into it.

I Killed Zoe Spanos is all three of those things.

It’s set in the Hamptons but doesn’t rely on that Hamptons’ vibe to move the plot, which I appreciated. It’s not gimmicky or cartoonish in its depiction of that Hamptons lifestyle, and it easily could have been. Frick put her focus on the main character of Anna Cicconi – how she felt, what she was doing, where she came from and how she viewed the world around her – to bring the setting to life.

And the vibe ended up being dead on.

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