Review: Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

“No one walks around holding their ugliest sin in the palm of their hand, staring at it.”

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★★★★

William Morrow | 2019

Opening Hook: *DRINKS*

Main Character: Too old to have not dealt with high school horrors yet.

Plot Twisty-ness: Like getting tangled up in scuba gear.


First of all, Joshilyn Jackson can write some vibrant AF characters. Shit, those personalities were strong, and it created a very cinematic reading experience.

Amy has a beautiful life -a new baby, a sweet husband, a step-daughter who doesn’t hate her but might get finger-banged on the couch once in a while; a big house, a sweet career (hello, scuba instructor? who does that?) and good friends. One night at the regular book club get-together, a mysterious and presumptuous stranger – Roux – invites herself in like some fabulous Disney villain wearing boots probably made of puppies and ready to steal your man, and starts some trouble with a game of Never Have I Ever.

You know that game. Someone says, “never have I ever… had car sex during my stepkid’s soccer tournament,” and anyone who has done that needs to drink.

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Okay, maybe you don’t get that specific with your statement, but you get the idea.

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Review: Bunny by Mona Awad

“We never joke about bunnies, Bunny.”

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★★★★

Viking | 2019

Opening Hook: A writing exercise.

Main Character: Every nerdy introvert who wants to experience being a Mean Girl.

Plot Twisty-ness: Purely demented.


This book hopped onto my TBR (hopped, get it? …I’ll show myself out,) after Tav of @readswithdogs (#bookstagram) gave it a 5-star review over the summer. She called it Clueless meets Heathers and quite frankly, what millennial isn’t going to want to read that, like STAT? ASAP? OTHER ACRONYMS?

For the first quarter of the book, I was like, what is this actually???? It’s really weird and hard to classify its genre; where is it going and what is it doing, and I’m not sure what’s happening? SOMEONE HELP ME!?

I was growing concerned that Tav had betrayed our book friendship in such a deep way that we would never come back from that darkness, but I stuck with it and slowly, as you get into the heart of the story, it starts to make more sense (but also does not, purposefully.) And it turns out Tav didn’t lead me astray. So, we’re cool.

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Review: There’s a Giant Trapdoor Spider Under Your Bed (Dark Corners Collection) by Edgar Cantero

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★★★★

Amazon Original Stories | 2018

Opening Hook: There’s always something under the bed.

Main Monster: Maybe it’s Pennywise in that spider body.

Plot Twisty-ness: Schrodinger’s monsters.


While I didn’t really LOVE Meddling Kids by Cantero the way I wanted to, I can tell that given the right circumstances, I could really be a fan of his, because I do enjoy his writing style.

He writes stories with a whimsical combination of goofy and horror that reminds me of why I love this genre – there is so much room to play. And Cantero always seems to take full advantage of that space, even if I haven’t been bowled over by a full-length novel yet. I know it’s going to happen. I JUST KNOW IT.

There is a feeling of nostalgia to his writing that makes me feel a little less cynical and dead inside. He brings back those memories of when I was a kid and everything was scary and an adventure was just a thought away; where you could make something up and be totally convinced of it just by way of imagination.

When I was a single-digit tot, I used to believe vampires were out to get me, but if I kept my blanket up under my chin tight enough, I was safe.

I don’t have that kind of imagination anymore, and Cantero makes me wistful for that time, because now I’m old and grumpy and could tear down all the ways believing that neck protection from a blanket was goddamn ridiculous in 0.2 seconds.

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Review: The Sleep Tight Motel (Dark Corners Collection) by Lisa Unger

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★★★★

Amazon Original Stories | 2018

Opening Hook: Never go on the run in a car that needs an oil change.

Main Character: Does not get stabbed in a shower.

Plot Twisty-ness: Unger does a lot with a little.


This is an adorable spooky short story in the Dark Corners Collection.

Eve is on the run in a shitty old car. She’s got a bag full of money, a gun and a piece-of-shit ex on her tail. It’s very much Psycho-esque in that way.

When Eve realizes she can’t run anymore on no sleep, she pulls into a country motel with lots of vacancies. She’s just going to spend one night and leave first thing in the morning. Through the night there are bumps and scrapes that convince Eve someone is staying in the room next door. But when she checks, it’s empty.

And I’m sorry, but I’m such a cheap whore for creepy motel shit. Honestly, I will watch or read nearly anything that takes place in this eerie setting. It’s just a so obvious, ripe-for-the-picking scenery and atmosphere.

Even if the story is terrible, I’ll probably still like it simply for the motel.

This might be some nostalgic Psycho quirk I have, but whatever. I make no apologies.

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Review: Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

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★★★★

Ballantine Books | 2018

Opening Hook: Basic bitch googles body burial.

Main Character: Good girl gone bad and gets a Swiss bank account.

Plot Twisty-ness: Call the gangster in prison to fix it.


What can I say? I fucking liked this. But it’s going to be a love it or hate it kind of book for readers because it’s different and crammed with multiple genres and plot elements. So, if you read it because I gave my elusive stamp of approval and walk away thinking I must have been high, then one: you’re right. and two: I’m also high right now.

Please don’t lose trust in me, but this worked for me. I readily admit that might have a lot to do with the audiobook quality because that shit was fucking FIRE.

The author narrates, and at first I was like that’s kind of weird, but then I found out she’s an actress who has been in things like Downton Abbey (never watched it, don’t act surprised.) Seriously, try the audiobook if you’re looking for maximum entertainment from this novel, because Catherine Steadman burns it down.

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Review: Buried (Agent Sayer Altair, #2) by Ellison Cooper

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★★★★½

Minotaur Books | 2019

Opening Hook: Skeletons as a crash pad.

Main Character: Made of cardboard, but good at her job.

Plot Twisty-ness: Mommy would be proud.


I read Caged last year, the first in this series featuring FBI agent/neuroscientist Sayer Altair, and my review basically came down to two things.

One: the twists were uninspired. While they did exist, it was the same thing over and over again and it became predictable and monotonous.

And two: the lead character of Agent Altair was boring AF. I’m sorry, but girl has the personality of a cardboard cutout.

For the second instalment in the series, I’m happy to say the author definitely fixed the first issue and clearly tried to make some headway with the second. That’s why this book gets half a star more than its predecessor.

That’s just the kind of generous reviewer I am.

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Review: The Curse of Tenth Grave (Charley Davidson, #10) by Darynda Jones

“I’m married to a billionaire, like in all those books I read where the super rich guy falls in love with the poor chick who may not have much in the way of money but is wealthy in vivacity and sprightliness, and is really into bondage?” 

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★★★★½

St. Martin’s Press | 2016

Opening Hook: The ghost whose body is buried in the backyard.

Main Character: The only god I’d worship.

Plot Reaper-ness: Three cases and an exorcism.


What is there to say about this series that I haven’t said nine previous times already? Literally. I find it particularly difficult to write reviews for a series that has had very few missteps and never pisses me off…too much.

Really, writing harsh/critical reviews is where I feel that I shine as a writer and reviewer. I’m not good at being nice and heaping praise. And certainly, my kinder reviews are not getting the same traction as my more ranty ones.

I think there’s probably a whole psychological element to my life and personality that could be dissected because of this, but I don’t feel like holding up that goddamn mirror right now, if ever.

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Review: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

‘Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.’ 

★★★★

St. Martin’s Press | 2019

Opening Hook: Team building at its most murder-y

Main Character: A James Bond glow-up

Plot Twisty-ness: Turning the heat up to 11.


Let me introduce you to my favourite revenge thriller of 2019. I mean, so far because it’s only July, but whatever. It’s not like my TBR is a cornucopia of revenge tales. Pretty sure it’s mostly serial killers.

The Escape Room is balls-the-walls wild, while still being grounded and realistic. I think that’s why I liked it so much – it was the perfect combination of over-the-top moments that exist just to be fun, mixed with a true-to-life high finance setting and realistic themes of suicide, loss, financial struggle and degrees of sexism.

The author took things that are honest and real, and that most readers will be able to find some thread of connection to, and kicked it up a notch with fantastical plot elements.

This debut novel is a tale of revenge that’s going to 100% fire you up to enact vengeance on your enemies. I’m looking at you, dude in my office who complained about the memes at my desk!

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Review: The Homecoming by Andrew Pyper

“When mom called to tell me the news, I was surprised at first that Raymond Quinlan was capable of something so human as dying.”

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★★★★

Simon & Schuster | 2019

Opening Hook: Daddy had secrets.

Main Character: A normal guy wearing a good guy suit.

Plot Twisty-ness: Lost in the woods without a sense of direction.


I’m a huge fan of Blake Crouch. And this book by Andrew Pyper is giving me some serious Crouch vibes and I’m not mad about it. This is the first book I’ve read by Pyper but it probably won’t be my last. The Homecoming was pretty much the shit if you’re into dark thrillers with a horror-sci-fi undertone.

The Quinlan family has lost their patriarch, the mysterious and absent Raymond Quinlan. He was a workaholic who left his children – Aaron, Franny and the youngest, Bridge – with some daddy issues. But all his work and bad parenting also left behind a few million in assets, so how bad can an absent father really be in that case?

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Belfountain is a huge estate in the PNW that includes cabins, a lodge and an old Christian summer camp on the grounds. It’s worth a cool thirty million in the right market conditions and it technically now belongs to the remaining Quinlans, But, in order for them to get their hands on their cut of their father’s will, they have to agree to spend 30 days on the estate, with no contact to the outside world.

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Review: Helter Skelter – The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry

“You can convince anybody of anything if you just push it at them all of the time. They may not believe it 100 percent, but they will still draw opinions from it, especially if they have no other information to draw their opinions from.”

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★★★★

W.W. Norton & Company | 1974

Opening Brainwashing: The lowest of low hanging fruit.

Main Cult Leader: The folk singer with the swastika seems on the up-and-up

True Crimey-ness: Pop culture murder


Everyone and their mother knows the story of Charles Manson. Or at least the bullet points, because the bullet points are fucking insane. Crazy “hippie” cult leader who brainwashed otherwise normal young people into brutally murdering pregnant actress Sharon Tate and her house guests in the Hollywood Hills in 1969.

Everyone knows the blurb. Everyone knows the images of Manson and his craziest moments. Everyone has seen, at some point, that image of three happy girls singing on their way to their murder trial with swastikas on their foreheads. Everyone knows that Sharon Tate was pregnant because it’s those kinds of headline specifics that make your stomach turn or your jaw drop.

The famous imagines and soundbites are so robust and insane and sensational, and seared into pop culture by our own doing, that it led me to believe that I knew basically everything there was to know about this case. Or that I had enough of an understanding that reading this book was going to be just to say that I’d read it. It’s kind of a must for true crime fans, in my sometimes abrasive opinion.

But I was wrong.

There is so much information to be gleaned from this book by the prosecutor who convicted Manson, Vincent Bugliosi. Helter Skelter is a broad picture of Manson’s crimes, his early life and his followers that I found it utterly fascinating, even if the narrator of the audiobook sounded like he stepped right out of Fast Talking, High Trousers.

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