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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Review: Stiff – The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

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★★★★

Penguin | 2004

Overall Grossness: You put that monkey head back where it came from, or so help me!

Best Cadaver: They were all beautiful, in their own dissected ways.

Plot Educational-ness: Thinking about your own expiration date has never been more fun!


I think if you’re into the macabre and that side of life, or death as it were, then this book is probably required reading.

And truth be told, I am not a science-brained kind of girl. Or history. Or geography. Or math. Really anything that requires a level of intelligence that is based on facts and an excessive amount of information and concentration.

These are just not my strong suits. And as much as high school teachers would want to make me feel bad about that with those shitty grades I kept getting, I’ve accepted myself now as an adult. I fully embrace that I will never be able to help my stepkid with science or math homework. He could ask me about English and art though. And I do appreciate logic and thoughtfulness.

I do have some intelligence, y’all!

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Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

“…we often mistake love for fireworks – for drama and dysfunction. But real love is very quiet, very still. It’s boring, if seen from the perspective of high drama. Love is deep and calm – and constant.”

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★★★★

Celadon Books | 2019

Opening Hook: You know how you want to kill your spouse sometimes?

Main Character: Creases his jeans, eats oatmeal, probably.

Plot Twisty-ness: A clever bitch


There was a lot of hype surrounding this book’s release, and for the most part, it was deserved. I mean, it didn’t totally blow my socks off and it wasn’t necessarily reinventing the wheel when it comes to thrillers with unreliable narrators. But, for a debut novel, it’s pretty impressive and I had a fun time reading it, so one eggplant up for Mr. Michaelides.

Alicia, an artist, killed her photographer husband. Shot him in the head repeatedly while he was tied to a chair, as a matter of fact. And she’s been silent every day since. Locked up in a psych hospital, she hasn’t uttered a word in nearly 7 years.

Theo Faber is a psychotherapist who believes he can crack Alicia’s silent nut. He takes a job in the hospital where she is locked up and starts his mostly one-sided conversations in the hopes of getting Alicia to finally explain why she did what she did to her husband, who by all accounts, she was madly in love with.

And I don’t know about all of you, but while I jokingly say I’d like to murder the shit out of my husband sometimes, I don’t really mean it. Well, mostly I don’t mean it. But I swear to jeebus, when he clips his toenails in bed I could really, truly smother him with a pillow.

Anyway!

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Review: An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

“You can’t judge someone’s internal state by their external attributes.” 

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★★★★

January 2019 | St. Martin’s Press

Opening Hook: Make-up artist seeks quick cash by being a liar

Main Character: Let’s her assumptions make her seem crazy

Plot Twisty-ness: Subtle and ominous


I’m a total sucker for anything that is psychologically leaning. And I don’t mean the trend of “psychological thrillers.” I mean real psychology, human nature, predicting behaviour and analyzing it. I’m a straight-up glutton when it comes to that kind of stuff and not for any sinister reason. It’s like not I’m trying to figure out the best way to appear human or some shit. If I was smarter, I probably would have been a psychologist. In another part of the multi-verse perhaps I am.

But in the here and now that we find ourselves trapped in (there’s been some kind of tear in the fabric of our universe and we ended up in a strange hell where Trump and Putin are going to destroy all life on Earth, I’m sure of it,) I’m just a girl with a deep fascination for dark psychology and no way to really express that except to watch endless true crime documentaries and read books like An Anonymous Girl, and have people think I’m weird.

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Review: The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson, #9) by Darynda Jones

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★★★★

St. Martin’s Press | 2016

Opening Hook: Amnesia is a bitch

Main Character: Classic Charley, but Jane Doe

Plot Twisty-ness: Signature Charley adventures


I took a break from this series in order to catch up on some books that I owed reviews on, but since I was given the final book in the series through Netgalley, I’m back on the Charley Davidson bike, as it were. And I’m going to ride this son-of-a-bitch right to the finish line.

The ending of #8 was a little bit of a cliffhanger, but more than that it was just a bummer. Actually, the whole book was a bit of a bummer for me. I didn’t like how different it felt to everything else the series had been up to that point. It was a little heavier, a little too lovesick-romantic – just a little much all around, with not enough levity. It was like the series lost its way a little bit.

I’m happy to report, however, that #9 is a clear swing back around to Classic Charley. Only this time she has no idea who she is. She’s living a “just the essentials” kind of life as a waitress named Janey. She’s trying to figure out who she is, where her people are – she must have people, she has a wedding ring on after all! But she’s also just living her life without too much pressure.

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Review: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

“Little girls are different from little boys: they’re made of sugar and spice and scar for life.”

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★★★★

Flatiron Books | 2017

Opening Hook: It’s probably a lie.

Main Character: Unreliable narrator meets Weekend at Bernie’s.

Plot Twisty-ness: Everything but the kitchen sink.


Truthfully, I only read this because I found out Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ellen are turning it into a mini-series. And I am not the kind of Buffy fangirl to ignore a Sarah Michelle project. So here were are.

I’m so sorry to my more discerning thriller friends who really didn’t like this and were hoping I’d be busting in here with a signature snotty review about how crap this book is; how it took every element of a thriller novel it could possibly fucking think of and used all of them on one character in a short 260-page sitting.

But I’m not.

Because this entertained the fuck out of me.

Maybe I’m still feeling the holiday glow that’s keeping my heart three times its normal size, like the Grinch, but this book hit me in all the right psychological thriller sweet spots. I was so enamoured that I read it over one Saturday afternoon.

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Review: The Girls Are Gone by Michael Brodkorb & Allison Mann

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★★★★

Wise Ink Creative Publishing | 2018

Opening Argument: Your Honour, this case comes down to one fact – this fucking bitch is cray.

The Clients: One bad mommy, one fucked over father.

Plot Truthy-ness: Told factually with care, but emotionally leaning to one side.


I was offered this book by the authors and their book publicist in exchange for a review. At first, I was like, Woo! True crime! But then I read the description and was like, No one dies? This is going to be boring.

But, shit was I wrong! Who knew family court drama could be so fucking crazy? I mean, I suppose I should have because I’ve been through a little bit of this myself (my husband has custody of his kids for a reason,) but nothing I’ve witnessed my husband deal with really comes close to the levels of nuttiness presented in this true tale.

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Review: Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

This review was originally written and posted in August 2015. But considering the Netflix movie has just been released, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to migrate this over from Goodreads!

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★★★★

Echo | 2014

Opening Hook: Russia is once again fucking things up for the rest of the world.

Main Character: Last longer than I would.

Plot Twisty-ness: One of the more unique books I’ve ever read.

Yeah, okay, so I really liked this book.

While I was reading, I was reminded of an episode of Supernatural where Castiel reveals his true angel visage to a woman and her eyes burn out of her skull. Humans are simply not equipped to handle the overwhelming righteousness of these holy warriors’ true form. But this woman couldn’t help but look. She needed to see, couldn’t live in that moment without knowing. And so bad shit happened to her, even though she’d been warned. 

I feel like if I had been in this world, I’d be dead. For realsies. I give myself 3 minutes.

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Review: Tear Me Apart by J.T. Ellison

“The words I’ve heard in the past few days are ones I never expected – new, untried, untested. Casket. Body. Funeral. Viewing. Embalming. Autopsy. Severed. Seven-inch non-corrosive steel blade. Homicide.”

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★★★★

MIRA | 2018

Opening Hook: Broken bones, broken dreams

Main Character: Shouldn’t keep blood secrets when your sister works with DNA

Plot Twisty-ness: Are coincidences considered twists?


Okay, okay, OKAY. Y’all know I love me some J.T. Ellison.

It all started with her Taylor Jackson series a damn decade ago (ugh, that makes me feel old) and I’ve been a loyal reader ever since. I love tough women writing tough women, it’s a thing.

Ellison’s move from series writer to standalones started with Lie to Me, which most people loved, except for yours truly.

What can I say? I’m a picky fucking reader.

I had a few issues with the pacing of Lie to Me (the second half sucked the life out of it) and with the ending (“it was all for nothing, just a giant misunderstanding” doesn’t really work for me. that’s not a twist,) but I’m happy to say that I liked Tear Me Apart a lot. I didn’t love it. It’s not the best thing I’ve read this year, but it’s a good read. It’s not a waste of your time, at all.

And we all know how much I hate wasting my reading time.

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