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The Family Upstairs

Be careful who you let in. The Family Upstairs

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Atria Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Lisa Jewell

(4.14 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: November 5, 2019, by Atria Books

Pages: 352 (Hardcover), 464 (Kindle version)

#TheFamilyUpstairs


It’s only now, with decades of hindsight, that I can see how odd it was.

II really want to move closer to my job and my daughter’s school, so I’m currently house-hunting online and by word-of-mouth. Someone recently asked me if I would mind living in a condo. My answer was a hard and fast “no”. Why? Because people are weird.

And after I sat down and swallowed this suspenseful story about the perils of cohabitation, I feel incredibly justified in my answer! Told from multiple perspectives and different timelines, with fatally flawed characters, this is a story that will grab you and pull you into the depths of family for which dysfunctional is an aspiration. Here’s the blurb…

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am. She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them. Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.


The weakness of men lay at the root of every bad thing that had ever happened.

OK, what drew me in immediately: (1) an unexpected inheritance, (2) an abandoned mansion, (3) London – all the creepiest strangeties happen in London (and if “strangeties” isn’t a word, it should be, and (4) a baby alone in the midst of chaos. Everything about that summary says you-must-read-this-book. And I am so glad that I did.

When you begin to read a book and you immediately know that you don’t have a clue what is going on or how it’s all going to turn out, that’s when you have the most fun. What begins as the story of a woman learning about her birth parents and possibly getting a much-needed new start in life, quickly becomes something much, much more.

I knew what I had to do and it does not cast me in a good light. But I was a child. I was desperate. I was trying to save us all.


Living with people is tricky whether they be family, friends, or strangers. Can anyone you live with be completely trusted to lock the doors if they’re the last ones in, or to not leave their flat iron on while everyone’s at work? My guess is no. But if the worst you have to ever deal with is having a roommate who plays his music a bit too loud on a work night, then you have it a million times better than the Lamb family living in the mansion on Cheyne Walk.

Lisa Jewell has given us a book (another one!) with great pacing, captivating characters with varying degrees of drastic difficulties and believability, and the meat and bones of a story so dark that its small victories feel like supernovas. Five stars to this new release that I couldn’t hardly put down. If you don’t have it already, this book needs to be on your TBR and on your bookshelf. And after you read it, I think you’ll agree with me – single-family living is the way to go!


The Family Upstairs is available now at any of the following retail stores:


Read an excerpt here: The Family Upstairs Excerpt

Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is the internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including the New York Times bestseller Then She Was Gone, as well as I Found YouThe Girls in the Garden, and The House We Grew Up In. In total, her novels have sold more than two million copies across the English-speaking world and her work has also been translated into sixteen languages so far. Lisa lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. Connect with her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK and on Facebook @LisaJewellOfficial.

http://www.lisajewellbooks.com/


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November New Releases

⇒New Release November is underway! Today I’m highlighting some new releases that I’m really looking forward to this month!⇐

Doesn’t fall just seem like the perfect reading season? Cooler weather just begs for fuzzy socks, fluffy blankets, warm cocoa, and cozying up to your next favorite read.

Here are some of November’s new releases that I’m looking forward to:

Twisted Twenty-Six by Janet Evanovich

Release date: November 12, 2019

I look forward to every single one of the books in this series and I usually get them the day that they release. This Stephanie Plum series is one of my absolute favorites! In this new Plum adventure, Stephanie has to protect Grandma Mazur from gangsters dead set on her demise…

Grandma Mazur has decided to get married again – this time to a local gangster named Jimmy Rosolli. If Stephanie has her doubts about this marriage, she doesn’t have to worry for long, because the groom drops dead of a heart attack 45 minutes after saying, ‘I do.’  A sad day for Grandma Mazur turns into something far more dangerous when Jimmy’s former ‘business partners’ are convinced that his new widow is keeping the keys to a financial windfall all to herself. But the one thing these wise guys didn’t count on was the widow’s bounty hunter granddaughter, who’ll do anything to save her.


The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Release date: November 5, 2019

This one is going to be a NetGalley read for me and I can hardly wait to dig into it! One reviewer described it as “bone-chilling suspense”. Sold!

In a large house in London’s fashionable Chelsea, a baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up. In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note. They’ve been dead for several days. Who has been looking after the baby? And where did they go? Two entangled families.
A house with the darkest of secrets.


The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Release date: November 5, 2019

While most people would say that I was late to the party with having just read The Night Circus only a couple of months ago, it seems that I actually had perfect timing to be able to follow it with another release from Erin Morgenstern’s imaginative mind!

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world–a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.


The Hero by Lee Child

Release date: November 28, 2019

No, I have not been body-snatched! Yes, I am putting a non-fiction book on my November TBR, and it’s for very good reason: it’s by Lee Child. I want to hear everything he has to say about heroes in our culture, especially my favorite literary hero – Jack Reacher!

In his first work of nonfiction, the creator of the multimillion-selling Jack Reacher series explores the endurance of heroes from Achilles to Bond, showing us how this age-old myth is a fundamental part of what makes us human. He demonstrates how hero stories continue to shape our world – arguing that we need them now more than ever.”


Strange Planet by Nathan W. Pyle

Release date: November 19, 2019

My November new release list would be incomplete if I didn’t also include this peculiar little book by Nathan W. Pyle. Strange Planet promises to be a mind-bending look at life on a planet that may not feel so far from home in the end.

“Straight from the mind of New York Times bestselling author Nathan W. Pyle comes an adorable and profound universe in pink, blue, green, and purple. Based on the phenomenally popular Instagram of the same name, Strange Planet covers a full life cycle of the planet’s inhabitants [in a] book [that] offers a sweet and hilarious look at a distant world not all that unlike our own.”


So those are my top picks for November. What’s on your new release TBR this month?


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Spooky Reads TBR

⇒So many books, so little time! I know it has 31 days, but October still feels like it’s too short to fit in all the #SpookyReads I want to read this month. In today’s post, I’m highlighting the thrilling titles I only have a week left to read!⇐

Avid readers often have the same problem: more books on their shelves than hours in the week to read them. And then writers keep writing, so it’s a never-ending cycle. If you’re anything like me, you have a TBR list that is constantly growing – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

October is a really fun month to fill up your reading list with the most thrilling, spookiest, and most horrifying stories on your bookshelf (or on audiobook, Kindle, or from the library – anywhere you can get your hands on a good book, really).

When witches go riding, and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers, ’tis near Halloween.

unknown author

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

I have been wanting to read this book from the moment it hit my hands. Instead it has been haunting the back of my bookshelf, patiently waiting its turn to surface and tromp through my dreams. Having just recently finished The Heart-Shaped Box, I know that Joe Hill can write a mean horror story that manages to give you shivers and stays with you long after you reach the back cover. Hopefully that will be true, too, of NOS4A2.

“Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls ‘Christmasland.'”


Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

This gem has been on my TBR shelf for way too long. It’s cover drew me in initially and then the cover blurb made me know that I had to come home with it. It has what seems like a perfect combination of thrills, chills, and an off-the-rails crime featuring a monstrous serial killer.

“If you’re desperate freelance journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to get the exclusive on a horrific story. If you’re Thomas Keen, known on the street as TK, you’ll do what you can to keep your homeless family safe–and find the monster who is possessed by the dream of violently remaking the world.”


There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.

George Carlin

Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

Dolores was hanging out in a Little Free Library waiting for me to come by and trade a few romance paperbacks for her. I don’t know what I’m in for with this popular horror novel, but it won’t be my first King book, so I can just about imagine!

“Forced by overwhelming evidence to confess her life of crime, Dolores Claiborne, a foul-tempered New Englander, describes how her disintegrating marriage years before caused her heart to turn murderous.”


The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

I have seen this book on so many lists, especially around the Halloween season. It promises a creepy combo of horror and historical fiction that will add all the atmospheric thrills any reader needs for their #spookyreads.

“[Hundreds Hall], home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. Its owners—mother, son, and daughter—are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his.”


I love Halloween, and I love that feeling: the cold air, the spooky dangers lurking around the corner.

Evan Peters

Petals on the Wind by V. C. Andrews

This sequel to Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic shows us all that sometimes family is the scariest thing we’ll ever have to experience in our lives!

“She knew it was time to put what she knew to the test. To show her mother and grandmother that the pain and terror of the attic could not be forgotten… Show them.”


Lost Souls (Frankenstein series) by Dean Koontz

The first book of Koontz’s Frankenstein series instantly made me a fan. And this time I have a good reason that this book, #4 in the series, is still waiting on the shelf – I have to get books 2 and 3 first!

Before the sun rises, the town will be under full assault, the opening objective in the new Victor Frankenstein’s trajectory of ultimate destruction. Deucalion—Victor’s first, haunted creation—saw his maker die in New Orleans two years earlier. Yet an unshakable intuition tells him that Victor lives—and is at work again.


*All summary blurbs courtesy of Goodreads.com

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New or Old – That Smell is Incredible

Welcome to my book review blog. Thanks for dropping in!

The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.

–W. Somerset Maugham

Whenever I get a new book, or mooch an old book, or borrow a book from the library, for that matter, I bring it close to my nose… and inhale.

Sometimes the smell is crisp and warm, almost woodsy. Other times it’s ancient and musky, like well-worn furniture. Either way, it’s a great smell. Remember that episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory is showing Anna (future Yale student) around the library and she picks up a book and smells it? Yes, just like that: #bibliosmia.

So now you know I read old books and new – and I love them both equally. So if you’re here to just see reviews on all the hot new releases that everyone else is reading and blogging about, then you’re not in the right place. Sorry.

I do read selective New Releases, but I also have a lot of “Dusty Bookshelf” reads that I am committed to getting through in this upcoming year (I said that last year too), and a lot of books that people have recommended to me that I will finally get around to. The books I read/review won’t always be current, but they’ll always be interesting.

I prefer reading hardcovers or trade-sized paperbacks (there’s nothing like the feel of a book in your hands), but I also read several e-books and listen to a few audiobooks each month, so you’ll likely see reviews for publications in those formats as well.

Occasionally, when she lets me, my daughter and I will read her books together. She’s in 5th grade and has a bookcase full of chapter books that we work our way through whenever she’s not bogged down with school-assigned stories. When our read-along books are especially good, I’ll review those too.

I’ll also occasionally be featuring my favorite authors, book events in Georgia, upcoming new releases, links to free e-book deals, and throwback looks at my favorite childhood reads.

I’m a Goodreads member and belong to several groups there. The book cover pics I post will most often come from Goodreads along with mentions of their overall rating of each book. However, I do not – I repeat, NOT – allow the rating from “the masses” influence my personal opinion of any book I read. Reviews are my own individual thoughts and I am absolutely not receiving any compensation for anything I post here.

As you may have guessed, this is my first foray into blogging so I’m sure I have some kinks to work out. If something isn’t working or posting correctly, just bear with me and I’ll get it worked out. Eventually. ♥

Enjoy!

booksniffing

Halloween Horror’s Spooky Themes

⇒Any time you pick up a horror book, it will most likely fall under a traditional spooky theme. Get ready to be creeped out by the books on my creepy horror themes lists that are perfect for any Halloween reading list!⇐

I am going to start this blog entry with a confession (is this becoming a thing with me now? Gosh, I hope not – then you’ll know everything!) So here it is: I am a big fat chicken! I absolutely love reading spooky books in October… as long as they aren’t TOO scary, and as long as they aren’t too realistic. Is that cheating? Enh… maybe.

Whenever I’m looking through suggested titles for my #spookyreads TBR, I shy away from so many of them because I can already imagine the twisted nightmares I would suffer if I got those stories stuck in my head. But my personal timidness aside, some readers are able to just plunge into the scariest of horror stories. With that in mind, I thought it would be nice to highlight some of the most popular horror themes and some very spooky reads to go along with them!

Silence lay heavily upon the wood and the stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

HAUNTED HOUSES

A classic. There is nothing more basic about reading a spine-chilling horror novel than having it feature an ancient, gloomy, and most definitely haunted house. Check out these incredibly spooky haunted house horrors…

  • THE INVITED by Jennifer McMahonHelen and Nate’s new property has a dark and violent past. Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago.
  • WITHIN THESE WALLS by Ania AhlbornLucas Graham finds himself investigating Jeffrey Halcomb’s life within the walls of the cult leaders former home – where his devoted followers may just have found eternal life.
  • THE GRAVEYARD APARTMENT by Mariko Koike“A terrifying tale of a young family who move into an apartment building next to a graveyard and the horrors that are unleashed upon them.”

GHOSTS

Boo! Scared ya, didn’t I? Not so much? Ok, well maybe I didn’t, but these ghost stories definitely will…

  • PETRA’S GHOST by C.S. O’CinneideAs Daniel hikes a lonely trail carrying the ashes of his wife, Petra, something sinister is stalking him and his companion, Ginny.
  • THE WAYWARD GIRLS by Amanda MasonA family experienced all the things that go bump in the night in their little cottage in 1976. Years later, Lucy revisits her childhood home to learn the truth about what happened there.
  • IMAGINARY FRIEND by Stephen Chbosky“Christopher is seven years old. Christopher is the new kid in town. Christopher has an imaginary friend.”

We ask only to be reassured/About the noises in the cellar/And the windows that should not have been open.

T.S. Eliot, The Family Reunion

POSSESSION

OK, here is where I solidly chicken out. No apologies. I literally. just. can’t. But if you can…

  • POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil “San Francisco’s senior exorcist and his newly assigned partner from the Vatican enlist Bridget’s help with increasingly bizarre and dangerous cases of demonic possession.”
  • THE RITE : The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio – (nonfiction) “Journalist Matt Baglio uses the astonishing story of one American priest’s training as an exorcist to reveal the phenomena of possession, demons, the devil, and exorcism[s]…”
  • PANDEMONIUM by Daryl Gregory“Ordinary men, women, and children are the targets of entities that seem to spring from the depths of the collective unconscious, pop-cultural avatars some call demons.”

MONSTERS

We’re all familiar with the classic horror monsters: Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, and every werewolf you’ve ever read about. But modern horror stories invent modern monsters and new things that go bump in the night.

  • RELIC by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child“Just days before a massive exhibition opens at the popular New York Museum of Natural History, visitors are being savagely murdered in the museum’s dark hallways and secret rooms. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human…”
  • CREATURE by Hunter Shea“[Kate] and Andrew must fight to survive the creature that lurks in the dead of night.”
  • MONSTER OF ELENDHAVEN by Jennifer Giesbrecht“A thing without a name stalks the city, a thing shaped like a man, with a dark heart and long pale fingers yearning to wrap around throats.”

You didn’t hear what she told me when I got up — you’re so cute I could put you in a pie. Tell me that’s not the creepiest thing you’ve ever heard.

Julie Kagawa, The Immortal Rules

WITCHES

Let’s just say that these aren’t the Hocus Pocus or Practical Magic ladies that you may have fond memories of. These chicks are much, much creepier.

  • THE FAMILIARS by Stacey HallsA noblewoman and her baby’s lives depend on Alice Grey’s promise that she can save them. But, suddenly, Alice is accused of witchcraft and the women must combine their powers to save each other.
  • THE WIDOW OF PALE HARBOR by Hester FoxNot all is as it seems in the sleepy town of Pale Harbor. “Strange, unsettling things have been happening, and the townspeople claim that only one person can be responsible: Sophronia Carver, a reclusive widow who lives with a spinster maid in the eerie Castle Carver. “
  • WITCH WATER by Edward Lee“A warlock who sires children with his own daughter, children to be used for something far worse than sacrifice. A witch whose carnal abandon and sheer diabolism stagger even the most demented imaginations. And a 300-year-old mansion in whose walls are embalmed the infernal secret of…Witch-Water.”

Of course, these titles are just a taste of all the sufficiently spooky horror stories that could rock your October reading list. But there’s only one question… Are you brave enough?


October #SpookyReads

⇒It may be the falling leaves, or it may be the cooler weather, but October is my favorite reading time of the year! But what if a spooky TBR just isn’t your thing?⇐

Every October (really, I start in September), I line up a stack of books for my #spookyreads list. Usually they’re a good mix of creepy mystery/thrillers with one or two true horror stories thrown in to really give me a good fright. This year, Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill is honestly giving me a good scare and became a “freezer book” for me more than once! (“Freezer book” – on Friends, when a book becomes too scary for Joey, he puts it in the freezer!)

But what if you’re just not that into being scared out of your wits, but still want to add books to your October TBR that will give you a little thrill and add some suspense to your reading without leaving you wimpering in a corner crying for your mommy. What? I totally did not do that – it’s just an example!

So I thought I’d chat about not one specific book today, but several that may help you celebrate the season in a less horrific way.

The most frightening monsters are the ones that exist in our minds.

MYSTERIES

A good juicy complex mystery can be a nice filler for an October TBR. It’s the element of suspense that will put you on the edge of your seat. And – if the author is good at what he/she does – the effect will be the same as reading a good horror novel: nail-biting, lip-pursing, eye-bulging, and the urge to read “just one more chapter”! Check out these great mysteries (classics and current) that are perfect whodunits for the season.


PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLERS

I don’t know about you, but some of the creepiest books I’ve ever read are psychological thrillers. If an author can pen a tale that messes with my mind, it’s going to be hard to put down and even harder to forget. Like these…

CREEPY KIDS!

What is it about kids that can end up being so creepy? Think about it, the laughter of children echoing down a dark hallway, a lone little girl in an empty playground swinging on a squeaky swing set. OK, let me stop – I’m spooking myself! But seriously, sometimes just writing about a child with odd behavior can give you all the chills you need.

Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we’re opened, we’re red.

Clive Barker

SERIAL KILLERS

OK, OK, murder is one of horrific things that can happen in life so how am I OK with including this category in the not-so-scary list? Well, it all depends on how it’s written. Shout out to all the murderinos who can handle gore and a high body count better than ghosts and ghoulies!

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Sometimes the best Halloween stories are those that are written for kids. No joke, authors often weave the best tales for the younger generations – and they’re not scary enough to send you running to the freezer with the book!


Whatever reads ultimately end up filling your October reading list, I hope you find them perfect for the season and for your bookshelf. If you know of some spooky books that I should be reading, let me know. Happy not-so spooky reading!


The Furies

⇒”Once summoned, the Furies cannot be sent back, only leave of their own accord.” –The Furies by Katie Lowe ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: Katie Lowe

(3.25 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / YA / Thriller

Format: Kindle

U.S. Publication Date: October 8, 2019, by St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 352 (Kindle version)

#TheFuries


‘They will be your conduit, your intention made flesh; they will destroy the corrupt and murder the wicked, oh goddesses, if you will give to them your gifts.’

If you’ve been to school – almost any kind – you know about cliques. You seem them clustered in groups in the cafeteria or in the quad, or huddled together in the hallways or the library. The jocks, the cheerleaders, the science geeks, and, yes, even the mean girls. And if you were ever “the new kid” you had to quickly figure out where you fit in the grand scheme of the social hierarchy.

This was the dilemma Violet faced as she entered Elm Hollow Academy looking for a fresh start. Here’s the blurb:

In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on her boarding school’s property, dressed in white and posed on a swing, with no known cause of death. What happened to her? And what do her friends know? To find out, it is necessary to go back to the beginning. The school is Elm Hollow Academy, an all-girl’s boarding school located in a sleepy coastal town, with a long-buried grim history of 17th century witch trials. A new student, Violet, joins the school, and soon finds herself invited to become the fourth member of an advanced study group, led by the alluring and mysterious art teacher Annabel. Violet quickly finds herself wrapped up in this addictive new world. But when she comes to learn about the disappearance of a former member of the society, one with whom Violet shares an uncanny resemblance, she begins to wonder who she can trust, all the while becoming more deeply entangled in her newfound friendships. Was it suicide, or a foul play more sinister? How far will these young girls go to protect one another…or to destroy one another?


Women are not to be left alone, together, or tragedy will surely follow.

If the thing that draws you in is gorgeous, poetic prose, then this debut novel will give you what you need. Lowe’s poetic prose touches all of your senses at once. You’ll not only “see” the action, but you’ll smell it, hear it, and taste it too. She leaves very little out of her scenic descriptions, which really draw you into the action in every chapter.

However, if you’re more interested in a witchy thriller, you might find The Furies a little lacking. Sure there are spells and what passes as a conjuring, but most of the dark stuff is entirely man-made. I would call it a coming-of-age story; however, instead of character development, the main character experiences more of a moral deterioration and decay. We are witnesses to a clever, intelligent, studious girl being transformed into something much less than that.

…that crush of love and hate, the cruel and rotten bliss of friendship.

Throughout the book, every really interesting thing happens just outside of our field of vision. We’re present for the buildup and then again for the hazy, hungover aftermath. Even when our main character is in the midst of the action, we aren’t privy to the exact details and she is utterly clueless to most of what is going on. Yes, this is a technique to draw readers deeper into the story and preserve some of the mystery, but I also feel alienated by it, as if I can’t be trusted with the truth.

And that just gives me another reason to feel distrustful of the MC, whose point of view is the only side of the story we receive. She comes off as naive, gullible, and just desperate enough to do anything to be accepted. While her tragic history may excuse some of her neediness, she is clearly aware that her associations aren’t healthy – yet, she persists. Can we chalk that up merely to teenage angst and rebellion? Or has her own will become the plaything of the girls she calls her friends?

Let’s just say that a book club could have a field day with this one!

She is the specter that haunts the very image of masculinity, the one who took a bloody blade to the patriarchy itself.

Although I was intrigued through the first half of the book, I soon became disappointed at the direction of the action and the MC’s lack of backbone. And while I should have been focused on enjoying the roller coaster ride through some pretty dark corners of college life, I found myself feeling like I was watching a train wreck that I couldn’t turn away from.


Katie Lowe

Katie is a writer living in Worcester, UK. A graduate of the University of Birmingham, Katie has a BA(Hons) in English and an MPhil in Literature & Modernity. She returned to Birmingham in 2019 to complete a PhD in English Literature, with her thesis on female rage in literary modernism and the #MeToo era.


Cottage By the Sea

=> My next book for Shelf-Discipline month! I’m clearing my bookshelves one book at a time, and this perfect romance fit nicely into my September reading list. <=


Author: Debbie Macomber

(3.97 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Romance / Women’s Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Publication Date: July 17, 2018, Ballantine Books

Pages: 352 (Hardcover)

#Cottagebythesea


Annie was certain her parents had sent her to Oceanside, knowing that this was the one place where her wounded heart would heal.

I guess since this is my blog, it’s OK to admit that romance isn’t exactly my go-to genre. It’s nothing personal, I just find myself eye-rolling too many times while reading about “love at first sight” and “happily ever after”. It’s not that I don’t believe in love, it’s just the cheesy stuff that makes me want to wretch. But occasionally, a little gem comes along with the ability to melt even my icy heart.

Here’s the blurb: “Annie Marlow has been through the worst. Rocked by tragedy, she heads to the one place that makes her happy: Oceanside in the Pacific Northwest, the destination of many family vacations when Annie was a teenager. Once there, Annie begins to restore her broken spirit, thanks in part to the folks she meets: a local painter, Keaton whose large frame is equal to his big heart – and who helps Annie fix up her rental cottage by the sea; Mellie, the reclusive, prickly landlord Annie is determined to befriend; and Britt, a teenager with a terrible secret. But it is Keaton to whom Annie feels most drawn. His quiet, peaceful nature offers her both comfort and reprieve from her grief, and the two begin to grow closer. Then events threaten to undo the idyll Annie has come to enjoy. And when the opportunity of a lifetime lands in her lap, she is torn between the excitement of a new journey toward success and the safe and secure arms of the haven – and the man – she’s come to call home.

This was where she wanted to live, where she hoped to recapture the memories of those carefree days of her youth, the happy times with her parents and brother.


What do you look for in a great romance? Credibility? Attractive couples? Hot sex scenes? (Come on, you know you were thinking it!) Most of the things I love about a good romance novel are right here in Cottage by the Sea, and it’s not a hot sex scene, believe it or not.

Macomber doesn’t give us a dark haired musclebound he-hulk with rippling abs and smoldering eyes. She also doesn’t give us a satin-haired sex goddess with the perfect wardrobe. Her characters are, instead, a little flawed and a lot lovable. Keaton is abnormally tall and unusually quiet. Annie has tragic baggage that is forcing her to start her life over again. These aren’t cookie-cutter characters; the perfect kind for a more credible romance.

And I love the idea of a love building over time through care, nurturing, and a mutual need for the other person. Macomber’s story delivers all the feels that romance fans clamor for. And if they are disappointed by the lack of steamy bedroom scenes, then maybe it’s not romance they’re actually looking for…


Debbie Macomber

Debbie Macomber is a leading voice in women’s fiction. Thirteen of her novels have reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller lists. She has more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. –adapted from author bio


Caraval (Caraval, #1)

=> Shelf-Discipline September continues! I’m clearing my bookshelves one book at a time, and this extremely popular YA novel got drawn next out of my title jar. It appears I got an invitation to Caraval! <=


Author: Stephanie Garber

(3.95 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Mystery / YA

Format: Hardcover

Publication Date: January 31, 2017, Flatiron Books

Pages: 407 (Hardcover)

#Caraval


Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world.

Annalise – Caraval

I’m OK with admitting it when I make mistakes. I wish I could say that it doesn’t happen often, so I don’t have to bother with many admissions; however, that is not the case! Early on in my reading “career”, I made a vow not to compare books with other books, but to judge them on their own merit. So, you’ll rarely see me stating, “Oh, I liked this book, ABC, but it wasn’t nearly as good as XYZ.” I don’t think that’s fair and if I wrote books, it would annoy me immensely. So I try my hardest not to do it.

So before I admit to my transgression, let’s talk about what Caraval was all about. Here’s the blurb:

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over. But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic.

Some things are worth pursuit regardless of the cost.

Aiko, Caraval

So there’s an exclusive performance, a pretty young woman who’s wishing on a star, and some pretty devious guys pulling more than a few magical strings to manipulate one totally unsuspecting person. The secrets have secrets in this one, folks.

Caraval started off with a promise of some pretty scandalous acts taking place in order to rescue a helpless young woman. Which one? Pick one, because they both needed saving in more than one way. Their dad is a nightmare, they live on a conquered island (doesn’t sound like white beaches and mojitos to me), and their only escape is to be bartered off like cattle to men from other lands. Not my idea of a good time.

Enter Caraval. The ladies get invited, they go (one more willingly than the other), and they embark on an adventure that proves to be mysterious… and deadly. So, what doesn’t sound intriguing and exciting about all that. Nothing! So, why did I rate it only 3 stars? Here’s where we circle back around to my confession…

Once people leave this isle, the things they’ve done here don’t just unhappen, no matter how much they might wish them undone.

Legend, Caraval

I compared this book with another. <Gasp!> I know, I know. I shouldn’t do it, I told myself I wouldn’t do it, but the stars aligned such that I drew Caraval’s title out of my title jar for Shelf-Discipline month right after I read The Night Circus. What can I say? Fate is sloppy.

If you follow me, then you may have already read last week’s blog where I gushed about how much I loved The Night Circus and how captivating it is, yada yada. And, now, reading another book with a similar setting – a magical carnival-like performance for the public – well, a comparison between the two just can’t be denied. And The Night Circus came out on top; it’s as simple as that.

Now let me clean this up a bit: Caraval is the first book of a trilogy and it has its die-hard fans. Not adding me to that list will not hurt sales for this book one little bit. Is it a bad book? No, it is not. It has a very strong YA feel (well, duh) and readers who aren’t put off by a few classic tropes (insta-love, hate-becomes-love, and conservative spirit vs free-spirit) may enjoy the character dynamics and the valiant attempts at plot-twistery. (It’s a word!)

So, if you love the idea of trying to solve a mystery in the setting of a color-changing carnival where literally everyone is lying and there’s a god-awful lot of tunnels and top hats, then this just might be the best book you’ve read all year. Just do yourself a favor and don’t compare it to other better books as you read!

Stephanie Garber

When she’s not writing, she teaches creative writing at a private college in Northern California, where she’s been known to turn assignments into games and take students on field trips that involve book signings. Now that her dream of becoming a published author has come true, her new dream is to visit Club 33 at Disneyland. –http://stephaniegarberauthor.com


The Night Circus

“Your curiosity got the better of you, as curiosity is want to do.” –The Night Circus


Author: Erin Morgenstern

(4.04 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Romance

Format: Paperback

Publication Date: September 13, 2011, Doubleday Books

Pages: 516 (Paperback)

#TheNightCircus #NightCircus


… I sometimes suspect the entirety of the circus is itself a complex illusion of illumination.

One of my fondest (and clearest) childhood memories is of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. My Uncle Syl would take me into the gigantic tent and I was simply amazed by all the spectacles. He would always buy me a caramel apple or some cotton candy – neither of which I could finish on my own (I think he counted on that!) – and we would stare, slack-jawed, at the animals and people doing amazing things all around us. So much was happening all at the same time that I could barely take it all in. It was… magical.

The magic of certain books is that they can pull you into a certain time and place that you only regrettably leave as you turn the final page. The Night Circus did that for me; first, by bringing back the memory of those nights at the circus with my Uncle Syl, and also by settling me into a world of wonder that I was not ready to leave, even after the acknowledgements.

Here’s the blurb: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway – a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love – a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. 


People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.

Of course I am extremely late to the party on this book. It’s been out since 2011 and I’ve had it on my shelf for several years. But since this is September Shelf-Discipline month and Read-What-You-Own month, AND because Morgenstern’s second book, A Starless Sea, is going to be released in November of this year, it seemed only appropriate that I would randomly (magically) pick this title from my title jar this month.

The Night Circus feels like a book that I was meant to read. It is atmospheric and seductive, with an air of mystery in every chapter. This book has cryptic hints and it doesn’t want you to figure out everything at once. So, just like one of the Night Circus’ visitors, readers are at the mercy of the author to reveal her secrets in her own time.

I prefer to remain unenlightened, to better appreciate the dark.

I’ve read many reviews of The Night Circus in the years prior to me actually reading it, so I knew that it is a book that you’re either a fan of, or that leaves you disappointed. I am gladly in the former group. It’s a book that has to be experienced rather than explained. And my experience was worthy of the five stars I gave it.

I find the characters equally familiar and enigmatic – so layered and complex, even as the author has tried to shield us from knowing much about them at all. The timeline is a mystery as well, bouncing between the reader’s present to the late 1800s with the inception of the circus and back to only a slightly later time in that future where every mysterious action is coming to a head.

And, finally, at the end when I felt the pages getting lighter in my hand and the action ramped up to its finale, I felt like I did as a child when the action in the middle of the three-ring circus reached its climax and the ringmaster said his final parting words and Uncle Syl would take my hand and lead me away from the tent, and the noise, and the smells of popcorn and caramel apples. It only left me wanting more.


Read more about Morgenstern’s sophomore novel, The Starless Sea, coming in November, 2019!


Erin Morgenstern

Erin Morgenstern is a writer and a multimedia artist who describes all her work as “fairy tales in one way or another.” She lives in Massachusetts. –bio taken from book cover.


29 Seconds

⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW! “What if a single 29 second phone call could change your life forever?” -29 Seconds ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Author: T.M. Logan

(4.04 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Suspense / Thriller

Format: Kindle

U.S. Publication Date: September 10, 2019, by St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 356 (Kindle version)

#29Seconds


If she said no, the offer disappeared. Forever. And if she said yes, there was no going back. No changing her mind.

Bullies. You may have dealt with them in school or you may be dealing with them now at work. Maybe there’s one in your gym or – gasp! – in your book club! If you’ve managed to live your whole life up to this point and not be affected by some of the most heinous, manipulative, bossy, dangerous people on planet Earth, then I salute you (and I want to know what cave you’re living in because you must be quite the introvert!).

In this book, Sarah is vexed by a bully. But oh, my friends, that is a very dumbed-down and simplified version of what is taking place in her life and the lives of others around her. And we don’t have to look too far away from our own phones and TVs to see glaring real-life examples (and one in particular) of the type of man our main character is being harassed by. But Sarah’s story is about so much more than harassment. Let’s check out the blurb:

Sarah is a young professor struggling to prove herself in a workplace controlled by the charming and manipulative Alan Hawthorne, a renowned scholar and television host. The beloved professor rakes in million-dollar grants for the university where Sarah works—so his inappropriate treatment of female colleagues behind closed doors has gone unchallenged for years. And Sarah is his newest target. When Hawthorne’s advances become threatening, she’s left with nowhere to turn. Until the night she witnesses an attempted kidnapping of a young child on her drive home, and impulsively jumps in to intervene. The child’s father turns out to be a successful businessman with dangerous connections—and her act of bravery has put this powerful man in her debt. He lives by his own brutal code, and all debts must be repaid. In the only way he knows how. The man gives Sarah a burner phone and an unbelievable offer. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that can make all her problems disappear. No consequences. No traces. No chance of being found out. All it takes is a 29-second phone call. Because everyone has a name to give. Don’t they?


Perhaps sometimes in life, an impossible situation required an unthinkable solution.

Let’s be honest with each other, OK? When you read the blurb, did you come up with a name? That one person that just grates your last nerve, or the one that sets your teeth on edge – is that the name you thought of? I couldn’t think of one. I’m not trying to be Miss Goody-two-shoes; I just honestly couldn’t think of anyone that I despise enough to wish that they’d “disappear”. Did I just get kudos points in Heaven? One can dream…

OK, so Sarah pulls off a good deed by being an upstanding citizen (or very nosy neighbor – you decide), and her reward seems more like a punishment. But like Sarah, you never know what you would do irl with your back pushed against the wall. Did I agree with all of her decisions? Not by a long shot. But was I committed to watching this train wreck that Sarah was conducting? ‘Til the very last wheel came off the track.

You don’t have to go into the lion’s den.


First, Alan Hawthorne is an absolute monster. It says a lot about an author when he or she can make you absolutely hate one of their characters, and Logan clearly has that gift. Hawthorne is despicable, the worst imitation of a human being, and I wanted to rip his head off and spit down his neck! Too much? Maybe so, but maybe not after you read this book. 29 Seconds is about the seemingly mighty preying on the vulnerable weak, but it’s also about finding strength of will in impossible situations. Gotta say it… where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Suspense, suspense, suspense! 29 Seconds has plenty of it. These are characters in 3D that you will sympathize with, angrily criticize, fear, wish dead, and want to go give a comforting hug. This book made me run the gamut of emotions – and that, readers, is all we ever ask any author to do for us. Logan delivers an important message wrapped in thrills and tense action that will leave your mouth hanging open on more than one occasion. No really, you could have flown the Goodyear Blimp down my throat at the end of Part II.

If you love a great, fast-paced thriller where the stakes are high and virtue is cloudy, this is gonna be your jam! I only knocked off half a star because I had a few lingering questions at the end that weren’t fully resolved by the “epilogue”. But those aren’t deal-breakers, and 29 Seconds is definitely worth the read. My only remaining question is… When is the movie release?


29 Seconds is available in the US today, September 10, 2019 at any of the following retail stores:


And be on the lookout for his next U.S. release, The Vacation, in July 2020!


T.M. Logan

Bestselling author TM Logan was a national newspaper journalist before turning to novel-writing full time. His debut thriller Lies was one of Amazon UK’s biggest ebooks of 2017, winning a Silver Award at the Nielsen Bestseller Awards. -Bio adapted from TMLogan.com