Book Review: The Resting Place by Camilla Sten

Hardcover, 336 pages

Expected publication: March 29th 2022 by Minotaur Books

More times than not, truth of the past tragically dies with people. This is one of those stories.

Eleanor, a woman who has a neurological condition, called prosopagnosia, that torments her with the inability to recognize the faces of familiar people, arrives on the scene of her hard-hearted Grandmother Vivianne’s murder. Before Eleanor realizes what has happened, she comes face to face with the murderer but can’t make any sense of their face. The aftermath of her Grandmother’s death leaves her in a state of anxiety and devastating  emotions of not being able to identify the killer.

Months later, a lawyer calls Eleanor to tell her that her grandmother leaves her and her Aunt Veronika an estate situated deep in the Swedish forests, and they must take inventory of the house and grounds.

Eleanor and her boyfriend, Sebastian, arrives to the estate along with the lawyer and her Aunt looking for buried secrets and answers that takes them on a treacherous journey they wish they have never taken.

The Resting Place is an intense dual time line that slowly builds while deliberating leaving clues to the mysteries of Eleanor’s family in such a way, you’re not quite sure you know how the story is going to play out. About half way through, I was sure I had most the mystery figured out despite the twisty turns the story takes you on. I was pleasantly surprised with a few details I didn’t see coming.

There were a couple details about two characters that needed to be fleshed out but that said, Sten does a marvelous job casting doubt on the people in surrounding Eleanor and having you second guess yourself on their realities and intentions. Nothing is what it appears and everyone has motives.

I enjoyed reading about the old estate with its great house, out- buildings, lake and woods. You don’t know much about the history of the house or land per say but you get enough to leave up to your imagination.

Stem brilliantly weaves Eleanor’s prosopagnosia and it certainly adds to the creep vibe of the story!

There is so much more to this story that can’t be mentioned and my wish is for readers who enjoy thrillers and mysteries to jump on this book when it is release to the public.

Atmospheric, twisty, hauntingly good story.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a copy from the Publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Book Review: A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

It is not often you come across a thriller where every scene and detail are relevant to the story and evenly paced. Furthermore, it is not often when a book is plotted so well that it leaves you with no holes in a dissatisfied manner. A Flicker in the Dark is without a doubt one of the best thrillers I have read and I was impressed to learn early on that this story is Stacy Willingham debut novel. Her craft of story-telling is marvelous and if I hadn’t known this was her debut, I would have thought her a seasoned published author.

I must add that Willingham creates a brilliant cast of characters and her development of their personalities are flawless. Everyone is suspect and when you believe you have who the killer is, there is a twist leaving you blindsided.

I was fully engaged in this story and before I knew it, I found myself reading late into the night and early morning.

This book is getting a five-star rating from me and I am grateful for receiving an ARC from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review. It’s funny really, that often times, it’s harder for me to find the words to express my delight in discovering stories that grab my attention in such a way.

Stephanie Hopkins

Book Description:

Expected publication: January 11th 2022 by Minotaur Books

When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, Chloe’s father had been arrested as a serial killer and promptly put in prison. Chloe and the rest of her family were left to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.

Now 20 years later, Chloe is a psychologist in private practice in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. She finally has a fragile grasp on the happiness she’s worked so hard to get. Sometimes, though, she feels as out of control of her own life as the troubled teens who are her patients. And then a local teenage girl goes missing, and then another, and that terrifying summer comes crashing back. Is she paranoid, and seeing parallels that aren’t really there, or for the second time in her life, is she about to unmask a killer?

Book Review: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

Hardcover, 368 pages

Expected publication: December 7th 2021 by Atria Books

Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Hired by families as a last resort, he requires only a single object to find the person who has vanished. When he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—he’s led to a place many believed to be only a legend.

Called Pastoral, this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it…he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.

Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.

My thoughts:

Pastoral, once a peaceful and reclusive community, with calm order and purpose, becomes sinister and takes “reclusive” to a whole other level. Yes, please! When I came across this book on NetGalley, I had a feeling about it and my thoughts were right on the money.

These days, it is hard to disconnect in more ways than one. Everything is fast-paced and mental illness is on the rise. It is no wonder many people dream about a simpler life. In History of Wild Places, the people seeking this life get more than they are asking for.

One of the main important elements of a story is connecting with the characters. You don’t get that in this story, perhaps because you aren’t given a lot of backstory. That said, there is a reason why and readers will begin to understand that based on the theme of the story.

Ernshaw employs artistic composition in a unique and refreshing way that has you hanging on to every word. Her ability to articulate any situation or surrounding in the story is outstanding. Ernshaw had me hooked with the first line!

As the story unfolded, I began to see clearly how prolonged isolation can be used to manipulate people of the tightknit community and the mind-distorting effects it creates.

I found myself fully immersed in unraveling, along with Theo, Calla and Bee, the dark secrets that keep them locked within the commune.

One aspect I would have liked to have been more developed was the characters’ daily lives and their relationships with each other. It would have made the plot more profound. In regards to the relationships, Bee’s and Levi’s were the only relationship fleshed out. I cannot say much more than that without giving any spoilers.  

A great mystery about the disappearance of people, manipulation, a reclusive community brilliantly weaved with atmospheric woods, survival and spooky elements.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a galley copy from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Cover Crush: A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari

A Saffron Everleigh Mystery

Pub Date Jun 7, 2022

About the Cover: This cover is really pleasing to the eye. The vibrant colors of the background, bottle and flowers add that extra spark to the overall layout. Often times, artists describe vibrant art as meaning pure, energetic and radiant. Quite the contrast to this novels premise. Though, I dare say, the most beautiful objects can be deadly.

About the Book: I love a good period mystery and what a great premise for a story! Imagine yourself alongside Saffron Everleigh, working to uncover the murderer and in the throes of intrigue and mystery.

Stephanie Hopkins

Description

London, 1923.  Newly minted research assistant Saffron Everleigh attends a dinner party for the University College of London. While she expects to engage in conversations about the university’s large expedition to the Amazon, she doesn’t expect Mrs. Henry, one of the professors’ wives to drop to the floor, poisoned by an unknown toxin.
 
Dr. Maxwell, Saffron’s mentor, is the main suspect, having had an explosive argument with Dr. Henry a few days prior. As evidence mounts against Dr. Maxwell and the expedition’s departure draws nearer, Saffron realizes if she wants her mentor’s name cleared, she’ll have to do it herself.

Joined by enigmatic Alexander Ashton, a fellow researcher, Saffron uses her knowledge of botany as she explores steamy greenhouses, dark gardens, and deadly poisons. Will she be able to uncover the truth or will her investigation land her on the murderer’s list? 

Book Review: The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman

About the book:

Mia Eliot has travelled from London to LA for pilot season. This is her big chance to make it as an actor in Hollywood, and she is ready to do whatever it takes. At an audition she meets Emily, and what starts as a simple favour takes a dark turn when Emily goes missing and Mia is the last person to see her.

Then a woman turns up, claiming to be Emily, but she is nothing like Mia remembers. Why would someone pretend to be Emily? Starting to question her own sanity, she goes on a desperate and dangerous search for answers, knowing something is very, very wrong.

My thoughts:

I must confess that this story took me a while to read and as I got closer to the conclusion, I was eager to push through. I have three minds about this book. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this book. I am not a fan of Hollywood and the corruptness is disgustingly appalling and in the resent years, they been have increasingly known to the public. Not only that, but the politically and socially motivated agenda pushed on the masses and the kind-of movies that are being made out lately…Yeah, I won’t delve further in that topic at present.

While I found the story starting to lag a bit and go on too much about details and my attention waned at times, there are a lot of well-written twisty and tensely moments throughout the story.

The situations Mia found herself in kept getting increasingly stranger and I began to think that everything happening to her was in her head or someone was seriously messing with her. I found it amusing that Mia in this book played the Jane Eyre part like Mia Wasikowska in real life. I did like how she was asking herself what would Jane Eyre do or act upon in dilemmas she found herself in.

I appreciated the author’s portrayal of LA and from what I heard about the area; she is spot on. Though, she was likely being tamed about the telling. Which, I’m happy with because that was partly why I was hesitate to read this book.

I was relieved to find the conclusion satisfying because I had my doubts. As a whole, The Disappearing Act is a clever story with fast-moving tension and sordid truths about the movie industry.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a galley copy from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Book Review: The Necklace by Matt Witten

Pub Date Sep, 7th 2021

Oceanview Publishing

Mystery & Thrillers

Susan Lentigo’s daughter was murdered twenty years ago—and now, at long last, this small-town waitress sets out on a road trip all the way from Upstate New York to North Dakota to witness the killer’s execution.

On her journey she discovers shocking new evidence that leads her to suspect the condemned man is innocent—and the real killer is still free. Even worse, her prime suspect has a young daughter who’s at terrible risk. With no money and no time to spare, Susan sets out to uncover the truth before an innocent man gets executed and another little girl is killed.

But the FBI refuses to reopen the case. They—and Susan’s own mother—believe she’s just having an emotional breakdown. Reaching deep, Susan finds an inner strength she never knew she had. With the help of two unlikely allies—a cynical, defiant teenage girl and the retired cop who made the original arrest—Susan battles the FBI to put the real killer behind bars. Will she win justice for the condemned man—and her daughter—at last?

My thoughts:

This is the first book I’ve read by Witten and he writes one heck of an at the edge your seat, nail biting thriller! It doesn’t take the reader anytime at all to be completely absorbed in the story. His protagonist Susan Lentigo is one that we can all admire and cheer for. She is a complex woman but there is no doubt, she will fight for justice and do the right think no matter what. She has been dealt a terrible hand of cards and losing her daughter to rap and murder is something no parent should ever endure. That was heart breaking to read about and at first, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to read the story but felt I must. I’m so glad I did because the story also focuses on executions of murderers. Needless to say, no one in this story has a problem with executing a person who murders children.

I must caution you; the story might be too sensitive of a subject to some readers and there is profanity throughout the book. Other than that, this is a well written, fleshed out thriller.

Stephanie Hopkins

Cover Crush: The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

St. Martin’s Press

Mystery & Thrillers | Women’s Fiction

Pub Date 11 Jan 2022

About the cover: The blues and greens of this cover caught my eye. I use these hues often in my art. The position of the wrought iron fence, house, tree and the people walking towards the house, along with the colors, shows mystery and intrigue. Nicely executed.

About the book: I love a good mystery and a historical one at that. This story is a dual time line and takes place in North Carolina in the present and past. Or I should say, the year 2010. Yes please!

Description

A community’s past sins rise to the surface in New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain’s The Last House on the Street when two women, a generation apart, find themselves bound by tragedy and an unsolved, decades-old mystery.

1965

Growing up in the well-to-do town of Round Hill, North Carolina, Ellie Hockley was raised to be a certain type of proper Southern lady. Enrolled in college and all but engaged to a bank manager, Ellie isn’t as committed to her expected future as her family believes. She’s chosen to spend her summer break as a volunteer helping to register black voters. But as Ellie follows her ideals fighting for the civil rights of the marginalized, her scandalized parents scorn her efforts, and her neighbors reveal their prejudices. And when she loses her heart to a fellow volunteer, Ellie discovers the frightening true nature of the people living in Round Hill.

2010

Architect Kayla Carter and her husband designed a beautiful house for themselves in Round Hill’s new development, Shadow Ridge Estates. It was supposed to be a home where they could raise their three-year-old daughter and grow old together. Instead, it’s the place where Kayla’s husband died in an accident—a fact known to a mysterious woman who warns Kayla against moving in. The woods and lake behind the property are reputed to be haunted, and the new home has been targeted by vandals leaving threatening notes. And Kayla’s neighbor Ellie Hockley is harboring long buried secrets about the dark history of the land where her house was built.

Two women. Two stories. Both on a collision course with the truth–no matter what that truth may bring to light–in Diane Chamberlain’s riveting, powerful novel about the search for justice.

Book Review: The Family Plot by Megan Collins

Expected publication: August 17th 2021 by Atria Books

About the book:

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse has a lot to learn when it comes to the real world. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has spent the last several years living on her own, but unable to move beyond her past—especially the disappearance of her twin brother Andy when they were sixteen.

With her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house she has avoided for years. But as the rest of the Lighthouse family arrives for the memorial, a gruesome discovery is made: buried in the reserved plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Each member of the family handles the revelation in unusual ways. Her brother Charlie pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister Tate forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic façade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.

My thoughts:

Most true crime novels, that I have read, pretty much delves in every facet of the human experience you can think of and at times, you don’t necessarily want to explore too much. Or do you? The criminal mind is shocking and heinous and does not limit itself to one shape, color or size.

What of the people who are obsessed with those stories? The ones who investigate, write those books or portray them in some form of medium? How do they live their lives? Like in The Family Plot, dioramas portraying crime scenes. Author Megan Collins gives her readers a chilling story of one family’s life centered around their own obsession of true crime. Not only that, but strange events and a horrible and unspeakable crim quickly becomes uncovered at their own door.

The Lighthouse family is certainly strange, twisted and creepy, wrapped up in their own secrets, lies, pain and eccentricity. Their odd behavior and unorthodox ways, has the local town leery of them to say the least!

Dahila Lighthouse seems to be the only one with a touch of reality as she ventures to uncover the crime that is discovered among them. Her siblings and mother are out of touch or basically wanting to stay in their bubble. It is safe there for them, or so they think. Though, who can really fault them? Especially the brothers…Imagine a lie, like a seed, being planted and taking root so deep, that one feels they can never unbury the truth. It is too ugly and disturbing. Imagine having to live with that lie in fear and pain growing up as a kid. No child should ever go through what the Lighthouse brothers did. Or what anyone of them had to for that matter.

I must say that I have never read a story quite like this one and I am absolutely delighted I chose to read this book. The story build-up was strong, great scenes, complex and frightening characters, and a solid plot. Though, I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed with the ending. That said, I highly recommend this book to people who love reading about crime, family secrets and mystery.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a copy from the Publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Book Review: The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones

Published August 3rd 2021 by Minotaur Books

Three couples travel to a destination wedding for the weekend in Portugal, a stunning villa high on the cliffs with the sounds of roaring waves crashing on the rocks below. What could go wrong? Everything!

My gosh! There is so much drama in this story that I felt I was transported back to high school. Needless to say, this story is not my usual fan fair but I found myself unable to put it aside, and I was imagining of all sorts of scenarios of how this would end. The author weaved bread crumbs throughout the story, and then there would be a twist to throw you off, just to lead you back to the same conclusion. The story went in all sorts of directions to the very end. Did I figure it out before the ending? Yes, I did with a couple details I didn’t see coming.

The Quilt Trip emphasizes just how much stupid and destructive things people do and say under the influence of alcohol and for just down right selfish and petty reasons. Furthermore, how secrets and lies are a tender box waiting to ignite at any moment when least expected.

The build up to this story was great, however, I found some minor errors in details to be an unbelievable and the ending did not measure up. For example, without going into too much detail, the tragedy at the wedding scene was overly complicated and did not work for me.

As far as the characters go, the person I felt most empathy for was Jack’s brother Will. Despite his role being in the background a bit, I enjoyed his personality and free spirit. He is the nomad type, a wanderer. A person who would happily sleep under the stars without worry. With this crowd and his brother, its no wonder! Rachel, Jack, Paige, Noah and Ali were extremely unlikable characters and their dysfunction drove me nuts. I dare say, that is the point of the story, I’m sure.

Despite my misgivings, I enjoyed the story enough to keep reading and I’m confident that many readers will enjoy the book. -Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a galley copy from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Book Description:

Six friends.

Rachel and Noah have been friends since they met at university. While they once thought that they might be something more, now, twenty years later, they are each happily married to other people, Jack and Paige respectively. Jack’s brother Will is getting married, to the dazzling, impulsive Ali, and the group of six travel to Portugal for their destination weekend.

Three couples.

As they arrive at a gorgeous villa perched on a cliff-edge, overlooking towering waves that crash on the famous surfing beaches below at Nazaré, they try to settle into a weekend of fun. While Rachel is looking forward to getting to know her future sister-in-law Ali better, Ali can’t help but rub many of the group up the wrong way: Rachel’s best friend Paige thinks Ali is attention-seeking and childish, and while Jack is trying to support his brother Will’s choice of wife, he is also finding plenty to disagree with Noah about.

One fatal misunderstanding . . .

But when Rachel discovers something about Ali that she can hardly believe, everything changes. As the wedding weekend unfolds, the secrets each of them hold begin to spill, and friendships and marriages threaten to unravel. Soon, jumping to conclusions becomes the difference between life and death.

Book Review: The Thin Place by C.D. Major

Published April 15th 2021

The Thin Place is told in three points of views with their stories told in different time periods and they become interwoven with its supernatural elements.

Marion, a woman newly married, moved to her husband’s estate to only be neglected by him, used and dealt with repeated miscarriages.

Constance, a young sad, sickly girl who was basically kept locked away by her mother. Her need to please her mother became wrought in anguish and bitterness. There was an interesting, yet disturbing theme about the mother daughter relationship that helps drive the plot.

Ava, a female journalist, pregnant, lives in a small town, encounters Overtoun Estate and decides to investigates its tragic history. In doing so, she becomes obsessed with the place and its mystery, puts her life in jeopardy.

The Thin Place is described as a place where two worlds joined. To some, it can be a place of an abyss of sorts or heaven- if you will. Confusing, yes? It is widely known that many people feel these places when they come close to them. Especially, in England and Ireland. Though I can imagine these experiences happen everywhere and people just don’t understand them. Apparently, the more you experience these places, the more your sense of them are intensified. This theme is interwoven in the story and I’m still undecided if it worked or not. I have to admit, I felt as if I was told about this place rather than shown. I felt disconnected to Ava, Marion and Constance’s experience with the area, and their plight with Overtoun House.

Ava is the leading character and I have to admit I disliked her. Which is a problem for me because I’m usually cheering for the protagonist. I found her to be self-absorbed and often absent of feelings, neglectful and unkind to family and friends. Was it because she had become obsessed with the Overtoun House? So much so, that it consumed her to the point that she wasn’t even thinking about others and the baby’s well-being growing inside her? I’m not convinced despite the final conclusion of the story.

The only person I felt sympathy for was Constance and even then, I felt her story needed to be fleshed out a bit more and for The Thin Place to be more convincing. Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling the supernatural and creep vibe as I thought I would be entering into the story.

That said, the premise is a good one and I enjoyed parts of the author’s descriptions of things, the premise, setting and the history of Overtoun House. Overall, I’m happy I chose to read this story.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a galley copy of The Thin Place from the publisher through Netgalley, for an honest review.