Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura

Lonely Castle in the Mirror is a touching magical realism story about mental health and friendships.

Synopsis

The thought of returning to school makes Kokoro sick to her stomach. One day when she’s lounging at home, she suddenly looks up at her mirror and notices it is glowing. She presses her hand to it, and the next instant, she’s in a castle straight out of a fairytale, greeted by a young girl in a pink lace-trim dress wearing a wolf’s mask.

This Wolf Queen informs Kokoro and the other six group members that they will have nearly a year to hunt for a key to unlock the Wishing Room. The person who finds it will be allowed to enter and have their wish granted. The castle is open from 9-5; if anyone overstays their visit, they’ll promptly be eaten by a wolf.

Review of Lonely Castle in the Mirror

This character-driven novel follows Kokoro’s perspective. It’s split into a month per chapter in the lead-up to their deadline. I think young adult and adult readers would both enjoy this novel. It touches on the effects of bullying and abuse.

Knowing the terms the Wolf Queen set out, I thought there would be more scenes of the teens actively searching for the key, but there were not that many.

There were some odd phrases that I initially thought were due to the translation, but they made a lot more sense by the end.

Lonely Castle in the Mirror

I’ve seen this book floating around for a while and pre-ordered it almost a year ago, but the publication date kept getting pushed back in Canada. So, when I saw it on Netgalley, I requested it immediately. And I’m so glad I did. This book is so cozy and felt like its own fairytale.

If more of this author’s works become translated, I will most definitely read them.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 18 October 2022

Thank you to Erewhon Books for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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For past reviews, click here.

A Dowry of Blood by S. T. Gibson

A Dowry of Blood is a dark and delicious story of Dracula and his first bride, Constanta, spread across centuries.

Synopsis

Constanta lies in the mud on the brink of death when a man suddenly appears, saying he cannot save her, but it is in his power to help her. And so Constanta begins her second life with this arresting man who is as passionate as he is cruel.

Constanta tells her story in the form of a letter to her husband, although she never once utters his name. It is her first and last love letter to him because in her own words:

It was never my intention to murder you.
Not in the beginning, anyway.

As her husband adds two more people to their dysfunctional group, Constanta gradually realizes how brutal and suffocating his love could be.

Review of A Dowry of Blood

This seductively written story is a quick read and can be consumed in a single sitting. It held my rapt attention from beginning to end. Although, it took some time to get used to the second-person singular voice.

I thought it would be a bit spicier than it was, considering most vampire books I’ve read are extra spicy. The open-door scenes were pretty brief.

The polyamorous relationship was well done, not just in the bedroom, but in their deep connection with each other.

As this is a dark vampire story, the author has a list of possible triggers at the beginning of the book and on Goodreads (in her review).

I have no clue what the next book will be like, but I cannot wait to read it. In the meantime, I need to deep dive into the author’s backlist.

My Rating: 🧛‍♀️🧛‍♀️🧛‍♀️🧛‍♀️

Expected Publication: 4 October 2022

Many thanks to Redhook (Orbit) for providing me with a copy to review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

Malice House by Megan Shepherd

Malice House is a well-written dark mystery where things go bump in the night.

Synopsis

After leaving her marriage, with nowhere else to go, Haven Marbury moves into her late father’s house. She wants to see if there’s anything she can sell to scrounge up some sorely-needed cash. Haven’s father was a prolific author with an adoring fan base, so she’s sure there ought to be something of value.

As she’s sifting through items in the attic, she discovers a yellowing unpublished manuscript called Bedtime Stories for Monsters. It’s unlike any of her father’s previous works, but Haven is positive any publisher would jump at the chance of getting it into the hands of readers. And if Haven could attach her name and illustrations to the manuscript, it could be the break she needs to jump-start her career as an artist.

While Haven is figuring out these details, bodies turn up dead near her property, and inexplicable terrors begin to occur in her old house.

Review of Malice House

This horror/mystery solely follows Haven’s perspective. Initially, I found it engaging, but it started to lag around the middle. But then the conclusion picked up at a break-neck speed with so many things happening seemingly at once. Haven made some unwise choices and ignores a slew of red flags, but it did make the story intriguing.

Since this is a horror story, there are many dark and gruesome themes throughout that may not be for everyone. The author did a stellar job of creating an ominous and disorienting atmosphere.

So, all-in-all, Malice House is a great read for the spooky season.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Expected Publication: 04 October 2022

Thank you to Hyperion Avenue for granting my wish via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

The House at Phantom Park by Graham Masterton

The House at Phantom Park delivers on the creepy vibes but not much else.

Synopsis

Lillian and David are in charge of overseeing the conversion of an old hospital into luxury apartments. From the beginning, everything starts to go wrong, with contractors suddenly becoming immobile or knives floating in the air. They suspect it might be activists messing with them. But Lillian has a job to do, and she is nothing if not determined, no matter how many people end up in the hospital with perplexing symptoms.

Review of The House at Phantom Park

The publisher’s blurb is slightly different from the contents of the book. It mentions John and Petulia Pearson, who are excited to convert the hospital into a seaside hotel, but they start witnessing unfathomable terrors. That makes it seem like those two would be the main characters, but as I described above, it is Lillian and David tasked with converting the hospital into apartments, not a hotel.

Overlooking those discrepancies, I found most of the characters were unlikeable and poorly developed. I enjoy reading about unlikeable characters if they’re multifaceted and have some depth to them. Many of the characters here were one-dimensional and fell a bit flat. And it took them an incredibly long time to start taking things seriously.

I had to push myself to finish this one and was glad when it was over.

CW: gore, war, ableism, sexism.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 13 October 2022

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

A Familiar Stranger by A. R. Torre

A Familiar Stranger by A. R. Torre is a bumpy ride to say the least.

Synopsis

Lillian Smith lives a boring life; she repeatedly says so herself. Lillian used to write obituaries for celebrities but has fallen out of favour with her employer. And so, now she writes regular obituaries. She feels distant from her son and believes her husband is cheating on her. When Lillian meets an enigmatic man at a coffee shop, she invents a whole new persona for herself and commences her own steamy affair.

From the outset, the reader knows someone will die, but it’s not immediately clear who.

Review of A Familiar Stranger

This domestic thriller has multiple POVs, with Lillian’s being the primary one.

There was a huge twist that totally changed the direction I thought this was going, and it left me gasping. But the character development could have been a bit better. Some of the characters felt like caricatures. And Lillian calling herself boring didn’t exactly make me feel excited to read her story.

Overall, I did enjoy parts of this wild ride of a book. It was a quick read, and I may look at future books by the author. Although, I suspect this one won’t stay with me for very long.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️.5

Expected Publication: 27 September 2022

Thank you to Thomas & Mercer for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth Strout returns with her sparse but beautiful prose in Lucy by the Sea, book four in the Amgash series.

Synopsis

It’s the early days of 2020 when COVID-19 was making its way around the world. Lucy watches it with feelings of detachment while her ex-husband William whisks her away from NYC to a small town in Maine. Initially, she believes it’ll only be for a few weeks but eventually realizes she will never return to her apartment.

While Lucy is in lockdown with William, she reflects on their shared history, her relationship with her grown children, her traumatic childhood, and all the turmoil and tension since 2020.

Review of Lucy by the Sea

Themes of memory, loneliness, and grief are touched on throughout this novel.

I think I read a review where someone likened Lucy’s story to sitting down with your grandmother and listening to her chat with you. It does have an intimate feeling.

I highly recommend this series if you haven’t started it already. Each book is on the shorter side, but all are impactful and thought-provoking.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 20 September 2022

Thank you to Random House for providing me with a widget via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

The Darkness of Others by Cate Holahan

The Darkness of Others by Cate Holahan is a slow-burn thriller set in the early days of the pandemic in NYC.

Synopsis

It opens with the gruesome death of a famed movie director. His wife Melissa has disappeared, and the police suspect she is responsible for his death.

However, psychiatrist Imani Banks is good friends with Melissa and knows she would never leave her daughter behind.

Then there’s Philip, Imani’s husband and Michelin chef. Before the pandemic, his restaurant was doing well but has since suffered like so many other dining establishments. To stay afloat, he must furlough some of his staff, including Tonya, who has worked for him for ten years. It couldn’t be worse timing for Tonya, who ends up moving in with Philip and his family when she’s unable to pay her rent.

Imani is immediately suspicious of Tonya’s motives and even suspects she might be involved in the murder.

Review of The Darkness of Others

This is a slow burn thriller with multiple POVs.

The pandemic plays a large part in this story. However, since there’s a bit of distance from those early days and all the restrictions, it was not as difficult to read as I expected. But it’s still not a time I like to look back on at this stage.

I enjoyed the writing style, but when I set the book aside, I had no desire to pick it back up. So, it took longer than it usually would to finish this, considering it’s not that long.

There are tons of other more positive reviews, so you may want to check those out before deciding whether to give this a read.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Now Available.

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a copy to review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

The Guest House by Robin Morgan-Bentley

The Guest House is a compulsively readable thriller but veers into OTT territory for much of the book.

Synopsis

Victoria and Jamie are spending a weekend away at a remote guest house weeks before their baby is due. The morning after they arrive, Victoria wakes to discover she is going into labour. The owners of the house are nowhere to be found but, for some unknown reason, have locked up all the doors and windows. And the couples’ cell phones and car keys have also mysteriously vanished.

Review of The Guest House

What follows is a wild story with two timelines that go far beyond suspension of disbelief. But, no matter how outrageous the plot, I still felt compelled to continue and see how everything turned out. For that reason, it gets a solid three stars from me.

I did like that there was disability representation. The author wrote it coming from his own experience. It was nice that it wasn’t used as a plot device to frighten readers as so many other thrillers do when it comes to writing about disabilities.

If you do not mind implausible thrillers, then you might enjoy this one.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 13 September 2022

Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

The House with the Golden Door by Elodie Harper

This trilogy gets better with each book. The House with the Golden Door by Elodie Harper returns to Pompeii in 75 AD, four years before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and follows one woman’s journey from enslaved to freedwoman.

Synopsis

Amara’s life has vastly changed since the events of the first book. She is now a freedwoman but must still cater to the whims of her patron Rufus or risk losing his support, on which she is entirely dependent. At the same time, she longs to free the friends she had no choice but to leave behind at the brothel.

As much as she’d like to forget Felix, her previous owner, their paths continue to cross, and Amara can’t help but notice the same qualities they both share.

Amara must carefully balance appearing to be the woman Rufus desires while also preparing herself for life after he tires of her.

Review of The House with the Golden Door

This second instalment solely follows Amara’s perspective. I said it in my review of The Wolf Den, but I’ll say it again: Elodie Harper excels at bringing Pompeii back to life. From the Forum, the shops, and the houses, Harper makes it easy to visualize this bustling time.

It has themes on the currency of beauty and what happens when it runs out.

I enjoyed seeing more of Brittanica and learning more about her background. And I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Although nearly 500 pages, I never once felt bored reading this tome. It is fast becoming one of my favourite series, and I cannot wait for the third and final book.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Now Available.

Thank you to Union Square and Co. for providing me with a widget via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas

The American Roommate Experiment has plenty of tropes that are common in romance but still manages to give all the feels.

Synopsis

This is the author’s follow-up novel to The Spanish Love Deception but follows a different set of characters.

Rosie Graham recently quit her engineering job to pursue her writing career. Her first book was a huge success, but now she’s experiencing writer’s block and staring down the deadline for her next book, which is due in a few short weeks.

To make matters worse, the ceiling in her apartment collapses, forcing Rosie to move into Lina’s apartment, her best friend, who happens to be away on her honeymoon.

But Lina forgot to tell Rosie that her cousin Lucas would be crashing at her apartment while she was away. The same gorgeous cousin Rosie has been lightly stalking on Instagram for months.

What follows is an irresistible story of fake dating, friends to lovers, and forced proximity that is hard to put down.

Review of The American Roommate Experiment

It alternates perspectives between Rosie and Lucas. The tension between these two led to some hilarious and awkward moments. I liked both characters, but occasionally I did wish Rosie had the confidence to believe what Lucas was telling her; instead of constantly convincing herself he didn’t mean it.

I had no clue this was a spin-off of the super popular Spanish Love Deception, which was probably a good thing since I haven’t read it yet and had no inclination to do so. But if it’s as compelling as this one, I might have to reconsider it.

This is a good one to pull you out of a reading slump. I raced through the second half of it.

I’ve been enjoying my foray into romance, it’s a bit outside of my usual genres, but the few I’ve read have been delightful.

Whether or not you’ve read The Spanish Love Deception, I highly recommend giving this one a try.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 06 September 2022

Thank you to Atria Books for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.