What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

This might be controversial, but I enjoyed T. Kingfisher’s What Moves the Dead more than Poe’s original The Fall of the House of Usher.

Synopsis

Alex Easton, a non-binary retired soldier, receives a letter from Madeline Usher stating that she is dying and wants Alex to visit her before she passes. Alex immediately hastens to the Usher estate. Along the way, they notice funky-looking mushrooms, a lake with an unnatural quality, and certain animals moving and behaving strangely.

When they finally reach the property, Alex is surprised to learn their visit is unexpected. It turns out that Madeline’s twin, Roderick, had no idea that she had written to Alex.

Despite both Ushers looking worse for wear in their crumbling mansion, the first few days of Alex’s visit occur without incident. But as time passes, things begin to take a frightening turn.

Review of What Moves the Dead

This fun and creepy novella entirely follows Alex’s perspective. It’s categorized as horror, but it’s not as scary as I was expecting, which is good since I scare easily. It is highly atmospheric with palpable tension – I almost felt like I was right beside Alex the entire time. The writing style embodies the gothic time period but doesn’t feel dry.

There are some gory descriptions, as one might expect from the genre. I also appreciated the humour, which helped balance out the tenser sections. And the queer representation was a nice inclusion as well.

I thoroughly enjoyed this and only wish it was a smidge longer. This was my first time reading T. Kingfisher, and I think I’ll seek out The Twisted Ones next.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 12 July 2022

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

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For past reviews, click here.

The Cabin in the Woods by Sarah Alderson

The Cabin in the Woods by Sarah Alderson is a tense and unputdownable psychological thriller.

Synopsis

This thriller unfolds the mystery of how Rose Reid went from an impoverished upbringing to being a wealthy socialite to now hiding in an abandoned cabin in the woods.

Review of The Cabin in the Woods

Since each chapter reveals a little more of Rose’s life in the past and present, it’s probably best not to know much more than that going in. The chapters are super short, making this a quick, suspenseful, and edge-of-your-seat kind of read.

Some may find it a little over-the-top, but it does make for a highly compelling story. Initially, I was slightly disappointed with one of the big reveals because it’s fairly common in thrillers these days. But the author did an incredible job of keeping the momentum going.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 07 July 2022

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

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For past reviews, click here.

The Martyr by Anthony Ryan

The Martyr by Anthony Ryan, Book Two of The Covenant of Steel, picks up where Book One ended.

Synopsis

Alwyn Scribe is still at Lady Evadine’s side as protector and adviser. Aside from her cult-like following, most, including the Crown, believe Lady Evadine and her prophetical visions of the coming of the Second Scourge to be a fraud. So, in a bid to get rid of her, King Tomas sends her on what he believes is a hopeless mission of putting down a rebellion in the Duchy of Alundia. As war threatens to erupt, Alwyn will have to harness his skills as a soldier and, once again, don his outlaw hat.

Review of The Martyr by Anthony Ryan

There’s a handy summary of the events from the first book, plus a character list to help refresh the reader’s memory.

This second instalment solely follows Alwyn’s perspective. I enjoyed the second half much more than the first half.

Anthony Ryan excels at crafting fully fleshed characters, whether they are likeable or villainous, or somewhere in between. I missed one particular character from the first book, but maybe she’ll make a reappearance in the final instalment. Besides Alwyn, Lilat might be my second favourite character. Evadine is not a likeable character per se, but it is intriguing to read how different people react to her.

The Martyr by Anthony Ryan

Although this is a fantasy series, magic does not take centre stage. In the first book, there was a mere glimpse of magic, but it begins to play a slightly larger part in this second book.

I am very curious to know what the next book has in store for these characters.

I’d recommend this series if you enjoy complex historical fantasy full of gritty battle scenes and religious and political maneuverings.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 28 June 2022

Thank you to Orbit Books for providing me with a copy to review.

Read my review of The Pariah, Book One of The Covenant of Steel on Goodreads.

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For past reviews, click here.

First Born by Will Dean

First Born by Will Dean shells out uno reverse card after uno reverse card.

Synopsis

Twenty-two-year-old Molly Raven has an obsession with analyzing and maintaining her safety and security at all times. She’ll never leave her phone charging unattended, nor will she fail to check daily that her fire alarm is functioning.

Molly’s safe bubble threatens to burst when her parents call, informing her that her twin sister Katie has passed away in a probable homicide in New York City. Although identical twins, Katie was the polar opposite of Molly – she was the outgoing and adventurous one.

Molly flies to NYC to meet up with her parents. Sure she can help the police with their investigation, Molly probes into Katie’s life and begins to realize she didn’t know her twin as well as she thought.

Review of First Born by Will Dean

This slowly-plotted psychological thriller strictly follows Molly’s pov, and what an exhausting perspective it is. At least, it was at first. Her habit of overanalyzing every situation and expecting and preparing for the worst was tiring just reading about it. However, she eventually grew on me.

Just when I thought I had it all figured out, the author slammed down another uno reverse card to shake things up. The plot became slightly dramatic, but it fits with the story and setting.

If you are an anxious traveller, maybe don’t read this immediately before commencing your trip. It’ll have you considering things you probably wouldn’t have given a single thought until Molly put the bee in your bonnet. I’ll be going on my own trip to NYC soon, and now thanks to Molly, I’m a wee bit paranoid. I kid. I think.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 05 July 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.

Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

Reputation by Sarah Vaughan shows that it takes time to build a good reputation, but only a moment to tear it asunder.

Synopsis

Emma, a relatively new politician, is no stranger to facing judgement from the public. However, everything intensifies after a photo shoot meant to make Emma appear powerful and fierce has the opposite effect. Instead of building confidence and trust among her constituents, the trolls threaten violence against Emma.

The situation escalates as Emma’s daughter Flora gets bullied, and Emma finds a body in her home. Soon, Emma will have to face more than just the court of public opinion.

Review of Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

This multi-pov thriller is exceedingly well-written. The reader experiences the story from every angle, with each voice distinct. The beginning was a touch slow, but the rest was gripping.

This novel shines a light on the changeable nature of the media. It reminds me of a very recent courtroom trial that seemingly had the whole world watching.

This was my first time reading Sarah Vaughan, but I’m sure it won’t be my last.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 05 July 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.

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin reminds me of old-school Atwood.

Synopsis

Vera has spent her entire life in a small mountainous cloud-covered community cut off from the rest of the world, or elsewhere as they call it. She and the other girls eagerly anticipate their futures as wives and mothers.

Although motherhood isn’t a straightforward thing in this town. Mothers regularly and mysteriously disappear, leaving no trace behind. Those that remain are never entirely sure what caused a mother to vanish, but they speculate on this “affliction.” Perhaps that mother coddled her child too heavily, that one, not enough.

Newcomers are not a regular occurrence in this small town, so when a stranger like Ruth shows up, it sets everyone into an excited tizzy.

I think it’s best not to know much more than that.

Review of Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin

This short, speculative, character-driven novel solely follows Vera’s POV. The writing is sparse but impactful. It captured my attention right away. When I was reading it, I was savouring every word, but oddly, when I had to put it down, I had to force myself to pick it back up. Maybe I didn’t want it to end. It is definitely one I’ll be thinking of for years to come.

There are themes on motherhood, identity, and community.

Fortunately, I have zero critiques about this novel, except that I wish the author explained the affliction in more detail.

I haven’t read the author’s debut yet, which I need to correct ASAP.

So, I’d recommend this if you enjoy slowish, character-driven books with Margaret Atwood vibes.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Expected Publication: 28 June 2022

Thank you to Celadon Books for providing me with a physical arc in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

I thought I had The House Across the Lake figured out, but alas, I did not.

Synopsis

Casey Fletcher, a widow and notable actress, has retreated to her family’s lakeside cottage to escape some recent bad press. She spends her days drinking and using her binoculars to spy casually on her neighbours.

Casey spends her time spying on Katherine and Tom Royce, her beautiful and wealthy neighbours. Their newly developed house sits directly across the lake from her cottage.

When Katherine vanishes, Casey is determined to uncover the truth behind her disappearance.

Review of The House Across the Lake

Casey is the typical unreliable female narrator that readers see a lot of these days. Namely the main character with a drinking problem that noses her way into everyone else’s business. Usually, this type of narrator would be irksome to me, but in this case, it wasn’t. I think it’s because the reader knows at the outset that Casey’s husband recently passed away, so she’s just processing her grief. Sure, it’s not the healthiest way, but still.

I’ve read a few of Riley Sager’s books, and this one is slightly different from those. It started off as what you’d expect, but then it completely veered off course. If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you’ll know that I don’t mind OTT – give me all the drama and theatrics. But this one was just a bit too weird. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but it was an interesting way to go.

I will continue to read whatever Riley Sager publishes. His books are compulsively readable and always keep me entertained.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Expected Publication: 21 June 2022

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

For regular reading updates, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

And There He Kept Her by Joshua Moehling

And There He Kept Her by Joshua Moehling is a dark and disturbing police procedural novel.

Synopsis

On a frigid, rainy night, two teens attempt to break into what they believe is an unsuspecting senior’s home. What they do not know is that Emmett Burr has decades-old secrets. Secrets he would kill to keep. The lines of who is the victim and who is the abuser become completely blurred.

So, it is up to acting Sheriff Ben Packard to find these teens as quickly as possible. He is relatively new to town, and is trying to do his job while keeping his head down.

Review of And There He Kept Her

This suspenseful and well-written thriller shifts perspectives between Emmett and Packard. After the first few chapters, there are no shocking reveals. The reader merely has to wait for Packard to piece all the clues together, which he does smartly and intuitively. There is a nice buildup of tension as the story progresses. Even though there are no big twists, the story never felt boring.

It was refreshing to see a detective-type main character that was not the usual cishet male that typically saturates this genre.

Also, I’ll give the author brownie points for briefly touching on issues that affect Indigenous communities. But minus many brownie points for making the only Indigenous character in the book a sex offender. But I’m willing to move past it.

Overall, I did enjoy this, and I hope to see more of Sheriff Packard in the future. I can easily see this as the beginning of a new series.

So, I recommend this novel if you want a fresh spin on a police procedural/thriller.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 14 June 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, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

It All Comes Down to This by Therese Anne Fowler

It All Comes Down to This by Therese Anne Fowler is a slowly-paced family drama.

Synopsis

Marti Geller knows she will be dying soon. It’s only a matter of days. She has organized everything herself, including the directive to sell her summer cottage to lessen the burden on her daughters after she’s gone. There’s just one final secret that she’s ready to tell them.

After Marti’s death, the story follows Marti’s three daughters: Beck, Claire, and Sophia, as they process their grief and the messiness of their own lives. Then there’s C. J., recently released from prison and looking to buy a house in the same area as the Geller’s cottage.

Review of It All Comes Down to This

There’s not really much going on in the terms of plot. It’s more of a domestic slice-of-life story.

It was somewhat difficult to keep track of all the characters at first but less so over time. And there was a bit of the male gaze, which was odd since the author is female.

The beginning wasn’t all that interesting, but the longer I read, the more I became invested in these characters’ lives. It didn’t blow me away, but it was a nice, slow weekend read.

So, I recommend it if you enjoy messy family dramas.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 07 June 2022

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For regular reading updates, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

The Woman in the Library is a story within a story within another story. It should have been one I loved, but I was never fully invested in it.

Synopsis

Four strangers are sitting in the Boston Public Library when they hear a shrill scream. The scream ends up bringing these four twenty to thirty-somethings together. When they learn that a body was found shortly after the shriek of terror, they all inadvertently became entangled in the case. This encounter inspires Freddie, the protagonist, for the novel she is currently writing.

That is the basis for Hannah Tigone’s story. While writing her story, she exchanges emails with a super fan named Leo, who eagerly gives her advice about her characters and plot lines. The reader never sees what Hannah writes to Leo, only what Leo writes back. Over time, Hannah’s story and Leo’s emails take on a darker tone.

Review of The Woman in the Library

Usually, I enjoy a story within a story, but in this case, I found it distracting. To me, Leo’s emails didn’t add much to the narrative. It’s hard to say anything without getting into spoiler territory.

Gentill has some opinions on writing about the current pandemic in contemporary stories. However, I think her views were more clearly expressed in the author’s note than it was in the context of the story. But, in the narrative, these views pulled my attention away from the central plot.

I did like the progression of character development. At first, the characters seemed like shells named Heroic Chin and Freud Girl, etc., but their personalities became more defined as the novel continued.

This novel is a quick read as the chapters are fairly short.

There are many other rave reviews, so don’t let my review sway you away from giving it a try.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️.5

Expected Publication: 07 June 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, see my Goodreads profile.

For past reviews, click here.