The Prisoner by B. A. Paris

The Prisoner begins with all the fraught tension you’d want in a thriller but quickly unravelled the longer it went on.

Synopsis

The Prisoner opens with vicious men snatching Amelie and her wealthy husband in the middle of the night. She tries and fails to identify her captors.

The story alternates between Amelie’s recent past and her present time in captivity.

As a teenager, Amelie moved to London on her own after both of her parents passed away. Not long after her move, she met Carolyn Blakely, who took her under her wing, giving her a housekeeping job and a place to live.

Now, a few years later, Amelie is the wife of the wealthy Ned Hawthorpe.

Review of The Prisoner

The first half of this book was super compelling, but it went on longer than it probably needed to. It felt like some parts were spoon-fed to the reader.

Much of the story is OTT, but I was still eagerly flipping the pages, keen to see how everything tied together.

I liked Amelie’s initiative to try to gain some control of the situation when she was in captivity.

This book was my first time reading B. A. Paris, and I will definitely check out more of her books in the future.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 01 November 2022

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

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Forget Me Not by Miranda Rijks

Forget Me Not has a slow start but gets progressively more gripping and twisty.

Synopsis

Helen has pulled her life together since her husband Paul went missing, presumed dead, five years ago from the Swiss Alps while they were on holiday.

Now Helen is an interior designer with a young daughter and a fiancé. When she receives a call asking if she wants to work on a large project with an even larger budget, Helen thinks it’s too good to be true. It turns out it is because the project is at a Swiss chalet in the same area where Paul disappeared.

But it’s too good of an opportunity to pass up, so Helen makes her way to the chalet. Of course, things do not go to plan, and Helen has to remain professional while everything goes sideways.

Review of Forget Me Not

This compulsive thriller is a quick read and has dual timelines.

Initially, I wasn’t all that interested in the story because it felt like a ho-hum domestic thriller. But after the first twist, I was hooked. However, the twist hinges on a plot device that I could do without.

Most of the characters were unlikeable, which is fine, but they were also a bit flat. I read it solely to find out how Helen and her daughter would fare.

Another thing that started to grate was Helen’s constant assessment of everyone’s English proficiency. Literally everyone. It’s Europe; it’s not uncommon for people to speak more than one language and for one of those languages to be English. Yes, do not go into a foreign country expecting everyone to speak it, but also, maybe don’t comment on how impressed you are with their fluency right when you first meet them. Wow! You speak English so well! It rings just a bit condescending. Okay, rant over.

On another note, the setting was the shining star of this book. I could practically feel the cold seeping in and could easily envision this idyllic mountainscape.

This was my first time reading a Miranda Rijks book, and I might try another by her in the future.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Expected Publication: 26 October 2022

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

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For past reviews, click here.

The Bequest by Joanna Margaret

The Bequest is a terrific dark academia thriller that leans literary and oozes atmosphere.

Synopsis

Isabel Henley just arrived in Scotland to begin her Ph.D. under the supervision of a lauded feminist professor. However, upon her arrival, Isabel learns that the professor died from a hiking accident.

As Isabel settles into her work with a different advisor, she reunites with Rose, her charismatic and brilliant friend from undergrad.

It comes as a shock when Rose disappears but leaves a suicide note. Isabel suffers another shock, when she receives a message from Rose declaring they are both in danger. Rose implores Isabel to switch to Rose’s research and find a missing emerald from the sixteenth century. This new task sends Isabel across Italy and France seeking answers to save both of their lives.

Review of The Bequest

It sounds ridiculous, and sometimes it was (Isabel is the queen of ignoring red flags), but this story wholly captured my attention from the first page. It drips with gothic atmosphere.

An interest in history is probably a requirement to read this novel. Isabel spends loads of time researching and relaying it to the reader. There are the odd sentences in Italian, French, and Latin. And the author does not always provide a translation and context.

Interestingly, my ARC (advance reader copy) was just over 400 pages, but I noticed the finished version is around 300 pages. I thought some parts were a bit slow, so perhaps the finalized version will be more evenly paced.

If you like dark academia that is heavy on said academia, then you’ll likely enjoy this twisty book. I will definitely read future books by the author.

CW: sexual assault.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Expected Publication: 18 October 2022

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

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For past reviews, click here.

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.

For regular reading updates, check out my Goodreads profile.

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.

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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.