Review | The Summoning by J.P. Smith

When it comes to contacting the dead, it’s easy to go a step too far

Every year, as the anniversary of 9/11 inches closer on the calendar, Kit Capriol scans the memorials published in the New York Times. It’s a simple thing to look up a name and phone number, to reach out to surviving family members who might still be yearning for connection with their lost loved one… to offer assistance. After her husband went down in the north tower, Kit scraped by as an actress, barely supporting herself and her daughter. But now Zoey is in the hospital, bills are due, and the acting work has dried up. Becoming a medium is almost too easy for someone used to pretending for a living—and desperate clients aren’t hard to come by.

Now, though, something has changed. The seances Kit holds in her apartment are starting to feel unsettlingly real, and the intriguing man she met at a local bar could be more complicated than he seems. As the voices of the dead grow louder in her head and the walls of her apartment close in, Kit realizes that despite her daughter’s absence, she hasn’t been quite as alone as she thought…

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When I heard the synopsis of this book, an actor who is pretending to be a medium to make ends meet after losing her husband in 9/11 and having her daughter in a coma – I was immediately intrigued. Things start to change when she seems to actually be hearing from the dead. I really enjoyed this roller coaster ride of a thriller as it took me in some directions I was not expecting at all. Much of the story is spent wondering if this is psychological or supernatural and that’s one of my favorite elements when done well – and it was done really well in this book. I was left guessing almost the entire book. While the pacing is neither slow or fast, I felt the story’s natural progression and evolution flowed well. The writing style was so easy to consume and kept me engaged the entire time.

Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press for sending me a copy of this book for review. It’s out tomorrow (9/7) so make sure to pick up a copy!

Happy reading!

Review | The Haunted by Danielle Vega

Hendricks Becker-O’Malley is new in town, and she’s bringing baggage with her. With a dark and wild past, Hendricks doesn’t think the small town her parents moved her to has much to offer her in terms of excitement. She plans on laying low, but when she’s suddenly welcomed into the popular crowd at school, things don’t go as expected.

Hendricks learns from her new friends that the fixer-upper her parents are so excited about is notorious in town. Local legend says it’s haunted. Hendricks doesn’t believe it. Until she’s forced to. Blood-curdling screams erupt from the basement, her little brother wakes up covered in scratches, and something, or someone pushes her dad down the stairs. With help from the mysterious boy next door, Hendricks makes it her mission to take down the ghosts . . . if they don’t take her first.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I was prepared for this book to have great atmosphere and a thrilling story, but it was only about halfway there for me. I would have liked the story of the supernatural elements to be expanded upon some more and honestly the event that drove Hendricks and her family to this town is only revealed in bits and pieces with a lot of drawing out…and then resolved quite abruptly. By that point it kind of felt like it wasn’t really a plot component, but just a device to account for her behavior and the reason they moved. For a quick spooky read that at some points will have you questioning if it is supernatural or something else it was good, but there were just some elements that didn’t really mesh with me.

Happy reading!

Review | Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was not expecting the twists and turns that this book took, it was quite a ride. I really enjoyed the format of this book where you get a chapter in present day and a chapter from the book that Maggie’s father wrote. Sometimes the extreme of Maggie’s anger towards her parents was a bit much, but I suppose in most instances it was appropriate considering she had been made a public figure by the book her father wrote. This was crafted incredibly well and I have to say there was only part of the twist I guessed, and only at the last minute, which was pretty extraordinary. While I didn’t like Final Girls, after reading The Last Time I Lied and this one, I’m definitely looking forward to reading the others Sager has out!

Happy reading!

Review | This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf

Everyone has a secret they’ll do anything to hide…

Twenty-five years ago, the body of sixteen-year-old Eve Knox was found in the caves near her home in small-town Grotto, Iowa—discovered by her best friend, Maggie, and her sister, Nola. There were a handful of suspects, including her boyfriend, Nick, but without sufficient evidence the case ultimately went cold.

For decades Maggie was haunted by Eve’s death and that horrible night. Now a detective in Grotto, and seven months pregnant, she is thrust back into the past when a new piece of evidence surfaces and the case is reopened. As Maggie investigates and reexamines the clues, secrets about what really happened begin to emerge. But someone in town knows more than they’re letting on, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep the truth buried deep.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I found this book to be really fast paced and a quite compelling read. It had really good character development, especially for characters like Nola who were a bit out there. I also really enjoyed the small town dynamics as they lent to the story itself. I did feel however that there were a number of choices made, especially by the main character that weren’t realistic, such as the risks she was taking while 7-8 months pregnant – I understand her obsession and need to move forward with the mystery, but it still felt a little off for me. Still, it had a lot of great twists that kept me guessing and I enjoyed the slightly creepy elements that kept me reading.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison | Review


Fast-paced and brilliantly unpredictable, J.T. Ellison’s breathtaking new novel invites you to a wedding none will forget—and some won’t survive.

Jutting from sparkling turquoise waters off the Italian coast, Isle Isola is an idyllic setting for a wedding. In the majestic cliff-top villa owned by the wealthy Compton family, up-and-coming artist Claire Hunter will marry handsome, charming Jack Compton, surrounded by close family, intimate friends…and a host of dark secrets.

From the moment Claire sets foot on the island, something seems amiss. Skeletal remains have just been found. There are other, newer disturbances, too. Menacing texts. A ruined wedding dress. And one troubling shadow hanging over Claire’s otherwise blissful relationship—the strange mystery surrounding Jack’s first wife.

Then a raging storm descends, the power goes out—and the real terror begins…

Buy Links | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | IndieBound | Libro.fm | Books-A-Million | Target | Walmart | Indigo | Kobo | AppleBooks | Google Play | Audible

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve previously enjoyed one of J.T. Ellison’s books so was excited to pick this one up. I did really enjoy that this story was very fast paced but didn’t always love the perspectives that we were reading from. The settings were great and really set the tone for the story. It would have been even better if there had a been a little more mystery/history thrown in as the setting could have thrived even more with it. It definitely had vibes similar to Rebecca or mysteries set in an secluded spot such as And Then There were None. Overall I really enjoyed it and would definitely read more of J.T. Ellison’s books.

J.T. Ellison is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 25 novels, and the EMMY® award winning co-host of the literary TV show A WORD ON WORDS. With millions of books in print, her work has won critical acclaim, prestigious awards, and has been published in 28 countries. Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.

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Review | Wait for Night by Stephen Graham Jones

Wait for Night by Stephen Graham Jones is horror story about a day laborer hired to help clean up a flooded creek outside of Boulder, Colorado, who comes across what could be a very valuable find.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This one definitely took a turn I didn’t expect. I can’t say much about the story itself since I don’t want to spoil anything but I love the abrupt twist that Stephen Graham Jones wove into this one. He’s definitely an auto buy author for me and his short stories are just as enjoyable as some of his novels. This one sucked me in fast and the writing flowed so well that it was over far too quickly. It definitely satisfied my need for a quick, creepy story.

Happy reading!

Review | The HAunting of Blackwood House by Darcy Coates

Could you survive a week in a haunted house?

Mara is the daughter of spiritualists. Her childhood was filled with séances, scam mediums and talk of ghostly presences.

When Mara finally left her family’s home, she vowed she would never allow superstition or false religion into her life again. Now she’s ready to start over with her fiancé, Neil, in a world based on rationality and facts.

But her past isn’t ready to let her go just yet.

Mara and Neil purchase Blackwood House, a derelict property outside of town. They’re warned about strange occurrences in the crumbling building. Doors open by themselves, voices whisper in the night, bloody handprints appear on the walls, and cold spots linger in the basement, where the house’s original owner was murdered.

But Blackwood was dirt-cheap and came with a large plot of overgrown land. Mara loves her new home, and disregards the warnings.

Because ghosts aren’t real…

…are they?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was my first experience with Darcy Coates’ writing, but I had been wanting to pick up her books for ages and so many of them had caught my eye. I wanted to start with this one because the synopsis grabbed me and I was not disappointed. If you’re looking for a creepy haunted house book that is also psychological, this is a great example. I kind of wished more of the history of Blackwood House had been revealed a little earlier as I did feel that some of the foundation of the story was a little slow, but when we did get to the meat of the history it was definitely a great payoff. Mara did sometimes get on my nerves with how…fiercely independent she was, but that was explained in a great way that made it very understandable, so I was happy about that. While I did guess the final twist before it happened, it didn’t lessen the story’s impact for me, so I will definitely be picking up more of Darcy Coates’ books in the future.

Happy reading!

Review | The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones

Life in a slasher film is easy. You just have to know when to die.

Aerial View: A suburban town in Texas. Everyone’s got an automatic garage door opener. All the kids jump off a perilous cliff into a shallow river as a rite of passage. The sheriff is a local celebrity. You know this town. You’re from this town.

Zoom In: Homecoming princess, Lindsay. She’s just barely escaped death at the hands of a brutal, sadistic murderer in a Michael Jackson mask. Up on the cliff, she was rescued by a horse and bravely defeated the killer, alone, bra-less. Her story is already a legend. She’s this town’s heroic final girl, their virgin angel.

Monster Vision: Halloween masks floating down that same river the kids jump into. But just as one slaughter is not enough for Billie Jean, our masked killer, one victory is not enough for Lindsay. Her high school is full of final girls, and she’s not the only one who knows the rules of the game.

When Lindsay chooses a host of virgins, misfits, and former final girls to replace the slaughtered members of her original homecoming court, it’s not just a fight for survival-it’s a fight to become The Last Final Girl.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

After reading a couple of Stephen Graham Jones’ books and short stories in the past, I have been wanting to pick up more of his backlist. The premise of this one really intrigued me so I thought it would give it a shot. The story and plot itself was interesting and I certainly wasn’t expecting some of the plot twists – but the way it’s formatted really hampered my reading experience. I understand the intent behind it, it’s written like a script in a way where you are constantly changing perspective and scene and they blend into each other – but it made the book harder to read for me. It’s a really cool concept but the lack of chapters and constant shifts did bring down my enjoyment a bit.

Happy reading!

Review | Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Things I know about Harrow Lake:
1.It’s where my father shot his most disturbing slasher film.
2.There’s something not right about this town.

Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker–she thinks nothing can scare her.

But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s quickly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map–and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there’s someone–or something–stalking her every move.

The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Harrow Lake is a book that will definitely have you doubting who is reliable and which way is up. There was a good chunk of the book where I was waffling between three or four stars, but the last 100 pages definitely pushed it up to four stars for me. Psychological horror is absolutely my favorite kind of horror and at first I wasn’t sure if this was where it was going. There are definitely some supernatural aspects as well.

I did really enjoy the story once it really got going. So many of the different characters seem either unreliable or like they are clearly holding information back. This sometimes is frustrating as I did find myself wanting more revealed about the town of Harrow Lake and the superstitions/legends that the townspeople had.

A also really enjoyed that as the story continued we found out that Lola herself might not be a reliable narrator as we followed her journey. There’s that constant question of whether or not she’s imagining everything or if there really is something supernatural, and that carried on through the book in its entirety.

If you like psychological horror that slowly unfolds throughout the story, definitely check out this one.

Happy reading!

Review | The Night Cyclist by Stephen Graham Jones

I have really been enjoying the Tor.com original short stories that are available and was super happy to see a couple by Stephen Graham Jones out there. Make sure you check out some of the short stories available as so far they are wonderful!

“The Night Cyclist” by Stephen Graham Jones is a horror novelette about a middle-aged chef whose nightly bicycle ride home is interrupted by an unexpected encounter.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After loving previous works by Stephen Graham Jones, I was thrilled to find some of his short stories available. I picked up a couple of them but The Night Cyclist was the first one I decided to read. Since the synopsis was very brief I didn’t know just what to expect, but as always I really enjoyed his writing style. It was really atmospheric especially when he was describing the scenes while the main character was cycling. There was just enough darkness to keep me in suspense until the climax of the story.

Happy reading!