Review | Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

Fresh out of rehab, Mallory Quinn takes a job in the affluent suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell. She is to look after their five-year-old son, Teddy.

Mallory immediately loves this new job. She lives in the Maxwell’s pool house, goes out for nightly runs, and has the stability she craves. And she sincerely bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare: trees, rabbits, balloons. But one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body.

As the days pass, Teddy’s artwork becomes more and more sinister, and his stick figures steadily evolve into more detailed, complex, and lifelike sketches well beyond the ability of any five-year-old. Mallory begins to suspect these are glimpses of an unsolved murder from long ago, perhaps relayed by a supernatural force lingering in the forest behind the Maxwell’s house.

With help from a handsome landscaper and an eccentric neighbor, Mallory sets out to decipher the images and save Teddy—while coming to terms with a tragedy in her own past—before it’s too late.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was not a hard book to get into as Mallory’s voice from the beginning is likeable and relatable. I really enjoy that not everything was revealed about her at the building, but her narration definitely laid a foundation for herself as a character and the place she’s in in her life. It does lay ground work for a suspicion that she may not be entirely reliable later on. The story itself was wonderfully creepy especially with the question of if there was something supernatural going on and the decades old murder mystery that might be tied to current events. This story was a great read and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a creepy thriller.

Happy reading!

Review | My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges… a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body.

My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I know that pretty much anything by Stephen Graham Jones is going to be a winner for me, but this one really blew me away. This book truly is an appreciation and love letter of all things slasher, really capturing the genre in and of itself while also featuring a main character who is obsessed with it. While reading you can’t really tell if Jade is a reliable or unreliable narrator, partly due to how deep her obsession with slashers goes. A lot of the book is spent wondering if she’s just imagining things or if they are really happening the way she is perceiving them.

Stephen Graham Jones’ writing style is perfectly showcased here as you’re left second guessing everything. Whether or not Jade is telling the truth (or what she’s hiding under her gruff and sarcastic front), who the killer is and just what is going on in the town overall. All the different twists that culminated at the end were mind blowing and for the most part unexpected. If you’re looking for a thriller that is an ode to slashers and constantly keeps you on your toes, this is one you should pick up.

Happy reading!

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 | 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…

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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 | 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 | The Getaway by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

In this short thriller from number one New York Times best-selling authors Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, a young woman’s dream getaway becomes her worst nightmare.

Prepare yourself for a transformative experience. Sometimes, life’s setbacks contain hidden gifts. Here at Lakewood, you’ll find the space to unwrap them.

A weekend at the Lakewood Retreat is exactly what Chloe Powell needs. Freshly unemployed after her boss loses a reelection campaign, the former press secretary desperately wants a break from the bustle of Washington DC. A flier posted at her yoga studio leads her to the getaway, which looks amazing: organic meals, celebrity testimonials, and a serene private property within driving distance of the city.

It’s so perfect, in fact, that Chloe’s barely bothered by the intensely personal questions she’s asked in her application, or the unnerving social experiments her enigmatic host, Sebastian, imposes on her once she arrives at his remote cabin. But when a mysterious new guest shows up, Chloe can no longer suppress her rising panic: This place is not at all what it seems.

A pulse-pounding story from the first minute to the last, The Getaway explores the weight of the small choices we make every day, and their staggering, unintended consequences.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

If you’re looking for a short thriller that has a couple decent twists, then this one is a great example. At first I was definitely unsure of where it was going, but the reveals definitely snuck up before the pieces fell into place. I did enjoy the dual timelines that slowly converged to tell the story. As with a lot of short stories, especially those with lots of twists, I did find myself wanting a little more character depth and backstory. What was written was sufficient to tell the story, but I definitely could have enjoyed it longer if there was a little more to it.

Happy reading!

Review | The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

What begins as a clever, gothic ghost story soon evolves into a wickedly twisted treasure hunt in The Supernatural Enhancements, Edgar Cantero’s wholly original, modern-day adventure.

When twentysomething A., the unexpected European relative of the Wells family, and his companion, Niamh, a mute teenage girl with shockingly dyed hair, inherit the beautiful but eerie estate of Axton House, deep in the woods of Point Bless, Virginia, it comes as a surprise to everyone—including A. himself. After all, he never even knew he had a “second cousin, twice removed” in America, much less that the eccentric gentleman had recently committed suicide by jumping out of the third floor bedroom window—at the same age and in the same way as his father had before him . . .

Together, A. and Niamh quickly come to feel as if they have inherited much more than just a rambling home and a cushy lifestyle. Axton House is haunted, they know it, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the secrets they slowly but surely uncover. Why all the suicides? What became of the Axton House butler who fled shortly after his master died? What lurks in the garden maze and what does the basement vault keep? And what of the rumors in town about a mysterious gathering at Axton House on the night of the winter solstice?

Told vividly through a series of journal entries, scrawled notes, recovered security footage, letters to Aunt Liza, audio recordings, complicated ciphers, and even advertisements, Edgar Cantero has written a dazzling and original supernatural adventure featuring classic horror elements with a Neil Gaiman-ish twist.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Even as I’m writing this review I’m still thinking about how I feel about this book. It was recommended to me because I like mixed media format books and I enjoyed Meddling Kids by the same author, so I was happy to pick it up. There were definitely some twists and turns that surprised me, especially towards the end, but I really loved the way the puzzle pieces slowly fall into place as you read – even though you are often left with more questions than answers. Also, I will always appreciate appropriate uses of the word ‘defenestrate’ which is a favorite of mine.

I love how the story pieces together through mostly diary entries, letters and video transcriptions – it made it a super fast read and kept my attention the whole time.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | Stranger In the Lake | Review

When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

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This is the first book I’ve read from Kimberly Belle and based on her writing style alone I will be picking up other books from her. I enjoyed the way the story slowly unwound through both modern day and flashbacks, though there were some portions that I felt were a little slow.

I loved the setting and the descriptions of the environment, town and their house. I definitely had a creepy shiver when thinking about those big windows that weren’t covered in any way. So many secrets and moments of deception wove things together and really were the meat of the story, it definitely kept me wondering and on my toes.

All in all I really enjoyed this psychological thriller and will definitely be checking out more of Belle’s writing in the future.

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of six novels, including the forthcoming Stranger in the Lake (June 2020). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Social Links | Author website | Facebook: @KimberlyBelleBooks |
Twitter: @KimberlySBelle | Instagram: @kimberlysbelle | Goodreads

Happy reading!