The Last Laugh by Mindy McGinnis

5 stars YA Suspense

It went off the rails pretty quickly!  I suggest that you read the first book in this series before you tackle this book, as you’ll want to enjoy this ride to the fullest effect.  There was quite a bit of drama amongst the characters even before this book began.  As things started to heat up, I had a hard time putting this book down.  Taking off right where the previous book left off, Mindy’s not just wrapping things up inside this book, Mindy begins by stoking up the fire.  Into this dark storyline, I met some fantastic characters that I didn’t trust but they fit perfectly inside this story.  Thanks, Mindy, for that fantastic ending.  

Old Country by Matt Query

5 stars Mystery

This was crazy good!  What an interesting concept of a story.  I could feel the adrenaline and fervor in the characters and I loved how the tension built.  You just never know where life will lead you but you should try to do some research before packing your bags. 

Harry was an Afghanistan marine who received an early discharge.  Back on American soil, he continues to fight his own battles.  Harry enrolls in college and he meets his future wife, Sasha.  Finding a secluded piece of land, the couple decides that this will be their new start in life.   Sasha stands beside her husband as he deals with the effects of the war as the couple tries to get used to their new surroundings, isolated from most everyone.   

Where I live, we have four seasons so when their neighbor Dan explains to them about the change of seasons in the countryside, I was prepared.  What I wasn’t prepared for, was when Dan talked about the spirit that lived in the valley with them.  Was he serious?   The more Dan talked about this spirit, the more I knew either he was either trying to scare the couple or Dan was totally serious about what was happening in their valley.  According to Dan, each season, the spirit would take on a different form and there were specific rules that needed to be followed, to get rid of it.  Dan had even written these directions down!   Like me, Harry and Sasha pondered if Dan and his wife were people they could actually trust. 

The couple start to enjoy their new private, isolated life together – learning to rely on each other (with having only one close neighbor), as they fall into a routine.  As the seasons begin to change, what Dan and his wife warned the couple about, suddenly becomes a reality.  The spirit makes his appearance, leaving Harry and Sasha wondering, “did we really just see that?”   This is just the beginning.  Hold on people as this book is just getting started!

I couldn’t stop thinking about this story after I put it down.  As the seasons changed, the anticipation as what awaited this couple kept my heart pumping.  Harry and his wife were just looking for some quiet time together.   The Afghanistan War had already left its mark on Harry and now another battle is beginning, only this time Harry has his wife beside him.  

This is one terrific book that will have you staying up late until you turn the final page!   5 stars  

All Hallows by Christopher Golden

5 stars Thriller

Now, that was creepy good!  I enjoyed the intensity of the two storylines as they slowly built-up steams and I loved the intensity that swelled within this book once the festivities began.  I fell back in time as I read this book, back to the day when everyone living on your block was on a first name basis and most neighborhoods were safe as help was just a few feet away.  As one father and his daughter finished up preparations for their annual Halloween haunted woods, the rest of the neighborhood is getting ready for the annual Halloween block party.  Candy is stocked at the door for the trick-or-treaters and it seems like everyone has their night planned out, so they won’t miss a thing. 

Enthusiasm and excitement filled the air as this was a big night.  The haunted woods grew more extravagant every year and they were eager to see what awaited them this year.  The block party was a time for the neighborhood to come together and enjoy each other’s company, or at least that’s what this party had been in the past.    As the children start the night with their trick-or-treating, they encounter some costumed children they don’t recognize.   Could it just be the costumes that throw off who these individuals are or are these children not from around there?  It’s when these children start asking the neighborhood children for help that warning flags when off in my head. 

Sorry folks, your fun evening with your neighbors just got interesting.  What a thrilling read!  I loved so much about this book –  5 stars

Hide by Kiersten White

4 stars YA

Just thinking about spending a night at amusement park go me excited.  Thinking about spending a week in that same environment well, that sounds like a great challenge.  The contestants cannot be caught so how would you hide?  Would be constantly move around or find one place and stay as long as you possibly can?  Do you form an alliance with other contestants or do you go solo?  I know my senses would be on high alert for anything and everything and as I started reading this book, I felt tense.  Some of these contestants needed the money desperately and I felt some of the characters were shady and wondered how they were playing this game.  There were a lot of contestants to keep track of at the beginning but as I read, I started to care less about some of them.    I thought it was a fun book, a book that kept me on thinking what I would do if I was there.   4 stars

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

4 stars Suspense

This book got me going from the get-go.  I wanted to slap pretty, young Heather (have to keep it nice) and you don’t want to know what I wanted to do to Stephen. URG! I just couldn’t believe that Stephen thought it was okay to divorce his wife Pamela, to marry Heather.  Seriously?!  I know what you’re thinking, that this happens all the time but the deal is ….. Pamela has Alzheimer’s and is living in a nursing home.  Stephen is basically having an affair and now, he wants to get rid of his baggage. 

Meanwhile, Pamela and Stephen’s adult daughter’s Tully and Rachel are surprised of their father’s announcement.  How could their father act this way towards their mother?  The daughters decide to take some action to help their mother while at the same time protect themselves.  I enjoyed the many surprises and the endless twists this book provided.  I’m getting used to endings like these, not saying that I’m liking them but I feel it gives up readers something to talk about.  Great story.  4 stars   

I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to St. Martin’s Press and to Sally Hepworth for the opportunity.

Malice House by Megan Shepherd

5 stars Thriller

Never saw that one coming!  I was expecting some exciting chapters in this book but dang, I actually had to pause a few times so I could enjoy the little twists that were provided.  It’d been two years since Haven had visited Malice House and she thought, she knew what she was walking into.  Her father’s dementia explained the demon that was living within the walls of the house.  Being a famous writer, a member of the local Ink Drinkers, the monster’s detailed description was fitting but what Haven didn’t know, was that her father’s illness didn’t explain what was actually going on inside Malice House.

Haven’s inheritance had dwindled down to Malice House by the time of her father’s death and now, standing outside the mansion, she surveyed her surroundings.  Discovering one of her father’s manuscripts hidden inside the house, Haven sees the opportunity to make some cash yet she feels she might be missing something, if she doesn’t add a piece of herself to the manuscript.  This sounds like a great plan but as the story progressed, I began to think that perhaps Haven should have just hammered a For Sale sign in the front lawn, packed up a U-Haul and walked away.

“Oh, my!”  “No, it can’t be!!”  “What is she doing?!?!”  “a Monster” “collars, dog tags and a fire pit – and she’s combing through it – work faster!!”  “Is this a curse”

These are just a few of the notes I made as I read.  You can tell it was pretty intense at times and of course, I couldn’t stop reading until I got my questions, answered.  There were too many thoughts running through my head, too many directions this story could have gone.  Haven wanted to sell her father’s manuscript, for she needed the money but as an illustrator, she wanted to add her own personal touch to her father’s stories.  This could be a great father-daughter duo until she saw their reaction.  She took their response hard and her reaction was dramatic and emotional.  Unfortunately, Haven had set the wheels in motion and there was no going back now.  Tick, tick, tick ……time is moving fast and Haven needed to put all the pieces of this puzzle together.  What a fun, engaging story.  5 stars

The Weight of Blood by Tiffany Jackson

5 stars YA Thriller

The emotions still resided inside of me after all these years as I read this book.  I remember watching Stephen King’s movie, Carrie as a teen and this movie was quite emotional for me.  While others were fixated on King’s horror in the movie, I was irritated at the individuals on the screen.  Carrie wasn’t evil, she wasn’t the one everyone needed to watch out for, no!  If they were looking for horror, they needed to look at what was happening to Carrie.  What these individuals were doing was disgusting and shocking.  Carrie was the victim.  In The Weight of Blood, Tiffany does a fantastic job recreating King’s original while adding her own twists. 

The first question we need to ask is why does one individual feel that they need to bully someone else?  A comment or action is bad enough but bullying is not warranted when someone does it relentlessly and constantly. If another individual doesn’t follow your standards, your views, or your beliefs, do you have the right to harass that individual until they crumble?  What does this accomplish?  When is enough, enough?  As a child, I was bullied and I know firsthand the emotions attached to this action.  An individual bullied reacts more out of fear than respect and what might happen when your back is turned? 

I really enjoyed this book as Maddie tries to navigate her way around school.  Maddie tries to elude her true identity.  Acting invisible, I yearned to know exactly what Maddie was hiding.  As Maddie’s class headed outside to run laps for gym, Maddie questioned the gym teacher but here they were, outside on the track.  She knew as the rain fell down that her secret would be discovered.  The taunting from her peers started immediately and she fights back.  How can she survive now, her life is forever changed.  A great emotional read and another fantastic book by Tiffany.  5 stars  

We Spread by Iain Reid

5 stars Fiction Mystery

I was immediately drawn inside this story and I couldn’t stop thinking about it as I tried to close the book and go about my own life.  Carefully and purposely, the author limited the number of words that she chose to include inside this book.  Strategically placing the words in short and concise sentences, the author created a book that hit me on many levels.  As I tried to close the book, I was left confused.  I needed to read what others have said about this book.  What had I just read?  I was feeling relieved, confused, and just about everything in-between.  Oh Penny, how do you feel?

The apartment where Penny and her partner have lived has been their home for decades.  Penny is now living alone after her partner’s recent death.  Penny has some health issues but she feels that she’ll be okay on her own, afterall she’s lived in this apartment for years.  That is, until the day that she falls.  When she awakens, Penny is more confused than ever.  Moving into a long-term care facility creates even more confusion for her as she feels that the facility is not as it seems. Something is just not right about this place Penny is supposed to call home. Is this care-center deceiving its residents? Is there a threat within the doors of this long-term home?  Is Penny’s health causing her to feel this way?  The questions continued as Penny goes about her day and she tries to becomes familiar with the routine that the other patients adhere to. 

The language in this book is beautiful and I found myself rereading passages to fully appreciate the meaning within them.  Penny is lost within her own mind, she’s lost inside the care facility, and she’s trying to find her way out.   I highly recommend this book but it’s an emotional book and it might trigger some emotions within you.  I won a copy of this book from a Goodreads Giveaway, thank you to Gallery, Iain Reid, and Goodreads for the giveaway.  This review is my own opinion.  5 stars

The Island by Adrian McKinty

4.5 stars Fiction

This was one of those books that I really wanted to read but I never got a chance to finish it before it was due back at the library.  I had to know how this story ended.  Were all the islanders bitter and aggressive?  Were any of the vacationers going to make it off the island?  How? Each time I started this book, I had a bad feeling about Heather.  Heather started the ball rolling in this novel and when I finally turned the last page in this book, she wore a blue ribbon which she might have earned but I still wasn’t an admirer.

Tom needs to travel to Australia to deliver a speech when he asks his wife and children to join him.  With the chance to see wildlife, the children are excited and Tom feels that the time away will give his family a time to bond with his second wife, Heather. Welcome to Australia! 

Disappointed in the wildlife, an island is recommended to the family which will provide just what the family needs.  This sounds like a great plan and the family takes advantage of this excursion. Paying a small fortune, the family is ferried across for their day trip, when everything just starts going downhill.  How did things get so out-of-control so quickly? Can they stop things before it’s too late? The family tries to explain that it was an accident but to the residents of this island, they’re not buying this explanation.  As Tom and his family work to push the undo button, all eyes are on them, and it’s not looking good. Was it Tom’s rental car or being on an unfamiliar road?  Could it have something to do with Ellen’s sudden appearance or Heather’s decisions as they deal with the reality of the situation?  Or it is the residents of this small island, this secluded family who know this island like the back of their hand?

I didn’t think they had a chance once Heather went into action.  I thought Heather was good for jumping up and helping out when they were in a mess.  Not saying if her actions/words were helpful all the time but she wasn’t one to crumble under pressure.  Having small children along on this trip made this adventure even more thrilling for me.  Tom tried to be practical and calm but having Heather along made this journey quite a ride.  The children were the innocent ones and the ones I wanted to see crossing the water at the end of the book.  4.5 stars

Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

4 stars Horror

Who’s pointing the finger now?  Mallory has a shadow over her and she can’t seem to shake it.  See, Mallory’s been in rehab and although, she’s been clean for some time, that doesn’t really matter.  For Mallory, the label alone wasn’t the issue, it was all the adjectives that came trailing along with that classification that she’s having to confront.  Mallory needs room to breathe.  Mallory’s big chance came when she landed a job being a babysitter for five-year-old, Teddy.  Mallory is given her own cottage to live in, separate from the families, and the only individuals who know about Mallory’s past are the parents.

Mallory’s job is to entertain Teddy while the parents’ work.  Swimming in the family’s pool, going to the park, and drawing together are just some of the activities that they enjoy together.  It’s not every day that you get some illustrations in a fiction book while you read but soon the book begins to show some of Terry’s drawings which are disturbing.  For being five, Teddy sure could draw! These drawings began very basic and later evolved but the details and the symmetry in which Teddy was able to create his pictures was amazing for a five-year-old.  Red flags immediately went up in my head, as there was no way Teddy drew these.  It doesn’t stop there as Teddy’s drawings started to take on more meaning and I was hoping it would be dark.   

Mallory was enjoying her own private quarters, away from the family, when she was not working.  She was alone in her cottage yet it felt as if someone was watching her.  Then, came the sound.  The scratching sounds.  Where was that coming from and why? So much for the quiet life that she had hoped to obtain.

As Mallory tends to Teddy, she finds him talking to, no-one.  He was carrying on this great conversation and when asked about it, he says he was his imaginary friend, Anya.  At first, she doesn’t think much about it but when she learns some history about this residence that she’s living on, she changes her mind.   This Anya might not be a made-up individual.  Is it really possible that this Anya could be someone from the past?  Mallory is all over the place mentally, as she contemplates what this all could mean and the excitement builds until I realize that Mallory needs to stop and consider her own life.  It’s Mallory.  The Mallory in Rehab.  With their foggy glasses on, people see her as unstable, not able to think straight, and just a bit off.  So, can she really address this issue with anyone?  Can she afford to remain quiet with Teddy in the picture? 

I liked the idea behind the story but I do think there were too many drawings in the book, as it connected too many dots in the story.  I would have liked less dots connected and more of a mysterious element to the story at the end, than having them all connected.  Perhaps leave out why some of the items were in the pictures and not explain everything just explain the main events.   I liked Mallory and Teddy and I thought their friendship was important to the story, as it provided comfort and it stability.  I enjoyed this book.  4 stars