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ARC Alert

Just got these babies in the mail from Meryl Moss Media and I’m so excited to read them! I’ve never really recieved physical ARCs before, apart from one other time. I’ll be doing the blog tour for Once a Liar and One Little Secret this July as well.

They’ll be published through Bookouture, I can’t wait to jump in!

TV Reviews

Thoughts on Black Mirror S5 E1; Striking Vipers

via Netflix

The latest bundle of Black Mirror episodes begins with the compelling tale of two friends who forge a new connection acting on latent affections for one another through the online world of virtual reality video gaming.

Spoilers ahead.

Karl and Danny have been best friends for years but they lost touch as they grew up and moved on. They’re reunited by a fighting style video game called Striking Vipers. In it, Danny plays the character Lance and Karl takes on Roxette. These are their standard choices. But as this is the world of Black Mirror, they are actually transported into the game (through technology similar to that seen in USS Callister) and able to embody the characters physically.

It doesn’t take long for their fight to turn into something sexual. Clearly this game has become an escape for them in multiple ways. Karl feels freedom to explore his gender identity after feeling dissastisfied and disconnected with the women in his life.

Danny is beginning to understand he may be repressing romantic feelings for his former best friend.

All of this culminates with the two men trying to figure out if their fictional bond can transfer over into real life – but neither is actually able to embrace what they truly feel for one another, or even how they feel about themselves.

The ending is deceptively happy. Yes, Danny and Karl continue their virtual relationship, and even Theo, Danny’s wife and the third wheel in their once strong trio friendship, gets to experiment with exciting new men outside of her boring married life with Danny. But no one gets to be themselves.

Theo has to pretend to be someone else at the bar, and both men can only be themselves so long as it is fiction and doesn’t crossover into the real world. They’ll always be left wanting, even if they’re unable to face it.

Unfortunately, while Striking Vipers is a great episode and I liked it, there was a level of heart missing that holds it back from reaching its full potential. Clearly, this is the yin to San Junipero’s yang, but it doesn’t feel as if the idea as fully realized as the former.

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Mother’s Mistake by Ruth Heald

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Mother’s Mistake by Ruth HealdThe Mother's Mistake by Ruth Heald
Published on June 11, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 374
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

Claire’s life is picture perfect. A new home in the countryside. A new-born baby. A doting husband by her side. But behind closed doors, her life is falling apart. And when a threatening note is posted through her letterbox, saying she doesn’t deserve her daughter, it’s clear that someone knows about her past…

Someone knows that Claire doesn’t deserve her perfect life. Someone’s going to do everything in their power to destroy it.

Claire is a brand new mother who is struggling to connect to her daughter, Olivia. Recently relocated to a family cabin of her husband’s, Claire feels out of touch and increasingly alienated from the world around her. Olivia is impossible to manage, her husband, Matt, is never home, and her nosy mother-in-law appears to be doing everything she can to put a wedge between their marriage.

With all the stress she’s under, it’s not surprising then that Claire succumbs to post-natal depression and a resurgence to drink after years of being sober. Her life at the cottage becomes increasingly dark as she begins to fear for both her life and that of her child’s. Is someone stalking her? Is she paranoid?

Heald weaves a compelling narrative that makes it difficult to tell who to trust, both for Claire and the reader. As is common with psychological thrillers, Claire is not a reliable narrator. It works well for the plot because a great portion of this story will force the reader to battle with the protagonist. Are we on Claire’s side or not? Do we believe her or do we think she’s losing her grip?

As a thriller, The Mother’s Mistake works well on multiple levels. The tension is palpable. It’s hard to know who to trust. And there are enough chilling moments to keep you glued to the page and eager to know what comes next.

However, there are a few weaknesses that kept me from giving this a full five stars. I think this book was too long. There were some chapters where the pacing began to slow. At times I felt as if I was being dragged around in circles. Claire would often contend with the same battles over and over again to the point it became repetitive. It could have done with another round of pruning to make it sharper and increase the sense of urgency to find out what was going to happen to Claire and Olivia.

I also found the main twist too predictable from an early point in the novel. That said, there was a supplemental twist I hadn’t entirely pieced together that flowed quite nicely. Overall, I was pleased with the outcome because it did feel well-plotted.

Still, there was also a sub-plot involving Matt and his ex that took up a significant portion of the story and ultimately didn’t amount to much. I wish it had tied into the main thread more.

SHOULD YOU READ IT?

Yes. The Mother’s Mistake is a stunning debut into the thriller genre from author Ruth Heald. She knows Claire inside and out, and the story shows it. If you’re someone who reads psychological thrillers on the regular, you won’t be disappointed by this one.

Heald has a knack for building in her atmosphere through slow, creeping reveals. When Claire is frightened, you’ll be frightened. When Claire is on the brink of discovery, you’ll have your fingers trembling over the next page in an eager rush to see what comes next.

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Last Thing She Remembers by Jon Stock

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Last Thing She Remembers by Jon StockThe Last Thing She Remembers by Jon Stock, J.S. Monroe
Published on May 28, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 384
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

Who can you trust if you don't know who you are?

She arrives at the train station only to realize her bag had been stolen--her passport, credit cards, laptop, house key now all gone. And even more disturbing, when she goes to report the incident, she can't recall her own name. All she has on her is a train ticket home.

Suffering from stress-induced amnesia, the woman without a name is a source of mystery when she appears at the sleepy Wiltshire village where she thought she lived. She quickly becomes a source of conspiracy and fear among the townspeople. Why does one think he recognizes her from years earlier? And why do the local police take such a strong interest in her arrival?

The beginning of this book hooked me, the idea of a woman showing up with no memory, although cliche, was enough to make me want to read more. However, after being absorbed in the first few chapters, the story began to lose its thread for me. I was turned off by the random political agenda and the alternative viewpoints.

Suddenly more and more characters were being introduced along with several convoluted plots. It got to the point where the book stretched its believability wafer thin. When multiple women were supposed to look identical, I couldn’t keep up any longer.

Plus, for a thriller, this was not paced well, and I found myself bored through most of the middle section. An intriguing beginning isn’t followed through with the novel that follows, unfortunately.

Movie Reviews

The Sun Is Also a Star is a charming but forgettable teenage romance

Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton in “The Sun is also a Star.” (Warner Bros.)

The Sun Is Also a Star is the latest rom-com trying to cash in on the recent genre renaissance. But ultimately, the movie fails to captivate.

Natasha Kingsley’s (Yara Shahidi), last day in New York, turns into an experiment in love when she meets wannabe poet, Daniel Bae (Charles Melton). Daniel guarantees he can make the reluctant Natasha fall in love with him in under a day, and their testing of this hypothesis is the foundation of The Sun Is Also a Star.

Critics did not like this movie and audiences didn’t even watch it (as demonstrated by its abysmal box office return), but The Sun Is Also a Star deserves a little more credit.

Yes, there is too much schmaltz, and the script made me feel queasy with sweetness in some places, and the leading actors look like they stepped out of a commercial for the perfect skin moisturizer, yet I was touched by the underlying maturity forming the backbone of this teenage love story.

Continue reading on Hidden Remote.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Keep This to Yourself by Tom Ryan

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Keep This to Yourself by Tom RyanKeep This to Yourself by Tom Ryan
Published on May 21, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, LGBTQ+
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 307
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

It’s been a year since the Catalog Killer terrorized the sleepy seaside town of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing without a trace.

Like everyone else in town, eighteen-year-old Mac Bell is trying to put that horrible summer behind him—easier said than done since Mac’s best friend Connor was the murderer’s final victim. But when he finds a cryptic message from Connor, he’s drawn back into the search for the killer—who might not have been a random drifter after all. Now nobody—friends, neighbors, or even the sexy stranger with his own connection to the case—is beyond suspicion. Sensing that someone is following his every move, Mac struggles to come to terms with his true feelings towards Connor while scrambling to uncover the truth.

So this book hooked me immediately given its premise is about a serial killer terrorizing a small town known as Candle Cove. I’m always a sucker for a good serial killer story. I also love the fact the main character is gay.

However, my main issue with Keep This to Yourself was in the characterization. I found myself struggling to connect with any of the characters because none of them felt very three-dimensional. For the most part they were written in a shallow way (and that’s not to say the book is shallow only that these characters didn’t have as much depth as I would have liked).

But I did still enjoy this book overall. I liked following Mac’s journey to finding out the truth about what happened to his best friend, Connor, who he may or may not have been secretly in love with. I liked seeing him to get find a new relationship with someone who had also lost someone to the “Catalog Killer”.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an absorbing, quick read, but it wasn’t one of my favorites. As far as Young Adult fiction goes though, this is one of the better ones I’ve read in a while so if that’s your thing then I say you should give it a shot.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

Book Review: Before She Knew Him by Peter SwansonBefore She Knew Him by Peter Swanson
Published on March 5, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Fiction, Thriller
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 309
Format: Hardcover

Source: Book of the Month

Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door

Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.

But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape.

Henrietta Mazur is an artist most commonly known for drawing disturbing paintings and etchings. She now works as a successful children’s book illustrator. Recently, she and her husband, Lloyd, relocated to a new neighborhood for a fresh start. Who knew that Hen’s dark tendencies would lead her straight into the mouth of a serial killer?

Do you know that saying about “never really knowing your neighbors”? It doesn’t quite apply here in Swanson’s methodical novel Before She Knew Him. The thing is, Hen’s entire problem is that she does know her neighbor is. She figures it out before anyone else can.

What do you do when you learn the man living no more than yards away from you is a murderer? That is the basis of this novel, and boy did I enjoy going on the journey for the answer to that question.

I have never read Swanson’s work before, but he has a new fan in me now. I sometimes shy away from reading novels written by men in this genre, particularly when they have female protagonists, but I was pleasantly surprised by Hen’s character. She doesn’t fit into the typical hard-drinking, edgy, women we’ve come to expect from psychological thrillers. She felt fully-realized and developed, as did all the other characters.

Yes, I did figure out the direction this book was going pretty early on, but I attribute that as a credit to the author. I will always choose to unfold a story where the twists and turns genuinely make sense over one where the sole purpose is to shock me. I don’t mind when I figure it out before the end if it is well-executed and this story is.

Authors who are adept at foreshadowing know how to render a palpable twist that will still engage you even if you do manage to solve it ahead of time.

I snagged this book a couple of months back when it became available from BoTM, and I’m delighted I did. I only regret taking so long to read it!

Book Reviews

Book Review: Carmilla by Kim Turrisi

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Carmilla by Kim TurrisiCarmilla by Kim Turrisi, Shaftesbury Sales Company
Published on May 7, 2019
Genres: Fiction, LGBTQ+, Young Adult, Fantasy
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 224
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

An adaptation of Shaftesbury's award-winning, groundbreaking queer vampire web series of the same name, Carmilla mixes the camp of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the snark of Veronica Mars, and the mysterious atmosphere of Welcome to Nightvale. Newly escaped from the stifling boredom of a small town, college freshman Laura is ready to make the most of her first year at Silas University. But when her roommate, Betty, vanishes and a sarcastic, nocturnal philosophy student named Carmilla moves into Betty's side of the room, Laura decides to play detective. Turns out Betty isn't the first girl to go missing? She's just the first girl not to come back.

All over campus, girls have been vanishing, and they are completely changed when (or if) they return. Even more disturbing are the strange dreams they recount: smothering darkness, and a strange pale figure haunting their rooms. Dreams that Laura is starting to have herself. As Laura closes in on the answers, tensions rise with Carmilla. Is this just a roommate relationship that isn't working out, or does Carmilla know more than she's letting on about the disappearances? What will Laura do if it turns out her roommate isn't just selfish and insensitive, but completely inhuman? And what will she do with the feelings she's starting to have for Carmilla?

I have heard quite a bit about Carmilla over the years. I’ve yet to get around to watching the web series, and I don’t know much about the history behind Carmilla, I was primarily interested in this book because of the romantic relationship between two women. I thought if I got into the book, I could check out the web series after (I tend to read before I watch).

But unfortunately, I didn’t make it far into this book before deciding it wasn’t for me. The writing style is far too condensed, and the author tends to tell rather than show. I didn’t feel a distinctive voice for any character, and therefore it failed to grip me.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuistonRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Published on May 14, 2019
Genres: Fiction, LGBTQ+, Contemporary, Romance
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 425
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends...

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

In our current harrowing political climate, a book like Red, White & Royal Blue is an exhilarating breath of fresh air. The romance between Alex and Henry is founded in a strong foundation of snark, charm, and sheer chemistry. Casey McQuiston is a real talent.

Initially, I didn’t think I would enjoy this book as I’m not always a fan of romantic stories but it’s impossible to not find yourself immersed in the world. The characters are richly defined and the romance is sexy yet full of adoration. It is incredibly well-developed and I loved being privy to watching this story unfold.

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Night Before by Wendy Walker

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Night Before by Wendy WalkerThe Night Before by Wendy Walker
Published on May 14, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 338
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

Laura Lochner has never been lucky in love. She falls too hard and too fast, always choosing the wrong men. Devastated by the end of her last relationship, she fled her Wall Street job and New York City apartment for her sister’s home in the Connecticut suburb where they both grew up. Though still haunted by the tragedy that’s defined her entire life, Laura is determined to take one more chance on love with a man she’s met on an Internet dating site.

Rosie Ferro has spent most of her life worrying about her troubled sister. Fearless but fragile, Laura has always walked an emotional tightrope, and Rosie has always been there to catch her. Laura’s return, under mysterious circumstances, has cast a shadow over Rosie’s peaceful life with her husband and young son – a shadow that grows darker as Laura leaves the house for her blind date.

When Laura does not return home the following morning, Rosie fears the worst. She’s not responding to calls or texts, and she’s left no information about the man she planned to meet. As Rosie begins a desperate search to find her sister, she is not just worried about what this man might have done to Laura. She’s worried about what Laura may have done to him

I was thoroughly captivated by The Night Before. It is the first thriller I’ve read in a while where I wasn’t able to predict where the story was going. I had several predictions in my head of where the story would go, but the ending surprised me. Walker is adept at building tension and suspense into her storytelling. You can tell she is a natural at it. I haven’t read her other novels before this one but I definitely will now! I appreciated the varying point-of-views in this book.

Alternating between Laura’s perspective and Rosie’s perspective allowed for the tension to build and build until the explosive ending although I did find the climax got a bit confusing with the constant back-and-forth. Streamlining the action into a single perspective would have made it more powerful.

Overall, The Night Before is a psychological thriller at its very best. There are so many clues and red herrings, not to mention an extremely complicated, layered and nuanced female protagonist. Laura is a meaty character; one of those you want to dig into and figure out how her mind works. The prose surrounding her inner monologues were pure poetry.

I felt like this was an easy read, but not oversimplified. It was an easy read because it was so captivating and I devoured the entire thing in one sitting. Each chapter ending forces you to turn the next page to keep the momentum moving forward.