Recently Released Reads

Hello Readers! I’ve done a fair amount of reading in the past few months, and many of those books were new releases that I want to tell you about. These were titles that I got on NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

The Future is Yours by Dan Frey

Published: February 9, 2021

This was a fast-paced sci-fi book that posited the potential impacts of technological developments that could predict the near-future. In this case, one very smart dude named Adhi develops a technology that can be used to search for events one year in the future, and his friend Ben helps him build a company around this idea and begin marketing it. It addresses all of the typical predicted pitfalls of future forecasting, most notably, as our two main characters attempt to test whether the future can be changed once it has been predicted. The story was a wild ride and a quick read. It’s also told as a modern epistolary novel (in the form of texts, emails, and records from a Congressional hearing), which helps keep the pace up while also keeping the reader guessing. The Congressional hearing is taking place in the present day and the emails, texts, and other items are being introduced as flashbacks, but also as evidence for the hearing. There’s a mystery at the heart of everything and I really liked how the book dealt with the practical and emotional sides of this oft-written sci-fi concept. I rated this one 4 stars, and other than some mild language, I would widely recommend this title for sci-fi fans.

The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor

Published: February 9, 2021

This book tells the story of a female vicar named Jack Brooks who moves to a town that is best known for burning eight people at the stake as Protestant martyrs 500 years before. Interwoven with the history of the town is the fact that 30 years before, two young girls went missing and have never been found. On top of all of that, the only reason that the new vicar has been summoned to this town is that the previous vicar appears to have killed himself two months ago. There are a lot of threads to this story, including a sinister subplot following the new vicar, Jack. As she and her teenage daughter get settled in to this very small new town their interactions with the locals are rarely positive, and both women appear to be having brushes with the supernatural. This is my third C.J. Tudor book and I’ve come to expect a few things from one of her novels: the plot will be much more complex than I think it is at first, there will be a plethora of likely suspects, the victims will be deeply flawed people, and I will not see the ending coming. I have also come to expect that there will be at least one deeply disturbing scene in each of the books that makes it difficult for me to recommend as widely as I would like, and this book was no exception. Nonetheless, I gave this one a 4 star rating and would recommend it for fans of Simone St. James and Riley Sager.

Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

Published: March 2, 2021

I was so worried going into this book about the dreaded second book syndrome, but I needn’t have worried. In my opinion, this book is even better than the first one was. In Good Girl, Bad Blood we pick up with Pip only a few months after the events in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder have concluded. After the dangerous events tied to her first investigation, Pip has promised her family that she will not lose herself to an investigation like that ever again. That promise is tested when someone she knows goes missing and she is approached by the victim’s family to help after the police refuse to investigate. The reader really gets a great sense of the mental struggles Pip is going through as she delves into another investigation. So many people are telling her how she should feel and how she should act and are criticizing her for both. The emotional depth to this story far outweighs the first book, in my opinion, and I will definitely be continuing on with the series. I rated it 4 stars as well and would recommend it for fans of the Truly Devious series and fans of YA mysteries in general.

Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay

Published: March 2, 2021

I’ll admit that I wasn’t as enthusiastic about this one in the first few chapters. There are a lot of cliched characters in this book and it felt like it took a long time to get to the central premise of the mystery. The story begins as Matt Pine discovers that his family has been found dead on a vacation in Mexico, which the Mexican authorities initially rule an accident, but that is only where the story begins. The Pines have been in the news before, primarily because Matt’s brother, Danny, is in prison for the murder of his high school girlfriend. Danny has always claimed he was innocent of the crime and most of the Pine family has spent the last several years fighting to get him a new trial or have him released from prison. Ultimately, the plot line with Danny is what puts the rest of the events in motion, but he plays very little active role in the story itself. The story is told in varying perspectives from Matt in the present, and his father, his mother, and his sister’s points of view in the past. Each are experiencing the hardships of Danny’s incarceration in different ways. I predicted the killer at about the 60% mark and accurately assessed the killer’s motives at that time as well. Ultimately, whether it was the pacing or the character development, this story just didn’t feel that special to me. The FBI presence didn’t feel necessary and some of their actions are nonsensical (such as flying Matt out to the prison in a helicopter to make him inform his brother of the deaths). I gave it three stars and would recommend it to thriller readers, but it wouldn’t be my first recommendation for them.

Weekend Reads 3/19-3/21

Hello Readers! Through a twist of library hold fate, I got to read two of my most anticipated backlist titles this weekend. They’ve each been out for a while but have been really difficult to get from my libraries.

First up, I read The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. This is a thriller that came out in 2019 and made tons of “best books” lists in the meantime. I went into it with very little knowledge of the plot, and I would recommend that you do the same. The basics are that you are reading about a woman who is currently residing in a mental health facility because she killed her husband several years ago and she hasn’t spoken or communicated with anyone since then. It’s an interesting thriller that was unlike anything I had ever read before, but ultimately it underwhelmed me a little. I gave this title 3 stars on Goodreads because the twist was pretty good, but the rest of the story just didn’t grip me. I also felt like it was lacking in tension-building. Obviously, this was a very well-loved book that a ton of people really enjoyed, but it’s not one that I’ll be picking up to reread. That being said, the author’s writing was clear and the twist was good enough that I will be reading his upcoming release, The Maidens. I think one of my favorite aspects of The Silent Patient involved a side plot with references to Greek tragedy, and I’ve heard that the next book leans more heavily into that theme.

The next book that I read this weekend was The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, which came out in the Fall of 2020. I would offer a trigger warning related to this book for suicidal ideation and other elements related to suicide. It is not what you would call a happy book, but I found myself wanting to underline and highlight quotes throughout the book (but I didn’t…because it’s a library book and we all know that you shouldn’t do that to library books. Right?). I will probably be purchasing a copy for myself so that I can go through and read it again while adding my own notes. The writing is lyrical and the concepts can get pretty deep into philosophy, but there wasn’t any point while I was reading this book where I felt lost. All of the events that the main character, Nora, goes through sparked empathy in me. She is a troubled young woman who has to come to grips with a lot of tough events in her life. Her regrets are numerous and overwhelming to her at times and the entire book is about her reckoning with that fact. This was a 5-star read for me and I already want to pick it back up for a re-read. If you’re a fan of sci-fi that deals with alternate timelines, I think this would be an interesting pick for you. I will be picking up Matt Haig’s backlist soon.

I hope you’ve had a productive reading weekend. Take care!

The Project by Courtney Summers

I’m a little backed up on my reviews here, but in early February I picked up Courtney Summers’ new release, The Project. I was a big fan of her previous work, Sadie, which was a thriller about a young girl who was investigating the disappearance of her little sister. This new book takes on that same theme but in a very different setting.

Title: The Project

Author: Courtney Summers

Published: February 2, 2021

This was a story about 2 estranged sisters, Bea and Lo, that was told in a dual timeline. One sister was in a disfiguring car accident that also killed their parents and one sister joined a cult-like organization called the Unity Project when she couldn’t deal with the aftermath of the accident. As Lo, the sister who was injured, searches for her sister Bea, who joined the Unity Project and then fell off the grid, Lo finds herself attempting to infiltrate the same group where her sister found a home. Lo is a young woman who is searching for both a home and a family and the Unity Project is a tempting potential answer for both of those needs.

I enjoy reading about cult stories and I love a dual timeline, so this story really appealed to me. While I won’t spoil it, I really enjoyed the ending, not the resolution about Bea, but the parts that came after. Those parts represented trauma very well, in my opinion. I rated this one 4 stars personally. I will continue to pick up future titles from Summers because she writes female trauma and familial bonds so well.

Lemonade rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon3 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could recommend to coworkers and friends you don’t know very well. There are some sex scenes and some violent scenes, but the story is addictive and you’ll want to keep reading once you’re hooked.

The Survivors by Jane Harper

Hello Readers! I’ve got a new title from a favorite author to share with you today. This book came out recently and is the latest stand-alone from Australian mystery writer Jane Harper. She is an auto-read author for me and her work has been getting more and more attention over the years. Her first novel was even made into a movie recently starring Eric Bana (no clue when we might be able to see it stateside, but I’ll definitely be doing a re-read once we do have a date).

Title: The Survivors

Author: Jane Harper

Author website:

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Publish date: February 2, 2021

ISBN: 9781760981051

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble,


Kieran and his wife return to their small town after years away to find that life in a small town never really changes much. When they were young a brutal storm moved through that resulted in the death of Kieran’s older brother, the death of his brother’s business partner, and the disappearance of a young girl. Everyone in town thinks that they know what happened that day and that at least part of the blame for the two confirmed deaths that day falls at Kieran’s feet. Kieran and his family have tried to cope with their guilt about everything that happened for years.

When a young woman is found murdered on the beach during their stay, old feelings and suspicions come boiling to the surface. Small towns are excellent for proliferating gossip and holding old grudges. As the investigation stalls and tensions in the town mount, Kieran has to confront his feelings about what happened years ago while also grappling with questions about what is happening in the current day and how his family may or may not be involved.

There are plenty of suspects and even more suspicions in this fourth novel from Jane Harper. Harper gives the traditional mystery a fresh spin with her richly detailed settings and her emotionally complex characters. The character work in this story is excellent, and each character is revealed to have their own secrets and motivations related to past and present day events. Whatever the reader may think about what happened back then, I feel pretty sure that few will be able to guess this ending or the motivations for it.

Why I liked it:

Harper writes mysteries in a way that feels fresh because of her unique settings that still read as something familiar. Yes, it’s set in Australia, but small-town life is inherently a familiar concept and Harper writes those dynamics very well. I also appreciate that each character is developed fully. There are almost no throwaway characters in this story. It is a bit of a slow burn, but the writing is so rich that I truly didn’t mind.

What I would like to change:

The characters that we get to know the least in these stories are the victims, and I would have loved to have gotten a few chapters from their perspectives. While the story was really good on its own, I think I would have enjoyed a deeper insight into those characters because, as it was, our only impressions of them are what other people knew.

Disclaimer: I received my copy early from Book of the Month (a pretty neat and reasonably priced subscription service that lets you pause or skip a month if the books don’t appeal to you.) I also had a digital copy from the publisher via NetGalley which I received with the expectation of an honest review.

My library rating: I’m giving this one 4 glasses of lemonade, primarily because there’s language and a few tough scenes with assault. Overall, this is a highly recommendable book to most groups.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

My personal preference rating: I gave this title 4.5 stars. It was pretty close to perfect, but I had to deduct a little because I didn’t get an overwhelming feeling to re-read the story as soon as I was done. My absolute favorite mysteries make me want to re-read them right away to try and go back to find the things that I missed the first time around. I didn’t get the feeling that I had missed that much in the first reading, even though I really enjoyed this read.

In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce

Hello Readers! How is your reading year going so far? Have you already picked up a favorite book of the year? I don’t know that I’ve found a favorite of the year so far, but I have read a few books that I’ve really enjoyed already. One of those books is the title I’m reviewing today. It’s the second book from Norwegian author Camilla Bruce. I haven’t read her first title, but I’m definitely more likely to pick it up after finishing this one. In the Garden of Spite is out now and it is a dark story of revenge and blood lust. It won’t be for everyone, but if you like dark true crime, I think this will appeal to you.

Title: In The Garden of Spite

Author: Camilla Bruce

Author website:

Publisher: Berkley

Publish date: 01/19/2021

ISBN: 9780593102565

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble,


The story follows Belle Gunness, a woman who goes by several names before all is said and done. We follow Belle/Bella/Brynhild from her early days in Norway. Belle leads a tough life as a clever girl in a time and place where clever girls are not considered valuable. In an effort to better her life circumstances she makes some questionable decisions and some dangerous enemies. Her plans go horribly wrong and she is savagely beaten as a result. This story is not for the feint of heart.

In an effort to escape her past in Norway, Belle writes to her sister Nellie, who has emigrated to the United States to ask for help. Nellie and her husband set aside a little money and send it to Belle who combines it with her own savings in order to afford passage to America. The whole thing takes time though, and Belle is living in a village filled with people who are unkind, and at least one person who tried to kill her. Belle goes through her life there, working hard, but never forgetting what was done to her. She will eventually get revenge on the man who attacked her, and the crux of her character for the rest of the book is born in that moment.

There are times, especially after Belle arrives in America and begins the process of rebuilding her life, that the reader can sympathize with her and root for her success in starting over…but this isn’t that type of story. The roots of her rage run so deep, that even when things start to look up she finds herself losing control of each situation in a manner that she can’t accept.

This is a story of blood lust and of the rage of one clever woman. The story is told from Belle’s perspective, but also from the perspective of her sister Nellie. Initially, Nellie thinks the best of her sister and just wants to protect her, but she slowly comes to realize exactly what kind of person her sister is and just how unforgivable her crimes are. I really appreciated Nellie’s perspective on things, because I think the reader could easily get sucked in to Belle’s logic for all of the decisions that she makes and could almost start to ignore the depravity of what she is doing.

Belle Gunness was a real person and she really committed the atrocious crimes that are detailed in this story, for the most part. The author reveals in her Author’s Note at the end that many parts of Belle’s life are unknown, including the motivation that led to her actions and how her life ended. Bruce explains the creative decisions that she made when she went to tell Gunness’ story, and I think the care with which she made those decisions shows clearly in the writing. Nellie’s character reminds us again and again that Belle was once a mistreated child, and later in the book, when things get really dark, Nellie reminds us that Belle has suffered an unimaginably horrific attack that is bound to have changed her psyche.

This is a very dark book, but it was an engaging story.

Why I liked it:

This novel presents feminine rage in a clear and concise manner. As the reader, you won’t be tempted to forgive Belle’s actions, but you will understand what led her to that moment. She’s not a sympathetic character, but so much of her life is a reaction to the incident from her early years in Norway that I did not forget her humanity despite all of the gore.

What I would like to change:

There was a point, particularly after we arrived in La Porte, Indiana, where the plot began to feel very repetitive and where Belle’s character stopped achieving any sort of growth. I know that it served the purpose of illustrating just how unchecked her crimes were at that time, but it did get a little tedious from the reading perspective.

Disclaimer: I received an e-galley of this title from the publisher via NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

My library rating: This is a dark book…like really dark. It has violence, gore, sexual assault, the death of children, domestic violence. That’s a lot of trigger warnings and many people would not be comfortable reading about those situations. I would probably be comfortable recommending this one to readers who like dark true crime and horror.

1 glass of lemonade= a book that can only be recommended to someone whose reading taste you know well, like a best friend.  There may be a fair amount of curse words, spicy sex scenes, or potentially morally repugnant behavior.  This does not mean that the book is bad, just that the audience might be a little more limited.

My personal preference rating: I gave this title 4 stars. I don’t mind the darkness and the gore and I really loved that this was based on a true story. The author’s note at the end added information about the real Belle Gunness, which I appreciated.