For a short month, this was one long winter month, and I spent a few days curled up with a book. It was the month for thrills and chills, and out of the eight books I read, seven were suspense/thrillers. While I love to read thrilling and chilling winter books, I don’t find anything thriller, just chilly about snow or cold, and I am ready for it to end.
What I loved
In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce
Camilla Bruce explores the life and crimes of a female serial killer, Belle Gunness, the Black Widow of La Porte, famous for being the first female serial killer in America. She takes what is known about Belle’s real crimes, imagines what Belle’s life might be like, and weaves a compelling fictional story in an attempt to understand someone like Belle and how her crimes could have happened. She captures the social and cultural elements of Belle’s life that could have contributed to her frame of mind while crime exploring themes of gender roles, power/control, abuse, poverty, class, and injustices toward women in Belle’s time.
Setting: LaPorte, Indiana , Chicago, Illinois, Norway
Published: January, 2021
Genre: Historical fiction/thriller
Tags/Tropes: female serial killer/ villain, feminist crime/rage, memorable read, based on real crime/person, from around the world
Author: Norwegian author
These Still Black Waters (Jess Lambert #1) by Christina McDonald
I love Christina and everything she writes. There is something different about all her books, and this one felt very different from what she has written before.
“Some secrets are best left buried. But others are worth killing for”
Neve returns to her childhood summer home with her daughter, looking for a fresh start after a violent home invasion. When a woman’s body is found in the lake, Detective Jess Lambert knows Neve has some secrets she is keeping, and the past begins to catch up to Neve. Jess has a tragedy that haunts her as she unravels the secrets Black Lake holds.
It’s one of the most thrilling page-turners I have read this year. It’s atmospheric, adding tension to the story. The clues and hints are layered well, giving the story a believability element. The reveal is unexpected, unique, and exciting, bringing the story together well.
Christina McDonald always knows her characters well. She gives them intriguing and complex conflicts and creates compelling characters through their actions and motivations. Using that damaged self-harming detective trope, I am not a bit fan, but Christina McDonald does it well; I loved that she gave the character a physical disability.
Setting: childhood summer home on Black Lake
Expected to be published: August 8, 2023 by Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Psychological thriller, Police procedural
Tags/Tropes: Cabin/summer reading, Traveling Friends Read, Series, twisty, unexpected twist, damaged detective, girls behaving badly, mean girl, thrilling read. characters worth killing/saving/character with a disability, atmospheric, buried secrets that come to haunt the characters, favorite author
Author: Lives in London, England
The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston
After a long wait, I borrowed The Dead Romantics on Overdrive because of all the best lists it was on. With so many books on my list to read I almost past on it. I am so glad I didn’t and I now see why it was on so many best lists. Ashley Poston shows us a different side to romance, the more practical side, the kind that isn’t all about being charming, sweet, enduring, and perfect, making this the ideal romance for this non-romantic.
Romance is really dead here and the love story is filled with light, hope, and joy from the unexpected. There is laughter is the sad scenes and tears in the happy ones. It’s the kind only a few authors can capture. Florence could be more likable. She is more of a grumpy character with no warmth or fuzziness. The dialogue between characters is more realistic rather than that cringy back-and-forth overused banter. The grand gesture comes from an expected character, and the happy-ever-after is not all that romantic. I loved it!!
Overall It’s the kind of magic only a few authors can capture.
Setting: South Carolina US
Published: June, 2022 by Berkley
Tags/Tropes: romance is dead, delicious tropes, happy-ever-after, pleasure of the unexpected, memorable read, read for joy, defies tropes/something different
Author: Bides time between South Carolina and New York
What I liked
Things We Do in the Dark by Jennifer Hillier
Things We Do in the Dark is a thrilling but flawed psychological thriller. The story is engaging and exciting, with some dark themes that are disturbing but do not overwhelm the story. There are some familiar tropes; the characters are diverse and compelling. The themes of racism, classism, and identity add an emotional pull that drives the story forward. Still, the character’s actions are questionable and take away any believability elements to the story.
Setting: Canada, US
Published: July 2022 by Minotaur Books
Genre: Psychological thriller
Tags/Tropes: Dark side, child abuse, wrongly accused, woman in trouble, racism, classism, identity
Author: Canadian author (BC)
Anywhere You Run by Wanda M. Morris
Two Black sisters are on the run to different parts of the country, with a man hot on their trail, trying to escape the secrets they left behind.
I loved the historical side of the story as it explores the origins of race relations, Jim Crow Mississippi, being a black woman in America, and voting rights in America with themes of prejudice, segregation, justice, social shame, spousal abuse and unmarried pregnancy. While the crime was compelling, the thriller elements missed the suspense and tension to drive the story forward. I wanted to feel more tension to create the danger the characters were in by the man hunting them.
Setting: Summer of 1964 in Mississippi, & Georgia,
Published: October, 2022 by William Morrow & Company
Genre: Historical fiction/thriller
Tags/Tropes: Black women in trouble, amplify a magerlized voice, being a black woman in past America, on the run, being chased, bit longer than it needed to be, see something differently and learn from, book for social change
Author: Lives in Atlanta, Georgia
What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall
This was on my cabin reading list, and it delivered the don’t go in the woods vibe I was looking for; however, that vibe was lost in the ending.
When Naomi was eleven, she was attacked in the woods while playing a game in the woods. She survived seventeen stab wounds and lived to identify the man who attacked her. The girls became heroes when their testimony put away a serial killer, but they weren’t heroes; they were liars. Years later, one of them wants to tell the truth, and Naomi returns to the woods to find out what really happened in the woods—no matter how dangerous the truth is.
The plot is intriguing, and the pacing is fast, creating plenty of tension and suspense that had me clicking the pages to find out the truth about what happened. But a lot happened that day and in the present timeline. I was disappointed that so much felt like the same old with nothing new to add excitement. The twists and reveals became messy rather than surprising, and I didn’t think the ending came together nicely. Naomi became too much of a victim, making her a weaker character than I like.
Published: January 2023 by Flatiron Books
Tags/Tropes: Traveling Friends Read, Characters behaving badly, stale old bread, too much going on, lairs,
Author: Lives in Seattle
What I didn’t like as much
The Drift by C.J. Tudor
I decided download this one to see what I missing out on with all the hype for C.J Tudor and while I enjoyed some elements to the story I found out I was missing out on a whole lot of nothing but silliness.
C.J Tudor creates a page-turner here with plenty of tension and suspense that had me turning the pages as fast as I could. She not only creates one claustrophobic setting, she has created three, each with its own storyline and characters, leaving us with questions about how they are connected and their roles and motivation. She gives us little clues while creating surprising reveals and twists that felt misleading and robbed me of that I should have seen that coming thrill I love so much. I wonder if she was trying for misdirection and missed the mark. I could have missed any clues, but once that twist is revealed, you should be able to see that you missed them, giving the story credibility whether it has an element of believability or not. I must admit that one reveal could have been a clue, but by then, things felt convoluted, and it felt more confusing than a clue, another sign of misleading. The twist was a good one, but I am still bothered by that feeling of being misled. That of course could just be a me thing that no one else felt.
There is also plenty of over-the-top gore that provides some shock value, and while the gore doesn’t bother me, I have to question if that is meant to drive the story forward instead of a layered twisty story with an exciting reveal that you should have seen coming but didn’t.
Published: January, 2023 by Ballantine Books
Genre: Horror, apocalyptic, dystopia
Tags/Tropes: Misleading, over the top, silly, not worth the hype, catastrophic
Author: Nottingham England
The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
The Cabin at the End of the World was on my cabin reading list, and one I hoped would give me a thrilling and eerie feeling when I was out in my neck of the woods. It started chilling when I read it before bed and thought I heard someone ringing my doorbell while I was sleeping. However, as far as that went, it soon lost that feeling. The story is only 315 pages long, and it takes to the halfway mark to find out what the family must do to save the world. So much time was spent building that suspense as the characters repeated the same thing. The story needs for you to buy into the central conflict, and the character’s motivation and actions seem silly to me, and I couldn’t buy into it. After that halfway mark, things did take a turn, and I started to enjoy it more, but by then, it all happened so fast that it made it that much harder to buy into it. I liked how it ended with much for us to think about, but I didn’t get that rewarding payoff I love.
Setting: Cabin in the woods in New Hampshire, US
Published: June, 2018
Genre: Horror, thriller, apocalyptic
Tags/Tropes: made into a movie, disappointing, harmful tropes, overused tropes, not thrilling, no reward,
Book Stats for month
- Arcs read: 2/2023, 2 backlist
- Own: 1
- Library: 3
- Female author: 7
- Male author: 1
- Non Canadian and US authors: 3
- Author of color: 1
- Own voice: 1
- Diverse Book: 2
- Books for social change: 2
- Thriller/suspense: 7
- From around the world outside Canada and US: 1
Books read to date: 17
1 thought on “February Reading Month Review”
Holy smokes B I am so impressed with all the reads and reviews. I started the cabin at the end of the world and I got frustrated with so much description, I really just wanted to know what the people at the door were there for….I was skipping pages lol. I gave up on it, I could never do what you do. Maybe you should tell me what chapter to start on.
Okay the Things we do in the dark is too scary cause like most people I’m afraid of the dark. But I am interested in a good page turner like Dead romantics… if it’s not too scary.
I was wondering what year in the garden of spite takes place…I enjoy reading stories that are in the olden days. I like that it is written about a true character, that would be interesting to me. I hope she murders some well deserved dudes 😛
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