Book Review: Five Little Pigs By Agatha Christie

After her mother is convicted of killing her father, a young girl is sent to live with relatives in another country. On her 21st birthday, she’s given a letter from her mother that declares her innocence. Someway, somehow, the young woman must find out the truth about what happened all those years ago. Hercule Poirot to the rescue!

I thought I had read almost all of Christie’s books, but when this one showed up in my Kindle daily deals email and it didn’t sound familiar, I decided to scoop it up.

It’s amazing how this book, written in the 1940s, still manages to compare with those written today. Truly the Queen of Mystery, Christie weaves a tangled web of secrets and deceit, giving the reader all the clues they need to figure out who committed the crime while creating enough diversions and plausible scenarios to keep them guessing!

From Goodreads: In Agatha Christie’s classic, Five Little Pigs, beloved detective Hercule Poirot races to solve a case from out of the past.

Beautiful Caroline Crale was convicted of poisoning her husband, but just like the nursery rhyme, there were five other “little pigs” who could have done it: Philip Blake (the stockbroker), who went to market; Meredith Blake (the amateur herbalist), who stayed at home; Elsa Greer (the three-time divorcée), who had her roast beef; Cecilia Williams (the devoted governess), who had none; and Angela Warren (the disfigured sister), who cried all the way home.

Sixteen years later, Caroline’s daughter is determined to prove her mother’s innocence, and Poirot just can’t get that nursery rhyme out of his mind.

ARC Book Review : The Midnight Man By Caroline Mitchell

A horrible crime creates a kind of urban myth legend (think Candyman) decades later, only not everyone who plays the game will survive!

Sometimes you read a book and several pages in you think, “Nope. Not for me.” That’s how I felt when I started this one. I wasn’t connecting with the writing or the characters. I read a little further, but still wasn’t feeling it. But I rarely ever DNR a book, so I took a look at the reviews, and they were good, so I plugged on a little further, and suddenly all the little things that were bothering me fell away and I found myself caught up in a book with a compelling plot that kept me guessing. I’m glad I kept reading! I ended up enjoying this one much more than I anticipated. Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

From Goodreads: From number one bestselling author Caroline Mitchell, comes the first chilling Slayton thriller for fans of C. J. Tudor and Stephen King.

If you open your door to the Midnight Man, hide with a candle wherever you can. Try not to scream as he draws near, because one of you won’t be leaving here…

On Halloween night in Slayton, five girls go to Blackhall Manor to play the Midnight Game. They write their names on a piece of paper and prick their fingers to soak it in blood. At exactly midnight they knock on the door twenty-two times – they have invited the Midnight Man in.

It was supposed to be a game, but only four girls come home.

Detective Sarah Noble has just returned to the force, and no one knows more about Blackhall Manor than her. It’s a case that will take Sarah back to everything she’s been running from, and shake her to the core.

Will she be ready to meet the Midnight Man? 

Book Review : All These Bodies By Kendare Blake

A serial killer’s rampage keeps the nation breathless as they follow the news in 1958 America. For an aspiring young journalist, he expects the papers to be as close as he’ll get to the case from his tiny Midwest nowhere town. Right? Wrong.

I had such high hopes for this one that I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. On the one hand, the plot was compelling, the characters were well developed, the writing kept me drawn in and hooked. On the other, this is the author of “Anna Dressed In Blood.” I expected my emotions to run the full gamut of the spectrum while my toes curled and I debated whether or not I was ready to turn the page. Sigh. It would be unfair not to say this was a good read, because it was, it just wasn’t what I wanted it to be, which is unfair to everyone (book, author, and reader). I enjoyed it. But it’s no Anna.

From Goodreads: Sixteen bloodless bodies. Two teenagers. One impossible explanation. In this edge-of-your-seat mystery from #1 New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake, the truth is as hard to believe as it is to find.

Summer 1958. A gruesome killer plagues the Midwest, leaving behind a trail of bodies completely drained of blood.

Michael Jensen, an aspiring journalist whose father happens to be the town sheriff, never imagined that the Bloodless Murders would come to his backyard. Not until the night the Carlson family was found murdered in their home. Marie Catherine Hale, a diminutive fifteen-year-old, was discovered at the scene—covered in blood. She is the sole suspect in custody.
Michael didn’t think that he would be part of the investigation, but he is pulled in when Marie decides that he is the only one she will confess to. As Marie recounts her version of the story, it falls to Michael to find the truth: What really happened the night that the Carlsons were killed? And how did one girl wind up in the middle of all these bodies?

Book Review : The Cabin By Natasha Preston

A group of teenagers goes away for the weekend to party at a cabin. When they wake up after a drunken bender, well, not everyone wakes up.

This is the kind of book that is usually a perfect fit for me, but this one felt like a bad fit from the start. Still, I wanted to see where the author went with it, so I kept reading. Did it keep me reading? Yes. Was I wowed? No.

Teenagers getting killed? Check. Everybody’s a suspect? Check. The MC can’t trust anybody? Check. This has all the parts, and I can’t really put my finger on why, for me, it remained in pieces, so maybe chalk it up to wrong book, wrong time?

From Goodreads:

They think they can do and say whatever they want. They think there are no consequences. They’ve left me no choice. It’s time for them to pay for their sins.

A weekend partying at a remote cabin is just what Mackenzie needs. She can’t wait to let loose with her friends. But a crazy night of fun leaves two of them dead—murdered.

With no signs of a forced entry or struggle, suspicion turns to the five survivors. Someone isn’t telling the truth. And Mackenzie’s first mistake? Assuming the killing is over…

Book Review : Survivor Song By Paul Tremblay

This is one of those books that worms its way under your skin and won’t get out. A fast acting, rabies-like virus is spreading like wildfire. Those who get infected quickly turn, becoming insanely violent a la zombie style. But – like rabies, the virus is spread by saliva, so when an almost to term pregnant woman is bitten, there’s a chance her baby will be fine – if someone can help her deliver in time.

What ensues is a race against the clock filled with terror, suspense, and yes, a bit of gore. Trigger Warning – animals, as the initial carrying vector, do die. Usually that’s enough to get a hard pass from me, but I made it through trauma-free, though I might have lost a few nails by the last page!

This is the second book I’ve read by Tremblay, but it won’t be the last! He’s quickly earning a spot as one of my favorite horror authors, someone who can deliver a varying array of thrills and chills in both an effective and well-written way!

From Goodreads:

A riveting novel of suspense and terror from the Bram Stoker award-winning author of The Cabin at the End of the World and A Head Full of Ghosts.In a matter of weeks, Massachusetts has been overrun by an insidious rabies-like virus that is spread by saliva. But unlike rabies, the disease has a terrifyingly short incubation period of an hour or less. Those infected quickly lose their minds and are driven to bite and infect as many others as they can before they inevitably succumb. Hospitals are inundated with the sick and dying, and hysteria has taken hold. To try to limit its spread, the commonwealth is under quarantine and curfew. But society is breaking down and the government’s emergency protocols are faltering.

Dr. Ramola “Rams” Sherman, a soft-spoken pediatrician in her mid-thirties, receives a frantic phone call from Natalie, a friend who is eight months pregnant. Natalie’s husband has been killed—viciously attacked by an infected neighbor—and in a failed attempt to save him, Natalie, too, was bitten. Natalie’s only chance of survival is to get to a hospital as quickly as possible to receive a rabies vaccine. The clock is ticking for her and for her unborn child.

Natalie’s fight for life becomes a desperate odyssey as she and Rams make their way through a hostile landscape filled with dangers beyond their worst nightmares—terrifying, strange, and sometimes deadly challenges that push them to the brink. 

Paul Tremblay once again demonstrates his mastery in this chilling and all-too-plausible novel that will leave readers racing through the pages . . . and shake them to their core.

Book Review: Craven Manor By Darcy Coates

For down on his luck Daniel, opportunity knocks at the perfect time . . . but will it take him to an imperfect place?

More than just a ghost story, the horror extends beyond the paranormal in this creepy little tale. That said, it’s cozy horror, more atmospheric than scary. You have the old, abandoned house, a set of mysteries as to what happened and who’s behind the MC’s sudden good fortune, and a whole host of the otherworldly to keep you guessing friend from foe. Not my favorite by this author. Good but not great.

From Goodreads:

Daniel is desperate for a job. When someone slides a note under his door offering him the groundskeeper’s position at an old estate, it seems too good to be true.

Alarm bells start ringing when he arrives at Craven Manor. The mansion’s front door hangs open, and leaves and cobwebs coat the marble foyer. It’s clear no one has lived there in a long time.

But an envelope waits for him inside the doorway. It contains money, and promises more.

Daniel is desperate. Against his better judgement, he moves into the groundskeeper’s cottage behind the crypt. He’s determined to ignore the strange occurrences that plague the estate.

But when a candle flickers to life in the abandoned tower window, Daniel realises Craven Manor is hiding a terrible secret… one that threatens to bury him with it. 

Book Review: 56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

A couple who just recently met decides to move in together so they can continue developing their relationship instead of putting it on pause during the Covid pandemic lockdown. Weeks later, a body is discovered in the apartment they shared.

The premise is certainly intriguing, and the author definitely kept me on the hook with the need to know what the characters’ secrets and motivations were. There was even a nice twist I didn’t see coming. That said, the way the narrative jumped, not just between characters but time, and by this I mean the flashbacks start out sequentially, (56 days, 35 days, etc.), but then starts to bounce around (35 days, 56 days, 12 days, 23 days, etc.), really worked to the story’s detriment. It made it hard to follow and a bit frustrating. I did enjoy it, and would say it’s worth a read because that’s my only complaint, but I would have liked to read the story in a more linear fashion.

From Goodreads:

No one knew they’d moved in together. Now one of them is dead. Could this be the perfect murder?

56 DAYS AGO
Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin the same week Covid-19 reaches Irish shores.

35 DAYS AGO
When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests that Ciara move in with him. She sees a unique opportunity for a new relationship to flourish without the pressure of scrutiny of family and friends. He sees it as an opportunity to hide who – and what – he really is.

TODAY
Detectives arrive at Oliver’s apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.

Will they be able to determine what really happened, or has lockdown provided someone with the opportunity to commit the perfect crime?

Book Review: The Last House On Needless Street By Catriona Ward

A long missing child, her devastated sister, the odd loner who lives nearby and his cat. Nothing is as it seems as the strands unravel . . .

This book sunk it’s claws in deep and wouldn’t let me go! It was creepy and atmospheric and dark and psychological and I had no idea where it was going or even quite what was going on – the sense of reality versus fantasy was almost hypnotic! The pacing, the writing, the characters were all perfect. The ending was mostly unexpected, transforming this book from a lesson in horror into something more.

From Goodreads:

Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street is a shocking and immersive read perfect for fans of Gone Girl and The Haunting of Hill House.

In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the wild Washington woods lives a family of three.

A teenage girl who isn’t allowed outside, not after last time.
A man who drinks alone in front of his TV, trying to ignore the gaps in his memory.
And a house cat who loves napping and reading the Bible.

An unspeakable secret binds them together, but when a new neighbor moves in next door, what is buried out among the birch trees may come back to haunt them all.

Book Review : These Toxic Things By Rachel Howzell Hall

A ‘digital scrapbooker’ is hired to compile a collection for a woman losing her memory to Alzheimer’s disease. The woman dies, but the scrapbooker proceeds – and stumbles upon a disturbing pattern.

I thought the premise of this book was great. The execution was good, but there was a bit too much going on in it. It could easily have been at least 50 pages shorter by weeding out some of the MC’s side arcs, and I think it would have made the book stronger.

Plenty or red herrings were introduced, but again, there was so much going on that they weren’t as effective as they might have been. The MC was kind of a princess, not really relatable or likeable. The author did try to evolve her character and show growth over the course of the story, but it was almost lost among all the other strands of the web.

Worth a read, but not a must read now.

From Goodreads: A dead woman’s cherished trinkets become pieces to a terrifying puzzle.

Mickie Lambert creates “digital scrapbooks” for clients, ensuring that precious souvenirs aren’t forgotten or lost. When her latest client, Nadia Denham, a curio shop owner, dies from an apparent suicide, Mickie honors the old woman’s last wish and begins curating her peculiar objets d’art. A music box, a hair clip, a key chain―twelve mementos in all that must have meant so much to Nadia, who collected them on her flea market scavenges across the country.

But these tokens mean a lot to someone else, too. Mickie has been receiving threatening messages to leave Nadia’s past alone.

It’s becoming a mystery Mickie is driven to solve. Who once owned these odd treasures? How did Nadia really come to possess them? Discovering the truth means crossing paths with a long-dormant serial killer and navigating the secrets of a sinister past. One that might, Mickie fears, be inescapably entwined with her own. 

Book Review : Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton

I loved Buxton’s first book, Hollow Kingdom, so much that I immediately preordered the sequel as soon as I found out about it! But my problem with sequels, especially when the first book is a near perfect literary adventure, is that my expectations can be too high – I want to relive the experience I had during the first book, and that’s often not possible. But this book? Hit. The. Mark.

It had enough from the first book to invoke the sense of love I had for the characters, while being enough of a departure from the original that the plot felt fresh and fulfilling. It made me laugh out loud – multiple times – and it made me cry (also multiple times). So much heart and irreverent snark, a perfect combination! Not quite as good as the first, but a close second. Trilogy? Please?

Apocalypse settings and animal characters usually aren’t my thing, but the Hollow Kingdom series is worth the departure. I highly recommend these books!

From Goodreads:

In this stunning follow-up to Hollow Kingdom, the animal kingdom’s “favorite apocalyptic hero”is back with a renewed sense of hope for humanity, ready to take on a world ravaged by a viral pandemic (Helen Macdonald).

Once upon an apocalypse, there lived an obscenely handsome American crow named S.T. . . .

When the world last checked-in with its favorite Cheeto addict, the planet had been overrun by flesh-hungry beasts, and nature had started re-claiming her territory from humankind. S.T., the intrepid crow, alongside his bloodhound-bestie Dennis, had set about saving pets that had become trapped in their homes after humanity went the way of the dodo.

That is, dear reader, until S.T. stumbled upon something so rare—and so precious—that he vowed to do everything in his power to safeguard what could, quite literally, be humanity’s last hope for survival. But in a wild world plagued by prejudiced animals, feather-raising environments, new threats so terrifying they make zombies look like baby bunnies, and a horrendous dearth of cheesy snacks, what’s a crow to do?

Why, wing it on another big-hearted, death-defying adventure, that’s what! Joined by a fabulous new cast of animal characters, S.T. faces many new challenges plus his biggest one yet: parenthood.

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