The Return by Rachel Harrison

There are a ton of books about female friendships. Female friendships are different beasts. Especially if the friendship began during school and then continued into early adulthood. They change and morph into different entities. You may still love those people but there are things that you no longer share with them. Your life may not be as intertwined any longer. People move, get married, have children and change jobs. What happens when one of those friends disappears and comes back completely different? The Return is about exactly that. Thank you to Berkley for sending me a review copy!! The Return goes on sale in the US on March, 24th 2020.

Synopsis: When Julie goes missing for two years and comes back completely different what do her friends do?

What I liked: I really enjoyed the story. The premise was interesting and kept me engaged. The pacing was fast. There was a lot of dialog between the characters which is something I really enjoyed. It gave you a peek into the relationship dynamics between the four women. I really enjoyed the build up of the story. There is a lot of emotion in the build up of the story. This emotional buildup helped understand the back stories of all the characters and really helped the reader understand the dynamics between the characters. I also like that Harrison brought diversity into the story. Especially, bodily difference and LGBTQIA+ representation.

What I didn’t like: Nothing…..

Star Rating: 4.5 stars

My thoughts: After I finished I went back and read some reviews. I felt like many reviews that were critiquing the portrayal of the female relationships weren’t being very honest with themselves. I felt like Harrison took a look at how many female friendships are and got it pretty accurately. What I found interesting is that if you combine the traits of the four women you can make a whole woman. Each of them display traits that we all have. I have had these types of friendships and these types of friends. You celebrate your victories and help each other when you are down but you don’t necessarily give them a blow by blow of your life. I felt like the women in the story were growing and evolving through the story. Friendships….especially women’s friendships are complicated and it was refreshing to see that complication written about in a story.

#LOHFReadathon Book that has Been on your TBR forever: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

I have a deep and undying love for the story of Victor Frankenstein and his monster. The story makes me happy and sad at the same time. Reading the story makes me happy but aspects of the story make me sad. The monster’s story itself makes me sad. Abandoned and cast off by Victor. This retelling is wonderful and such a different take on what caused Victor to be the way he was. It also gave you more of an insight into the family dynamics of the Frankensteins. If you love the story of the monster I suggest that you pick this up immediately!! I picked up my copy at the Tucson Festival of Books.

Synopsis: The story of Victor Frankenstein’s wife.

What I liked: The writing is lush and delicious. The characterizations are so well written. The twist in the story I didn’t see coming. However, I enjoyed the crime element of the book. (I can’t say any more than that about it, or I will give it away.) The pacing is perfect. The story unfolds little bit by little bit in front of your eyes like a present. As a reader and lover of the original story I am always worried about retellings. But this is so well done you can feel the love that White has for the original. The retelling was lovingly written. It was dark and had so many details. The flashbacks throughout the chapters allowed you to see into the madness of Victor. It really builds upon the original.

What I didn’t like: There is nothing that I didn’t like about this story.

Star Rating: 5 Stars

My thoughts: HOLY HELL!!! I am totally kicking my self. I have had this book for close to a year on my TBR and I hadn’t read it till now. Everyone, I knew who had read it loved it and told me I would as well. They were right. I LOVED it. LOVE it. It was an amazing retelling of Frankenstein. if you haven’t read it then you are missing out on so so much goodness. There is a crime element to the story and I loved it. The backstory was amazing and I was totally there for it.

Infested by Carol Gore

In horror movies there is a period of time that is referred to as the atomic age. This is a period during the 1950s where movies were about how radiation would effect wildlife or even humans. When you look at what was going on in the world during that period of time the nuclear radiation movies make total sense. It had only been 5 years since the US had dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. People saw first hand the horrible reality of this new harnessed power. People didn’t know what the radiation was going to do. There had never before been anything on this planet that had the destructive capability of the atomic bomb. So they turned their fear into movies about ordinary insects and reptiles into monster of enormous size that thirsted after humans. The atomic age of movies died down with the introduction of slasher movies. There was a resurgence in the late 80s/ early 90s where chemicals and not radiation would be the cause of mutation. Infested reminded me of all the movies in the 50s with a splash of 90s nostalgia. Thank you to the author for sending me a review copy.

Synopsis: A park ranger goes to battle with a infestation.

What I like: Gore’s writing was fast paced and fit with the story she was telling. The characterizations were familiar but that allowed me to root really hard for the main character. LOL. The premise of the story really made me happy. I always enjoy a new take on an old favorite. The new take was fresh and I appreciated it. I was totally there for the twist. What I enjoyed was that the twist was taken from the pages of science. I really enjoy when there is an element of non-fiction in the horror I am reading

What I didn’t like: Nothing

Star Rating: 4

My thoughts: I felt like the characters were characters that I had read before. However, that didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the story. Mind you I read a lot and watch a lot of movies. This was just something that I noticed. That didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story. I can’t say too much about the twist BUT, I do know that National Parks have looked into this and I can say that my state actually does this. After reading Infested I am a little wary of it.

Benny Rose The Cannibal King by Hailey Piper

As a kid of the 80’s I remember going to this video rental place. This was before blockbuster came to town. It was in this old house. I was in about 4th grade the first time I was allowed to pick out a movie on my own. Honestly, I don’t remember what it was. But to walk through the aisles of movies. Picking the VHS cover up and reading the back was such a big deal. Normally, my parents wouldn’t have let me pick out my own movie by myself but this time they did. Remembering back to those times makes me happy and nostalgic. Those are good memories, but I also remember around the same time that kids were going missing in my home town. No one I knew went missing, but there were plenty of stories. Stories told at lunch and on the playground. Kids whispering behind their hands about what happened to the missing kids. Too bad the truth was much worse than the stories. Benny Rose The Cannibal King took me back to the 80s. Thank you to the author for sending me a review copy.

Synopsis: Some girls and their encounter with the cannibal king.

What I liked: Piper does it again with her fast paced tale of Benny. the premise of the story was amazing. The pacing of the novel was fast and action packed. Piper’s characterizations really made you feel all the feelings for the characters as the story went along. Sadness, anger and heart pounding fear for them. There is a twist in the story which I didn’t see coming and it knocked me upside my head. The legend of Benny Rose was something that we all possibly heard when we were kids. It was crafted in such a way that it would have been one of those stories that kids would have sat around on Saturday nights telling with torches under our chins. The climax was fast paced and action packed…..heart pounding. The ending was fantastic. Even though…..you have a suspicion that the ending isn’t the ending. It has that wonderful open ending where the reader can continue the story in their head.

What I didn’t like: There wasn’t anything that I didn’t like.

Star Rating: 5 Stars!!

My thoughts: Because, it was early and I haven’t had enough coffee I actually overwrote my other review so I am retyping this. LOL. Piper absolutely floored me with this story. It was such a unique take on how urban legends grow and take on a life of their own. Even if many of them are based on a loose reality. But this story hit all the high notes for me. It was deliciously gory with a heart! So much heart. Piper is one to watch folks I have been saying it. I can’t wait to see what else Piper has up her sleeve.

So, if you want to know what happened to the missing kids. The truth is always much worse than fiction. The found the man that was taking kids. he lived in a house across the wash from the town house complex that I lived in. (If you don’t know what a wash is it is a dry river bed). When the police showed up the man barricaded himself in the house when the police showed up. The man (I have no idea what his name was) left his house in a body bag. I don’t remember that part but I remember the police helicopters and the lights from the cars. That was really the night that I learned that humans are much scarier than any fictional monster that I could read about or see on the screen.

Women in Translation: The Tenant by Katrine Engberg trans. by Tara Chace

In the last few years there has been an increase in Nordic Noir. Dark crime stories where a horrible crime has been committed. A rumpled detective is assigned and he or she have to unravel all the dark secrets of the individual. It is a particularly popular genre since the release of the Stieg Larsson’s Slander books. I have personally read them and loved them; as well as, the movies based on the book. NOT the English remake but the Swedish language movies. The nordic noir genre generally revolves around secrets. Secrets of the victims, secrets of the people investigating the crime and secrets of the victims relations. I am here for it!! So when I saw The Tenant come up I knew I had to read it and I am so glad that I did. THANK you Scout Press for my review copy.

Synopsis: A brutal murder of a young woman….brings out many dark secrets of those around her.

What I liked: Sqqquueeeaaalll. I love Nordic Noir. Especially, well written and plotted out stories. Engberg didn’t disappoint. The story was fast paced and addicting. Which I needed. The characters were three dimensional and well written. The secrets where dark and well hidden. I didn’t actually guess the who did it until close to the end of the book which delighted me. Also it read very smoothly which lends to the translator Chace. She was able to take the story from Danish to English and not lose the story and the twist and turns. The twist and turns were fantastic. You didn’t see them coming until it was right on you, which was perfect.

What I didn’t like: There isn’t anything that I didn’t like about the story.

Star Rating; 4 stars

My thoughts: I am so very happy with all the women in translation that I am reading. A good chunk of books that are translated are Nordic Noir. This was Engberg’s debut and I am very impressed with it. I can’t wait to see what else she has up her sleeve for her next book. If you like Nordic noir I highly recommend this book. It is a quick paced read.

#LOHFReadathon YA/MG Book: Lie to Me by Kaitlin Ward

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children there were 421,394 NCIC entries for missing children in 2019. Many of these children are involved in familial kidnapping cases. Where it is someone in the family that kidnaps the child. As a child of the 80’s I grew up looking at the missing pictures on the side of milk cartons. Being told to come in before the street lights come on. We were really given carte blanche. Kids today don’t have it as free as we did back then. When you add the final girl trope with the idea that bad things can happen to children especially teenage girls. Lie to Me was an interesting take on the final girl trope add in a little sprinkling of serial killer. Thank you to Scholastic for sending me my review copy!!

Synopsis: After what ever one thinks in an accident, a teenage girl looks for clues as to what happened to her.

What I liked: Ward’s writing made the story easy to read and appropriate for ages 7 and up. The pacing of the story was perfect. The language that was used by Ward was age appropriate. The action scenes were not gorey and there was a little bit of romance. What I really appreciated was the the diversity in the story. The characters were representative of the type of friends that kids would have. Also, there was Bi representation in the story which is very important a many stories don’t have that kind of representation. The language between the teenagers was spot on and realistic. I appreciated the ending….if you read it you will know what I am talking about.

What I didn’t like: There wasn’t anything in particular that I didn’t like.

Star Ratings: 3.5 stars

My thoughts: I enjoyed the story and it kept me engrossed. The main issue I had with the story was the idea that the MC didn’t follow her instincts to begin with. That she was worried about hurting people’s feelings with the way she felt. I think we need to see more stories with girls speaking out when their gut is telling them something isn’t right. There is another trope that was in the book that I have an issue with…..the possessive boyfriend. I don’t personally think that it is a healthy trope. That a possessive boyfriend is one that loves you etc. It is a trope that I feel can be harmful to girls …..where they believe that is how a relationship should be. I love how Ward did turn this trope around and it fits the narrative of the story. This is a story that could actually start a very good discussion about relationships and listening to your gut.

#LOHFreadathon book by LGBTQIA+ Author: The Possession of Natalie Glasglow by Hailey Piper

Possession is universal. There are many traditions that talk about possession by animals. But, the Egyptians have a really interesting take on animal spirits. In Egypt an animal who has been killed violently the spirit of the animal is able to leave the body and stay with the body of the animal. What would happen if a trophy hunter brought back the body of a trophy would that animal’s spirit come back home with him? Hailey Piper explores this in The Possession of Natalie Glasgow. This is the first book I’ve read for the Ladies of Horror Fiction readathon also I won this book in a contest.

Synopsis: A completely different take on possession.

What I liked: There is so much in this story to like. The pacing was brilliant. The story was fast paced. Which was interesting because it seemed that Piper was drawing the pacing from how this would play out in life. Piper’s characterizations are very well written. I enjoyed the fact that the main characters were women, not just women but strong women. Women who lived through some horrible things but kept looking for answers.

What I didn’t like:

Star Rating: 4 stars

My thoughts: Hailey Piper has been on my radar as a writer since she wrote a guest post for the Ladies of Horror Fiction. It was about the Intimacy of Monsters. The post really resonated with me. It struck the heart of why I read horror. It is to be able to confront my own monsters without fear of what can happen to me. That type of fear no longer has a place in my life now, but can bubble up to the surface at any time. It leaves you weary and tired. However; Piper wrote about this amazing intimacy that people have with monsters. The post blew me away and I knew that Piper was going to be writing fiction that I wanted to read and I was right. Needless to say I read this novella in one sitting.