First line: I learned about the death of my uncle Jake in a deeply unexpected way, which was from the CNBC Squawk Box morning show.
Summary: Jake has just learned that his estranged billionaire uncle, Charlie, has died. Jake hadn’t seen him since he was a child but when Uncle Charlie’s assistant asks Jake to stand up at his funeral, he feels like he owes it to him. But as he learns at the funeral, his uncle had powerful enemies and now they are targeting Jake. As his uncle’s heir Jake is thrown into the world of supervillains, including volcano island lair, spy cats and minions. As Jake learns the business, he has to stay alive long enough to achieve his uncle’s vendetta against the league of supervillains.
My Thoughts: The first thing you notice about this book is the quirky cover! A cat in a suit is the reason I picked up Scalzi’s newest novel, but I stayed for the plot that reminded me of a mix between Austin Powers and Despicable Me.
I enjoyed every minute of this book. It was a short, quick read filled with cutthroat villains and super intelligent spy animals. Jake has fallen into hard times but the only thing he finds comfort in is his cat. It’s easy to relate to him throughout and cheer him on as he takes over his uncle’s business. I loved his interactions with the animals around him. The dolphins were hilarious!
Even though there is not too much of a plot in the story, I would highly recommend reading this! It is filled with dark humor and spy cliches that know they are cliches. This was my first book by John Scalzi but it won’t be my last. I will finally read Redshirts, a book I have looked at for years but never picked up.
“What is it that they say? That thing about happy and unhappy families? That happiness is all the same, but misery is unique?”― Lisa Unger, Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six
Summary: Three couples rent a luxury cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway to die for in this chilling locked-room thriller.
What could be more restful than a weekend getaway with family and friends? An isolated luxury cabin in the woods with spectacular views, a hot tub, and a personal chef. Hannah’s generous brother found the listing online. The reviews are stellar. It’ll be three couples on this trip with good food, good company, and lots of R&R. But the dreamy weekend is about to turn into a nightmare.
A deadly storm is brewing. The rental host seems just a little too present. The personal chef reveals that their beautiful house has a spine-tingling history. And the friends have their own complicated pasts, with secrets that run blood deep. How well does Hannah know her brother, her own husband? Can she trust her best friend? Meanwhile, someone is determined to ruin the weekend, looking to exact payback for deeds long buried. Who is the stranger among them?
My Thoughts: There are so many POVs in this, which is a bit daunting. Adding to the confusion, the characters do not seem to mesh with the main narrative of the luxury vacation. Plus, the prologue included a tense Christmas dinner involving the mysterious gift of DNA tests where no one claimed to be the gift provider. Simply put, there is a lot to grasp in this story.
Once the three couples get to the cabin, the cabin owner proves to be disturbing. Bad things start happening. Who is doing it? To what end?
I listened to the audio and enjoyed the story, but it might be better to read it instead. I had to rewind a few times, thinking I missed a thread. It is one of those thrillers that allows many open threads that ultimately come together to knit a nice ending!
First line: Silas loved a good puzzle, especially if it involved the interlocking pieces of science and soul, the known and the unknown.
Summary: Grace had just bought her first home when the COVID pandemic hit, she lost her job as a hairstylist and now her mother wants to move in with her. They never had a great relationship and the hours spent together start to strain their nerves. Grace starts having nightmares about her twin who died when they were young and struggles to differentiate between what is real and what is a dream. And then her mother reveals a dark secret from their past but Grace cannot believe her. There is no way that things happened the way her mother claims. Is her mother trying to drive her mad? Who and what can Grace believe anymore if she cannot trust her own mother?
My Thoughts: This book was STRANGE! It was a fever dream almost literally. Grace tilts back and forth between moments of sanity and bouts of fear and nightmares. She is a very unreliable narrator. But really it is more like the book who is unreliable. So many chapters are dream sequences filled with Grace’s fears and memories. Everything seemed just so wild until I realized that it was another dream.
Neither of the main characters was very likeable but Jackie, Grace’s mother, was awful. She seems like the ideal mother who cooks, cleans and is sweet to your friends but she can quickly use guilt and manipulation. I kept waiting for her to crack and cause some harm to Grace or the cat.
The setting of isolation during the pandemic set the perfect atmosphere for the downward spiral of these two women. Luckily I was still able to work at times during the pandemic because I can see how it easy it would be to lose touch with reality being home bound for long periods of time. The beginning of the story dragged on a little after a catchy first chapter and then it picked up at the end as tensions finally reached a climax. This is not as a good as Baby Teeth but still a chilling WTF book.
“It’s easy to be fooled by pretty things. We look at them and think something special went into creating them, like extra time was spent, like they are good because of their beauty. I rarely trust beautiful things.”
― Jeneva Rose, You Shouldn’t Have Come Here
Summary: Grace Evans, an overworked New Yorker looking for a total escape from her busy life, books an Air BnB on a ranch in the middle of Wyoming. When she arrives, she’s pleasantly surprised to find that the owner is a handsome man by the name of Calvin Wells. But there are things Grace discovers that she’s not too pleased about; such as the lack of cell phone service, a missing woman, and a feeling that something isn’t right with the town.
Despite her uneasiness and misgivings from Calvin’s friends and family, the two grow close and start to fall for one another. However, as her departure date nears, things between them start to change for the worse. Grace grows wary of Calvin as his infatuation for her seems to turn into obsession. Calvin fears that Grace is hiding something from him.
Told from dual points of view, You Shouldn’t Have Come Here is a thrill ride and a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when you open up your house and your heart to a total stranger.
My Thoughts: My head is still spinning at that crazy and out of nowhere ending, and I am unsure how I feel about. I thought I had it figured out, but I was so far off it was not even funny.
The first half of the book felt like a romance novel. A city girl heads to a ranch in Wyoming for a 10-day escape. The owner is good-looking, and suddenly, a love story is happening. After the halfway point, then we had a thriller. Just when you think you have it figured out, who and why, you haven’t. I think my favorite aspect of this story is the overwhelming sense of foreboding that starts at the beginning and doesn’t stop until the end.
First line: Josie can feel her husband’s discomfort as they enter the golden glow of the gastropub.
Summary: At a local pub, Alix Summers and Josie Fair, meet each other and discover that they are birthday twins, they were born on the same day in the same hospital. A few days later, they bump into each other again and Josie has a proposition for Alix. After listening to Alix’s podcast, Josie believes that her story is one that Alix will want to share. As the women start recording, Josie starts to work her way into Alix’s life and even her home. Even though Alix finds Josie to be a bit strange she cannot help needing to know her story. But as suddenly as she appeared, Josie disappears. It seems like the end until Alix finds that she has been living inside a true crime podcast. And the big question is, who is Josie?
My Thoughts: After finishing this I had to sit and think, ‘What did I just read?!’. This is probably the best Lisa Jewell I have read. It was absolutely crazy! This story was jam packed full of shocking events, eccentric people, horrifying back stories and an ending that leaves you guessing.
I never knew what to make of Josie. As a reader we saw what life was like in her home and inside her head. But how much of this is real or skewed based on her perceptions? This is the ultimate unreliable narrator. Josie is very willing to discuss her past with a total stranger. She reveals a life that was filled with misfortune and regrets. I felt sorry for her and shocked as more of her life is revealed. But with each new detail you start to wonder how this has affected Josie and what is she going to do to change it?
I highly recommend listening to this book because it is told using a full cast. Since the premise is that it is a podcast recording that is picked up as a true crime documentary, the full cast idea adds an extra layer to the story. Using this format style, it is easy to forget that this is a novel and not an actual podcast.