“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: “You’ve got a nerve showing up here,” he hisses, coming to an abrupt halt beside me as he leads the mourners back up the aisle.
Summary: Jess has just landed her dream job. She is going to be a real reporter for The Globe newspaper. With her new job she hopes to change the world with her reporting. But once she meets the infamous Stella, her boss and deputy editor, she sees that standing by her morals may be harder than she thinks. On her first assignment she learns that the underhanded ways of the paper can lead to some deadly consequences. How can she continue working at a place that puts sales over the lives of those they report on?
My Thoughts: I was not sure about requesting the newest Sandie Jones book. The last two books were just not that good. I wondered if it was time to move on but I am glad I picked this one up. It was a quick paced and shows the backstabbing nature of modern news outlets.
The two main characters seem to be night and day. Stella is the hardened reporter who will do whatever to get the big story. Jess is the rookie who still believes in justice and the truth no matter what. With the alternating chapters the reader sees the differences in how they deal with similar situations. But really how different are they? Both are women in a world dominated by men.
Reading this really made me think about how tabloids and clickbait is used to destroy people’s lives. How much can we really trust some of the “news” that is circulating all over social media? I think this will give readers a look at something we see every day but then question how these stories were tailored.
“Dad always says that if you’re going to do something wrong, at least be smart enough not to let anybody see you do it.” ― Freida McFadden, The Locked Door
Summary: Some doors are locked for a reason…
While eleven-year-old Nora Davis was up in her bedroom doing homework, she had no idea her father was killing women in the basement. Until the day the police arrived at their front door.
Decades later, Nora’s father is spending his life behind bars, and Nora is a successful surgeon with a quiet, solitary existence. Nobody knows her father was a notorious serial killer. And she intends to keep it that way.
Then Nora discovers one of her young female patients has been murdered. In the same unique and horrific manner that her father used to kill his victims.
Somebody knows who Nora is. Somebody wants her to take the fall for this unthinkable crime. But she’s not a killer like her father. The police can’t pin anything on her.
As long as they don’t look in her basement.
My Thoughts: Freida McFadden is an author who is becoming increasingly popular on BookTok. It is exciting to give trendy authors a try to see what all the fuss is about! This was the audiobook my husband and I chose to listen to on our way to Denver. We both found the story very interesting, and it made the time go by!
It was fun to pause and discuss our theories of “whodunnit”. It was fast-paced and hard to put down. Lots of red herrings to throw you off track and keep you guessing until the final twist. We finished this just as we were pulling into Denver, and neither of us guessed correctly how it would end! Although, I would say that the story wrapped up a little abruptly. It would have been better if the plot did not have so many storylines and if we could delve into more details, especially on Nora’s childhood.
“Sweetheart, I’m telling you, you love someone like that, you love them the right way, and no time would be enough. Doesn’t matter if you had thirty years,” she tells me. “It wouldn’t be enough.” ― Taylor Jenkins Reid, Forever, Interrupted
Summary: Elsie Porter is an average twenty-something, and yet what happens to her is anything but ordinary. On a rainy New Year’s Day, she heads out to pick up a pizza for one. She isn’t expecting to see anyone else in the shop, much less the adorable and charming Ben Ross. Their chemistry is instant and electric. Ben cannot even wait twenty-four hours before asking to see her again. Within weeks, the two are head over heels in love. By May, they’ve eloped.
Only nine days later, Ben is out riding his bike when he is hit by a truck and killed on impact. Elsie hears the sirens outside her apartment, but by the time she gets downstairs, he has already been whisked off to the emergency room. At the hospital, she must face Susan, the mother-in-law she has never met—and who doesn’t even know Elsie exists.
Interweaving Elsie and Ben’s charmed romance with Elsie and Susan’s healing process, Forever, Interrupted, will make you laugh, make you cry, and remind you that there’s more than one way to live happily ever after.
My Thoughts: This book absolutely broke my heart and made me cry in the best ways. I felt all the emotions that this love story brought on. Please do yourself a favor, and pick up a copy of this book and a cozy blanket because you will not want to stop once you start. This was Taylor Jenkins Reid’s first novel, published in 2013, and I did not anticipate it to be so good! I loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and can definitely say that I am a fan of her writing.
I finished this book in a day, and I was shocked at how rich this plot was. I was not expecting such a heart-wrenching experience. Sometimes you just need a good cry book, and this was definitely that for me!
“A town so suffocating and small, you tripped over people you hated every day. People who knew things about you. It’s the kind of place that leaves a mark.”
― Gillian Flynn, Sharp Objects
Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the unsolved murder of a preteen girl and the disappearance of another. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town.
Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.
I have mixed feelings about this book for sure. It touches on a multitude of intense topics. Please check any trigger warnings before embarking on this story. With that said, I thought it was extremely interesting. It had so much going on it was impossible for me to put it down.
Flynn does a fantastic job of challenging the notion that women are weak. In a world where women are always portrayed as victims, this is an interesting look at the other kinds of women who do not fit that stereotype. It is programmed into us to believe that women are safer, kinder, and built with an instinct that makes it difficult for them to be cruel or cause pain without reason. That is not always the case.
I would recommend this to anyone who looks for dark and twisted stories. The topics that are dealt with are heavy, however it was all shocking in an entertaining way.
“One thing growing up in the foster system taught me was to watch people’s eyes more than you listened to what they said. Mouths were good at lying, but eyes usually told the truth.” ― Rachel Hawkins, The Wife Upstairs
Jane is new to Alabama, and she is working as a dog walker in Thornfield Estates—a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. No one will even think to ask if Jane is her real name.
But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently Eddie’s wife, Bea, was in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie—not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, but he could also offer her the kind of protection she has always yearned for.
Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea. Can she win Eddie’s heart before her past—or his—catches up to her?
I heard all of the talk about comparing this to Jane Eyre, and have decided just to read and review this book on its own with no comparisons.
I am so happy that this is my first read of the new year! It is exactly what I look for in a book. I loved the character’s dark and hidden pasts, and that as the reader, we are kept in the dark about some of their secrets all the way up to the last few chapters!
Besides being a fun thriller, this was also very well-written and perfectly paced. There is some jumping around in time, but Hawkins has the chapters clearly titled and there will not be any confusion. I found this to be a nice touch. Sometimes this annoys me in books, but not in this one. This is the second book that I have read by Rachel Hawkins, and I am a fan of her writing for sure!
*Check out my review of Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins here!
My reading tastes tend to be pretty straightforward. I read non-fiction history, classic British mysteries and science fiction fantasy. I don’t read quite as much sci-fi/fantasy as I used to, but L. E. Modesitt remains one of my favorite authors.
Isolate is the first book in his newest series. It is set in a steampunk world with steamers (steam powered automobiles) and the beginnings of an industrial age. There are empaths who can detect emotions in others and use their feelings to protect or attack, susceptibles who are particularly able to be influenced by empaths, and isolates who are immune to empaths. While not devoid of action, much of the writing focuses around political intrigue and an exploration of issues that face society and government. I definitely enjoy the world building and the exploration of character that Modesitt portrays in this book. This is definitely a book I would recommend for those who enjoy reading intricate fantasy novels.
This is probably my favorite album of all time. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I have always been a huge fan of the pop punk scene. This album started all of that for me. At the time, it was the highest grossing indie album ever, though I had no idea of that. I enjoyed that they sang about real life events but didn’t take themselves too seriously. It has quite a bit of strong language; I remember playing this cassette on the stereo in my room and having to turn it down whenever there was an extended bout of swearing. I don’t listen to The Offspring quite as much as I used to (I have two children with me much of the time), but they definitely remain a favorite.
Available to stream here or any music streaming services.
Hobby: Home Brewing
I really enjoy tasting craft beer and am a huge fan of Central Standard Brewing. However, there is a lot to be said for making something yourself, which is what got me into home brewing. I started simply about 10 years ago as an extract brewer with kits that I purchased online. Extract brewing involves taking a malt syrup extract or powder, boiling it with 3 or so gallons of water on your stove while adding hops and then putting it into a vessel to ferment. When it is done fermenting, you add some sugar and bottle it up. In 4 to 6 weeks you have beer.
I made some good beer this way, but when you are a home brewer you are always looking to up your game. At the start of the pandemic and unable to visit many of our favorite places, my friend and I decided to recommit to home brewing. He has an all grain system in his garage, so we started brewing exclusively on that. We began to develop our own recipes and have produced some excellent beer. While brewing does require a high level of cleanliness and precision, it is definitely a rewarding hobby. It’s a lot of fun to share a beer with your friends and hear, “You brewed this? It’s really good!”
TV Show: Castle
Growing up, I used to watch a show called Murder She Wrote with my mother. We both enjoyed its lighthearted nature and trying to figure out the killer before the reveal.
Fast forward twenty or so years, and my wife introduced me to a show called Castle. Just like Murder She Wrote, it features a mystery writer who solves murders when the police appear to be baffled. The two leads, Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic, have great chemistry that makes the show fun to watch. I enjoy the witty repartee and discovering who the killer is. True, it’s a bit more intense than Murder She Wrote, but it’s still a fun show. Like many long running TV series, I would definitely saw that the first three seasons are the best, though the series remains fun throughout.
When Lux and her boyfriend are hired to sail two women to a remote island for a large chunk of change, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. After a few days at sea, Meroe Island is every bit the paradise they expect, despite a mysterious history of shipwrecks, cannibalism, and even rumors of murder. And when one person goes missing and another turns up dead, Lux begins to wonder if any of them will make it off the island alive.
There is quite a bit of tension and unease throughout this book. What seems to be a light and fun time suddenly becomes a nightmare. Nothing major happens in this book until about a third of the way into it, and then it becomes fast-paced and full of action. It all happens so quickly, so I think the ending could have been a little tidier, but otherwise, this is an interesting island thriller!
The long-awaited season four of Stranger Things came out this summer and… WOW! I watched seasons one through three in a several-day-long binge with my husband in 2019, so we have been patiently waiting for the story to continue for the past few years. Season four came out in two parts, and for each one, we spent the day hunkered down binge-watching! I am so excited about how the plot is progressing in the series. If you have no clue what Stranger Things is about, here is a summary.
“When Will Byers suddenly goes missing, the whole town of Hawkins, Indiana, turns upside down. Many people search for Will, including his mother Joyce, his brother Jonathan, his friends Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Police Chief Jim Hopper, and a few others. But one thing leads to another, creating a supernatural trail. And things get even weirder when a girl, Eleven, comes into the story. She has telekinetic powers and is on the run from the Hawkins Laboratory. The laboratory is researching supernatural phenomena and might have unwittingly unlocked a gateway to another dimension.” (imdb.com)
If you have not watched Stranger Things yet, I recommend hopping on the bandwagon because the next season will be the final season!
Available to stream on Netflix.
Hobby:MadFit for Lifestyle/Health
When the world shut down in 2020, we all had to find ways to live our lives within our own four walls. Working out is something I enjoy, and I go to the gym nearly every day. I like working out in a way that works strength and mobility, but not in a way that makes me feel like I am dying (no offense runners). I discovered the YouTube channel MadFit in my search on how to do at-home workouts without equipment. Maddie Lymburner runs the channel and offers workouts for literally everything. HIIT workouts, dance workouts, stretching, strength, and anything else you can think of. Even now that the gyms are open again, I have her workouts written down in my notes on my phone, so I do them there too.
Recently, she has created an app where you can pay for a subscription to keep you on track with your fitness goals. This app helps track your diet and make workout plans designed for your needs. I just like to use the free YouTube videos, but this is a great option for anyone who might want a little more structure with getting started!
Available to watch here and the MadFit app can be downloaded on the App store or Google Play.
Music: Harry’s House
Oh boy, do I love a good Harry Styles album. Harry’s House is the third solo album from Harry since the band he was in, One Direction, went on a hiatus. Many may not know, but I was an avid Directioner (still am), which is what One Direction fans called themselves back in 2012. While I occasionally listen to the other four member’s solo music, Harry’s has consistently been my favorite. I have even gotten my family to be fans of the music. Harry’s House ranks second on my list of his albums. My absolute favorite is the first album, Harry Styles, and third is Fine Line. All are amazing, and I recommend you give them a listen if you haven’t already. My favorite songs from the new album are Matilda and Daydreaming.
Here is 12-year-old me pumped to get a magazine with One Direction on the cover for my birthday. I guess I am just as big of a fan girl as I was ten years ago!
Stream the album here or any music streaming platform.
Kiryn is fourteen years old, and a 2021 Summer Teen Volunteer.
First Line: “It was dusk – winter dusk.”
Summary: This book follows the story of a little girl named Bonnie Green. Bonnie’s mother is ill, and must go away on a voyage to sea with her father, leaving her under the care of Miss Slighcarp, a governess who is very rude and mean to the servants and to Bonnie. What Bonnie thinks will be an enjoyable time spent running about and playing with her cousin Silvia, who has come to stay with them at Willoughby Chase, quickly turns into a nightmare of the very bad sort. As soon as Bonnie’s parents leave, Miss Slighcarp sets her evil plan in motion. She dismisses all of the servants and sells the furniture. When Bonnie protests against her doing these things, Miss Slighcarp shuts her up in a closet, with only Silvia on the other side of the doors for comfort. But they discover a secret tunnel in the walls to help them avoid Miss Slighcarp and listen to her plot. When Miss Slighcarp has sold everything of value that once belonged to Bonnie’s family, she sends Bonnie and Sylvia to her friend, Mrs. Brisket’s prison-like orphan school, where the children are forced to work day in and day out until they drop from exhaustion.
They are fed very little and hardly get to sleep, working in harsh environments with only rags for clothing. Bonnie and Sylvia have to learn to work for hours and hours on little food and little sleep, in the harsh cold. When the children behave badly, they are thrown into the coal pit for up to days without food. Except for Mrs. Brisket’s own daughter of course, who gets to boss the other girls around and lives a life of luxury while the other girls are forced to suffer. But one day when Bonnie spots her old friend Simon coming along, driving his geese to town to sell them, she tells him about their predicament and he helps them escape. They run from Mrs. Brisket’s prison-school to London to try to get Sylvia’s great aunt Jane to help them. But Sylvia has fallen ill from the harsh work at Mrs. Brisket’s orphanage. A friendly farmer gives them shelter for a few nights, but then they must travel on. Will they make it to Aunt Jane’s in time? And if they do, how will they stop Miss Slighcarp’s evil plan to turn their home into a school run by herself and the horrible Mrs. Brisket?
Highlights: Watching Bonnie and Sylvia work together to get through they’re hardships and learn to think for themselves and figure out how to escape from their captors.
Lowlights: For it being called The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, there aren’t a lot of wolves in it. There’s a few at the beginning, but if you’re looking for a story about a thrilling chase fleeing from a pack of bloodthirsty wolves, this isn’t it.
FYI: This book is good for children of all ages. Other than harsh punishments from the adults in this story, it is perfectly fine for younger children.
Stephanie is fourteen years old, and a summer 2021 teen volunteer.
It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.
First line of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 follows the tale of Guy Montag and his conflictions as he lives in a dystopian, book-despising society. He works faithfully at his job as a firefighter, someone who burns books and the homes of disobedient citizens, until he meets people that cause him to question his values and beliefs. Maddened by the constant desire to learn more, Montag finds more and more flaws in the society that he lives in. He makes friends and enemies, one of which is an animatronic canine. There are multiple suspenseful moments as well as thought-provoking statements woven throughout the story.
Even though it was written in the 1950s, the book’s description of a futuristic world is oddly like our current world. It shows the addiction to technology extremely well. Montag’s wife wastes away her time in a room surrounded by screens and false realities. She does not care about the world outside or her neighbors. The book also describes a fast-paced world where silence and rest are unnatural. Nobody takes walks for enjoyment and even when nothing is happening, people are listening to their own personal entertainment in Seashells, the dystopian version of ear buds. One character mentions how communities have become indistinguishable. Every joke is the same. Conversations are dull, only consisting of talk about fancy cars or clothing, or new television shows. All knowledge about classical works of literature and true art are nonexistent. While Fahrenheit 451 does exaggerate some realities, it is still very close to our lives in the 21st century. Bradbury’s imaginings of the future can be somewhat discouraging, seeming as if our world is drifting away from the love of books and knowledge, but it offers hope when Guy Montag fights for change.
An enjoyable aspect of the book is Bradbury’s talent for exhibiting anxiety and creating suspense. It is easy to get caught up in the emotions of the book. In a couple situations, Montag becomes overwhelmed. Bradbury showcases Guy’s anxiety through realistic inner monologues. Montag’s emotions, whether it is stress, anger, or despair, are clearly communicated and can be relatable to those who feel stuck in a constantly moving world. Montag has some suspenseful scenes that lead to moments far from any cliché. With these small but essential aspects of the story, Bradbury draws every reader into Guy Montag’s journey.
However, no book is completely enjoyable, and Fahrenheit 451 has some rough parts. There are a few odd metaphors that can be confusing, and some paragraphs are tedious to read because their topics get overcome by too much poetry. A slightly annoying factor about the book is that it is split up in a strange way. There are not frequent chapter breaks, and it can be hard to find a break in the text. These aspects do not overcome the many good parts of the book, though, and are simply things that were not enjoyed.
There are a few things to be aware of about the book. Characters understandably get angered, causing them to spout mild profanity. As mentioned earlier, Montag deals with anxiety, and overwhelming situations are expressed in a very realistic way. Some sensitive readers who cannot handle emotionally intense situations may want to be wary.
Overall, Fahrenheit 451 is a fantastic book for anyone looking for a classic, but exciting read. It offers topics to think about or discuss such as a fast-paced world vs. a slow, simple life, or the importance of maintaining knowledge and wisdom. It is a wonderful and enjoyable book full of surprises, thoughts, a little bit of poetry, and adventures.