The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

Heather Gudenkauf’s The Overnight Guest had me hooked from the first page! I honestly could not catch my breath waiting to see what was coming next! The story, which consists of three separate plots is completely enthralling, each telling its own story with an ending which will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Wylie Lark is a true crime writer who has left her son and her ex-husband to go finish her latest book. She has taken up residence in as isolated farmhouse outside a small town in Iowa. She left also because of the tension between herself and her son. You see, Wylie has some secrets.

In the same town, many years ago a family was brutally killed during the night leaving only their daughter who was able to get away. Her best friend who happened to be sleeping over that night has never been seen again, and her body has never been found. Although there was a suspect, they were never able to find enough evidence to convict him, so the murders went unsolved.

Wylie finds herself stranded in the farmhouse as a blizzard roars outside. Upon trying to get to the barn for more firewood, she comes across the body of a young boy, almost frozen. She gets him into the house and begins to ask him questions as to where he came from and was he with anyone. He refuses to speak and seems terrified of her. Wylie proceeds to go back outside to try and find where he could have come from.

She discovers a damaged truck and a woman entangled in the wires of a fence on the property. She will not speak to her either. She goes back to the farmhouse to get wire cutters and upon her return the woman has gone missing. Upon Wylie’s return to the farmhouse the woman arrives and demands she let her son go. She has a gun! Not understanding what is happening, she tries to convince the woman that by leaving she will be sealing the fate of her and her son. And then there is a knock on the door which will change the trajectory of their lives forever.

The story is completely spellbinding with twists which seem to never stop. What an incredible satisfying thriller! Gudenkauf is a wonderful storyteller!

Thank you #NetGalley #ParkRow #TheOvernightGuest #HeatherGudenkauf for the advanced copy.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Lovers of movies such as Halloween, Scream and Nightmare on Elm Street…listen up! You will definitely want to add The Final Girl Support Group to your to be read pile! This story reads as if you took all the gory slasher films you’ve ever read, mixed them with the heroine’s psychological problems after the tale ends, added humor and mystery and voila this is their story!

Lynnette Tarkington is what is called a final girl. Years ago, she witnessed her whole family and her boyfriend being killed by a lunatic. She was the only survivor. She is not the only final girl. There are a handful of them, and they are famous, but not in a good way. They seem to attract the crazies. For years they have gotten together once a month to sit and discuss their problems with Dr. Carol, a therapist who herself became famous because of the group.

But it is hard for the group to cope with real life and the fear always exists that someone will try and kill them again. For Lynnette, she has been preparing herself for years. Then one of them is killed and the can of fear worms opens up. Then Lynnette is targeted and takes off leaving the life she thought she had planned which would protect her. But she sees now that the killing of one of them was not isolated. Someone is out to kill them all. Who and why now?

She realizes someone has been plotting against her for a very long time, even getting information from what she thought was a very secure computer. But none of the other girls believe her when she tells them what is happening. They seem to think she is just being her very paranoid self.

Lynnette decides she must try and figure out who is trying to kill them and stop them. But who can she trust? She can only trust the other final girls. But as she seems to get closer to the truth, none of the others will have anything to do with her. And Lynette will find not everyone, and everything is what or who they seem. Can this final girl save the other final girls from their final movie scene…death?

The Final Girl Support Group is filled with gore, fear, mystery and is quite funny and enjoyable! Or perhaps I have just watched too many horror films!

Her Hidden Genius by Marie Benedict

As only author Marie Benedict can do so well, she combines history with fiction to tell tales of strong women throughout the years. Those who have endured and conquered over those who refused to see their intellect or tried to take from them their ideas all because they are women. Her Hidden Genius is clearly her best to date. It espouses the life of a woman with superior intelligence who was forced to overcome many hurtles, but courageously stood her ground to maintain her love of science, intellect and discoveries.

Rosalind Franklin was born in England into a large, wealthy family. But all her life she chose to work hard. Her genius was seen at a young age and she chose science, a profession she was passionate about as her career. In the late 1940’s and 1950’s as a scientist in physics, she worked tirelessly to understand X-rays. Over the years her specialty and obsession became DNA and its pattern.

She first worked in a laboratory in Paris, a city which she loved, with a group of scientists, both male and female who respected each other and each other’s work. They encouraged each other and each other’s research. She also fell in love for the first time, something she never thought she would be able to do. As a woman, Rosalind always felt she would have to pick, a husband or her career. Her life always consisted of her work, her laboratory and her family back in England.

After a few years in Paris, and with her parents and family pressuring her to move back to England, she agreed. She took with her the work she had been doing on unlocking the secrets of DNA. But she would find her new workplace was nothing like the one she came from. She was looked down upon by the male scientists, never called doctor by them, called by her first name, and even a nickname they gave her. She received no respect at all. But she put her head down and with her assistant continued to work on breaking the DNA code.

Then she and her assistant made an incredible breakthrough. Suddenly she finds some of the male scientists asking too many questions. She discovers one actually breaking into her laboratory. The Director of the laboratory seems to not want to deal with her problems, basically wishing her away. She decides to take another job, but before she is able to leave, it seems her discoveries are written about by some of the male scientists at the laboratory.

Beaten down, Rosalind accepts her fate. She knows what she had done and that’s all that matters. It is only later that these scientists will be challenged, and the challenger will be another woman, a good friend of Rosalind’s.

Rosalind literally devoted her whole life to the study of science and her genius was truly hidden by the men who surrounded her and by the way women were perceived at the time. But through historical writers such as Benedict, they are now being given the accolades they have always truly deserved.

Thank you #NetGalley #SourcebooksLandmark #MarieBenedict #HerHiddenGenius for the advanced copy.

Devil House by John Darnielle

What do you want to be when you grow up? Are you sure? Where will you be when you grow up?

Gage Chandler is a true crime writer whose claim to fame was writing a book about a couple of teens who were killed by a teacher, Diana Crane, also known as the White Witch. What he found out about the murders would profoundly navigate the rest of his career. A career which has basically stalled.

But he is now given the chance of a lifetime! When asked if he would like to do a story about a double killing in the 1980’s in a porn shop, which has since been converted into a house in which he can live in while doing his research he is not convinced at first, but finally agrees.

The house is known in the town of Milpitas, California as the Devil House because when they found the mutilated bodies of the realter and owner of the building, there were satanic writings and graffiti everywhere. This was a time when satanic rituals among teenagers was very prominent. No one was ever charged with the brutal crimes. And to make matters worse, this small town had a previous murder back in 1981. A woman was raped and murdered, and a movie called River’s Edge was made about the case.

Locals are not happy to see a writer not only living in the house but stirring up all the bad vibes from the past. So as Gage immerses himself in research about what the history is of the Devil House and finding out that at the time of the murders two teenage boys, Derek and Seth had basically taken over staying in the building when the manager of the store had taken off, his imagination takes off.

He sets about interviewing people and begins to get a sense of what was happening at the time of the murders, with the teenagers and life in general in the small town. The deeper he delves the more he returns to his first book and how sometimes things are not as they appear to be. Although the stories are completely different, the similarities are concerning to him.

In most tragic murder cases there is the truth and there is what people believe or want to believe is the truth. There are suspects and there are individuals some wish were suspects. There is folklore which some take as fact. Gage finds himself totally immersed in not only this aspect of his current research, but in his past work.

He also realizes at some point that he grew up with a friend who moved to this small town during the time frame of the murders. As he reaches out to his friend for assistance Gage is at a crossroads in his career as to how to go forward. Sometimes a murder is sadly, just that even though everyone wants to believe it was more. It is up to the writer to either tell the facts as they are or embellish the truth for more interesting content. That is his quandary.

The Devil House is an interesting look at what being a true crime writer must be like. Thank you #NetGalley #MCD #DevilHouse #JohnDarnielle for the advanced copy.

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

In this haunting story, time moves backwards to Ellie Hockley’s life in 1965. Ellie lives in North Carolina in the deep south. She is a pharmaceutical student in college, preparing to step in at her father’s pharmacy when her studies are completed. Ellie’s life seems complete. She’s dating a local, will have a good job after she graduates, and her best friend Brenda is getting married. But, after going to a meeting about helping to register black people to vote during the upcoming summer, her life changes forever.

Against her parents, brother and friends wishes, Ellie makes the decision to go fight for black voters and their families. With volunteers coming from all different states, her being a southern girl makes her decision looked upon by other southerners as her being a traitor. Where Ellie is from, there are few black people and there are KKK meetings. Unfortunately, this puts the black families in which Ellie stays with in great jeopardy.

When a group of the volunteers decide to drive to Ellie’s small town, Round Hill to attend a KKK meeting, Ellie is shocked at what is being said and who is in attendance. When Ellie is seen at the meeting, she becomes fodder for the town. As do her parents and brother whose livelihood becomes impacted by her decisions. In the meantime, Ellie finds herself falling for someone she knows she will be unable to be with.

Flash forward to the year 2010 and Kayla Carter, an architect who along with her husband have been building an incredible house in Round Hill. Unfortunately, Kayla’s young husband dies in an accident while the house is being built and she is left a widow with a young daughter. Still uncomfortable about moving into the now finished house without her husband, Kayla is visited by a strange woman who seems to know too much about her and her family. She warns Kayla that someone could be killed if she moves into the house with her child. Although the police think this is just a random crazy person, she is taking the threats seriously. With a lake, woods and a dilapidated tree house on the land and finding out KKK meetings used to be held back there, she is taking no chances and decides a fence needs to be installed. Kayla’s dreamhouse is becoming a nightmare.

Then strange occurrences begin to happen on her property. If it wasn’t for her neighbor next door, Ellie Hockley, who has come back to Round Hill to take care of her ailing mother and dying brother, she does not know what she would do. But Ellie basically keeps to herself and is not opened to talking about the past.

As the two stories which are told in separate chapters, begin to collide Ellie and Kayla discover their lives are deeply intertwined. Decades old shocking secrets will be revealed which will change their lives forever.

Once again Diane Chamberlain has written a powerful thought-provoking story about hate, love and suppression as she has become well-known to be the master. Thank you #NetGalley #St. Martin’s Press #DianeChamberlain #TheLastHouseontheStreet for the advanced copy.

Bad Luck Bridesmaid by Alison Rose Greenberg

Getting friends down the aisle should be easy right? Well not for Zoey! The third time should be the charm…well, maybe the fourth!

Zoey Marks has been a bridesmaid for three of her friends over the years. Unfortunately, none of them have actually made it down the aisle! Zoey is pretty sure she is the reason. She swears she will not only never marry but will never be a bridesmaid again!

But then Zoey’s lifelong best friend Hannah introduces her to her cousin Rylan and all bets seem to be off! She falls in love…hard! So, when she knows Rylan is gearing up to ask her to marry him, why does she start sweating? She loves him with all her heart, but why does forever have to come with a document and a panic attack?

Then they break each other’s hearts, neither understanding the other’s reasoning as why they can’t have a traditional life together. She has now lost the love of her life.

Next Hannah drops a bombshell on Zoey. After dating a man, she sat next to on a plane, Graham, for only three months they decide to marry. And of course, if goes without saying that Zoey will be her bridesmaid, and oh by the way Rylan will be attending the wedding which is taking place in Ireland at a castle! Graham’s family it seems is well off.

But not everybody is happy with this arrangement including Hannah’s mother and Graham’s brother Ezra who seems to think none of this makes much sense. Zoey herself is confused as to how Hannah could know this man, unquestionably gorgeous, was the love of her life after only three months. Granted her fiancĂ©e looks at her with adoring eyes, but even so.

And during the wedding weekend with Rylan showing up with a plus one, Ezra constantly giving Zoey a hard time about Hannah being a gold digger and trying to sabotage their relationship and then to Zoey’s confusion Rylan declaring his love for her once again, could this wedding weekend get any worse? Why yes, it can!

Will Hannah get her happily ever after even though Zoey knows her back luck is beginning to seep into the festivities? Will Zoey finally realize what she wants for her ever after? And will it include Rylan?

Many life lessons will be learned in this funny, insightful, enjoyable romp of a story where friendships and love will be tested but hopefully for Zoey, she will see her bad luck change, although back luck in hindsight may actually be good luck!

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sGriffin #AlisonRoseGreenberg #BadLuckBridesmaid for the advanced copy. The book will be out in early January.

Cheat Day by Liv Stratman

The title of this book, “Cheat Day” has so many meanings everyone will be able to find a piece of themselves within. Cheat Day is a complicated, serious, funny look at one person’s relationship with life, love and food.

Kit and David met and fell in love in college. It was a comfortable love. Not a fireworks kind of love, but that was okay with Kit. David nurtured her sense of security, which was just what Kit needed. Now David is an architect and Kit works at her sister and cousin’s bakery called Sweet Cheeks.

Kit’s life is extremely predictable. She works, she diets, she quits work, she quits the diets she goes back to work. Clearly Kit is not very happy. She hates her job; she hates her body weight and although she knows her husband truly adores her, she sometimes does not know exactly how she feels about him.

This has been her pattern until a carpenter named Matt comes to the bakery to build some shelving and Kit and Matt have an instant attraction. Kit has never felt this way about anyone, not even her husband. Without hesitation, they begin an affair. But not only does Kit hide the affair from her husband, but she also hides her new diet experiment from Matt, which of course she is making her husband do with her. This new life-change will throw Kit’s boring life upside down. Kit is losing control.

Kit now finds this new chapter exciting, invigorating and loathsome. She begins to look at her husband in a different way, a way where everything about him seems to bother her. And of course, she begins to compare the two men. Where Matt and Kit’s sex life is incredible, her lack of sex with her husband is just another reason in her mind to continue the affair. By not telling Matt about her newest diet adventure, he assumes she has some weird food issues, which is not too far from the truth. At the same time, her husband and his family bend over backwards to assist Kit with her latest fad.

The novel delves deeply into the give and flow of a marriage, the yin and yang, the highs and lows. But cheating brings a new set of anxieties to the table. Sometimes when there are dips, it can be easy to look somewhere else, but it’s the love that makes you stay. So, is there any love left? The story is an exploration of other obsessions, such as jealousy and age. When you feel depressed about your life sometimes one’s world can spiral.

As the affair progresses, Kit’s life begins to freefall. Her weight down, her sex-life satisfying, she still feels sad and depressed. Then she must decide if she should tell her husband about the affair and all that will come with the truth. So many lives will be ruined including her husband’s family with whom Kit has always considered her family.

Kit has deprived herself for so long, of love, of food, of self-esteem. How will she be able to justify all she has done and been through? Is loving someone always a forever? Or is it possible to take it just day by day with some good days and perhaps some cheat days. Does anyone really know?