Thursday, July 15, 2021

Mini Thoughts

Hello, all!

Pub Date: 7-13-21
Adult - Contemporary

How Sweet It Is- Dylan Newton: Kate Sweet is known for planning the most elaborate happily-ever-after moments for her client's weddings. She prides herself on coming up with the best ideas to make someone's special day as perfect and romantic as can be, so when her best friend calls begging for her to step in and plan a book launch, Kate expects it to be a cakewalk. When she realizes it's for the release of the Knight of Nightmares, Drake Matthew's latest horror novel, Kate quickly finds herself out of her element. Despite Drake's macabre reputation, he's really a nice guy and prefers to fly under the radar, but agrees to Kate's elaborate plans on one condition: she has to help him research his next book, which unbeknownst to anyone is opposite from the slasher books he typically writes. The more time the pair spend together, the more they can't deny the spark of attraction igniting, but Kate and Drake have to face the fact that sometimes real life isn't a fairy tale and they both have to put in the work if they want a happy ending.

This was pretty cute. The premise was fun and Kate and Drake were nice together. I liked how bubbly and determined Kate was and how Drake was the opposite of what everyone thinks a horror writer should be. He was a bit stoic at times, but he was just this shy, vulnerable guy. I loved how he lived in this Gothic Victorian mansion which was so Stephen King-ish on the outside but very Downton Abbey on the inside, and he had the tiniest cutest dog. I loved getting to see into his writing process and how he was developing a story based on his grandparent's romance. I thought that was so sweet, especially how he was finding inspiration from his interactions with Kate. The two of them were adorable, but I was hoping for a little more. Their relationship was so slow-burn that at times I found myself just waiting for something to happen. I also think that because it kept saying how Kate was known for these big "Aw" over-the-top romantic moments, I was expecting the story to have one as well and it just didn't. I still enjoyed this, I just think it was average.

Rating: 3/5

Pub Date: 2-2-21
Adult - Thriller

The Sanatorium- Sarah Pearse: Elin Warner has taken time off from being a detective, so when she receives an invitation for her estranged brother's engagement party in a remote hotel in the Swiss Alps, she has no excuse not to accept. When she and her boyfriend arrive at the imposing and isolated Le Sommet hotel, Elin is instantly on alert. Something doesn't feel right at the hotel and it doesn't help that they're surrounded by dense forest and treacherous mountain peaks that always seem to be watching you. When a storm comes in cutting them off from the town and her brother's fiancĂ© turns up missing, Elin must trust her instincts to find her. As her investigation grows, Elin uncovers the terrible history of the hotel and the horrors inflicted on its patients when it was originally a sanatorium. As the days press on and more bodies start turning up, Elin is left with more questions than answers and a growing list of suspects that leave her with no one to trust. Can she put her past traumas behind her long enough to stop a killer before they set their sights on her?

One thing I look for in a thriller is the ability to keep me guessing at every turn, and this did just that. I was immediately gripped right from the beginning and needed to figure out what was going on. Pearse does such a great job of keeping you on your toes and there were times when I felt my heart racing because I was so unsettled. I also loved the setting because the remote location added another layer of uneasiness and drove home just how isolated the characters were. Pearse used all of that, as well as the hotel's background as an old sanatorium, to her advantage and it made for such a creepy atmosphere. Speaking of the hotel's background, I thought that was so fascinating and I wanted to delve into it even more, but I enjoyed how Pearse tied it all together. I liked following along with Elin as she tried to gather clues while dealing with PTSD from a past case and fragmented memories of an accident involving her brothers as a child. There were times I felt she was a tad slow on the uptake, like when it came to not realizing the significance of the bracelets left with the bodies, and there were times her insecurities clouded her judgement. I was also able to figure out one small part of the twist, but for the most part, the ending took me by surprise. Overall, I thought this was super solid and I'm intrigued to see if something comes from the epilogue.

Rating: 4/5

Pub Date: 6-15-21
YA - Mystery

The Box in the Woods- Maureen Johnson: Stevie Bell went from reaching viral fame after solving a decades-long cold case of murder at her exclusive boarding school to scooping wilted lettuce out of the salad bar at her local grocery store. She expected her summer vacation to be a tad more exciting, so when she gets an email from the owner of a summer camp to come out and investigate another unsolved murder of four teen counselors that happened back in the 1970s for his podcast, Stevie jumps at the chance. But when Stevie and her friends arrive in Barlow Corners, they quickly realize this small town is hiding deep-rooted secrets, and poking around will lead to way more than they bargained for. Can Stevie once again solve an unsolvable case before she becomes the next victim in the woods?

I thoroughly enjoyed the Truly, Devious series so I had high expectations going into this one. It had all the summer camp-slasher movie vibes that I love (there was even a reference to the ridiculously bonkers b-movie Sleepaway Camp which we love to see) but I feel like it fell short of what I was hoping for. A lot of that had to do with the fact that it read exactly like the first three books just in a different location. Johnson used the same formula as she did in the rest of the series: a murder happening in the past and Stevie trying to solve it in the present, but instead of being on a school campus, we're at a summer camp. Don't get me wrong, that MO worked well in the first books, but I just wish this one would've deviated from the path a bit and came with something a little different so it felt like a fresh story and not a recycled plotline. Despite that, I did still enjoy it nonetheless because I just love these characters, especially Nate who is just so grumpy and over everything and everyone and I think it's hilarious. So, while it didn't fully meet my expectations, the mystery was engaging and there were satisfying twists thrown in and I'd still recommend reading this if you're a fan of the series.

Rating: 3.5/5