Wish You Were Gone by Kieran Scott

Told in several points of view by Emma and her friends. The story opens with a crash in her home, late at night. Her son, Hunter, rushes into Emma’s room to ask her about the noise. The two venture through the house and find her husband and Hunter’s father dead in his car, that’s been crashed through the garage. James had been known to drink and drive, so that’s what everyone assumes happened to cause the crash. Little things come to Emma’s attention that don’t add up to James causing the crash on his own. The landscaper finds James’ necktie in the bushes and Emma finds his briefcase behind baskets of fruit from well-wishers. He would have had his tie on and his briefcase in the car with him. His phone is also missing and when Emma calls it, a young woman answers. The story grows more complex as it is told, with more variables coming to light. This was truly an unpredictable story for me and a very satisfying mystery! 5 stars!

Seven Dirty Secrets by Natalie Richards

A fun, fantastic horror story!

Cleo gets done showering and sees a gift- wrapped package on the bathroom sink that wasn’t there before she got in the shower. She assumes it’s from a family member or friend but when she asks about it, no one has any idea about the package. This freaks Cleo out so she calls the police and the cop is respectful and helps her realize that she did the right thing by calling. No victim shaming. Her best friend Hope shows up in the meantime. The officer finds a few windows unlocked in her house but nothing else. After the officer leaves, the two friends find another box containing a scavenger hunt clue like the first package. The hunt grows creepier as the clues dredge up memories that Cleo would like to forget. This mystery gets more interesting as the creep factor cranks up! A fun, fantastic horror story, 5 stars!

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

Sibling sacrifice and great strength!

Two sisters, Nor and Zadie, are twins and best friends who live in a village where villagers reside in houses on stilts in the ocean. Their mother has planned and prepared for them to be valid princesses so the Elders can choose one of them for the prince’s wife when he’s ready to rule. Nor has a scar on her face caused by a scrape against a blood coral so the villagers assume that Zadie or Alys will be chosen by the Elders. Zadie and Nor have been best friends with Sami since they were young and now Zadie and Sami are in love, so Zadie doesn’t want to leave home. Nor has always wanted to explore the world beyond the village. When Zadie is chosen, she’s desperate to do anything to stay with Sami. After she acts on her desperation, Nor’s life is turned upside down. She travels to New Castle in the mountains far away from home so she can meet and marry the prince who turns out to be cold and unkind. Nor gathers some allies and vows to do everything she can to take care of her family, village and the kingdom she’s going to be the princess of someday. 5 stars for this fantasy involving sibling sacrifice and strength!

Tell Me When You Feel Something by Vicki Grant

Unique, interesting mystery!

Viv has somehow ended up in a coma. The story alternates between the police officer questioning people that know Viv and the time lines before and after the episode that sent her into a coma. We get the points of view from Viv, Davida, Tim and the people being questioned. Through this, we discover more about the characters and what happened before and after the party. Viv struggles with her dysfunctional family life and deals with her problems by drinking alcohol. She’s hiding it from everyone except a taxi driver that’s helped her and wants to protect her. The suspense builds the closer the party gets and the suspect pool grows and then narrows as the mystery winds down. A unique, interesting mystery, 4 stars!

Thriving After Sexual Abuse by Denise Bossarte

True help for the healing process!

The author bravely shares what happened to her. She then details her healing journey.
I appreciate the honesty of her past therapy experiences. It’s good to have permission to find a therapist that you’re personally comfortable with. The definition of incest from SIA (Survivors of Incest Group) was an eye-opener because it includes more than just blood relatives. It’s anyone who betrays the child’s innocence or trust. When she mentions that it was difficult for her to understand other kids growing up and how they felt and lived emotionally, that rang a bell with me. I remember thinking that what I was going through must be normal until my friends were complaining about their lives and I realized that I couldn’t relate to their experiences at all.
This book is chock-full of helpful resources, from meditation to art therapy. The explanation of forgiveness states to forgive yourself for any misplaced beliefs that you are to blame for any abuse that has happened to you. I appreciate this explanation which clarifies that you’re not forgiving the abuser. The resources shared in the book are listed at the end and include even more! True help for the healing! You don’t have to deal with it on your own. 5 stars!

Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams

Completely Riveting!

Agnes resides within a cult at Red Creek but she doesn’t realize that she’s part of a cult. She’s the eldest of several siblings and is responsible for taking care of their family because their mother is severely depressed. Agnes sneaks to the Outside once a month to retrieve insulin for her younger brother Ezekiel, even though she knows it’s against the rules. Her sister Beth, the next eldest sibling, is a rebel and doesn’t like the rules. When Beth is caught kissing a boy, she’s disgraced by their father and the community. Agnes has been betrothed as a sixth wife to a middle-aged man and before she gets married, she has to teach Beth everything so she can then become the family caretaker. The middle-aged man decides to marry Beth instead of Agnes to straighten Beth out. In the meantime, a ferocious virus is spreading throughout the world and eventually arrives at Red Creek. The Prophet releases an infected dog during a church meeting and, after a few people are bitten, he tells them about his revelation; the Rapture has arrived and everyone must move into the underground bunker. Agnes escapes with Ezekiel and is heartbroken that she’s left the rest of her siblings behind. She knows that the bunker would be a death sentence for Ezekiel because there’s no insulin for him. This is a riveting story about cults, self-worth, self-importance, bravery, love, loyalty, and sacrifice. The author’s note explains the cult background information being from a nonfiction book of a survivor who escaped a true cult. A wonderfully written and all-encompassing story about love, sacrifice, and different faiths, 5 stars!

Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee by Mary G. Thompson

Intense, suspenseful and genre-bending!
Amy returns home after six horrible years with her kidnapper. She was kidnapped along with her cousin Dee. A man obsessed with dolls, Kyle stalked twelve-year-old Dee and took the opportunity to grab her the first chance he got. He, Kyle, took Amy also, so he wouldn’t leave behind a witness. After Amy returns home, she struggles deeply with guilt, blackout episodes and trusting anyone enough to tell what happened during the six years she was away. This heartrending story mixes mystery, realistic fiction and horror together well to create a tale of brutality, psychopathic tendencies and coping skills. 5 stars for an intense read!

All These Monsters by Amy Tintera

In a world being endangered by scrabs (human killing creatures), Clara is ready to do anything to get away from her abusive father, so she decides to join a scrab fighting army. The privately funded army has recruits across the globe. Clara goes to Paris and London with her team. She trains, battles scrabs and builds relationships. One of her relationships turns out toxic while others feel like she belongs to a good family. Dynamics between characters and the world-building create a mix of intrigue, danger and suspense. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger so I’m struggling to wait for the second book of this duology. 5 stars for a dangerous adventure ride!

Overcoming Gaslighting by June Presley

When I was first approached about reading and reviewing this book, I didn’t know the term for the actions of manipulative people. Now I know gaslighting means exactly that. This book is a helpful and logical guide to recognizing, dealing with and overcoming the manipulative behavior of gaslighters, those narcissistic people that bring toxicity to everyday life. Examples are given of workplace scenarios and family situations to help identify the behavior.The next section delves into the questions of how and why people become manipulative. Then into the types of gaslighting. Some gaslighting occurs with intent while others can be unintentional. Gaslighting techniques are explored and discussed to help identify this behavior. Common signs of a gaslighting victim’s actions are listed also, to help readers recognize if this is happening to themselves or someone they know. Gaslighting is a “tool” of narcissists, who manipulate those around them. Effects of gaslighting on the victim can alter and inhibit normal life. Loss of self esteem, confidence, friends, emotional expression, feeling anxious and depressed, trust issues and submissive behavior are some of the results or effects of being a gaslighting victim. Being a victim can also take a huge toll on physical well being, since stress can cause health issues. Luckily, we can deal with and overcome gaslighting. First, recognition is the key and trusting yourself will help you gain the confidence needed to put the behavior out of your life. Self-affirmation exercises can help you gain your confidence back and mindfulness and meditation can help you strengthen your resolve and deal with and stop being a victim. Self-help for building awareness and regaining confidence!

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski

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More than what I expected!
The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski tells the story of Nirrim, an orphan that lives with other women that don’t have anywhere else to go. They all live under the care of Raven, who treats them like money-making slaves. Nirrim found and captured a priceless bird and was put in jail where she meets Sid. They talk back and forth but they’re in separate cells and low light, so they can’t see each other clearly. Somehow Sid gets them both released and Nirrim is surprised to find out that Sid is actually a woman when she thought Sid was a man during her stay in jail. Sid is a traveler, which is rare in Nirrim’s kingdom. The two befriend each other with a wary trust. The two travel together until a visitor brings Sid worrisome news and she has to return to her home. Then all Nirrim wants is the truth behind the history of her kingdom. What she discovers is much more than she bargained for. The ending left me speechless and was so much bigger than I expected it to be! Different types of abuse and manipulation are touched on as parts of Nirrim’s life. I appreciate the author addressing these issues and helping readers understand the perspective of the abused and used. A complex world with complicated characters, 5 stars!