*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published on February 21, 2023, and is available for pre-order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Writing-Retreat-Novel-Julia-Bartz-ebook/dp/B0B3Y84THW/
This book disappointed me, although some readers may enjoy it. I read it because I like fictional stories about authors. It started out with an interesting theme. A famous horror writer sponsors a writing retreat for young female authors at her secluded home. After reading samples of their writing, she chooses six women under thirty. Alex, a fan of Rosa Vallo since reading one of her bestselling books as a teen, ends up taking the place of one of the retreat members even though she’s thirty-years-old and is suffering from writer’s block. Alex is unaware that another retreat member is her previous best friend, Wren. After they broke up, Wren was accidentally injured at a party that Alex attended. Alex has blamed herself for Wren’s injury since. When they’re reunited at Rosa’s mansion, they initially regard one another with animosity. That changes when incidents occur that cause both women to realize the pettiness or their hostility toward one another.
A central theme to the book involves the history of Rosa’s home and how the previous occupants, a woman named Daphne and her husband Horace, were found brutally murdered in the 1800’s.. Daphne had been involved in spiritualism that her husband didn’t condone and was rumored to have conjured up an evil spirit. Alex uses these characters and background for the work-in-progress Rosa requests of the retreat members who must each submit a certain word count each day to participate in a contest where the winner will be published by Rosa’s publisher.
Without giving away the twists, this book contains elements of the supernatural, lesbianism, and how far an author will go to become famously published. Not recommended, but everyone, but some will find it a unique read.
*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published in August, 2022, but is available for pre-order now on Amazon at https://amzn.to/3lg4536
I was reading this book as I quarantined from COVID, and I finished it in two days. I definitely intend to read more books by this author. I was caught up in this story about a woman, Liv, who lost her short-term memories every time she fell asleep. This rare type of amnesia was thought to have been caused by a trauma she witnessed two years ago while working at a magazine called Cultura in New York City and dating a man named Marco.
The book is told in alternating chapters from the present time to two years ago, and there are also chapters that go back two days and a day. The current time takes place in twenty-four hours and begins with Liv awakening in a cab which she doesn’t remember boarding and being dropped off at a Brooklyn apartment that she shares with her friend, Amy. When she tries to enter, she realizes her purse is missing and, when she knocks, other occupants of the apartment answer and tell her that this is their place. Also missing her cell phone, Liv borrows a phone to call Amy and then Marco. Neither one answers her.
Not knowing what to do, she leaves the apartment and then realizes that she’s carrying a bloody knife wrapped in a t-shirt. Dumping it in a trash bin, she notices some writing on her hand with the name of a local bar and the words, “Stay Awake.” At the bar, she is greeted by the bartender who seems to know her, even though she doesn’t recognize him. A news channel is showing a breaking report about a murder of an unidentified man who was stabbed in an apartment rental. A clue left at the scene were the words “Wake Up” written in the victim’s blood on the window.
As the book flashes back and forth in time, readers learn that Liv is suspected of the murder that she can’t remember. Her previous trauma is also described as well as the people from her past, one of whom might be framing her for the murder.
I highly recommend this excellent thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I was stumped as to the identity of the killer until a few pages before it was revealed.
*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published in May, 2022 but is available for pre-order now. https://amzn.to/3Km8Kvp
I love time-travel tales, and this is yet another take on that theme. This isn’t just a time-travel story. Its other themes include grief, loss, and family relationships. Alice Stern is the daughter of Leonard Stern, the author of a popular time-travel series that was made into a television show. On her fortieth birthday, fearing the loss of her father who is in the hospital dying, Alice accidentally travels back in time to her sixteenth birthday. Seeing her father as a healthy, young man, she hopes to change time by making other choices for herself and convincing him to make other choices such as eating healthier, exercising, writing a new book, and dating another woman besides her mother who left him years ago.
While Alice learns that she can’t change Leonard’s fate, she is able to make a few changes. She also discovers that Leonard traveled through time, too.
Readers will gather some insights from this book about life, aging, grief, and relationships. The time-travel element seemed secondary to the theme, but I’d recommend this read to time-travel fans and those who might benefit from learning how to live in the moment.
Note: I reviewed this book through a NetGalley advanced reader copy. It will be published in February.
Jess has a dilemma. She’s come to visit her brother, Ben, who is a reporter in Paris. Although they haven’t had the best relationship over the years because, after their mother’s death, he ended up with a more privileged life while she landed in less fortunate circumstances in various foster homes. Upon her arrival at his apartment, she discovers some unusual things. He doesn’t answer his phone to let her in and when she manages to follow someone else into the locked complex and knocks on his door, he doesn’t seem to be there, although he’d contacted her only minutes before. Gaining access to his apartment, she finds evidence that frightens her — blood on the floor and Ben’s broken medallion that he never removes.
Meeting the other occupants of the apartment building who tell her they haven’t seen Ben recently, she doesn’t know who to believe or trust. This book features alternate points-of-view of each of the apartment residents. There are multiple twists on the way to learning what really happened to Ben. Each character is well depicted with both good and bad traits, and each one has a motive to kill Ben and make sure his sister doesn’t ask too many questions.
Jess befriends Nick, Ben’s friend who invited him to stay in the apartment and who has a secret of his own. They go to the police together to file a report about Ben’s disappearance, but since Jess can’t speak French, Nick translates her request for the investigation. Because the police don’t consider the issue a priority, Jess takes matters into her own hands and contacts Theo, a man that Ben was scheduled to interview for a story before he disappeared. When Theo takes her somewhere that he tells her may help her find out what happened to her brother, the answers put her life in jeopardy as they reveal the truth about what took place at Ben’s apartment before Jess arrived.
If you like a mystery with twists and interesting characters, I recommend this book.
Note: I reviewed this book through a NetGalley advanced reader copy. It will be published in December.
Although this book is geared toward a young adult audience, as the main character, Rintaro Natsuki, is a high school student, book lovers of all ages will enjoy this story. There’s a paranormal theme as well as a sweet romance, and it all takes place during the holiday season.
Rintaro’s grandfather has died leaving him a used bookstore. As he is grieving for his grandfather and contemplating his move to his aunt’s house, Rintaro is visited by a talking tabby cat who requests his help saving books. Thus follows Rintaro’s adventures into three labyrinths that appear in the back of the bookstore. After solving the mystery of the first labyrinth, Rintaro’s friend, Sayo, the school rep who has been bringing him makeup work after he’s missed classes, is able to see the cat who reappears and asks for help in the second labyrinth.
As Rintaro becomes more involved with Sayo, the cat named Tiger begins to make comments that they could be girlfiend and boyfriend. Working together, Sayo and Rintaro solve two other labyrinths and save more books. The stories behind these adventures will make sense to booklovers who know that in today’s society, print books and classics are less in demand than digital, commercial reads. Rintaro’s love of books increases as he solves each labyrinth’s dilemma.
The final labyrinth has Rintaro facing his feelings for Sayo and realizing the true worth of books and how they connect people. A story that can be read on several levels. Book and cat lovers will enjoy it very much.