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FIVE SURVIVE by Holly Jackson

Eight hours. Six friends. Five survive. A road trip turns deadly in this addictive YA thriller from the bestselling author of the worldwide phenomenon A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER.

Red Kenny is on a road trip for spring break with five friends: Her best friend – the older brother – his perfect girlfriend – a secret crush – a classmate – and a killer. 

When their RV breaks down in the middle of nowhere with no cell service, they soon realize this is no accident. They have been trapped by someone out there in the dark, someone who clearly wants one of them dead.

With eight hours until dawn, the six friends must escape, or figure out which of them is the target. But is there a liar among them? Buried secrets will be forced to light and tensions inside the RV will reach deadly levels. Not all of them will survive the night. . . . 


Title : Five Survive
Author : Holly Jackson
Format : physical
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA mystery / thriller
Publisher : Delacorte
Release Date : November 29, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Alright, let’s get the good out of the way first.

The setting. 97% of this story takes place within the confines of a broken down RV that has six people crammed inside. That would be hellish without the whole murder mystery intensity element but at night? Stuck in a dark wooded area, with the thread of harm coming at them from both inside and out? Hoo boy. I’m sweating just thinking about it. Jackson gets mega points for this unique and creative version of a locked room mystery. Also, related, I’m not sure what would’ve enticed me to get into an RV in the first place but this has definitely ensured I never will.

The actual reveals. Obviously I can’t get into this but while the plot of the mystery is actually.. well, pretty far fetched, really, I enjoyed the unveiling of it all. I’m still a little side-eye about the reality of it but, hey, I’m suspending the disbelief.

But everything else? I don’t know.

I realize Oliver was a character no one was supposed to like but he exhausted me. Half the reason I blitzed through this so fast was because I wanted to stop reading about him. I’m sure there could’ve been a way to recreate his influence without it being done this way but what do I know. Maybe we needed his hateful self to push things forward. But I still hated it. Him. And I need a nap now.

The other characters I mostly did enjoy, though. I liked that we had secrets from all, some red herrings, some adjacent to the main mystery, and how each seemed valid and likely. Again, it was the main plot itself that I felt less likely but we already went over that. I’ll allow it. Being in Red’s head, though, was very.. meandering. Disjointed. And maybe that makes sense once we understand what she’s been going through, and doing, over the last little while but you’d almost think all that would make her hyper focused and detail oriented, not completely spaced out and lost. But she definitely rose to the occasion near the end so she didn’t disappoint completely.

And as for the ending, well. I’m glad we were left in suspense for so long after the big climax but I didn’t love how the final bits of the story were told. Except for the check boxes (if you know you know). That was cute.

Overall, though, this will be great for those of you who love locked room mysteries with high stakes. But I definitely preferred the author’s debut series, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. That being said, it’s a sure thing that I will pick up this author again.

** I received a finished copy from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

I’M THE GIRL by Courtney Summers

When sixteen-year-old Georgia Avis discovers the dead body of thirteen-year-old Ashley James, she teams up with Ashley’s older sister, Nora, to find and bring the killer to justice before he strikes again. But their investigation throws Georgia into a world of unimaginable privilege and wealth, without conscience or consequence, and as Ashley’s killer closes in, Georgia will discover when money, power and beauty rule, it might not be a matter of who is guilty—but who is guiltiest.

A spiritual successor to the 2018 breakout hit, SadieI’m the Girl is a masterfully written, bold, and unflinching account of how one young woman feels in her body as she struggles to navigate a deadly and predatory power structure while asking readers one question: if this is the way the world is, do you accept it?


Title : I’m The Girl
Author : Courtney Summers
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ mystery
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : September 13, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

After a pretty lackluster reading weekend, I pulled out the big guns and delved into I’m The Girl hoping that Summers, with (as it’s coined) her spiritual-successor to Sadie, which I loved, would break me out of the funk. But instead it just gave me a different one.

This was so hard to read, which is understandable and probably the point, but where I can respect some of what the author was doing and saying and forcing the reader to consider, I don’t know if it succeeded where it was meant to. Or at least it didn’t for me.

I’m The Girl delves into the concept of grooming, of manipulation, of powerful people enforcing their rules and their wants on others, but everything around it just felt disjointed and shaky. Being in Georgia’s head was an awful place to be, with her self-worth and dreams tied up in belonging to this place where she misguidedly believes she can become something, which was tied into believing her worth was skin deep, and it just spiralled in and out of this vicious cycle. She was incredibly naive, incredibly needy, out of touch, and lost. She was constantly in situations she shouldn’t have been in, never quite seeming to learn from them, and you could blame some of that on the knowledge she didn’t have, secrets held out of reach by those around her, as well as the manipulation of others. It was painful.

And while all this is going on, there’s also a dead girl, the sister of a not-friend, more an acquaintance, and Georgia gets sorta tangled up in both because she discovers the body and because she finds herself roped into to helping determine what happened — I wouldn’t quite say she’s investigating things, the way the synopsis would have you believe, but there are a few side quests — and I liked that, unlike Sadie, Georgia is only tangentially connected to the death. She’s watching the devastation happen from the outside looking in, much the way she feels held back from the glamourous and prestigious world she wants to belong. But in that same drama, I almost feel there were too many added elements (maybe just one) that muddied the waters.

Maybe, on the whole, when combined with the romance, it was just too many things. And yet, despite this, what it also wasn’t, was a thriller. It also wasn’t anything like Sadie so if, like me, you were looking to recapture that feeling? Maybe just go for a reread.

I think this review is a little messy but so was the book. Or, at least, it just wasn’t for me. And that’s fine. I think fans of the author will likely appreciate this, the same way they appreciate her other works, because she’s consistent in shining a light on these dark areas. And that’s a good thing, don’t get me wrong. But it won’t always make for an enjoyable read, which makes sense, but equally it might not always made for a good read. Whereas my struggles with The Project had to do with the characters, not the plot, when it comes to I’m The Girl I would say this one is definitely the characters but also the plot. Again, in concept, I am so down with this particular narrative. I just wish it had played out differently. But. I will continue to pick up this author.. at least for now.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

PACK OF LIES by Charlie Adhara

Werewolf meets human. Werewolf snubs human. Werewolf loves human? 

Julien Doran arrived in sleepy Maudit Falls, North Carolina, with a heart full of hurt and a head full of questions. The key to his brother’s mysterious last days might be found in this tiny town, and now Julien’s amateur investigation is starting to unearth things the locals would rather keep buried.

Perhaps most especially the strange, magnetic manager of a deserted retreat that’s nearly as odd as its staff.

Eli Smith is a lot of things: thief, werewolf, glamour-puss, liar. And now the manager of a haven for rebel pack runaways. He’s spent years cultivating a persona to disguise his origins, but for the first time ever he’s been entrusted with a real responsibility—and he plans to take that seriously.

Even if the handsome tourist who claims to be in town for some R & R is clearly on a hunt for all things paranormal. And hasn’t taken his brooding gaze off Eli since he’s arrived.

When an old skeleton and a fresh corpse turn a grief errand into a murder investigation, the unlikely Eli is the only person Julien can turn to. Trust is hard to come by in a town known for its monsters, but so is time…


Title : Pack of Lies
Author : Charlie Adhara
Series : Monster Hunt (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : paranormal LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Carina Adores
Release Date : August 30, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Sometimes, I swear you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. In this particular sense, I’m talking about rereads. I made a point to reread the Big Bad Wolf series prior to this spin-off series opener because I wanted everything fresh in my mind for any carry-over plots and characters. And I’m glad I did. I’m also glad I put two weeks between finishing those and starting this, just so there wouldn’t be too much of a good thing in my brain. But.. I think it also made me love this a little less.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love here. Eli being the number one thing. Eli was perfect. His dialogue, his wit, his whole being. There was no wrong done. And while I liked Julien, and did think there was some chemistry in their intimacy, outside of it..? It just wasn’t as electric. I wasn’t desperate for them to interact, to bounce off each other, or even to bone — though hey, again, those were good times. There was really only one moment, where Julien asked to be friends (if you know you know!), that socked me in some feels.

Having said that, when I did my reread, I knocked some ratings up a star. So maybe this is another one I’ll love more in hindsight when it’s all said and done? Historically that seems to be the case with Adhara. We might eventually find out.

Oh, what’s this all about you ask? Well, it’s a queer paranormal shifter mystery! This new series (which, by the way, I would not recommend starting here; go back to the beginning and meet Cooper and Oliver!) features a secondary character from the main series, one who has not had an easy life (some backstory reveals in the main series, hint hint), and who is now part of a new start-up pack and is heading the running of a “retreat” (as far as humans know) which is a front for a shelter, or a safe place, for wolves. He’s barely there long enough to get the place running before hijinks ensue that have him threatened by a nearby pack, put a human who is clearly hiding things in his path, and more. Said human, Julien, eventually convinces Eli to team up and try to uncover.. well, more than a few things. How’s that for vague and unhelpful?

But yes, while I’m not shouting praise from the rooftops like I expected, this could just be me a little overwhelmed by my own expectations, and also too much Ollie and Coop too recently in my reading (and forever in my heart). It does not mean I am in any way not excited for more. I want Julien to grow on me. I want more hijinks. I want more Eli fullstop. And, in general, I just love this world and Adhara’s writing. Also, I’m clearly an outlier; just look at all those five stars! I’m not disappointed by this rating. And you shouldn’t be put off, either.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

FINLAY DONOVAN KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan is―once again―struggling to finish her next novel and keep her head above water as a single mother of two. On the bright side, she has her live-in nanny and confidant Vero to rely on, and the only dead body she’s dealt with lately is that of her daughter’s pet goldfish.

On the not-so-bright side, someone out there wants her ex-husband, Steven, out of the picture. Permanently. Whatever else Steven may be, he’s a good father, but saving him will send her down a rabbit hole of hit-women disguised as soccer moms, and a little bit more involvement with the Russian mob than she’d like.

Meanwhile, Vero’s keeping secrets, and Detective Nick Anthony seems determined to get back into her life. He may be a hot cop, but Finlay’s first priority is preventing her family from sleeping with the fishes… and if that means bending a few laws then so be it.

With her next book’s deadline looming and an ex-husband to keep alive, Finlay is quickly coming to the end of her rope. She can only hope there isn’t a noose at the end of it…

From Edgar-Award nominee Elle Cosimano, comes Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead―the hilarious and heart-pounding follow-up to Finlay Donovan is Killing It.


Title : Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead
Author : Elle Cosimano
Series : Finlay Donovan (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 353
Genre : contemporary / mystery thriller
Publisher : Minotaur Books
Release Date : February 1, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

This story would’ve been a whole lot simpler if Finlay had just let someone off her shitbag of an ex-husband. It would’ve been a whole lot more enjoyable, too, no matter how happily things seem now at the end (not saying how or why and what makes things happier, or if it even relates to said ex-husband, though). But I digress..

Honestly, while I’m awarding this the same rating, overall it wasn’t quite on par with book one. Mostly the success comes from the big reveal at the end that.. yeah, I did not see that one coming. Brava. I loved it.

But the romance takes a turn in the direction I didn’t want, leaving me feeling a bit letdown (even though it’s still early in the series and I shouldn’t have put all my eggs in any one basket in book one, what a noob). And once again we have so many coincidences and conveniences that I’m just constantly having to hit refresh on my suspension-of-disbelief button and I think I pointer finger was getting tired.

Book three is lining up to be very Vero-centric and I’m both looking forward to it and nervous because I kind of wanted her role as bestie and ride or die to be drama-free and less OTT than some of the circumstances these two find themselves in. So I’m a wee bit concerned. But we’ll see how it all plays out.

Having said that, these are quick action-y reads with the single-mom-trying-to-do-it-all, matched up with spying and thrills and the banality of book deadlines, all alongside the absolute belief that a wig and a dress can convince anyone you’re someone else. Apparently.

I wouldn’t push these on anyone as a recommendation but you could totally do worse.

FINLAY DONOVAN IS KILLING IT by Elle Cosimano

“Getting the job done” for one single mom takes on a whole new meaning in Finlay Donovan is Killing It.

Finlay Donovan is killing it…except, she’s really not. A stressed-out single mom of two and struggling novelist, Finlay’s life is in chaos: The new book she promised her literary agent isn’t written; her ex-husband fired the nanny without telling her; and this morning she had to send her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head after an incident with scissors.

When Finlay is overheard discussing the plot of her new suspense novel with her agent over lunch, she’s mistaken for a contract killer and inadvertently accepts an offer to dispose of a problem husband in order to make ends meet. She soon discovers that crime in real life is a lot more difficult than its fictional counterpart, as she becomes tangled in a real-life murder investigation.

Fast-paced, deliciously witty, and wholeheartedly authentic in depicting the frustrations and triumphs of motherhood in all its messiness, hilarity, and heartfelt moments, Finlay Donovan Is Killing It is the first in a brilliant new series from award-winning Elle Cosimano. 


Title : Finlay Donovan is Killing It
Author : Elle Cosimano
Series : Finlay Donovan (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 355
Genre : contemporary / mystery thriller
Publisher : Minotaur Books
Release Date : February 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

While much of this story is the depiction of a woman stumbling through a situation (or two) that requires her to suddenly dispose of another human when she’s mistaken for a contract killer, it might be more accurate to say this is a domestic mystery/thriller. Because so much of who Finlay is.. is a stressed out, barely making ends meet, mother and writer. Both tasks demand much of her and she’s rather spectacularly failing at both, all while navigating interactions with her ex and the woman, now fiancé, he cheated on her with. It’s the threat of bills, of losing her kids, that convinces Finlay to do it. Or rather, like any good writer, to do her research. Who is this man she’s been asked to kill? Is he actually terrible? And thus sets in motion a series of events that Finlay can’t come back from, which spins out into connections she never could’ve seen coming and, also, the mob?

I’ll admit those same connections sort’ve had me side-eyeing the plot because it’s all just a little (lot) too convenient. But it does make for an interesting quandary or two that Finlay has to reconcile with and maybe that was the main point of it all.

While I did enjoy Finlay, most of the time, I think I enjoyed her side-kick, Vero, more. Or maybe I just really enjoyed their dynamic together? Because every Vero scene was great and I was a fan of their completely inept duo (the cling wrap scene, I cannot even..) and very much look forward to more of that.

For romance fans, or readers who like a little romance spliced into their novels, regardless of genre, there’s something here for you, too! Perhaps even more than one option? I won’t say more. Except to say I am very pleased with where we ended by the final chapter of this first book. Though.. I also did a little side-eye of a certain visit to a certain bar near the end. Honestly, proving this isn’t some smooth and slick murder mystery, there was a lot of side-eyeing of a lot of decisions, really. But it does give it some amateur hour realness, I guess.

So, yes, maybe some of the hype took some of the shine off this one, and that’s why I’m not quite as effusive about this as I expected to be, but I have hopes that book two might be even better. And yes, I’m about to find out right.. now.

EVERY MOVE by Ellie Marney

Rachel Watts is suffering from recurring nightmares about her near-death experience in London. She just wants to forget the whole ordeal, but her boyfriend, James Mycroft, is obsessed with piecing the puzzle together and anticipating the next move of the mysterious Mr Wild – his own personal Moriarty.

So when Rachel’s brother, Mike, suggests a trip back to their old home in Five Mile, Rachel can’t wait to get away. Unfortunately it’s not the quiet weekend she was hoping for with the unexpected company of Mike’s old school buddy, the wildly unreliable Harris Derwent.

Things get worse for Rachel when Harris returns to Melbourne with them – but could Harris be the only person who can help her move forward? Then a series of murders suggests that Mr Wild is still hot on their tails and that Mycroft has something Wild wants – something Wild is prepared to kill for.

Can Watts and Mycroft stay one step ahead of the smartest of all criminal masterminds? The stage is set for a showdown of legendary proportions…


Title : Every Move
Author : Ellie Marney
Series : Every (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 340
Genre : YA mystery / retellings
Publisher : Allen & Unwin
Release Date : March 1, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

While I’m awarding this the same as the rest of the series, I’ll admit it’s not my favourite of the series. Maybe because it’s new content for me, maybe I need to stew on it a little longer, but.. I also think it’s kind of typical. The big finales, when they come with confrontations with the Big Bad, don’t always live up. And I think there’s a little bit of that here, too.

On the whole, though? Marney once again does not pull punches. There were some twisted bits that Watts and Mycroft had to endure. There were moments of utter heartbreak. Detailed spirals of trauma. And some romance angst. Just a little. But with a few exceptions — Mycroft’s breakdown scene, Watts’ nightmares — I did feel a little removed from it all.

Maybe I just didn’t feel the connection of the whole why behind everything. Maybe I read this too fast. Maybe I need to reread it to appreciate all the pieces of the puzzle. I just don’t know.

But the characters themselves, even the secondary ones — and a new one, or two — were so great. For me, they’ve carried this series all along and they’ve never disappointed.

So, yeah, I realize this is probably coming across as a bit of a downer review, especially for a four star, but I did really enjoy it. And now I see where the fourth book comes into play, and why, and I’m curious to see where that goes. Onwards!

EVERY WORD by Ellie Marney

Sparks fly when Watts follows Mycroft to London in this second steamy thriller about the teen crime-fighting duo.

James Mycroft has just left for London to investigate a car accident similar to the one that killed his parents without saying good-bye to his partner in crime, Rachel Watts.

Rachel is furious and worried about his strange behavior—not that Mycroft’s ever exactly normal, but London is the scene of so many of his nightmares. Unable to resist, Rachel jumps on a plane to follow him and lands straight in a whole storm of trouble.

The theft of a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, the possible murder of a rare books conservator and the deaths of Mycroft’s parents…Can Watts help Mycroft make sense of the three events—or will she lose him forever?


Title : Every Word
Author : Ellie Marney
Series : Every (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 340
Genre : YA mystery / contemporary / retellings
Publisher : Allen & Unwin
Release Date : June 1, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

As much as I had loved these characters in book one, book two is where Wattscroft took it upon themselves to m u r d e r me. Also, yes, I’m going to thief from my original review a bit, which I didn’t do for the first instalment, because it pretty much sums up my feels to this day.

Every Word is everything that Every Breath was but turned up to eleven. The stakes, the action, the mystery, the scorching heat, the violence, the heartbreak.. everything.

Swoony hearts in eyes expression aside, this book definitely went a bit dark and my stomach fell to my feet multiple times. Not just because of Rachel and Mycroft but because Marney does not pull any punches. The vividness of the autopsy scene, the startling savagery of torture, the isolation; it was just as awful and as real as when our two heroes are stumbling along to understand each other, navigating both their relationship and the horror of Mycroft’s past. And how Marney handled this was just.. fantastic. There were so many things I think I appreciated more this second time around with how she unravelled Mycroft and his processing — or lack thereof. That turning point, once we finally get it, was just (chefs kiss). And the strangeness of how Rachel feels, knowing he has something new, and scarier, to fixate is just.. yeah, really well done.

Knowing what extremes and dangers these two faced, and that not having been the ultimate confrontation, I can only imagine what’s to come next.

EVERY BREATH by Ellie Marney

Rachel Watts has just moved to Melbourne from the country, but the city is the last place she wants to be.

James Mycroft is her neighbour, an intriguingly troubled seventeen-year-old who’s also a genius with a passion for forensics.

Despite her misgivings, Rachel finds herself unable to resist Mycroft when he wants her help investigating a murder. He’s even harder to resist when he’s up close and personal – and on the hunt for a cold-blooded killer.

When Rachel and Mycroft follows the murderer’s trail, they find themselves in the lion’s den – literally. A trip to the zoo will never have quite the same meaning again…


Title : Every Breath
Author : Ellie Marney
Series : Every (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 341
Genre : YA mystery / retellings
Publisher : Allen & Unwin
Release Date : September 5, 2013

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Here it is, the second-to-last series on my Series to Finish list for 2022. I’ve been knocking these out pretty quick this year.. and, as typical, saving the biggest challenge for last. Welp. That’s future!Hollis’ problem.

But anyway, was this as good as the first time? No, but that’s only in comparing a five star to a four star. Also, having reread my first review, I was coming off a bit of a disappointment from another Sherlock YA retelling series so I think I was just extra excited about this being a win. But it’s still so good.

Unlike other retellings, this one focuses on Watts (Rachel) and Mycroft (James). Conan Doyle’s legacy exists in this world and there are a few cheeky throwaway references to it but on the whole this is more an homage than a recreation. This pairing meet as a result of Rachel moving to town and discovering a boy her age a few houses down. Their friendship, at the onset, seems more in line with Rachel taking care of James as he’s more of less left on his own, only an oft-absent aunt in the way of guardianship, and he happens to find himself in the occasional scrape. One night, they stumble upon the body of a transient, who happened to be a friend of theirs, and it’s off to the races — they start to investigate.

The mystery is fine, good even, but what carries this is the dynamic. It’s a little fraught, it’s a little angsty — they each have their backstories — but it’s so good. Marney writes them so well and they are absolutely electric together. And indeed, maybe, sparks even fly? I’ll neither confirm nor deny (for now).

I’m excited to dive right into book two (which, if I recall correctly, gets much darker) and then after that it’s all new territory for me.

A RIP THROUGH TIME by Kelley Armstrong

In this series debut from New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong, a modern-day homicide detective finds herself in Victorian Scotland—in an unfamiliar body—with a killer on the loose.

May 20, 2019: Homicide detective Mallory is in Edinburgh to be with her dying grandmother. While out on a jog one evening, Mallory hears a woman in distress. She’s drawn to an alley, where she is attacked and loses consciousness.

May 20, 1869: Housemaid Catriona Mitchell had been enjoying a half-day off, only to be discovered that night in a lane, where she’d been strangled and left for dead . . . exactly one-hundred-and-fifty years before Mallory was strangled in the same spot.

When Mallory wakes up in Catriona’s body in 1869, she must put aside her shock and adjust quickly to the reality: life as a housemaid to an undertaker in Victorian Scotland. She soon discovers that her boss, Dr. Gray, also moonlights as a medical examiner and has just taken on an intriguing case, the strangulation of a young man, similar to the attack on herself. Her only hope is that catching the murderer can lead her back to her modern life . . . before it’s too late.

Outlander meets The Alienist in Kelley Armstrong’s A Rip Through Time, the first book in this utterly compelling series, mixing romance, mystery, and fantasy with thrilling results.


Title : A Rip Through Time
Author : Kelley Armstrong
Series : A Rip Through Time (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : mystery / sci-fi / historical fiction
Publisher : Minotaur Books
Release Date : May 31, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

Once upon a time I used to associate Armstrong with paranormal novels. Now not only are detective/mystery plots her speciality but she seems to be using time travel a lot, too. Not that I’m complaining..

This one veers in a different direction from her last time travel story and whereas that was a romance this has none to speak of — though.. maybe set up for something in the future? there were glimmers — due to some complicated dynamics but also the strangeness of the whole situation Mallory suddenly finds herself in. One minute, it’s 2019 and she’s a detective on leave in Edinburgh, just out for a jog. Next, she wakes up after having been attacked, but it’s 1869 and she finds herself in the body of an unrecognizable housemaid. Not only does she have to quickly adjust, adapt, and come up with a plausible reason for being confused and out of sorts (beyond being attacked), but she also has to solve her own case; and the case of a local murder or two.

If this had been a standalone, well, a) that would’ve been a very unsatisfying ending (but it also would’t have ended that way) and b) this would be a very different rating. It’s still not as high as I think it might be in the future because, now that we have the set-up out of the way, and know our cast of characters, I think the next book (books?) will be very very good. I really enjoyed both siblings that Mallory finds herself, as Catriona, working for — one is a funeral director (well, what passes for one in the times) and also has a side hustle with the police as a medical examiner, and the other is more or less a chemist. Both intelligent, if a little unusual, for the times and for even more reasons than I’ve mentioned (leaving some surprises for you). Another character is the local criminal investigator who is also a friend to both.

It was fascinating to see Armstrong, through Mallory, try and determine what criminology and forensic sciences were already at work at the time and navigate the conversations and investigations with her own knowledge while, somehow, trying to make it fit. She didn’t always succeed, and often surprised those around her, but I think that made it more believable. I always side-eye a story that has the time traveler way too prepared to blend in to new surroundings.

While the mystery and reason behind why Mallory was attacked in the first place, and why she continued to be targeted, was kind of.. well, not exciting, I also respect having this kind of storyline play out. So often we expect big nefarious reasons for these crimes but rarely are they so dramatic.

So, yes, overall I had a good time with this but I’m very glad we got this stage of the story out of the way and now things can get even better. Can’t wait to see what adventures await this ensemble in the coming books.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

NEVER COMING HOME by Hannah Mary McKinnon

First comes love. Then comes murder.
Lucas Forester didn’t hate his wife. Michelle was brilliant, sophisticated and beautiful. Sure, she had extravagant spending habits and that petty attitude, a total disregard for anyone below her status. But she also had a lot to offer. Most notably, wealth that only the one percent could comprehend.

For years, Lucas had been honing a flawless plan to inherit Michelle’s fortune. Unfortunately, it involved taking a hit out on her.

Every track was covered, no trace left behind, and now Lucas plays the grieving husband so well he deserves an award. But when a shocking photo and cryptic note show up on his doorstep, Lucas goes from hunter to prey. 

Someone is onto him. And they’re closing in.

Told with dark wit and a sharply feminist sensibility, Never Coming Home is a terrifying tale of duplicity that will have you side-eyeing your spouse as you dash to the breathtaking end.


Title : Never Coming Home
Author : Hannah Mary McKinnon
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : mystery thriller
Publisher : MIRA
Release Date : May 24, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

I’m a little disappointed I didn’t love this more but I think this’ll satisfy readers a little less grumpy and picky than moi.

The most interesting thing about this story was the fact that we know who did the deed. And, in fact, we spend the entire time in the head of the one who has committed the crime. I quite liked that. But I found Lucas.. kind of insufferable? It wasn’t even the fact that he was a con-man mastermind responsible for his wife’s death, that he’d been orchestrating a particular end result for the entirety of their relationship. It was maybe moreso the narrative voice. And perhaps the pacing.

I never fully engaged in this story, I was completely uninterested in all of Lucas’ backstory, and while I enjoyed the ending, I’ll admit I did see part of it coming. It was still a good gotcha moment but it didn’t quite redeem the journey to where we finally get there. I’m not quite sure this had the dark wit that was promised in the pitch, either.

This was my first read by McKinnon, and while she’s got a good few books out and seems to be well loved, I’ll admit I had never even heard of her. I’ll likely peek through her backlist to find another that might work better, though, because I have’t quite given up yet.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **