Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens

Chevy Stevens’ latest novel Dark Roads is a dark and unsettling novel. It tells the stories of the missing and the dead, those left behind and those struggling to prove the truth.

Women have been going missing for years in British Columbia. The Cold Creek Highway runs almost five hundred miles through the wilderness in British Columbia. Locals pass warnings to women who decide to travel along the highway. Hitchhiking is strongly discouraged, but both motorists and hitchhikers alike have been disappearing for decades. No one has been brought to justice and women continue to live in fear.

Hailey McBride and her family have lived in Cold Creek for years. Her father instilled in her many truths: how to respect the wilderness, survive the land, and to, most importantly, never travel the highway alone. After he died, Hailey spiraled out of control. Stuck living with her aunt, her young cousin, and her aunt’s police officer husband, Hailey yearns for some normalcy. Her aunt’s husband wants to control Hailey. He keeps showing up wherever she is, issues vague threats, and gives off strong menacing vibes. Hailey starts traveling the highway alone to hangout with friends. Soon she becomes overwhelmed with everything and decides to vanish into the mountains with the help of her friend. Hailey hopes that the locals will believe she left town, but rumors start spreading that she was instead taken by the highway killer.

Flash forward a year – Beth Chevalier arrives in Cold Creek. Her sister Amber, who was friends with Hailey, was found murdered in Cold Creek and Beth needs closure. Beth starts waitressing at the local diner, just like Amber had done. Beth needs answers, but as she begins digging, the truth she seeks puts her in incredible danger. If Beth isn’t careful, she could end up a victim of the highway killer too.

This book is available  in the following formats:

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

‘She felt quite light-headed. Low blood sugar, maybe, or perhaps it was the dizzying effect of watching her horizons, narrowed for so long, expanding once again.’

Paula Hawkins’ latest thriller A Slow Fire Burning is a book that messes with your mind, but in a good way. Hawkins has written a book that talks about how far someone is willing to go to find peace (or revenge).

Someone has been killed. A young man was found gruesomely murdered in his London houseboat. When the authorities start investigating, questions begin to mount surrounding three women who knew him and the others living in his periphery.

Laura is a troubled young woman who was the last person seen both with the victim and in his home. Their one-night stand was fraught with violence, something that Laura admits to the police when questioned. Laura was in a devastating car accident when she was young that left her hot-tempered, rash, and dangerous. Others judge her, something that has left Laura living as a loner.

Miriam knows all too well about how easy it is to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the person who lives in the houseboat next to the dead man, Miriam has a unique insight into his life, plus she’s nosy. She also knows that just because she saw Laura leaving the houseboat covered in blood, that doesn’t mean she killed him. Miriam has been taken advantage of one too many times, so she will do whatever it takes to clear Laura of any wrongdoing.

Carla’s nephew was just brutally murdered. Her sister died in an accident eight weeks earlier. So much tragedy in such a short amount of time has left her completely stricken and at a loss. Carla no longer trusts anyone and views those around her as damaged creatures. All she wants is peace. Or does she?

Others circulate behind the scenes: Carla’s husband Theo and the women who lives next door to the deceased man’s mother. Everyone in this story is filled with resentment. While their reasons may be varied, they all desire to right the wrongs perpetrated against them. Their journeys to revenge will lead them to peace or destruction, risks they are all willing to take.

This book is also available in the following formats:

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten

Imagine a Swedish Miss Marple who commits murders instead of solving them, and you’ve got a good start on understanding Maud, the character in Helene Tursten’s collection of stories An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, and its sequel An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed.

Maud is 88, which leads many people to think she’s soft and vulnerable – but they’re very wrong. In fact she’s as sharp and fit as ever, although she has discovered the advantages of having a cane or wheeled walker handy. She spends most of her time traveling the world, making up for lost time after spending years working to support an ill sister. It’s a quiet and enjoyable life, until problems arise that require Maud’s unique solutions. From an artist trying to steal her spacious apartment to a noisy neighbor to a thieving antique dealer, all her would-be invaders and offenders meet a sudden and sticky end, leaving Maud with her peaceful lifestyle intact.

Like Maud, this book is small and quaint in appearance but hiding darkness within, and I absolutely loved the contrast and the dry humor with which Maud’s stories are told. It was also strangely enjoyable to imagine solving everyday annoyances and inconveniences in such an extreme way, maybe because it puts everyday squabbles into perspective. Whatever the case, the triumph of Maud over a society that continually underestimates her is enjoyable to read.

If you’re looking for an escapist romp that shows how getting older can mean getting craftier – and getting even – try these books.

The Woods Are Always Watching by Stephanie Perkins

Perkins’ second horror offering strikes a much more menacing tone with grimly realistic depictions of predators – both human and animal – in a wilderness that has no mercy for the inexperience of new adulthood.

In The Woods are Always Watching, we meet Neena and Josie, high school best friends who are about to be separated when Neena goes away to college. As a last hurrah, Neena has insisted they go backpacking for three days in the Blue Ridge Mountains, just the two of them. But after they enter the forest and are cut off from all creature comforts and technology, their relationship quickly starts to unravel as they realize how ill-equipped they are for camping – and maybe, life in general – on their own. But as their mistakes, annoyances, and discomforts pile up, one slip-up plunges them into a gruesome cat-and-mouse game that they’ll be lucky to survive at all.

Full disclosure: I did not enjoy this book as much as its predecessor, There’s Someone Inside Your House, which had a more exciting, teen slasher movie vibe. This, on the other hand, reads like a 21st century Grimm’s fairy tale – a pastiche of Little Red Riding Hood, full of hard lessons and gore and the end of innocence. Where There’s Someone Inside Your House showed relationships growing and strengthening in the face of terror, The Woods Are Always Watching shows a friendship cracking under pressure, to never truly be the same again. Frankly, I came away a little depressed, reminded of the 2019 film Black Christmas which has a similarly bleak outlook for college-age women.

But while it may be less fun to read, the book rings with a frightening truth: that life and adulthood are hard, unpleasant slogs with real danger lurking around corners, and no matter how well prepared you think you are, you’re probably not ready for it — and you’re definitely too dependent on your phone. Which is not to say that Neena and Josie lack any intelligence or power over their fates; although terrified they learn, improvise, fight back, and face the truths they’ve been trying to avoid.

A survival story, a coming-of-adulthood story, an examination of friendship in transition, and a feminist parable, The Woods Are Always Watching is recommended for strong-stomached readers looking for an unflinching look at the realities of growing into a woman in today’s world.  Those who enjoy Perkins’ romances will want to look elsewhere, for there’s no sweetness here.

Spooky Season Graphic Novels

There are so many ways to celebrate the fall season. Apple picking, hayrack rides, corn mazes, and so much more! One of my favorite past times during the fall season is to curl up and read a good horror book.  Whether it’s zombies, ghosts, monsters, or witches I want to read it all! Graphic novels are a great way to get your spooky fix this fall. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Harrow County by Cullen Bunn is full of monsters, ghosts, and drama. Here is the description provided by the publisher:

Plagued by a witch of unfathomable powers, the folk of Harrow County capture and burn her, but not before she furiously screams her revenge. Eighteen years later, we find farm girl Emmy coming of age, gifted with unnatural talents. When a spirit warns her of her impending doom at the hands of the town, she hurries off into the haunted forest, running for her life while trying to uncover her own twisted history.

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Mary Shelley, Monster Hunter by Adam Glass takes everything you think you know about Frankenstein and flips it upside down. Here is the description provided by the publisher:

For nearly two centuries, scholars have wondered how on earth Mary Shelley, a nineteen-year-old girl, was able to conjure one of the most frightening and enduring horror stories of all time: Frankenstein.

But with the recent discovery of Mary Shelley’s secret memoir, the truth is finally revealed: Mary Shelley didn’t just write Frankenstein, she lived it. Traveling back to that historic Geneva winter of 1816, Mary, her fiancé Percy, sisters Claire and Fanny, and the celebrated poet Lord Byron find themselves guests of the eerie Frankenstein Estate. The macabre and frightening events that follow lead Mary to both a gruesome and shocking discovery. Their mysterious host is not at all what they expected, and their intentions will change the course of Mary’s life forever.

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Coffin Hill by Caitlin Kittredge takes us to a sleepy New England town where supernatural forces lurk in the woods. Here is the description provided by the publisher:

Following a night of sex, drugs and witchcraft in the woods, Eve Coffin wakes up naked, covered in blood and unable to remember how she got there. One friend is missing, one is in a mental ward–and one knows that Eve is responsible. Years later, Eve returns to Coffin Hill, only to discover the darkness that she unleashed ten years ago in the woods was never contained. It continues to seep through the town, cursing the soul of this sleepy Massachusetts hollow, spilling secrets and enacting its revenge. Set against the haunted backdrop of New England, Coffin Hill explores what people will do for power and retribution.

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Outcast by Robert Kirkman provides us with our paranormal fix in this coming of age horror. Here is the description provided by the publisher:

Kyle Barnes has not had an easy life. What appears as insanity in his family is something much darker and infinitely deeper. It originates in the bowels of hell and manifests as demonic possession. Unfortunately, it seems to be somewhat contagious, and Kyle, at least so far, is immune. A dedicated man of God, Reverend Anderson, who wrestles with his own black dreads and shadowy history, has recognized this uniqueness in Kyle and courageously endeavors to nurture this gift and stand by him. Is Kyle some sort of anomaly with the ability to salvage human souls, or just an orphaned and crazy outcast?

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Wytches by Scott Snyder dives into the realm of witchcraft and folklore in this anxiety ridden thrill ride. Here is the description provided by the publisher:

After witnessing a grisly supernatural murder, Sailor Rook, along with her father and mother, move to a small town, hoping for a fresh start. But the twisted horrors hidden in the woods have traveled with the family, and they must now uncover one another’s dark secrets to stay alive.

 

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

What would you do if you knew who was behind a violent crime yet no one believed you? Alex Michaelides discusses this topic in his latest novel, The Maidens.

Mariana knows the truth, but she can’t understand why no one believes her. She knows that Edward Fosca is a murderer. It’s so obvious to her that he’s behind this string of horrible events, but the problem is that Edward Fosca is untouchable. A beloved Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University who is handsome and adored by staff and students, Fosca is shielded by his politeness, mystique, and charisma. Mariana just knows he did it.

Flashback to when Mariana first saw Fosca. After being called to Cambridge University by her niece Zoe, Mariana finds herself overwhelmed. One of Zoe’s friends has been found brutally murdered in Cambridge. As a group therapist, Mariana places herself in the middle of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens to figure out what happened. After all, the murdered girl was a member of The Maidens. As she starts exploring, Mariana realizes that Edward Fosca is the man in charge of the group. His relationship with The Maidens concerns her. He seems to have complete control over his students who worship him.

The more Mariana dives into this mystery, the more she suspects that behind the beauty of the Cambridge campus and its intricate traditions something incredibly more sinister lurks. She believes that Edward Fosca is to blame for everything even though he has an alibi. Marina quickly spirals out of control when another body is found in Cambridge. With her credibility at stake and her relationships floundering, Mariana must stop the killer at any cost.

This book is also available in the following formats:

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Have you ever wondered about the secret lives of serial killers? Samantha Downing’s debut novel My Lovely Wife examines what would happen if a married couple decided to start killing.

Tobias and Millicent are a normal couple. They met, fell in love, had kids, and moved to the suburbs. They have everything a family could ever want. Only it wasn’t enough. They got bored.

Millicent and Tobias look like a normal couple. They are active in their communities, have goals for themselves, and do all the normal things that families and couples do. They even have secrets to help them keep their marriage alive. The only hiccup: their secrets are, shall we say, different than others. They get away with murder.

It’s exciting. The whole process. Finding a target, following them, figure out how they want to murder. It’s definitely spiced up their marriage. Everything is perfect until the moment when it all comes crashing down and they realize that what brought them together as a couple has the potential to tear their family apart forever.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Liz Moore’s newest book, Long Bright River, is a dive into drug addiction and the impact it has on families across generations. Alternating back and forth the present and past, Moore tells the moving story of two sisters and the additions that define their lives and relationships.

Mickey and Kacey are sisters. Living in Philadelphia, the two travel the same streets on a daily basis, but they live vastly different lives. Growing up in a Philadelphia neighborhood that saw the opioid crisis destroy their family and the community around them, Mickey and Kacey have changed immensely since their childhood days. As children, the two were inseparable, sharing a bed in their grandmother’s house and struggling to survive in a world without their parents. Kacey always stuck up for Mickey, keeping her safe and taking her side. Mickey, the older sister, kept an eye out for Kacey, making sure that she was where she needed to be.

Mickey is a police officer. Kacey lives on the streets, struggling with addiction. They haven’t spoken in years, yet Mickey keeps an eye out for Kacey as she drives through the area. Mickey never stops worrying about her sister, hoping she will eventually get, and stay, sober.

One day, Mickey realizes that she hasn’t seen Kacey in a while. She has disappeared. Mickey starts asking around and people are hesitant to say anything about her whereabouts. The same time that Kacey disappeared, a string of murders starts in Mickey’s district. This extra stress leads Mickey to take the law in her own hands. She will do anything to find the person responsible for the murders, and hopefully her sister, before her world comes crashing down.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Tiffany D. Jackson is the master of soul searching young adult fiction. Her first young adult novel, Allegedly, was published in 2017. This novel is based on a story that was in the headlines years ago that caught the author’s attention.

Allegedly tells the story of Mary B. Addison. She killed a baby. Allegedly. After the police were called and she was brought in for an interview, Mary didn’t say much. In fact, she didn’t talk. Mary’s situation was very much a trial by media. Since little was being said about the circumstances surrounding the baby’s death, the media drew their own conclusions. A white baby had died while under the care of a black woman and her daughter. The woman went to church while her daughter was only nine-years old. Mary went to trial. The public and the media had all but convicted Mary of the crime and the jury sentenced her.

Mary was sent to baby jail for six years before being placed in a group home. She never came out and said what actually happened, so her fellow prisoners and jailers all treated her as if she was guilty. The group home is bad. Mary lives in a state of constant fear and the other girls who live there constantly torment her. The women in charge of the home degrade the girls and treat them badly.

The only bright spot in her life is Ted. Since Mary is in a group home, she is able to leave for certain things: one of them being her assignment to work at a nursing home. It is at that nursing home that she meets Ted. He sees her for who she really is: a young woman in desperate need for kindness. Ted also doesn’t know Mary’s dark past and she isn’t quite sure when, or even if, she should tell him until she discovers that she is pregnant. With the state threatening to take away her baby, Mary needs to get the truth out about what happened the night the baby died. She won’t lose her baby over something that she didn’t do. In order to prove her innocence, Mary has to fight. She also has to get her Momma to tell the truth.

You see, no one but Mary knows the real Momma. Momma puts up a huge front and since the baby died, she has been born again. She has written out the nasty story of what Mary did and is working to start anew. Mary must get her to acknowledge the truth of what happened that night if she has any hope of keeping her baby and staying with Ted.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

Yo, Malcolm X said it best. ‘The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman. – Tiffany D Jackson, Grown

Sometimes a book breaks your heart, but you need to share it with others. Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson was a brutal, raw, heartrending, but necessary read, telling the story of so many Black girls that are trapped in a system of violence, abuse, misogyny, manipulation, and rape culture perpetuated by men who are consistently protected by the people surrounding them. This book was hard for me to read, as most of Tiffany D. Jackson’s books are, but it’s an essential read to spread awareness and inspire change.

Enchanted Jones wakes up in a room with a painful headache. She has no idea where she is. Her vision is still blurry. There are red pools all over the floor, the walls, the furniture. Why would someone pout beet juice everywhere? Wait. That’s not beet juice. That’s blood. This isn’t her house. She slowly remembers that this place belongs to Korey. Korey. He is going to be so angry with her when he sees this mess. Wait! Who is that lying covered in beet juice? That’s Korey. And that’s not beet juice. He’s not moving. He’s not breathing. Someone’s knocking on the door. She’s going to be in so much trouble.

Flash back.

All Enchanted wants is to be a singer. She’s only 17, but she knows college isn’t for her. She wants to sing. Her parents aren’t so sure. But ever since she sang those old songs with her grandmother when she was young, Enchanted has known this is what she needs to do. She has the voice and the talent. She just needs a break.

Miracles do happen. Or that’s what Enchanted thinks when she goes to a singing competition and meets the famous R&B singer Korey Fields. Korey sees her potential and wants to help her succeed. He offers to give her free singing lessons. Korey wants her to join his world tour. He’ll help her record an album. Enchanted finally has what she wants within her reach.

Enchanted feels like she’s living a fairytale dream. Her parents and friends are more skeptical. They don’t understand why Korey Fields, a 28 year old man, would be interested in her, a 17-year old girl still in high school. Korey begins to act possessive around Enchanted and despite her friend Gabby’s warning that she should get away from him, she wants desperately to keep him in her life.

Enchanted loves Korey. He’s her whole world. Korey believes in her. She wants to sing. She wants to feel beautiful and loved. She wants Korey’s support and approval because he is already established in the music industry and has the power to give her everything she has ever wanted. He loves her. What does it matter if the Korey she thought she knew has different sides she’s not 100% comfortable with? She still loves him.

Until she doesn’t. She needs to get out. Her fairytale love has turned into a nightmare that she can’t escape from. Korey is no longer showering her with love and affection. He’s manipulative, obsessive, abusive and keeps her captive in the house. He tells her lies about her loved ones, pushes on her insecurities, and sends her to her limits. Korey mentally and physically abuses Enchanted, leaving her desperate to escape.

This book is powerful. It shook me to my core. Jackson has written a shocking, twisted, breathtaking book giving voice to people who are afraid to talk about the traumatic experiences that they had endured in the past or may still be enduring.

This book is also available in the following formats: