What Happened at the Lake by Phil M. Williams — A Review

What Happened at the Lake by Phil M. Williams

RaeleighReads rating: love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236

Trigger warnings: rape, sexual violence, murder

Whew! This one had some intense moments!

The Palmer family goes on vacation in Tennessee, but not everyone who goes on that trip makes it back home. Alex Palmer and his wife Emma are the organizers of this family getaway, and they’ve invited everyone — all of Alex’s siblings, their spouses and significant others, his father and his stepmom, and his daughter and her boyfriend.

The family dynamics alone are enough to make this a good read, but Williams adds to this with some incredibly graphic and disturbing violence. In fact, that’s how the book starts. The first chapter turned my stomach, but I kept reading because I wanted to know where Williams was going with all of it.

The next 30-40% of the book was fairly boring to be honest. There was too much telling me what each character thought and did, but I’m a lover of description. This is not to say that Williams does not possess incredible powers of description. He certainly does, but he uses them for describing the brutal sexual assaults and murders that occurred on the lake the Palmer family was visiting.

When the action picks up in this novel, it nearly speeds out of control. What remains in the last quarter of the book is a father’s desperation and love for his daughter. For me, that was the most compelling part of this book — Alex Palmer’s quest to find out what happened to his daughter.

To me, Alex was the only fully realized character in this whole book. A few others — his father Harvey and brothers Matt and Jeff — were filled out to some extent, but for many of the other characters, I was left wanting more. Because I did not feel much of a connection to the large cast in this book, it dropped my rating from what would have been four coffee cups to three.

I mentioned trigger warnings of murder, sexual violence, and rape at the beginning of this post, and I want to reiterate that here. Those scenes were incredibly graphic and difficult to read at times. If you are at all turned off by those kinds of images, do not read this.

If you’re a fan of thrillers and family drama (and possess an iron stomach), this book is for you.

Summer Heat by Rachel Van Dyken — A Review

40865208Summer Heat (Cruel Summer #1) by Rachel Van Dyken

RaeleighReads rating: love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236

Note: This book is only available as an iBook.

Summer Heat is the first book in Rachel Van Dyken’s Cruel Summer series — a fast-paced, new adult romance.

The tables have turned. Marlo, the boy who used to mow Ray’s lawn, is now the director of the elite acting camp where she’ll be working for the summer. Her professional fate is in his hands now, and Marlo is definitely putting Ray through her paces, making her tenure at the summer camp as uncomfortable as possible. Ray is determined not to back down though. She may have been raised a spoiled princess, but she has a strong work ethic and desire to prove herself. A sizzling tension exists between the two, proving that there is indeed a fine line between love and hate.

Van Dyken does an amazing job of building tension, both psychological and sexual, in Summer Heat. There is so much left unsaid and unexplained between Marlo and Ray. It made me want to reach into the book and shake them both to make them communicate with each other.

I became heavily invested in seeing these two work things out between them and give in to the attraction they obviously have for each other, which made my dismay all the more palpable when Van Dyken abruptly ends this book on a cliffhanger. Grrr. I desperately wanted to know what happened next, but in order to find out I’ll have to read the next book, Summer Seduction. That irritated me enough to drop my rating from four stars to three.

Thanks to NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Gift of the Quoxxel by Richard Titus — A Review

The Gift of the Quoxxel by Richard Titus

RaeleighReads rating: love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236

This one is a bit of an odd ball, but I kinda liked it!

Summary from Goodreads:

King Norr was not content. He longed to know the world beyond his tiny, island kingdom of Nibb. The Nibbians, however, were not a seafaring people and had no desire to travel elsewhere. Why bother, they said. What could be as perfect as Nibb?

Even so, Norr watched foreign ships come and go. They approached, hesitated, then sailed away without ever coming ashore. Why was that?

And that wasn’t the only mystery.

Who was the prankster who had set the palace afloat?

Was there a sea monster skulking the waters along shore?

Who was the little girl who sang but would not speak?

Had the Minister of Science been eaten by migrating drumbkins?

This was not the average Nibbian day. King Norr was unprepared and only hoped to get through it with as few “haddocks” as possible.

Set sail on this armchair adventure of wit and riddle. It’s an imaginative voyage to
the Isle of Nibb whose only flaw is being a little too perfect — or, at least, it was
until today.

So, King Norr is basically a bumbling idiot, but you can’t help but smile at his ridiculousness. He wants so badly to know what else is out there in the world, and why the heck people don’t ever come to the Island of Nibb?!

There are so many moving parts to this little story — Nibb and the Nibbians, pirates sailing the open ocean, a giant sea monster who is perhaps not so monsterish?, and of course, the drumbkins! What are those you ask? Well, you’ll have to read to find out. I’m not spoiling that here.

Gift of the Quoxxel is definitely bizarre. It makes me think: there was someone who fell asleep on the beach of a beautiful island (maybe after one too many piña coladas), and this was the fever dream they had. Can you see those hazy lines they use in TV and film to let you know you’re entering dream world? Squint your eyes… There they are! *ripple ripple*

This book is perfect for summer reading and beach reading (or any-time-of-year reading). It’s cute and quirky, and it’s quick. It’s also great for either children, middle grade readers, young adults, or adults — anyone can enjoy this! Now, I know school may be starting back up for some of you soon, so while you’ve got the time, take a chance on this unexpected delight.

I totally stole this gif off another review on Goodreads, but it’s just so perfect — whimsical and funny!


Happy reading, lovelies!

Top Ten Tuesday – #TopTenTuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Today’s Theme:

Ten Books On My Spring TBR

You guys are getting a bonus this week! I’ll do ten INDIE books on my TBR list AND ten TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED books on my TBR list!


1979 short stories

1979 Short Stories by Steve Anderson

In these thirteen stories, Steve Anderson captures what it meant to come of age in the late 1970s in working-class America. From a family’s West Virginia oil wells to trekking through abandoned small-town factories, to a Nevada campground vacation, adolescents find love, strengthen friendships, and create adventures. Each story is tinged with the stark challenges and raw beauty of growing up in a rural, post-Vietnam world of shuttered mills and sprawling train tracks.

This is the very next item on my TBR list. I can’t wait to start reading it! I’ve already got my soundtrack in mind — some Blondie, maybe a little Rod Stewart, and what would a ’79 playlist be without Peaches and Herb’s Shake Your Groove Thing!?

sevara dawn of hope

Sevara: Dawn of Hope by Damian Wampler

A shapeshifting immortal gives Sevara a second chance at life, and a powerful set of gifts. But when Sevara begins a doomed love affair with the man she could have married, she must choose between protecting the city and saving the only man she’s ever loved. With a strong female lead, this coming of age adventure is a haunting and heart-pounding thrill-ride.

Isn’t the cover on this gorgeous! There’s also a graphic novel, so I’ll probably read that right after I finish the novel. Very excited to meet this bad@ss MC!

locket full of secrets

Locket Full of Secrets by Dana Burkey

After over 4 years, Olena comes rocketing back into Claire’s life, changing everything for the worse. Picking up the shattered pieces, Claire is not sure who to believe. Is Olena who she says she is, or is she a killer to stay away from? Leaning on her new boyfriend Steven for support, Claire is faced with the choice of who to trust: a friend she barley knows, or a history lesson she barely remembers.

I’ve read Burkey’s Hearts to Follow novellas (sweet, innocent teenage love stories) so I’m curious to see where she goes with this suspense novel.


Estranged by Alex Fedyr

Kalei hates touching. Especially if it is a hug. After all, her mother was killed by one. Kalei was born and raised in Celan, the first city to have an Estranged problem. It was seventeen years ago when they appeared, and the citizens learned the hard truth: that it only takes a bit of skin-on-skin contact to turn their loved ones into corpses, or Estranged. No one really knows why some people turn and some people die, they just know that anyone touched is gone.  And Kalei wants them to stay gone. But, being a police officer in the city, she witnesses every day the damage done by Estranged. Black nails mark these harbingers of death. Seeking the high they get from every piece of skin they touch, the Estranged crush the lives of Celan’s citizens with alarming ease. They killed her mother for a high, and now Kalei wants to wipe them out of existence before they can seek another. But she can’t. Only the Wardens are equipped to do so, and she will do anything to be inducted into their ranks. But will they accept her now that she has turned Estranged?

This one gives me chills just reading the synopsis. I hope it’s as suspenseful as it seems.

where death is a hunter

Where Death is a Hunter by Chris Stookey

Hannah Fâtier is a thirty-two-year-old physician fresh out of residency training. She’s just started her first job as an anesthesiologist at Deaconess Hospital in San Francisco, she’s bought a new home, and she’s engaged to be married. Life is good for Hannah until one morning at work when tragedy strikes. A patient under her care dies unexpectedly during a routine operation. An investigation into the case reveals the cause of death to be an error committed by Hannah. Wracked with guilt, she falls into a malaise of depression and self-reproach. Yet the more she ponders her alleged “error,” the more she realizes that something about the way her patient died doesn’t add up. Digging deeper into the records of the case, Hannah discovers a number of puzzling inconsistencies. She begins to suspect that someone has framed her for her patient’s death. But who would do such a thing, and why? And, more importantly, if there was no error, then why did her patient really die that morning?

Are we sensing a pattern yet? I’ve got a lot of suspense and mystery novels in my future. Squee!


So…This is Awkward by Timothy Tuttlesmith

This true story follows Dr Timothy Tuttlesmith’s evolution from inexperienced Oxford graduate to BDSM savvy New Yorker. Online dating is the catalyst of his downfall, as while using an experimental dating profile he makes the surprising discovery that quite a lot of girls want to be tied up and spanked… He also discovers that he quite enjoys tying them up and spanking them. Here Timmy re-tells the comedy highlights of his kinky dating shenanigans, including all the naughty sexy bits, but presented in an honest and non-idealised fashion. He attempts to tackle the myths and stigma that surround the subject and portrays kinky people as what they are; a diverse and interesting mix of perfectly sane individuals (for the most part anyway…).

NSFW peeps. Not the sort of thing I usually review, but I was intrigued, and the reviews I read were mostly favorable. We shall see 🙂

lost donielle tyner

Lost by Donnielle Tyner

Sadie is over it! She’s an orphan, her boyfriend was murdered, and she’s the only Caelian at St. Vincent’s without a Talent. Once she turns 18, there will be no place for her in the world. That is, until a chance encounter with Kian, a Caelian boy who makes her feel uncomfortable and alive at the same time. Secrets of her past are uncovered and Sadie’s latent, rare Talent is exposed. With these powers come the hunters, hired by an egomaniac who wants to use Sadie’s power to establish Caelian dominance. On the run with Kian and her friends, Sadie will have to decide: hide or fight? Will Sadie accept her new reality or will she stay lost?

Very YA fantasy, but hopefully the story will be compelling and full of adventures! And hopefully the icky teen romance stuff will be kept to a minimum?


Foul is Fair by Jeffrey Cook & Katherine Perkins

Lots of girls play Fairy Princess when they’re little. Megan O’Reilly had no idea the real thing was like playing chess, guitar, and hockey all at once. Megan had known for a long time that she wasn’t an entirely typical girl. But living with ADHD—and her mother’s obsessions—was a very different thing from finding out she wasn’t entirely human. Somewhere out there, in a completely different world, her father needs help. There’s a conflict, revolving around Faerie seasonal rituals, that could have consequences for humanity—and if Megan’s getting the terminology straight, it sounds like her family aren’t even supposed to be the good guys. As she’s further and further swept up in trying to save her father, Megan may be getting too good at not being human.

Not the best of synopses, but I think there’s a good story here. Plus I really like faeries, okay!?

the mine

The Mine by John A Heldt

In May 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can’t use, money he can’t spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of swing dancing and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever.

A little time travel, a little swing-era history, a little family, and a little love. Yeah!

journey back to threa

Journey Back to Threa by Cindy Cowles

For two thousand years, there has been a spaceship hidden on the dark side of the moon. Only one knows its location — High Councilwoman and Captain, Estelle Morgan, Lacy’s grandmother and one of the original survivors from the planet Threa. When Lacy’s grandmother passes away, Lacy inherits a house, a tantalizing letter about humanity’s true origins and…a FTL spaceship called Pegasus I. When her home is invaded by a group called the Chosen, she and her friends are forced to flee. Jumping aboard an atmospheric hopper, the group escapes just in time. Now she’s taking them on the trip of a lifetime, going on a Journey Back To Threa.

Spaceships, life on other planets, female lead — win, win, and win!

And that, my loves, concludes the indie published portion of today’s Top Ten Tuesday. Read on if you care about traditionally published material.

Trad Pub

delta flats

Delta Flats: Stories in the Key of Blues and Hope (ARC) by Dixon Hearne

From the piney hills of northern Louisiana to the raw and decadent streets of New Orleans, “Delta Flats: Stories in the Key of Blues and Hope” records the daily lives of its characters with a poetic rhythm that evokes the ebb and flow of life itself. Dixon Hearne is a master at capturing the blue reality of life, moments both large and small that define the hot days and long nights of the deep south. With language as gritty as the blues and as beautiful as a gospel choir, he juxtaposes the downtrodden with the hopeful and the darkness with the light and plays out each story with deft, lyrical descriptions that make the reader want to laugh and sing with joy.”

This sounds sleepy and Southern and epic. All things I love. PLUS, it was published TODAY! Whoops — meant to read my ARC before now. *sheepish grin*

still here

Still Here (ARC) by Lara Vapnyar

A profound and dazzlingly entertaining novel from the writer Louis Menand calls “Jane Austen with a Russian soul.” In her warm, absorbing and keenly observed new novel, Lara Vapnyar follows the intertwined lives of four immigrants in New York City as they grapple with love and tumult, the challenges of a new home, and the absurdities of the digital age.

Expected publication date: August 2, 2016. Lit fic that ponders mortality and the impact of the internet. Sounds relevant, and the cast of characters remind me a little of the characters in the musical, She Loves Me (one of my favorite musicals) only set in modern times.

invincible summer

Invincible Summer (ARC) by Alice Adams

Eva, Benedict, Sylvie and Lucien graduate in 1998, into a world on the brink of the new millennium. Hopelessly in love with playboy Lucien and keen to shrug off the socialist politics of her childhood, Eva breaks away to work at a big bank. Benedict, a budding scientist who’s pined for Eva for years, stays on to do a physics PhD, and siblings Sylvie and Lucien pursue more freewheeling existences–she as an aspiring artist and he as a club promoter and professional partier. But as their dizzying twenties become their thirties, the once close-knit friends, now scattered and struggling to navigate thwarted dreams, lost jobs and broken hearts, find themselves drawn together once again in stunning and unexpected ways. Breathtaking in scope, this is sure to be the book of the summer.

Expected publication date: June 28, 2016. Another quartet cast (like Still Here), but this time with even more intertwining of the story lines. I know the synopsis says “book of the summer”, but I’ll be taking a peek at it over Spring Break (next week). Probably with a Mai Tai in hand 😉

the girls

The Girls (ARC) by Emma Cline

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

Expected publication date: June 14, 2016. Another summer read that I’ll be reading in spring, because ARC. Suspense, a cult, girl power, late ’60s-era culture…all things I’m super duper in love with. Okay, maybe not cults, but those are undeniably interesting.


Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax

In 1920, when she graduated from Vassar College, Rosalie Rayner was ready to make her mark on the world. Intelligent, beautiful, and unflappable, she won a coveted research position at Johns Hopkins assisting the charismatic celebrity psychologist John B. Watson. Together, Watson and Rayner conducted controversial experiments on hundreds of babies to prove behaviorist principles. They also embarked on a scandalous affair that cost them both their jobs—and recast the sparkling young Rosalie Rayner, scientist and thinker, as Mrs. John Watson, wife and conflicted, maligned mother, just another “woman behind a great man.”

Published March 1, 2016. Reminds me a little of the show, Masters of Sex (based on true events), where William Masters and Virginia Johnson become pioneers of the science of human sexuality, but Virginia’s role is significantly down-played because of her gender.


Faith Volume 1: Hollywood and Vine (Partial ARC) by Jody Houser

Orphaned at a young age, Faith Herbert – a psionically gifted “psiot” discovered by the Harbinger Foundation – has always aspired to greatness. But now this once ordinary teenager is taking control of her destiny and becoming the hard-hitting hero she’s always known she can be – complete with a mild-mannered secret identity, unsuspecting colleagues, and a day job as a reporter that routinely throws into her harms way! Well, at least she thought it would. When she’s not typing up listicles about cat videos, Faith makes a secret transformation to patrol the night as the City of Angels’ own leading superhero – the sky-soaring Zephyr!

Expected publication date: July 12, 2016. I freaking love Faith (I most definitely peeked at a few pages when I got my ARC). Faith is fat. I mean, hello, where is it written that people with super powers have to be thin and busty. Oh, it’s not? Well, duh! Woot! Faith!

five college dialogues

Five College Dialogues by Ian Thomas Malone

Five College Dialogues is a philosophic comedic treatise on college life told through the eyes of George Tecce, a graduate student working as a teaching assistant in the English department. All the important themes of the collegiate environment are explored as George, his students, and his mentor examine the state of post-millennial academia. Five College Dialogues is a perfect resource for students as well as anyone who wants to relive their four years in an entertaining fashion.

I’m behind. This was published in 2014. Malone has several books I’m interested in reading, including A Trip Down Reality Lane. Plus, you can follow him on Facebook, where he posts live videos, which are usually hilarious, especially when he reads James Joyce aloud. Ha!


The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at the New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash. The Opposite of Loneliness is an assem­blage of Marina’s essays and stories that, like The Last Lecture, articulates the universal struggle that all of us face as we figure out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world.

I’m reading this as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016. It’s my “read a collection of essays” entry. I think I’m reading it at just the right time too. I’m in the middle of a re-watch of Gilmore Girls, and of course, our beloved Rory wrote for the Yale newspaper in the show, and I just wonder, if perhaps Marina grew up, like I did, watching this show, and if it had any impact on her?

the only woman in the room_pollack

The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boy’s Club by Eileen Pollack

In 2005, when Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard, asked why so few women achieve tenured positions in the hard sciences, Eileen Pollack set out to find the answer. In the 1970s, Pollack had excelled as one of Yale’s first two women to earn a bachelor of science degree in physics. But, isolated, lacking in confidence, and starved for encouragement, she abandoned her lifelong dream of becoming a theoretical physicist. Years later, she thought back on her experiences and wondered what had changed in the intervening decades, and what challenges remained. Based on six years of interviewing dozens of teachers and students and reviewing studies on gender bias, The Only Woman in the Room is an illuminating exploration of the cultural, social, psychological, and institutional barriers confronting women in the STEM disciplines. Pollack brings to light the struggles that women in the sciences are often hesitant to admit and provides hope that changing attitudes and behaviors can bring more women into fields in which they remain, to this day, seriously underrepresented.

Another pick for my Read Harder challenge. This book speaks to me on so many levels. I’m a fairly outspoken feminist, I heart-eyes chemistry, and I spent the better part of a decade in patriarchal academia, only to see my dreams of becoming a university professor crushed under a wave of sexism (stupid male-dominated fields). So, I imagine I will be reading this book with a whole lot of “hell yeahs” peppering the air!

cress marissa meyer

Cress by Marissa Meyer

In the third installment of the Lunar chronicles, Cress, having risked everything to warn Cinder of Queen Levana’s evil plan, has a slight problem. She’s been imprisoned on a satellite since childhood and has only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress a great hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. When a daring rescue of Cress involving Cinder, Captain Thorne, Scarlet, and Wolf goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes as a high price. Meanwhile, Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

I’m currently reading Scarlet, the 2nd book in this series. This is sort of a Read Harder challenge book because one of my entries has to be “read a book over 500 pages long”, and I picked Winter, the 4th book in this series. I didn’t particularly care for the first book, Cinder, but so far I’m really enjoying Scarlet. I hope the rest of the series gets better and better.

If you stuck with me ’til the end, bless you! Hopefully some, or all, of these piqued your interest. Happy reading!