Highlight Reel: Nov-Dec

In spite of a heavier-than-normal grading season, I’ve been able to accomplish some “reading” via audiobooks during my daily commute.

Here are some of the most notable titles on my radar from the last few weeks.


Favorites (5 stars)

The Troop by Nick Cutter

“Once every year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip—a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story around a roaring bonfire. But when an unexpected intruder stumbles upon their campsite—shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry—Tim and the boys are exposed to something far more frightening than any tale of terror. The human carrier of a bioengineered nightmare. A horror that spreads faster than fear. A harrowing struggle for survival with no escape from the elements, the infected…or one another.

Part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later—and all-consuming—this tightly written, edge-of-your-seat thriller takes you deep into the heart of darkness, where fear feeds on sanity…and terror hungers for more.”

River Bodies by Karen Katchur

“A body just turned up in the small town of Portland, Pennsylvania. The crime is eerily similar to a twenty-year-old cold case: another victim, brutally murdered, found in the Delaware River. Lead detective Parker Reed is intent on connecting the two murders, but the locals are on lockdown, revealing nothing.

The past meets the present when Becca Kingsley, who returns to Portland to be with her estranged but dying father, runs into Parker, her childhood love. As the daughter of the former police chief, Becca’s quickly drawn into the case. Coming home has brought something ominous to the surface—memories long buried, secrets best kept hidden. Becca starts questioning all her past relationships, including one with a man who’s watched over her for years. For the first time, she wonders if he’s more predator than protector.

In a small town where darkness hides in plain sight, the truth could change Becca’s life—or end it.”

Gilchrist by Christian Galacar

“Two years after losing their infant son to a tragic accident, Peter Martell, a novelist with a peculiar knack for finding lost things, and his wife, Sylvia, are devastated to learn they may no longer be able to have children. In need of a fresh start, and compelled by strange dreams, the couple decide to rent a lake house in the idyllic town of Gilchrist, Massachusetts, a place where bad things might just happen for a reason. As bizarre events begin to unfold around them—a chance encounter with a gifted six-year-old boy, a series of violent deaths, and repeated sightings of a strange creature with a terrifying nature—Peter and Sylvia find themselves drawn into the chaos and soon discover that coming to Gilchrist may not have been their decision at all.

Set against a small New England town in the summer of 1966, Gilchrist is a sinister tale about the haunting origins of violence, evil, and the undying power of memory.”

Honorable Mentions (4 stars)

October Reading Update, Part 2

Here’s what I’ve read since my last blog post! For most of these, I alternated between reading Kindle versions and listening to audio (Audible) versions on my commute.

I’ve had a really good run this time around; all listed below were excellent!


  1. The Broken Girls by Simone St. James (5 stars)

2. Final Girls by Riley Sager (4.5 stars)

3. Haunted House by J.A. Konrath (5 stars)

4. Disturb by J.A. Konrath (4 stars)


October Reading Update

Here’s what I’ve read (or listened to) so far this month:

FIVE STARS (*****):
If you like thrillers at all, I highly recommend INFECTED by Scott Sigler.

Depending on time, I may do a separate review of this one: its brilliantly written, action-packed journey demands readers’ full attention.

FOUR STARS (****):
Ghost hunting on spring break? Sign me up!
Since I hadn’t read YA in a while, dipping into that genre again was a fun endeavor.


Because I typically love any entertainment that’s asylum-themed, Ibsen’s straightforward title and creepy book cover reeled me in. Unfortunately, not much happens in this book–instead, it felt like the back story or extended prelude to another book (and from what I can tell, there are at least two more books in the series). Disappointment aside, I worked as an adjunct instructor for a few years, so that angle was fun to read about from another’s perspective.


What is everyone else reading this month?


Top-Rated Recent Reads

Since author Tess Gerritsen is the keynote speaker at a conference I’ll be attending in two weeks, I’ve spent the last month listening to audiobooks of hers during my work commute.

That being said, Gerritsen has made me a fan of the medical thriller.

Although I’ve read medical thrillers (at random) in the past, I’ve never devoured one after the other with wanton disregard for my burgeoning TBR.

Enter Harvest, Life Support, Bloodstream, and Gravity.

Gerritsen’s intricately researched contagions and conspiracies, grating surgical descriptions, and expertly spliced scenes ensure her titles are one-click-worthy.

All the ones I’ve read, linked below, are standalones and do not have to be read in any particular order. (Gerritsen is also the writer behind the Rizzoli & Isles series, but I haven’t gotten to any of those books yet.)

Happy Reading!

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Book Review: This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

This is Our Story
by Ashley Elston
A good friend of mine loaned me this book through the Kindle lending program, and I am so glad she suggested it. This book was so good!

The story centers around the death of a popular senior from an elite boarding school in a small Louisiana town. The four main suspects: his best friends, the River Point Boys.

If that doesn’t intrigue you, the story is told through dual perspective…you get one of the River Point Boys, which you assume plays a bigger part in the killing than he lets on, and Kate, daughter of the secretary of the ADA who has the case. Almost like good and bad, dark and light, the opposing forces fighting with all their might…set aside teenage angst and hello mystery!

If you can’t tell, I loved this book! I needed a change from the cheesy romance, and this was the perfect book for that. I enjoyed the mystery, the suspense, the guessing game. I forget how much I love mysteries until I read a really good one. This was a really good one.

What stood out most for me was the author’s ability to hold the killer until the last few chapters. I had it narrowed down to two of the boys, but I really struggled deciding which one it would be. Even after the discovery, I still can’t see where she would have given away the answer. That to me is an awesome mystery.

Plus, I must add that Law & Order (any of them, but especially SVU) is one of my all time favorite series. I love a good crime drama and getting that extra touch was great for me.

If mysteries are your thing, I recommend this one!

4.5 out of 5 stars


Can we just take a minute?

On this edition with Thursdays with Taylon, can we just stop? Take a minute. And breathe.

Holly and I are both school teachers. She is a professor; I’m a high school teacher. We love teaching. Holly gets to talk books all day; I spend my days talking photography, community relations, and technology. We both get to make connections with our kids and help them see “the bigger picture.” It’s a calling, and we both love our jobs.

While we each have our own struggles, yesterday’s school shooting put things back in perspective. Every day we go to school, we have the ability to impact a student–in a positive or negative way. We do our best to have positive interactions, but let’s face it, life happens. We fail. Although we are pretty close, we aren’t perfect. (haha)

This book blog we do, we do because we love it. We have found our “people.” But not all of our kids have. Kids across the world need a group to call home. We are lucky enough to have found like-minded people who love to chat books and characters and win some pretty awesome giveaways.

Next time you see someone who is struggling, reach a hand out. Find some common ground. Show compassion. Share a smile. Everyone needs love. We should share ours.

Thanks for being a part of our tribe!

Book Review: Schooled by Piper Lawson

Schooled, by Piper Lawson

Schooled by [Lawson, Piper]

Check out this free book on Kindle! I loved the author blurb, and I jumped right in.

I enjoyed this story. The internal conflict between what your heart wants and what your head wants is something we all face. Living two lives, working several jobs, and trying to figure out who you are along the way. Well-written with great descriptions, Lawson is an author I will certainly read more of.

Warning: Do not read if you are not a fan of angst. There were several moments I was ready to strangle Lex, the main character. She was frustrating and immature. But overall, she was much better by the end!

Book Review: The Year of the Fog by Michelle Richmond



The Amazon blurb caught my attention, and the sale price of $1.99 made the one-clicking a no-brainer. But about five chapters in, I was ready to be done.

The main character, Abby Mason, is on the beach with her fiance’s six-year-old daughter, Emma. Abby looks away for less than a minute, and when she looks up, Emma is gone. Through the next year, the reader follows Abby through her experiences, her thoughts, and flashbacks. Even as others give up, she keeps looking for Emma.

I love this idea of this book. Girl loses fiance’s daughter. Fiance doesn’t know how to deal, how to forgive. Girl keeps looking, partly because she feels responsible, also because she doesn’t know what else to do with her life. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s one of my biggest fears: losing a child.

But the book did not hold my attention the way I wanted it. The back and forth chapters, the flashbacks to the most random moments from Abby’s childhood, etc. I just didn’t get it. I skimmed and skipped a lot of pages to get to the end. I wanted to know what happened, if Abby did find Emma, if she got a happy ending. I couldn’t walk away, but I also wasn’t stressing over reading all the details from Abby’s past.

Overall, the book isn’t a bad book. The story is a good, well-written story, with a plot line that makes you question and look at the world differently. For me, the story was just too slow. I do plan to give Michelle Richmond another chance. I enjoyed her narrative, and any author that can weave the past and present together the way she did deserves another chance.


*This title was purchased by me; this review was not solicited by anyone or exchanged for anything.

Affiliate Disclosure: In order to support our continued blogging efforts (since giveaways and shipping costs come out of our own pockets, unless otherwise noted), we may receive a small commission–at no cost to you–from products purchased through the links provided. That said, we strive to share only high quality items, most of which are recommended based on firsthand experience.  

Book Review: NEVERLAND by Douglas Clegg


New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Douglas Clegg blends dark suspense and southern gothic horror in Neverland, a novel of deadly secrets and innocence corrupted. What lurks within the shack? What kinds of dangerous — and deadly — games do the children play there?

For years, the Jackson family vacationed at their matriarch’s old Victorian house on Gull Island, a place of superstition and legend off the southern coast of the U.S. One particular summer, young Beau follows his cousin Sumter into a shack hidden among the brambles and windswept trees near bluffs overlooking the sea.

And within Neverland, the mysteries and terror grow…

REVIEW (by Holly):

When attempting to describe NEVERLAND, the words vivid and bizarre come to mind. To be completely honest, I’m not 100% clear on what happened at the novel’s climax or what forces (or combination of forces) are at play in this work of fiction. Regional folklore, gods, telepathy, alternate worlds, and hallucinations/dreams/visions all blur the line between perception and reality–with regard to characters and reader, alike.

That said, the storyline kept my attention throughout, and I’ve never read anything quite like NEVERLAND before.

There’s a lot to be said for originality in a saturated market.

I’m a big fan of highlight-worthy text (those lines and phases that separate one book from the next), and NEVERLAND is chock-full of descriptions that conjure clear and detailed images in the reader’s mind:

  • “She was a dethroned princess, riddled through like a Swiss cheese with the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune.”
  • “Her face was like tapioca pudding, wiggling and still self-contained, her eyes two small raisins…”
  • “Long strands of her white hair hung down from its bristles like tentacles from a Portuguese man-of-war.”
  • “…flicking at black ants just like I was punting paper triangles in a game of desk football.”
  • “The sun was up and hot like a big old egg yolk sizzling on the griddle sky.”
  • “His nipples were huge and hung across his chest like two great puffy flapjacks.”

All in all, I’d recommend NEVERLAND to readers who crave original, suspenseful, and surprising fiction that incorporates preternatural elements.

NOTE: Although I alternated between the ebook and audiobook versions of the title, I wouldn’t recommend the latter. The nature of the book requires distinction between telepathic conversations and outspoken dialogue, which was difficult to distinguish via audio. Furthermore, the narrator’s affected regional accent and “voices” took away from the story, in my opinion.


Book Review: If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout

If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout

If There's No Tomorrow by [Armentrout, Jennifer L.]

Author Blurb:

Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially at the start of her senior year. She’s ready to pack in as much friend time as possible, to finish college applications and to maybe let her childhood best friend Sebastian know how she really feels about him. For Lena, the upcoming year is going to be epic—one of opportunities and chances.

Until one choice, one moment, destroys everything.

Now Lena isn’t looking forward to tomorrow. Not when friend time may never be the same. Not when college applications feel all but impossible. Not when Sebastian might never forgive her for what happened.

For what she let happen.

With the guilt growing each day, Lena knows that her only hope is to move on. But how can she move on when her and her friends’ entire existences have been redefined? How can she move on when tomorrow isn’t even guaranteed?

Taylon’s Review:

I could have been Lena. There’s no telling how many times I could have been in her situation. College was a crazy time, and although I was lucky enough to never face the consequences the characters in this book did, I cannot help but think of how differently my life could have been.

Armentrout has a way with words. Her use of dialogue, diction, and overall story-telling is superb. She has an ability to get completely into character, expressing emotions that are real, understandable, and relatable. This book, especially this story, hits home with so many different types of people.

Two of my favorite quotes that I feel resonate with anyone who has experienced life:

“What would I have done differently that night if I’d known there was no tomorrow? Everything. I would’ve done everything differently.”

“One day you will just realize you’ve made it through this part of your life and you’ve accepted what cannot be changed. That is when you’ve moved on. It will feel like it happened suddenly, but in reality, it’s been a work in progress.”

I highly recommend this book, but fair warning: the topic is hard. It left me in tears, and my own guilt and regrets were thrown in my face throughout the book. I may be nearly 31, but I needed Armentrout’s reminder to live like there’s no tomorrow.