Review: The Mansion

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**4 Goodreads Stars**

After reading Ezekiel Boone’s The Mansion, I don’t think I will ever, ever, EVER purchase an Alexa for my house! When I read about this book on a friend’s Instagram feed, I immediately knew I needed a copy of it. Who wouldn’t love a book that involves a love triangle, a haunted mansion, and artificial intelligence? If that sounds like a lot of themes to tackle in one book, yes, you are probably right. However, somehow Boone makes it work for the most part.

The book’s central three characters are Billy, Shawn, and Erica. Shawn and Bill meet in college and become quick friends over their love of technology and coding. They set out to build an expansive artificial intelligence (AI) named “Nellie,” devoting two whole years to making their dream a reality. To make it happen, they move out to a remote, dilapidated cabin on Shawn’s family’s property. The cabin is barely inhabitable, but they sacrifice comfort for the promise of wealth and Silicon Valley fame.

Emily is the girl in between the two men. She fell in love with Shawn while in college, eventually dropping out to help support Shawn in his pursuit of developing a revolutionary AI. She ends up living with Shawn and Billy in the cabin, cooking, cleaning, and tending to their needs as they throw themselves headfirst into coding Nellie. Unfortunately, things fall apart, and Emily ends up leaving Shawn for Billy. The project falls into despair, and the three don’t see each other until nearly a decade later.

Flash forward to the present. Shawn is now a tech billionaire who, despite all his riches and fame, has yet to finish Nellie. Billy and Emily, who are now married, are broke and barely making ends meet. Shawn, who still is bitter that Emily left him for Billy, knows that the only way he can make Nellie come to life is to hire Billy. Shawn takes a risk and hires Billy to return to Nellie, which Shawn began to install at his family’s historic mansion. Billy reluctantly accepts the challenge because he and Emily are nearly bankrupt and need the money. Shawn promises them the world if Billy can make Nellie work, so Emily and Billy move into the creepy mansion in hopes of a second chance at life.

My main critique of this book is that the characters’ backstories took up most of the book (60%). The readers really didn’t get to the gory, scary AI mansion stuff until the last 40% of the book. In fact, I would have probably read another 100 or so pages if the book included more about the mansion. Nonetheless, I kept reading because I was really into the characters and their motivations for returning to Nellie. The characters share really dark, depressing histories, which cloud their judgments and cause them to make poor decisions while trying to build Nellie. And if you’re trying to build an AI in a human’s image, do you really want these troubled young people creating Nellie?

Thank you to Ezekiel Boone, Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, and NetGalley for an advanced e-galley of The Mansion. This was the perfect spooky read for fall!

Review: Before She Falls

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**4 Goodreads Stars**

When I read the synopsis for Dylan Young’s Before She Falls, I was intrigued. This book is one of the several books I’ve read this past year that examines how social media can be unleashed for evil. The books that come to mind include Britney King’s The Replacement Wife and The Social Affair, Nick Clark Windo’s The Feed, Laura Marshall’s Friend Request, AV Geiger’s Follow Me Back, and Kathleen Barber’s Are You Sleeping. Given these times, I do often wonder what would happen if social media and the internet ceased to exist.

How would we learn to communicate with each other again? Would we be better off?

Dylan Young’s Before She Falls makes me believe that yes, we might be better off without social media. It involves the deaths of mostly young people that appear to be inspired by a social media challenge called the “Black Squid.” The Black Squid challenge specifically targets people who are depressed, lonely, isolated, and experiencing suicidal ideations. The challenge helps accentuate these feelings, encouraging participants to commit suicide. As the book describes,

“This was the destruction of a human being from a distance. A sick and twisted game with death as the prize.”

I appreciated the author’s knowledge of the entire forensics process. As someone who has a tad bit of knowledge in this area (such as how to identify human remains), I could tell the author knew what he was writing about. I also liked that the author paid close attention to character development. This story was not merely about a crime, but also the people who were trying to solve it. Anna, the lead detective in the story, had an interesting and intriguing back story that intersected with the case she was trying to solve.

Overall, this is a really strong read that made me think twice about the “power” of social media. Thank you to Bookouture, Dylan Young, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Before She Falls!

Before She Falls - Blog Tour

BUY LINKS

Amazon:  http://geni.us/BSFSocial

iBookstore: https://tinyurl.com/y7bw9tcn

Kobo: https://tinyurl.com/ycojzwvj

Googleplay: https://tinyurl.com/y7gvpyxb

Description

Kimberley was a beautiful young girl with the world at her feet.
Before she fell.
Before she was gone.

When Kimberley Williams jumps off Southerndown Cliff, her family and the close-knit community are shocked. What would make her take her own life when she had so much of it left to live?

Detective Anna Gwynne is assigned to the case after it becomes clear that someone made Kimberley jump. Someone had been sending Kimberley messages, saying they would tell everyone her secret…

Then Anna realises there are others, all being sent the same messages, all with their lives at risk. To find the truth she will have to confront her own past, the lies she’s told about her childhood and the demons hidden there…

Can she save these innocent lives?

What is the secret they’re all dying for?

An absolutely gripping thriller that will hook you from beginning to end. If you love Val McDermid, Angela Marsons and Robert Dugoni, you won’t be able to put down Before She Falls.

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Author Bio

Dylan Young grew up in a mining village in South Wales before boarding a train for university in London. A career in the NHS followed, but the urge to write never went away. Three dark psychological thrillers for Random House emerged in the late nineties, two of which were made into BBC films. Over the last decade, under different pseudonyms, he’s written children’s books and an adult contemporary fantasy series. But his liking for crime (writing) never died. Book 1 in the Detective Anne Gwynne crime thriller series, The Silent Girls, and Book 2, Blood Runs Cold, are available now.

Author Social Media Links

Website: http://www.dylanyoungauthor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dyoungwrites/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/dyoungwrites

Review: The Neighbors

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**4.5 Goodreads Stars**

Abby is in a horrific car crash as a teenager and loses her beloved brother, Tom, in it. She survives and blames herself for the accident, never truly moving on from it. She carries the trauma with her every single day as she was supposedly drinking behind the wheel when the accident happened.

Flash forward to many years later where we find her happily married to the loving Nate. Nate and Abby have a snarky teenage daughter named Sarah, who is hell-bent on challenging her mom’s strict rules.

Their three lives are about dramatically change when their new neighbors move next door. There is Liam, who is to die for handsome and in incredible shape for a middle-aged man. There’s Nancy, his wife, who is insecure about her looks and wishes Liam would give her more attention. And then there is Zac, their son, who is a typical teenage boy with the exception of his exceedingly attractive looks, looks he inherited from his father.

Abby and Liam know each other from their teenage years, and are absolutely stunned to discover they are neighbors. Their secret threatens to destroy the happy couples’ lives, a secret that will shock readers right to the very last page of this book!

What I enjoyed about this book is the complexity of the characters. By the end of the book, you feel like you know them and can envision them being real human beings. I felt bad for Abby, who has been denied so much love and affection in her life that she seems unable to be happy even when Nate bends over backward to take care of her.
The final pages of this book packed a huge punch and will not disappoint. If you like thrillers that have clever twists and turns, this book is for you!

I rated this book 4.5 stars (🌟🌟🌟🌟) out of 5! Highly recommend it! Thank you to Harlequin, NetGalley, and the author, Hannah Mary McKinnon for an advanced reader copy of this book.