Book Stack Challenge – Hidden Gems

Yesterday on Bookstagram the wonderful duo of Amy (@novelgossip) and Katie (@basicbsguide) had a book stack challenge. We had to share some books that we consider to be hidden gems – so books you probably haven’t seen a ton of hype over on Instagram or other places.

This was easy to do because so many popped into my head immediately. OF COURSE I forgot a couple of them and had already put away the stack when I remembered. So I’ll have them be honorable mentions that aren’t pictured.

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Hidden Gems Book Stack:

ANY MAN – Amber Tamblyn – 5 stars – Review here

In this electric and provocative debut novel, Tamblyn blends genres of poetry, prose, and elements of suspense to give shape to the shocking narratives of victims of sexual violence, mapping the destructive ways in which our society perpetuates rape culture.

A violent serial rapist is on the loose, who goes by the name Maude. She hunts for men at bars, online, at home— the place doesn’t matter, neither does the man. Her victims then must live the aftermath of their assault in the form of doubt from the police, feelings of shame alienation from their friends and family and the haunting of a horrible woman who becomes the phantom on which society projects its greatest fears, fascinations and even misogyny. All the while the police are without leads and the media hound the victims, publicly dissecting the details of their attack.

What is extraordinary is how as years pass these men learn to heal, by banding together and finding a space to raise their voices. Told in alternating viewpoints signature to each voice and experience of the victim, these pages crackle with emotion, ranging from horror to breathtaking empathy

THE GIRL IN 6E – A.R. Torre – 5 stars – Review here

I haven’t touched a human in three years. That seems like it would be a difficult task, but it’s not. Not anymore, thanks to the internet.

I am, quite possibly, the most popular recluse ever. Not many shut-ins have a 200-member fan club, a bank account in the seven-figure range, and hundreds of men lining up to pay for undivided attention.

They get satisfaction, I get a distraction. Their secret desires are nothing compared to why I hide… my lust for blood, my love of death.

Taking their money is easy. Keeping all these secrets… one is bound to escape.

What if you hid yourself away because all you could think of was killing? And what if one girl’s life was depending on you venturing into society?

Enter a world of lies, thrills, fears, and all desires, in this original thriller from A. R. Torre.

A WELCOME MURDER – Robin Yocum – 5 stars – Review here

After his unspectacular professional baseball career ends with a knee injury in Toledo, Ohio, Johnny Earl gets busted for selling cocaine. After serving seven years in prison, all he wants to do is return to his hometown of Steubenville, retrieve the drug money he stashed before he went to jail, and start a new life where no one has ever heard of Johnny Earl. However, before he can leave town with his money, Johnny is picked up for questioning in the murder of Rayce Daubner, the FBI informant who had set him up on drug charges in the first place. Then his former prison cellmate shows up–a white supremacist who wants the drug money to help fund an Aryan nation in the wilds of Idaho. Five memorable characters, each with a separate agenda, come together in this layered tale of murder, deceit, and political intrigue

CRIMINAL UPTOPIA: FEAR THE HACKER – J. Arthur Squiers – 5 stars

What do you do when the most feared hacker in the world is tearing your life apart?

In Night Harbor, Minnesota, ultra-marathon runner Jim Wisendorf is being stalked by a sadistic technology genius. Out of desperation, Jim tries to find someone skilled enough to help him stop the unbeatable hacker, before everything he loves is destroyed.

While fighting to get his life back, Jim makes his way through the dangerous underground world of cyber-criminals. In doing so, he sets events into motion that could disrupt the balance of power around the globe.

Who is the elusive hacker? Why is Jim the target of such relentless torment?

WE ARE WHERE THE NIGHTMARES GO – C. Robert Cargill – 5 stars – Review here

From the critically acclaimed author of Sea of Rust and Queen of the Dark Things comes a hair-raising collection of short fiction that illuminates the strange, humorous, fantastical, and downright diabolical that tantalize and terrorize us: demons, monsters, zombie dinosaurs, and Death itself.

In the novella “The Soul Thief’s Son” C. Robert Cargill returns to the terrain of the Queen of the Dark Things to continue the story of Colby Stevens . . .

A Triceratops and an Ankylosaurus join forces to survive a zombie apocalypse that may spell extinction for their kind in “Hell Creek” . . .

In a grand old building atop a crack in the world, an Iraq War veteran must serve a one-year term as a punisher of the damned condemned to consume the sins of others in the hope that one day he may find peace in “In a Clean, White Room” (co-authored with Scott Derrickson) . . .

In “The Town That Wasn’t Anymore,” the village of Pine Hill Bluff loses its inhabitants one at a time as the angry dead return when night falls to steal the souls of the living . . .

And in the title story, “We Are Where the Nightmares Go,” a little girl crawls through a glowing door beneath her bed and finds herself trapped in a nightmarish wonderland—a crucible of the fragments of children’s bad dreams.

These tales and four more are assembled here as testament to Cargill’s mastery of the phantasmagoric, making We Are Where the Nightmares Go and Other Stories a collection of unnerving horror and fantasy will keep you up all night and haunt your waking dreams.

IT HAPPENS OF THE TIME – Amy Hatvany – 5 stars – Review here

I want to rewind the clock, take back the night when the world shattered. I want to erase everything that went wrong.

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.

Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.

What happens next will change them forever.

In alternating points of view, It Happens All the Time examines the complexity of sexual dynamics between men and women and offers an incisive exploration of gender roles, expectations, and the ever-timely issue of consent

BLEEDING HEART – Lauren Bishop – 5 stars – Review here

Simone is an only child growing up in Michigan with her two loving parents. They give her the world and she doesn’t want for anything. She spends her summers in her plush tree house that rivals some homes and her winters skiing in Minnesota with her best friends.

But one spring day everything changes. Her parents never come home and she’s left with only memories.

It’s been years since her parents’ death and she’s gone from foster homes to crashing with friends. She finds herself defeated with nowhere to go and desperation sets in.

Neil is a sinister man that feeds off of control. He has a way of always getting what he wants. Simone is young, beautiful and vulnerable. He has to have her. He becomes her knight in shining armor and sweeps her off of her feet. Little does she know getting wrapped up in Neil’s web will be the worst mistake of her life.

Living as Neil’s prisoner, Simone doesn’t think things could get any worse. But when Neil sets his sights on a new conquest obsession and murder threaten everyone in his path. With her life at stake, Simone must dig deep within herself to finally find a way out.

GRIST MILL ROAD – Christopher J. Yates – 5 stars – Review here

Twenty-six years ago Hannah had her eye shot out. Now she wants justice. But is she blind to the truth?

Christopher J. Yates’s cult hit Black Chalk introduced that rare writerly talent: a literary writer who could write a plot with the intricacy of a brilliant mental puzzle, and with characters so absorbing that readers are immediately gripped. Yates’s new book does not disappoint. Grist Mill Road is a dark, twisted, and expertly plotted Rashomon-style tale.

The year is 1982; the setting, an Edenic hamlet some ninety miles north of New York City. There, among the craggy rock cliffs and glacial ponds of timeworn mountains, three friends—Patrick, Matthew, and Hannah—are bound together by a terrible and seemingly senseless crime. Twenty-six years later, in New York City, living lives their younger selves never could have predicted, the three meet again—with even more devastating results

BUTTON MAN – Andrew Gross – 5 stars – Review here

Morris, Sol, and Harry Rabinowitz grew up poor but happy in a tiny flat on the Lower East Side, until the death of their father thrust them into having to fend for themselves and support their large family. Morris apprenticed himself at twelve years old to a garment cutter in a clothing factory; Sol headed to college and became an accountant; and Harry, the youngest, fell in with a gang as a teenager and can’t escape. Morris steadily climbs through the ranks at the factory until he’s running the place and buys out the owner, and Sol comes to work with him. But Harry can’t be lured away from the glamour, the power, and the money that comes from working for mobster Louis Buchalter, an old bully from the neighborhood. And when Louis sets his sights on the unions that staff the garment makers’ factories, a fatal showdown is inevitable, and puts brother against brother.

This new novel is equal parts historical thriller, rich with the detail of a vibrant New York City in the 1920s and 1930s, and family saga, based in part on Andrew Gross’s family history, and will cement his reputation as today’s most atmospheric and original historical thriller writer.

THE FATHER – Anton Svensson – 5 stars – Review here

How does a child become a criminal? How does a father lose a son?

An epic crime novel with the excitement of Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters and the narrative depth of We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Father is inspired by the extraordinary true story of three brothers who committed ten audacious bank robberies in Sweden over the course of just two years.

None had committed a crime before. All were under 24 years old. All of them would be changed forever as individuals and as a family.

This intoxicating, heartbreaking thriller tells the story of how three boys are transformed over the course of their lives from innocent children to the most wanted criminals in Sweden. And of the man who made them that way: their father.

THE CUTAWAY – Christina Kovac – 5 stars – Review here

The Newsroom meets Gone Girl.” —Cosmopolitan

The Cutaway draws you into the tangled world of corruption and cover-up as a young television producer investigates the disappearance of a beautiful Georgetown lawyer in this stunning psychological thriller, perfect for fans of Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn.

When brilliant TV news producer Virginia Knightly receives a disturbing “MISSING” notice on her desk related to the disappearance of a beautiful young attorney, she can’t seem to shake the image from her head. Despite skepticism from her colleagues, Knightly suspects this ambitious young lawyer may be at the heart of something far more sinister, especially since she was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant after a domestic dispute. Yet, as the only woman of power at her station, Knightly quickly finds herself investigating on her own.

Risking her career, her life, and perhaps even her own sanity, Knightly dives deep into the dark underbelly of Washington, DC business and politics in an investigation that will drag her mercilessly through the inextricable webs of corruption that bind the press, the police, and politics in our nation’s capital.

Harkening to dark thrillers such as Gone Girl, Luckiest Girl Alive, and Big Little Lies, The Cutaway is a striking debut that will haunt you long after you reach the last page.

TEN DEAD COMEDIANS – Fred Van Lente – 4 stars – Review here

Fred Van Lente’s brilliant debut is both an homage to the Golden Age of Mystery and a thoroughly contemporary show-business satire. As the story opens, nine comedians of various acclaim are summoned to the island retreat of legendary Hollywood funnyman Dustin Walker. The group includes a former late-night TV host, a washed-up improv instructor, a ridiculously wealthy “blue collar” comic, and a past-her-prime Vegas icon. All nine arrive via boat to find that every building on the island is completely deserted. Marooned without cell phone service or wifi signals, they soon find themselves being murdered one by one. But who is doing the killing, and why?

A darkly clever take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and other classics of the genre, Ten Dead Comedians is a marvel of literary ventriloquism, with hilarious comic monologues in the voice of every suspect. It’s also an ingeniously plotted puzzler with a twist you’ll never see coming!

 

Honorable Mentions Not Pictured:

MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM – Grady Hendrix – 4 stars

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

SWEET – Emmy Laybourne – 4 stars

They’d kill to get thin.

The luxurious celebrity cruise launching the trendy new diet sweetener Solu should be the vacation of a lifetime. But Laurel is starting to regret accepting her friend Viv’s invitation. She’s already completely embarrassed herself in front of celebrity host Tom Forelli-the hottest guy ever!-and she’s too sick to even try the sweetener. And that’s before Viv and all the other passengers start acting really strange.

Tom knows that he should be grateful for this job and the chance to shed his former-child-star image. His publicists have even set up a ‘romance’ with a sexy reality star. But as things on the ship start to get wild, he finds himself drawn to a different girl. And when the hosting gig turns into an expose on the shocking side effects of Solu, it’s Laurel that he’s determined to save.

Emmy Laybourne, author of the Monument 14 trilogy, takes readers on a dream vacation in Sweet that goes first comically, then tragically, then horrifyingly, wrong!

“Simultaneously terrifying, hilarious, and action-packed, Sweet is a wild ride that holds up a warped mirror to our society. I loved it from the first line to the last.” —Marie Lu, New York Times–bestselling author of Legend and The Young Elites

 

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