I really enjoyed this one. Not exactly a Christmas novel but rather a crime thriller set during the holiday season and I’m perfectly fine with that. It had a good mystery, lots of suspense and an especially likable main character that I would like to see more of in the future. I especially liked how the author wove cozy elements into the story so that you do get a hint of holiday atmosphere. Coming from a long time book seller, there is nothing more cozy than a small bookstore during Christmastime. And the picturesque setting combined with the sinister storylines e worked really well for me. My only complaint is that it employs the crime podcaster trope. It is admittedly well done but thrillers have become saturated with it and I’m ready to move on to something new. But overall I really loved this fast and suspenseful read! Thank you to @netgalley and @mysteriouspress for an arc of this novel.
Past crimes come back to haunt in Unger's Christmas Presents. Madeline is the only surviving victim of Evan Handy who is currently in prison for his horrific acts. Podcaster Harley Granger comes back to town and starts digging up old memories. Handy is in jail and other women start to go missing. Granger is able to put things together others aren't and with Madeline's help hopefully they can get to the truth. With many twists and turns and dare I say jump scares to keep your blood pumping, Unger does it again with this thriller. A perfect read for the holiday season.
"Christmas Presents" is a chilling seasonal novella that weaves a suspenseful plot through a picturesque, cozy setting. Madeline, the young owner of The Next Chapter Bookshop, finds herself drawn back into a haunting investigation when true crime podcaster Harley Granger arrives in town. The story unfolds with a gripping exploration of a past tragedy and the unsettling mysteries surrounding it. The combination of a festive backdrop and a deeply unsettling narrative makes this novella a captivating and chilling read that transcends the holiday season.
2.5 stars rounded up.
Most of the time when I'm frustrated about the length of the book, it's because I think it would benefit from some editing to remove unnecessary fluff. This was a book that hit the other end of that spectrum. We get so little character development on most of the missing or dead women, let alone the main characters, that it was very hard to be invested in the mystery or the outcome. I figured out the answer nearly immediately so most of the book was me slogging through to find out if I was correct (spoiler - I was). This book is a lot of telling not showing, the character interactions felt clunky and forced, and all the M names added confusion not complexity.
In the end, this had a lot of potential and I would consider picking up another book by this author, but this simply wasn't a favorite.
A huge thank you to the author and the publisher for providing an e-ARC via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion regarding the book.
I will gladly read anything by Lisa Unger, so when I saw she had a holiday thriller novella, I knew I had to read it! Christmas Presents is the perfect Christmas read for those of you who like a little murder with your decorations, and this small book packs a mighty powerful punch. There were some great twists along the way, and the end literally made my jaw drop almost to the floor! I wasn't expecting it at all, and it was the perfect way to end this twisty read. There are multiple viewpoints to keep things even more interesting and even a little dash of romance.
The audiobook was extremely well done, and our sole narrator Jennifer Pickens did a great job. Since there are multiple viewpoints, it would have been nice to have a full cast, but as the saying goes, we can't always get what we want. I think Christmas Presents is best if you go in completely blind, and it doesn't have to be around the holidays to be a good time to fit this into your reading schedule. I knew there was a reason I loved Unger's books, and this little novella just made me love her even more. If you are a thriller reader this is a must!
Wow! Christmas Presents is really really good! The storyline is well done and had a crazy twist!
Thank you, Lisa Unger, Penzler Publishers, Mysterious Press & Netgalley for my copy. All opinions are my own.
Thank you NetGalley and Penzler Publishers for this arc of Christmas Presents by Lisa Unger.
I admit it, I’m probably one of the only readers to have never read a Lisa Unger book until this one. I enjoyed the atmosphere, the character development and it was a fairly quick paced thriller. I do wish this was a full length book because I felt like I was missing enough details and wanted more. Sometimes I did have a hard time following the POV change.
Overall I am interested in reading her full length novels. This one just didn’t hit home for me.
Christmas Presents by Lisa Unger is an amazing holiday read! The setting is perfect for a kindle-clutching, fireside Christmas tale.
This Novella takes the reader on a journey through strong character development and a deep look into Madeline Martin's past after ending up the only survivor of a murderous crime spree years ago.
Old scars of Madeline's are opened when a curious visitor moves into town. New questions reveal old secrets turning this town upside down just in time for Santa's arrival, only in Madeline's case, the presents are reminders that the threat is still real leaving one question left to answer- Will Madeline find peace this Christmas season or does she find herself standing death's doorstep one more time?
Lisa Unger proved that she can slay a Novella as powerfully as she does her full-length novels. If you are looking for a quick weekend read, this is the book! It doesn't have to be Christmas to enjoy Lisa Unger's Christmas Presents!
Ebook/Mystery: This was an easy, quick read. Because it was a novella, there wasn't any real character development, not plot twists.
This book hooked me from the start. I love stories told my multiple characters that seem to be disconnected until they suddenly connect. That being said, I figured out the "plot twist" about halfway through and then just watched it play out.
I wish this book had been a full length novel. I feel like more character development would have helped with connecting to the characters and making the ending harder to predict.
Christmas Presents was the perfect Christmas thriller to read! I loved that there were multiple viewpoints as well as multiple time frames. Although it did take me a bit to get used to, as I did get a little confused at first! I loved that i didn't guess the plot line (which a lot of thrillers end up being predictable) and loved seeing all of the pieces come together to figure out what truly happened to all of the girls who went missing/murdered. If you're looking for a past paced, keeps you on your toes thriller, then I definitely recommend!
This one was very mediocre for me. It was hard to follow, and didn’t keep me wanting more like this author’s books normally do. Not bad, but also not great.
I sadly did not like this one. There were many points in the story that did not feel necessary at all, specifically the podcast felt like it was only there to add the buzzword "podcast" in the synopsis because it is currently popular. The relationship in here was extremely frustrating as well. I had a range of emotions from bored to angry while reading this and not in a good way. The epilogue was not something I liked either and I had a lot of issues with that as well. I have enjoyed from this author before though so I would still read another full length novel.
This is a well paced thriller that kept me guessing. At one point I suspected everyone in this book as being the killer - which is a sign of a well written book for me. The story comes together nicely and I love when I can look back and see the "easter eggs" along the way at the final reveal.
Thank you @netgalley, @w.w.norton and @highbridgeaudio for the gifted copy of this book.
Thank you NetGalley and Penzler Publishers for an advance copy of this holiday ebook in exchange for an honest review.
This book was a bit lacking for me compared to previous books by Lisa Unger. A bit short, this left me not really caring about the characters and just feeling like I was along for the ride. Lots of red herrings in this one, but none that felt solid.
This was a mystery that was tied to a past cold case when a podcaster finds interest in an old murder that was thought to be solved. Nothing new and exciting for me, but an interesting well written story just the same.
December bookclub we read Christmas Presents by Lisa Unger. This novella was a fast paced thriller however there was one detail that was early on in the book that gave away who did it! I was surprised during our discussion nobody picked up on it. Otherwise the book was still a fast and suspenseful read that I enjoyed.
Thank you Penzer publishers and NetGalley for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.
While an interesting premise, this was definitely more of a slow build for me. I really enjoyed the writing and character development for a shorter book.
I had a really hard time following the POV change, as it’s not identified between chapters. I also was wanting a little more of a twisty reveal at the end. However, the reveal did make perfect sense and overall I think this was a great holiday thriller!
I will definitely be reading more by Unger!
Thank you to Netgalley for my #gifted eARC and Mysterious Press for my gifted finished copy!
Lisa Unger is definitely a go-to gal for me when I need to guaranty myself I’ll enjoy what I’m reading. This was the perfect option for the holiday season for many reasons: stabby stabby, missing person, former missing person, murder podcast, a cold case, novella length and a very bad Santa.
Ho. Ho. Ho.
ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, NetGalley!
I really enjoyed this book. Not just because I love Christmas (and a word of warning – this is not a feel-good Christmas story), but for the two female characters who tell their traumatic story, which takes place at Christmas but ten years apart, in an alternating dual timeline. Both Madeline and Lolly are strong women who fall prey to a handsome, sadistic killer. Although broken, they don’t allow their tormentor to get the best of them.
When true crime fiction podcaster Harley Granger opens the cold case on the ten-year old murder of Madeline’s friend and the disappearance of two other friends, it brings back the horror of the night when she herself was left for dead. Daughter of the town’s sheriff, Madeline is Evan Hardy’s only survivor. But with Evan behind bars and Madeline caring for her father, who has suffered a stroke, Harley convinces her that with recent similar disappearances of young women in the area, the case needs to be investigated further. The killer or an accomplice may still be on the loose.
When Lolly goes missing from a local strip club, Harley tries to uncover the truth about what happened to Madeline and her friends years ago and the connection to the other crimes since then. Madeline and her best friend, Badger, who rescued her the night she was nearly killed, also dig back into the past in an attempt to find Lolly’s whereabouts. The intertwining of the past and present is skillfully executed by the author, each woman’s point of view adding to the suspense of the story.
The small-town setting, The Next Chapter Bookshop owned by Madeline, the creepy old homes abandoned by Evan’s family and that of his murdered victim, and the wintry Christmas backdrop add to the cozy but chilling atmosphere. The premise of the past still being present brings an eeriness to charming Little Valley, where an annual Christmas vigil is kept for Madeline’s two missing friends.
A fast-paced ride that I was sorry to see end, Christmas Presents hooked me from the initial bookshop scene where Harley introduces himself to Madeline and instigates the whole reinvestigation into a past she has worked hard to put behind her. Several twists and surprises kept me riveted until the ending, which I did not anticipate.
The only thing I would like to see more of in this novella is more pages. A great thriller read for the Christmas season or year-round!
This was my first Lisa Unger but won’t be my last! Although the “mystery” of whodunit was easily predictable, I still thoroughly enjoyed the character development, the story, and the Christmas theme weaved in. I wouldn’t have minded if this book was double the length. A perfect short Christmas-y thriller I saved for the end of the year! I even bought a physical copy because I enjoyed it so much!
Thank you to Lisa, Mysterious Press, HighBridge Audio, and NetGalley for the e-galley and ALC! I chose to read the digital copy, so I have no feedback specific to the audiobook.