Cover Image: Christmas Presents

Christmas Presents

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Member Reviews

Lisa Unger is a phenomenal writer---I have yet to be disappointed in any of her books and this novella is no exception. Fast read but with characters that stay with you.

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Christmas Presents is a faced paced thriller with lots of twists and turns to keep you guessing. Madeline Martin owns a bookshop the town she grew up in. When a author/podcaster comes in and wants to open up a trauma from her past, she reluctantly helps. But as more information comes out, Madeline questions everything she thought. Thank you to Lisa Unger, Net Galley and Mysterious press for the advanced copy.

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This Lisa Unger book is just another really good book. Madeline meets Harley Granger, who seems intent on digging up events that she would much rather forget. Madeline is the only surviving victim of Evan Handy, the man who was convicted of murdering her best friend Steph, and is suspected in the disappearance of two sisters. Harley Granger has a lot of questions about the night Stephanie Cramer was killed, Ainsley and Sam Wallace disappeared, and Madeline Martin was left for dead, bleeding out on a riverbank. Since Evan Handy went to jail, three other young women have gone missing, most recently a young college dropout named Lolly. As Christmas approaches and a blizzard is heading their way, Madeline and her childhood friend Badger return to help find the missing Lolly and to answer questions that have haunted them both. I really enjoyed Unger's lastest book.

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This was a fast paced, suspenseful, quick read. A woman is held hostage and trying to get away from the deranged person keeping her captive. Though it may be a shorter story, it’s not lacking in its ability to keep you on the edge of your seat and packing in all the suspense! I really enjoyed the Christmas theme mixed with the thriller aspect!

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I loved the premise and set up for this book but really wanted it to be a full length novel instead of a novella. I think the tropes and structure would have worked much better with more pages to really develop the characters and gravity of the situation. There were so many great points and details - such as the titular Christmas presents - that really felt like they were mentioned off hand instead of being the bigger plot points they felt like they should be. I loved our protagonist and found her story very compelling but I would have loved more flashbacks to see the differences between back then and present day. This was great surface level read but I wanted more depth and development to both the characters and the plot. I would be interested in picking up more from this author

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This was a short and sweet novella. I didn't completely get into this one but enjoyed the idea of a Christmas thriller!

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It's so nice to mix up a Christmas thriller amidst all of the Hallmark type novels! This is my first one and definitely won't be my last. There is something about books where women are locked up and held hostage by a deranged person that really creeps me out. Most of the time thrillers are meh to me, but throw in an abducted hostage situation, and I will be flipping through pages so fast. It's nice that this was also a shorter novel. I knocked it out in a couple of hours. It held my interest from beginning to end. I'll be picking up more Lisa Unger in the future now!

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Bookshop owners are the most inquisitive people, they love to dig around in the past. Teaming a bookshop owner with an investigative podcaster is brilliant. Their sleuthing skills was incredible and provides for an entertaining read you don’t want to put down.

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I love books that are fast-paced and keep me wanting to read more and this was definitely one of those! It was a different kind of book to read over Christmas weekend. Will definitely recommend to others.

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Totally recommend solely for the atmosphere! Very fast-paced and plot-driven and is great for a quick read over the holiday!

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I really enjoyed how much action was packed into this short little novella. I felt like I experienced a whole full-length novel in half the time. I do agree with other reviewers that some parts (a la the ending) felt a little rushed, but I don't particularly think we needed anymore to the story to be left feeling satisfied. I had several theories while reading and I enjoyed that I didn't quite exactly know which direction the book was going to take. I'm not sure what it says about this book or my memory, but the most memorable part of this novella were the descriptions of Madeline's bookshop. Add that to fictional places I would like to visit one day!

3.5/5 Stars

Thank you Penzler Publishers & NetGalley for my ARC!

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Such a cute fun Christmas read!!! Lisa Unger is a favorite thriller author of mine and I love that she jumped into a holiday novella!!!

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Christmas Presents
⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Author: Lisa Unger

I requested a digital advanced readers copy from NetGalley, Penzler Publishers, and High Bridge Audio and providing my opinion voluntarily and unbiased.

Synopsis: Madeline Martin has built a life for herself as the young owner of a thriving business, The Next Chapter Bookshop, despite her tragic childhood and now needing to care for her infirm father. When Harley Granger, a failed novelist turned true crime podcaster, drifts into her shop in the days before Christmas, he seems intent on digging up events that Madeline would much rather forget. She's the only surviving victim of Evan Handy, the man who was convicted of murdering her best friend Steph, and is suspected in the disappearance of two sisters, also good friends of Madeline's, who have been missing for nearly a decade.

Harley Granger has a gift for seeing things that others miss. He wasn't much of a novelist, but his work as a true crime author and podcaster has earned him fame and wealth—and some serious criticism for his various unethical practices. Still, visiting Little Valley to be closer to his dying father has caused him to look into a case that many people think is closed—and some want reopened.

Since Evan Handy went to jail, three other young women have gone missing, most recently a young college dropout named Lolly. Five young women missing in the same area in a decade. Are they connected? Was Evan Handy innocent after all? Or was there some else there that night? Someone who is still satisfying his dark appetites?

My Thoughts: This was more of a novella at a shorter length. I had the pleasure of having both the digital (260 pages) and audio (5 hours and 39 minutes) books. This was definitely haunting and gripping, and perfect for the Christmas season! Madeline was brutally attacked ten years ago, her best friend was murdered and two more of her friends disappeared. Her then boyfriend, Evan, was convicted of the murder and was sentenced to life. Ten years later, she has moved on the best she can and owns a small bookstore. A well known podcaster comes to town to reopen the cold case of the two missing friends. Madeline has to reopen closed wounds, will this cause her to break? When another woman goes missing, will this open the door to finding the two missing girls?

The story is narrated by multiple characters and in multiple timelines. Once you get the who is who and which POV timeline, it flows well. Madeline suffered a tragic event that has left her scarred, cautious, and untrusting. The characters were developed throughout the story, they were mysterious, and were creatively woven. The author’s writing style was complex, was dark, flowed well, was creepy, twisty, the pacing was quick, and the plot points were spot on. While a tad predictable, this was still a compelling twisty read.

This atmospheric thrilling story kept me engaged and invested. While I felt the scenes could have been expanded a little more and a little more detail, it was a still a good read that I throughly enjoyed. I am a Lisa Unger fan and would definitely read anything she puts out. I would recommend to other readers this Christmas season.

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Thank you to NetGalley, Lisa Unger and Penzler publishing for a free ebook in exchange for an honest review.

I love Unger’s writing and this is just the perfect Christmas time thriller. It’s a quick paced, keep you at the edge of your seat novel. I did figure out the twist, but the reveal was totally worth it and it all tied together so nicely.

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I enjoyed this quick suspenseful novella about a murder and disappearance of high school friends years prior. When a podcaster shows up in town all secrets seem to be revealed. My only wish was honestly that this had been a full novel. I would’ve loved more back story and details of the characters relationships in high school.

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I love reading Holiday reads and lately I’ve been really loving Holiday mysteries and thrillers. Christmas Presents is a fast paced murder mystery novella that quickly pulls you in and can easily be read in one setting. The characters are mostly all loveable and well developed. There’s a strong female lead which is always something I love in a book. Even though I kind of figured out who the killer was before it was still quite a good read. If you’re looking to add a bit of murder and mystery to your holiday season this one is perfect for it.

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Christmas Presents by Lisa Unger. I’ve was in the mood for a good Christmas thriller and that’s exactly what I got. This book was amazing. It kept me interested and page turning until the end! Thanks Penzler Publishers, Mysterious Press and NetGalley for the ARC!

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This one fell a bit flat for me. I feel that some details didn't quite get the explanation they needed and it was a bit rushed.

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This was a quick, easy to read holiday novella which I really enjoy.

I think this would have been a great full length novel as there were lots of storylines and character development to keep up with. The story was there but just needed a little better execution. The ending was a little open-ended and I still had some questions after finishing. I did not guess the mystery before the end but I can how people would think it was predictable once getting to the end.

I enjoyed reading this and I am loving the emergence of Christmas thrillers. This book led to a great discussion with my book club.

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ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

I really liked the context of this book and it was the perfect fast paced thriller for the holidays! The characters and backstories were well built and I really liked the podcast element of the story. There were times where it was difficult to establish if it was happening in the present or the past at times, but eventually it became clearer. If you like psychological thrillers that take place at Christmas, this may be perfect for you!

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