Review: The Writing Retreat

Title: The Writing Retreat
Author: Julia Bartz
Genre: Thriller, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher and Tandem Collective
Format: Paperback
Release Date: February 21, 2023
Rating: ★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

A book deal to die for. 

Five attendees are selected for a month-long writing retreat at the remote estate of Roza Vallo, the controversial high priestess of feminist horror. Alex, a struggling writer, is thrilled.

Upon arrival, they discover they must complete an entire novel from scratch, and the best one will receive a seven-figure publishing deal. Alex’s long-extinguished dream now seems within reach.

But then the women begin to die.

Trapped, terrified yet still desperately writing, it is clear there is more than a publishing deal at stake at Blackbriar Estate. Alex must confront her own demons – and finish her novel – to save herself.

This unhinged, propulsive, claustrophobic closed-door thriller will pull you in and spit you out…


Bestselling author Roza Vallo hosts a writing retreat at her remote estate for aspiring writers under thirty-years-old. When Alex finds out that she’s been chosen for this exclusive retreat, she’s excited but there’s a problem. She’s had writer’s block for a year. On top of that, her ex-best friend, who she had a fight with a year before, has also been chosen to go to the retreat. The experience isn’t what they expected. Roza wants them to each write a complete novel, writing 3,000 words a day to complete it in a month. However, the women begin to feel trapped, and strange things start happening. It isn’t just their writing careers that are at stake, but their lives as well. 

I loved the premise of this book. It would be a dream come true for me to go to a writing retreat with my favourite author! I can’t imagine having the privilege of doing that. The thriller aspects of this story were good, but there were some strange scenes. 

The strange scenes involved hallucinations and dreams. It gave the story a bit of a fantasy side, which disrupted the intense thriller. There were also some references to homosexuality and race in publishing that didn’t really make the impact they should have. It felt like some attempted representation that was thrown into the story without a purpose or without fully making a statement. 

The Writing Retreat was an intense and unusual thriller. 

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada and Tandem Collective for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

Have you read The Writing Retreat? What did you think of it?


Review: Delicious Monsters

Title: Delicious Monsters
Author: Liselle Sambury
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Thriller, Paranormal
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback arc
Release Date: February 28, 2023
Rating: ★★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

The Haunting of Hill House meets Sadie in this evocative and mind-bending psychological thriller following two teen girls navigating the treacherous past of a mysterious mansion ten years apart.

Daisy sees dead people—something impossible to forget in bustling, ghost-packed Toronto. She usually manages to deal with her unwanted ability, but she’s completely unprepared to be dumped by her boyfriend. So when her mother inherits a secluded mansion in northern Ontario where she spent her childhood summers, Daisy jumps at the chance to escape. But the house is nothing like Daisy expects, and she begins to realize that her experience with the supernatural might be no match for her mother’s secrets, nor what lurks within these walls…

A decade later, Brittney is desperate to get out from under the thumb of her abusive mother, a bestselling author who claims her stay at “Miracle Mansion” allowed her to see the error of her ways. But Brittney knows that’s nothing but a sham. She decides the new season of her popular Haunted web series will uncover what happened to a young Black girl in the mansion ten years prior and finally expose her mother’s lies. But as she gets more wrapped up in the investigation, she’ll have to decide: if she can only bring one story to light, which one matters most—Daisy’s or her own?

As Brittney investigates the mansion in the present, Daisy’s story runs parallel in the past, both timelines propelling the girls to face the most dangerous monsters of all: those that hide in plain sight.


Seventeen-year-old Daisy can see dead people. She’s constantly surrounded by them in Toronto, but she manages to deal with it. When her mother gets the news that she inherited a mansion in Timmins, a city in Northern Ontario, Daisy and her mother, Grace, move there. In the mansion, Daisy must confront her mother’s secret past. Ten years later, Brittney hosts a web series about haunted places. She decides that she wants to shape the new series around forgotten Black girls, like Daisy. Brittney and her co-host Jayden go to “Miracle Mansion” to investigate the haunted mansion where Daisy’s tragic story unfolds. 

This story started out as a ghost story, but it had a lot more meaning than that. It was quite intense, particularly towards the end. The ending of this story raised the question of what girls are forgotten and who is considered worth looking for. This horror story had an emotionally charged ending. There were extensive trigger warnings at the beginning of the book, which I will include at the end of this post.

One of my criticisms of the story is that I found there was too much back story at the beginning. There was a lot of Daisy’s life in Toronto in the first third of the book, and it wasn’t as crucial to the ending of the book. I would have liked it more if the main story started sooner. There were also many hints to tension points that were obvious by the time they were revealed, which minimized the tension they should have caused. 

Delicious Monsters is a horror story with and important message. 

Content warnings: child sexual assault (off page), child physical abuse (off page), child neglect, grooming, suicide, killing of a goat, body horror, violence, death

Thank you Simon and Schuster for providing a physical copy of this book.

What to read next:

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Have you read Delicious Monsters? What did you think of it?