Review: The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

The Familiar DarkThe Familiar Dark by Amy Engel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After the birth of her first and only child, a girl named Junie, Eve Taggert vows to do a better job than her own mother did.

She spends the next 12-years putting her past far behind her. She never introduces Junie to her Grandmother and tries her best to make sure Junie always feels safe and loved, a luxury she never had.

When Junie is murdered, along with her best friend, Izzy, on a snowy day at an abandoned playground, Eve is shattered with grief.

Her girl was her entire world, her entire purpose, but now she has a new purpose, getting justice for Junie and she may have to go back to her roots in order to get it.

We’re talking some real hillbilly justice.

It’s clear the police, her brother Cal included, are not getting anywhere in their investigation. At least if they are, they aren’t sharing it with her.

So, Eve decides to do a bit of investigating of her own.

One of her first stops is her Mama’s house. A warm reunion it is not, but Eve feels oddly supported for the first time.

Maybe her Mama’s lessons are going to pay off after all.

This book is aptly titled, as it got dark real quick and stayed there. The overall feeling is desperate and depressing, but it worked.

I thought Eve’s character was written so well. I could feel what she was feeling, it hurt and kept me engaged the whole way through.

Coming in at under 300-pages, it is a pretty quick read, but definitely packs a punch.

If you like gritty Crime Fiction with the perfect touch of Hillbilly Noir, you should definitely give this one a shot!

I feel like this is Engel’s wheelhouse; it definitely suits her writing style well. Atmospheric and DARK, just how I like ’em.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dutton Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

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Review: Night of the Dragon (Shadow of the Fox #3) by Julie Kagawa

Night of the Dragon (Shadow of the Fox, #3)Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

((sobbing))

Oh, my babies! My poor sweet babies! Why must you leave me so soon!?

I never wanted this to end. I tried to drag it out as long as possible, but sadly, it is done.

My favorite YA Fantasy trilogy has come to an end. It is time for me to leave Yumeko and the land of Iwagato behind. The spirit will live in my heart for a lifetime.

Julie Kagawa has blessed us all with the Shadow of the Fox triology and for that, I will be forever grateful.

Sure, I may be dramatic, but that doesn’t make it less true.

Have y’all started this journey yet?

As a conclusion to the series, this gave me everything I wanted and more. All of the loose ends were tied, lessons were learned and so many feelings were felt.

The final few pages of this legit shattered my heart into a million pieces while simultaneously putting them back together again.

The entirety of this installment is packed full of action. There was so much on the line and our protagonists did not have it easy. There was no easy way out in this story.

The world creation skills that Kagawa displays are simply top shelf. I was completely immersed in this world. I saw it all playing out in my minds eye like I was actually there. It was so impressive.

I don’t know what else to say. I am speechless.

I loved all of the characters so much. I loved the world. I loved the quest. I love the Japanese inspired folklore and feeling of it all. Just an overall incredible story from beginning to end.

If you have not given this series a shot, I really hope you do. For me, it’s pure perfection, one I will read again in the future.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Inkyard Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. It was easily my most anticipated YA Fantasy of the year and it did not disappoint!

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Review: The First Mistake by Sandie Jones

The First MistakeThe First Mistake by Sandie Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The First Mistake was a delight!

I haven’t read a book in under 24-hours in a while. So fun!

Alice’s life hasn’t always been perfect, although from the outside it may appear so.

She lost her first husband, Tom, a decade ago and as expected, the tragedy hit her extremely hard. Her young daughter was really what pulled her through.

Now remarried to her second husband, Nathan, they own a successful design company and have added another little girl to their family.

Alice feels motivated and content.

Unfortunately, Nathan starts to behave curiously and all Alice’s old anxieties rise to the surface.

Her best friend, Beth, who always has her back, tells her she has every right to be suspicious.

As she begins to look into it, Alice wonders if Beth is even someone she can trust.

There were so many twists, turns and revelations in this book, I could not put it down. My head was spinning. I trusted no one.

I could never have guessed the conclusion to this, not in my wildest dreams!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I am looking forward to reading more domestic suspense from Sandie Jones!

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Review: The June Boys by Courtney C. Stevens

The June BoysThe June Boys by Courtney C. Stevens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

The Gemini Thief is a serial kidnapper who has been plaguing Tennessee for the past decade.

Every year, three boys are taken, kept for a year and then released.

When one of the currently kidnapped boy’s body is discovered, however, it is assumed the Thief has escalated. He has never killed before. Was it an accident?

Either way, authorities and citizens alike become desperate to get the bottom of the mystery.

Thea Delacroix has been seriously hunting the Thief ever since her cousin, Aulus, disappeared. Not everyone believes she is correct when she says he was one of the Thief’s victims, but she knows it’s true.

Unfortunately for Thea, she begins to suspect her own father may be responsible. His eccentricities definitely make it possible for him to be the culprit everyone is searching for.

What should she do?

The story follows Thea and her closest friends as they investigate her father and follow leads in an effort to find the missing boys.

Interspersed throughout the narrative are letters written from her cousin, Aulus, during his captivity. These are penned, The Elizabeth Letters.

Through the letters we get a glimpse of how dire the situation is for the boys remaining in the Thief’s grasp.

A couple of things, there were some pretty series formatting issues with the copy of the e-ARC that I read. Particularly during The Elizabeth Letters things were so jumbled, it was hard to tell what was supposed to go where.

With this being said, it made this one a little hard to rate. I am positive that these issues have been cleared up in the final copy.

Therefore, I am basing my rating on what I know this story to be: well written and intense.

I thought the writing was great. The intensity was high throughout the whole story.

There are aspects of this that are hard to read. It is dark and the author doesn’t shy away from showing how desperate the boys in captivity are.

I also wouldn’t say it was uplifting, however, there is a message of hope, higher power and meaning. In my opinion, it was a solid YA Mystery/Thriller, best enjoyed by individuals who like their stories to go dark and stay there.

While not for everyone, I personally enjoyed this. I have a feeling if I would have read a finished copy, as opposed to the ARC, I would have ended up giving this a solid 4-stars.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Regardless of the formatting issues, I did have a good time reading this!

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Review: A Forgotten Murder (Medlar Mystery #3) by Jude Deveraux

A Forgotten MurderA Forgotten Murder by Jude Deveraux
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When romance novelist, Sara Medlar, arranges a trip to the UK for herself, her niece, Kate and their friend, Jack, she has more in mind than a relaxing family vacation.

They are headed to Oxley Manor, a stately British home, that her friend Stella has recently converted, with generous funding from Sara herself, into a luxury hotel.

The Manor house has quite a history, including the disappearance of two young people a couple decades before. Assumed to have run off together, that fact was never confirmed and their whereabouts never discovered.

Sara feels inspired by the mystery and her plan is to go to the house, inviting all the folks who were there the night of the disappearance, to finally weed out the truth.

Then, obviously, she will write a book about it.

This book was such a delight to read. It has a classic cozy mystery format with a fun group of main characters.

I loved Sara, Kate and Jack. Their chemistry is engaging and definitely a hoot to read. Together they bring some serious amateur sleuthing skills and y’all know I eat that stuff up!!

This is actually the third book in the Medlar Mystery series. I haven’t read any of the other books and had no problem jumping right into this and enjoying the heck out of it. It was fast paced, with plenty of twists and red herrings.

Since reading this, I have added the first two books in the series to my ‘to be read’ list and definitely plan to get to them. I think with these three solving mysteries, my attention could be held for years to come.

Although the ending got truly wild, I am so happy to have a new go-to cozy mystery series.

Thank you so much to the publisher, MIRA, for reaching out and bringing this book to my attention. Also, a hearty thank you to them for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and it is clear y’all know my tastes!

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Review: The Moor by Sam Haysom

The MoorThe Moor by Sam Haysom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

This creepy, campy tale incorporates many things I love: chilling stories around a campfire, multiple POVs, the use of mixed media sources and a delightful, ‘is it supernatural, is it not supernatural’ feel.

Once I started, I couldn’t put it down and ended up completing it in under 24-hours.

I was drawn in right away, thanks to the lore of the Moors, and the clever use of newspaper articles of missing persons and bodies found in the area.

Haysom has definitely created a compulsively readable story here. However, as intrigued as I was, it still felt very surface level.

I wanted MORE…

All puns aside, it felt like an abridged version of what the story should have been.

With this being said, I know not everyone enjoys 500-page tomes as much as I do, so for a lot of people this book will tickle that horror spot just as they want it to. If you like creepy, outdoorsy stories you should check this one out.

This did remind me a lot of Nick Cutter’s, The Troop, mixed with a creature feature of the 1980s.

In case it’s not clear, those are both great things!

Overall, I think this is a good horror novella. I see a lot of potential in his writing and would definitely pick up more works by Sam Haysom!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Unbound Digital, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it very much.

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Review: A Beautiful Corpse (Harper McClain #2) by Christi Daugherty

A Beautiful Corpse (Harper McClain, #2)A Beautiful Corpse by Christi Daugherty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

One night as Harper McClain is having a few drinks and visiting with her best friend, Bonnie, a bartender at The Library Bar, she receives a call that there has been a shooting.

As an investigative reporter on Savannah’s crime beat, Harper needs to get to that scene and fast.

She’s had a couple of drinks by this point, however, so Bonnie insists on driving her. It’s closing time anyway and she promises not to get in Harper’s way.

Once on scene, Bonnie recognizes the murdered girl as 24-year old, Naomi Scott, a waitress at The Library Bar. In fact, Naomi had been working that very night, having just left the bar for home around an hour before.

Reflecting back on it, they realize, Naomi had seemed a bit frazzled right before she left, but why?

The police believe the perpetrator to be Naomi’s boyfriend, Wilson Shepherd, but both Bonnie and Harper, who know the young man, don’t like him for the crime.

Harper follows other leads that send her down some dark roads against some very powerful people.

With her signature style, Harper doesn’t give up. She is determined to get to the bottom of the case and see justice for Naomi and her family.

This is the second installment to the Harper McClain mystery series. While I wasn’t as engaged with this story as I was with the first book, this was still really strong and enjoyable to read.

One of the things I enjoyed so much about the first book was learning about Harper’s past and the trauma that really shaped the course of her life. There wasn’t as much of her backstory in this one and I kind of missed that.

I love Harper as a character. I feel like her job as a crime reporter is a great way to frame a mystery story. I like her interactions with the local police and how that dynamic plays out.

Additionally, this one had a really intriguing ending that set it up perfectly for the third book.

I believe in the next book, we are going to be learning a lot more about Harper’s mother and I’m so ready!

Overall, this is a great mystery series with a strong female protagonist who needs no one to save her. It’s the perfect time to jump in on the series as well, with the third book releasing next Tuesday, March 10th!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. My apologies for taking so long, it was definitely worth the wait for me. Looking forward to continuing on Harper’s journey!

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Review: Watching From the Dark (DCI Jonah Sheens #2) by Gytha Lodge

Watching from the Dark (DCI Jonah Sheens, #2)Watching from the Dark by Gytha Lodge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up **

This was everything I wanted it to be. Gytha Lodge, you have made me a happy girl.

Signing on to his standard 11 o’clock Skype date with his girlfriend, Zoe, Aidan Poole can tell right away something is off.

For one, Zoe isn’t in front of the camera. He observes her, but then she goes into the bathroom and starts running a bath.

Anticipating something kinky may be in the works, he sits back and watches.

Things take a disturbing turn however, when he observes a shadowy figure entering her apartment and then the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

Next he hears sounds of a struggle. Zoe is being attacked and there is nothing he can do!

Well, you’re probably thinking, he could call the police. But he doesn’t.

Not right away, anyway. He ultimately does end up calling the next day, but if Zoe were brutally attacked, wouldn’t he want to get her help as soon as possible?

If you think this sounds like an intriguing way to a kick off a story, you’re absolutely right!

When his odd crime report makes its way to the desk of DCI Jonah Sheens, he and his team decide to take on the case.

Soon they discover, Zoe didn’t survive the attack. Now tackling a murder investigation, Sheens and the team dig deep into her life, friend group and mysterious relationship with Aidan.

I really enjoyed the first installment to the Jonah Sheens series, She Lies in Wait, and was highly anticipating this release.

I am happy to report this exceeded my expectations. I feel like Lodge’s writing has matured in such a pleasant way. The investigatory aspects of this were so strong.

I loved being back with Sheens and the other officers. They work so well together as a team and that is nice to see. Often there can be a lot of drama within investigative units, so it is nice to see a group that works together in a supportive way.

I do think this can be read as a standalone, so if you haven’t read the first book, please don’t let that keep you from picking this one up. If the premise sounds good to you, jump on it.

I have a feeling you’ll be adding the first book to your TBR after. As you should, because it is great too!

As for me, I am so excited about the potential for this series. I hope it lasts a long, long time. I know I will be picking up every single one that gets released.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Random House, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly appreciate it. I am looking forward to reading so much more from Gytha Lodge in the future!

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Review: No Bad Deed by Heather Chavez

No Bad DeedNo Bad Deed by Heather Chavez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My head is spinning. Wow, that was a wild ride!!!

Driving home from work one night, Cassie Larkin sees what she assumes to be a domestic conflict happening on the side of the road.

She stops her car and calls 911. Although the operator tells her to remain in her vehicle, Cassie cannot sit idly by while this woman gets assaulted or worse.

As she breaks up the altercation, the man tells her that if she lets him kill this woman, he will let her live. Basically, this woman’s life for hers, but Cassie isn’t having that.

Eventually, the man flees, but unfortunately he does so in Cassie’s van. Now the psycho has her handbag, complete with identification, family photos, address, and her house keys.

Without putting too fine a point on it, this is basically my worse nightmare come to the page. Reading this opening scene, I was so prepared to throw this book in the freezer.

It’s like Heather Chavez knew exactly what to write to freak me the heck out!

And I cherish that.

When Cassie’s husband disappears the next night, on Halloween, while out trick-or-treating with their 6-year old daughter, her instincts tell her something is terribly wrong.

After she reports it, it seems the cops just believe this is a case of a man leaving his family. Cassie knows better, however, and begins her own investigation.

While it did surprise me that the cops didn’t take his disappearance more seriously, especially considering they knew the crazy, violent guy who stole her vehicle had her keys and information, I did love Cassie getting involved and looking into his disappearance herself.

Amateur sleuthing is one of my favorite tropes in a thriller and I think Chavez did a great job with it here.

This story took so many crazy turns, there was no way to predict what was going to happen next. As secrets begin to come out from Cassie’s own dark past, you know the final reveal will probably blow you away.

The final scenes did not disappoint!

I was so impressed with this. I was creeped out almost the entire time and it was so much fun. I cannot wait to read more from Chavez!

Thank you so much to the publisher, William Morrow, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly appreciate it!

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Review: Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough

Dead to HerDead to Her by Sarah Pinborough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At this point in her life, Marcie Maddox, has firmly established herself as the hot, younger second wife to her successful husband, Jason.

In their posh Savannah community, replete with sumptuous mansions and a country club lifestyle, image is everything. Marcie appears to have it all and she feels that way, most days.

The older, blue blooded women they socialize with have come to accept her and include her in their luncheons and tennis dates, but Marcie will always feel a bit like a second class citizen around them. She can’t help it.

When Jason’s boss, the wealthy, recently widowed, William Radford IV, returns from a trip to London with a much younger, sexy as hell, second wife on his arm, the whole of Savannah society gets thrown for a loop. Marcie especially.

She’s no longer the youngest, or the most supple for that matter. The way Jason devours the new Mrs. Radford, Keisha, with his eyes, makes Marcie’s skin crawl.

Keisha is brazen in a way that would be refreshing if it wasn’t so shocking to their social norms. The way she plays housewife to the old coot, while also being sure to flirt with Marcie’s husband, what exactly is she after?

After Jason asks her to befriend Keisha, Marcie learns a lot more about the girl than she bargained for!

The ladies quickly become two peas in a pod, but their friendship soon threatens everything Marcie has worked so hard for.

Full of secrets, deceptions and a touch of Southern voodoo and superstitions, this book had me flipping the pages at a rate to set my fingers on fire!

I felt this was completely unique, full of unlikable characters and drama fit for daytime programming.

While I had a ton of fun reading this, I can see how it might not work for everyone. I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending, but things can’t always work out how we would choose.

I will definitely remember this one, that’s for sure.

Thank you so much to the publisher, William Morrow Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it so much!

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