Review: Cuckoo by Gretchen Felker-Martin

CuckooCuckoo by Gretchen Felker-Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Cuckoo is an Extreme Horror novel following a diverse cast of Queer characters trying to survive a Conversion Camp and its aftermath. Kicking off in 1995, this book gets in your face and stays there. Warning: there are no limits!

It’s guaranteed to make you uncomfortable, cringey, angry, and hurt for 99% of the time that you are reading it. If you’re not, you may want to check your pulse.

This is the kind of book that makes me wish I had a BookTube channel, because I could talk about this book for hours. It made me think a lot and really analyze everything that’s going on here.

Sadly, my patience for typing isn’t as robust as my patience for talking, so I promise, this won’t be too long. Most likely, you are wondering what this is all about. The cover doesn’t reveal too much and the title could mean anything.

Basically, this story starts in 1995, it introduces us to a group of characters, all Queer, who are forcibly sent to a Conversion Camp by their families.

The very beginning of the novel is interesting, because as you’re meeting the various characters it was delivered sort of via vignette style, which I’m not necessarily accustomed to. In a way, it made it feel like I was getting short stories for each of the major players.

Once they are all moved to the conversion camp, we then follow the various atrocities that occur there. Unsurprisingly, as the characters are being submitted to daily abuses, they begin to bond and form connections to one another.

Ultimately, a plan to break out is formed.

In Part II, we fast forward to where these teens are now adults, and they’re brought together once again to try to fight the old evil they were exposed to at the camp. What they’ve come to call, the cuckoo. They want to save the next generation of teens suffering like they did.

The story is much more complex than this basic synopsis lets on, but it is best to go in knowing as little as possible.

However, with this being said, I want to stress that this is an Extreme Horror novel. I feel this is a very important distinction for me to make, because I’m not sure the synopsis, or the way it’s currently being marketed, really makes that clear enough.

My concern for this book is that people are going to pick it up thinking it is a Queer Horror novel, which, yes, it is, but there is a very big difference between a mainstream Horror book and an Extreme Horror book.

I feel like people who have never read Extreme Horror before, or maybe aren’t aware that is even a subgenre, will pick this up and be traumatized for life.

I read this subgenre regularly, so nothing here surprised me, especially having read Felker-Martin before, I knew what I was getting myself into. I signed up knowingly, willingly and I really enjoyed the journey of this story.

I just want to throw out a friendly warning to anyone else who may not be so prepared. This is extreme, it’s graphic, both in a violent and sexual nature, and holds absolutely nothing back.

I wouldn’t say this is quite as Splatterpunk as Manhunt, and I actually enjoyed the trajectory of this story more than Manhunt, but this is still full of Felker-Martin’s signature style of extreme writing.

One small issue I had though was the pace. I felt like in the beginning, it read fairly slowly, and then by the end, it was progressing too quickly. The lead-up to the final events, I actually wish was more drawn out. While I appreciate the intensity built throughout, I actually would have preferred a more even pace.

Also, I really loved Part II, which followed the characters as adults, but it didn’t start until around 70%. I would have loved a more 50/50 split, between following them as teens, and then following them as adults.

Overall, I thought this was great. It was engaging and thought-provoking. I feel like as a piece of Extreme Horror Fiction, it was creative and very well-written.

I enjoyed this more than Manhunt, which was quite a memorable reading experience, and feel like Felker-Martin’s style is fine-tuning into something that is distinct in the subgenre. She is wildly-imaginative and not afraid to explore very difficult topics. She pulls no punches.

Thank you to the publisher, Tor Nightfire and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I will definitely be picking up whatever this author writes next!

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Review: The New Couple in 5B by Lisa Unger

The New Couple in 5BThe New Couple in 5B by Lisa Unger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

The New Couple in 5B follows a married couple, Rosie and Chad, as they try to navigate life in the uber-expensive rat race that is NYC. They’re both struggling artists of a sort, Rosie is a nonfiction writer and Chad is an actor, so they’re just trying to make ends meet any way they can.

That’s why when they receive news that Chad’s recently deceased Uncle Ivan has bequeathed to them his fully-paid off luxury apartment, it seems like they’ve won the lottery.

To Rosie the inheritance is a surprise, but it also make sense. Ivan had been quite ill before his passing and she and Chad took care of him when no one else in the family stepped up, including Ivan’s own daughter, Dana.

The apartment itself is located in the desirable neighborhood of Murray Hill on the East side of Manhattan. The building it is housed in, the Windermere, is well-known as a haven for creative types and boasts a rich cultural history.

As the couple settles in, Rosie, frequently left home alone while Chad is out working, starts to feel unsettled by the building and its other residents.

The doorman, Abi, is always there; as in, it’s like he never sleeps. He’s also always listening, with a intercom within their apartment that he is constantly connected to. There are cameras everywhere, and Rosie feels like her every move is under surveillance.

When people connected to the apartment unexpectedly and suspiciously die, Rosie feels like she could be next. She needs to get to the truth behind the Windermere before its too late. No inheritance is worth your life.

Lisa Unger and I haven’t had the best relationship, but this was quite entertaining. Unger has redeemed herself for me after the mess that was Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six.

This does have heavy, HEAVY Rosemary’s Baby vibes, but I’m not mad about it. Those are some solid vibes. We’ll take ’em.

I liked the unsettling feel of the property. Abi, the doorman, was an especially disturbing character, who even I wanted to get away from.

I do feel like the intensity built steadily as Rosie begins to become more and more suspicious of the Windermere and its residents. I also like the way it leaned into the Psychological Thriller genre. It felt like Rosie was on her own, like no one was going to believe her.

Rosie does have some allies, but her husband Chad felt like he could be friend and foe. I really appreciate that mystery surrounding his character. We got to know Rosie so much more than Chad, obviously by design, but I did feel like their relationship was framed perfectly to keep the suspense high.

There was a historical perspective that I wasn’t crazy about, but it did make sense in context with the overall story.

Personally, I just wish we could have received those details in a different way, as I found that perspective more distracting than anything. I just wanted to be with Rosie.

I did really enjoy how Unger kept me guessing though. It gets especially wild towards the end, but overall, yeah, I feel like this is engaging and entertaining, which was exactly what I was hoping for.

I did listen to the audiobook and would highly recommend that format. I did feel like the narration was very well-done, particularly as a voice for Rosie.

At the end of the day, I had fun with this.

I’m glad I picked it up and won’t hesitate to pick up more from this author in the future. I couldn’t say that before this book, so we have progress!

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Review: Thunderhead (Arc of the Scythe #2) by Neal Shusterman

Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe, #2)Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The World:

I hate reading sequels.
Ew, the dreaded second book syndrome strikes again.
Can it ever live up to the magic of the first book?

Neal Shusterman upon writing Thunderhead:

Honestly, and I mean this, Thunderhead is one of the most delightful sequels to ever sequel. There is absolutely no dreaded second book syndrome here.

I feel like I am the last person in the world to read this, but just in case I’m not, Thunderhead is the second book in Neal Shusterman’s Arc of the Scythe series.

This YA series is set in a future where natural death has been eradicated. While natural death may be a thing of the past, population control is still necessary. Thus, we have the Scythes, whose job it is to glean people, aka. end their lives.

These books start by following some Scythe apprentices and then we sort of escalate from there. I was concerned this would lose some of the initial intrigue. Sometimes that happens with series, all of the magic lies in the world-building in the first book and then it will sort of dissipate.

Luckily, Shusterman was far from done building out this world. We’re introduced to new things in this book, including characters that really added to the overall story.

I also loved the trajectory for our two mains from the first book, Rowan and Citra. Rowan’s arc, in particular, really evolves in this one, heading in a different direction than what I would have originally anticipated for him.

There’s also a vein of this story that starts investigating the intentions of the founding Scythes. That avenue helped to build out the lore of the world. It brought in history and really got my brain cranking about how vast this scope actually is. It’s truly impressive.

Shusterman has a plan for everything with this one: past, present and future. There’s also so much commentary here, it’s overflowing with religious symbology and if you are searching for those types of connections, it certainly offers up a lot of food for thought.

Additionally, for a longer book, the pace of this never lets up. It builds and builds until one of the most shocking conclusions that I have ever read. It’s perfection.

My jaw was on the floor. I never in a million years could have predicted the end. It was one of those finales that made me so glad that I waited until all the books were released before I started it. I never could have waited.

I did start The Toll immediately upon finishing this and am so glad. If you haven’t made time for this series yet, you absolutely should. I recommend it to all Readers. It’s so unique and engaging. It’s definitely worth a go!

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Review: That Night in the Library by Eva Jurczyk

That Night in the LibraryThat Night in the Library by Eva Jurczyk
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars**

That Night in the Library is an Adult Literary Suspense novel. This is a recent release and I went into it, I’ll admit, with a bit of trepidation. The early reviews aren’t the highest, but in a way that piqued my interest even more.

I frequently find myself in the minority opinion, so I went in open-minded, ready to give it a nice go. I so wanted to at least give this a 3-star rating, but sadly, I just can’t.

The concept was okay, like the very basic concept, but the execution completely missed the mark.

This story basically follows a group of seven people, who make a plan to sneak into the basement of the rare books library at their University, and spend the night, performing some sort of obscure ritual while they are there.

It says in the synopsis that it is the night before graduation, but honestly, I don’t remember those kinds of details from this. It was quite difficult to parse anything out really.

I did understand they were going to perform a ritual, that I believe was said to free the participants of any fear, or something like that. IDK, really.

It’s an odd mix of characters. They weren’t all friends, or anything, they just needed seven people, so ended up inviting a girl who worked at the library, who really didn’t know any of them, someone’s drug dealer, etc.

That one part I did understand clearly about the ritual was they fasted before, and then dropped acid. Most of the rest of it was delivered to us through a drug-addled haze, so not particularly the most coherent way to convey a plot.

Once the ritual starts, they’re literally trapped in this basement space; locked in. They’re getting into it, doing their chanting, and dancing around and what not, when suddenly, one of the participants drops dead.

From there, as you would expect, they start to freak out, because that person is dead! How did they die? Were they killed? Is one of them responsible.

Since they’re tripping, suspicions run high. Things get wild. More bodies fall. Is anyone going to survive?

So, yeah, that’s a basic breakdown of this story. I feel like it’s for a very niche market. You have to be a specific type of Reader for this to work for you.

There is sort of a vibe of this being a book about books, but not to the level of like a Strange the Dreamer, or The Dark Half. It’s too hazy a theme for me to actually recommend it for that trope alone.

Without any malice, I would say this feels like one of those cases where the author is more enamored with their own writing, the words and phrases they use, than with any actual plot. It comes across a bit arrogant, in a way. I would equate it to The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring.

With this being said, this is 100% my personal opinion. Just because it didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. I would urge anyone who thinks it sounds interesting, to give it a go.

There’s a book for every Reader, and a Reader for every book. I know there is an audience for this one. Unfortunately, I’m just not a part of that audience.

Thank you to the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press and RB Media, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I gave it a shot and even though it didn’t work out for me, I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

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Review: Small Town Horror by Ronald Malfi

Small Town HorrorSmall Town Horror by Ronald Malfi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

🖤💛🖤💛🖤💛🖤💛🖤💛🖤💛🖤

Small Town Horror is the latest release from one of my favorite authors, Ronald Malfi. As you could probably guess, it’s also one of my most anticipated releases of 2024.

I’m please to announce, it did NOT disappoint!!

In this story, we follow Andrew Larimer, a NYC attorney, who suddenly gets called back to the hometown he fled almost two decades ago.

Kingsport, Maryland, was where Andrew grew up. The beautiful coastal town holds a lot of memories for Andrew, but one in particular, an event that happened on his 16th-birthday in 2003, made him want to never look back.

When he gets a call that his childhood friend, Dale, is in trouble though, and that he could really use Andrew’s help, Andrew begrudgingly packs his things and returns to the place he swore he’d never see again.

Once in town, Andrew is ultimately reunited with all of his old friends: Dale, Meach, Eric and Tig. It’s like getting punched in the face by the past. There’s so much unresolved between them, you can feel the tension oozing off the page.

Andrew is also staying at his childhood home, his father’s house which transferred to him upon his father’s passing a few years ago. The house is in disrepair, with a flooded basement and insects, it’s a house of horrors come to life.

Through past and present perspectives, the Reader is slowly keyed into the truth of what happened on Andrew’s 16th-birthday, which also happens to be the 4th of July.

I found both perspectives equally interesting. The past did have an added nostalgic feel to it, which I always appreciate, but the present had an intensity that I couldn’t turn away from. I felt like the connections between the past and present were also so well done.

The creepy imagery and lush atmosphere were absolutely fantastic. The coastal town, the lighthouse, the birds, the dark endless water, the mystery, the intrigue, the supernatural flourishes, it was all top notch stuff.

Malfi is an incredible writer, who never fails to draw me in. While not all his characters may be particularly likable, they’re always believable. Hell, I don’t like a lot of people in real life, so why would I expect to like all the characters I read about?

I did feel for Andrew in this one though, and maybe even Tig. They weren’t perfect, but I think the choices they made were understandable. As they transitioned into adulthood, they truly never got past the things that happened that one 4th of July night. The shadow they couldn’t shake.

The idea of hauntings, or being haunted; it’s not just places and it’s not just supernatural, people can be haunted for a variety of reasons, and I enjoyed that exploration here.

Malfi is always able to channel such emotion into his writing. It feels like he is pouring his heart into his stories. Honestly, it must be exhausting, but I feel like that extra touch makes his stories stand out against the crowd.

As an atmosphere girlie, I can’t stress enough how deeply atmospheric this story is. As I was reading it, I was swept down the coast to Maryland. I could feel it.

Unlike the standard Autumnal vibes we’re used to getting from Horror novels though, this exudes Summer Horror. If you do not have this on your Summer TBR, you need to change that immediately. This isn’t one you want to save until October. You need to read this now!

The beginning did remind me a lot of Black Mouth, but of course, Malfi brought it in its own distinct direction. I walked away from this silenced. I had to just stare off into space for a while and ponder everything I’d read.

The ending, wow. Dang! It was completely unexpected, yet somehow a perfect conclusion. It sort of broke my heart, but also made me just so excited that talent like Ronald Malfi’s exists in the world, and that I can keep picking up his books for a long, long time.

Thank you to the publisher, Titan Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I recommend this to any Horror Reader, particularly if you are looking for great Summer Horror with palpable small town vibes.

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Review: Everyone I Kissed Since You Got Famous by Mae Marvel

Everyone I Kissed Since You Got FamousEveryone I Kissed Since You Got Famous by Mae Marvel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Everyone I Kissed Since You Got Famous is a sex positive Sapphic Romance story. While it had some slight pacing issues for me, I’m glad I read it. I def had fun with the characters.

This story follows A-list celebrity actress, Katie Price, who returns home to Wisconsin for the holidays and ends up reconnecting with her long-lost best friend, Wil Greene, a budding internet star known for kissing strangers.

It may have been a decade since Katie and Wil last connected, but once they do, it’s like they never left each other sides. The mutual attraction is undeniable.

Each of the women are going through some personal struggles, and we do get keyed into those things. So, while there’s a lot of cutesy romance moments, there’s also some substance and relatable life issues.

I really enjoyed the start of this, meeting Katie and Wil, as well as learning their thoughts and feelings on one another. I was immediately struck by the amount of chemistry the authors were able to create between these two women.

There’s something so sexy about mutual attraction that hasn’t culminated yet. The pining for one another, as they get reacquainted. I feel like the authors really nailed that feeling. I felt it in my stomach, the butterflies.

I also really enjoyed the last 20%, including the overall conclusion. Sadly, the middle bit did drag for me. Some of it, the thoughts of the MCs, in particular with regards to one another, started to feel repetitive and I wanted more consistent forward motion with the plot.

It made the story feel longer than it actually is. The middle of the story just failed to capture my attention and keep it, unlike the beginning and the end. I enjoyed Katie’s perspective a little more than Wil’s, so that also added to my sense of unevenness with the book.

With this being said, overall, I feel like this is a fun, oft-steamy, female-female romance that a lot of Readers are going to enjoy. There are many different aspects of this to connect to, and for the right Reader, at the right time, I can see this becoming a new favorite Romance story for them.

I appreciated how open Marvel made these characters. They talked through everything. Their past, their wants, their fears; they even had close relationships with their Moms. That was a treat to see.

At the end of the day, while this didn’t necessarily knock my socks off, I’m excited to see where these authors go from here. I will def check out whatever they write next.

Thank you to the publisher, Griffin and Macmillan Audio, for providing me copies to read and review. I hope Katie and Wil live happily ever after!

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Review: Forging Silver into Stars (Forging Silver into Stars #1) by Brigid Kemmerer

Forging Silver into Stars (Forging Silver into Stars, #1)Forging Silver into Stars by Brigid Kemmerer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Forging Silver into Stars is the 1st-book in the series of the same name. This is a companion/follow-up to Kemmerer’s popular Cursebreakers series. This YA Fantasy series started as a loose reimagining of Beauty & the Beast, but it has certainly come a long way since then.

I really enjoyed my time throughout the Cursebreakers books and was extremely happy to be reunited with Grey, Rhen, Harper and Lia Mara, here. Additionally, seeing sweet baby Tycho all growns up was such a treat!

This story is set approximately 5-years after the final events of the Cursebreakers series. In this one we follow three different perspectives: Tycho, who you may remember from the Cursebreakers books, where he had a small role, as well as Callyn and Jax, two new characters.

Callyn and Jax are best friends, living in the small village of Briarlock. Callyn runs her family bakery and takes care of her little sister, Norah. Jax is a blacksmith, who runs his father’s shop, while his Dad is busy gambling, drinking and otherwise spending all their money.

As he is passing through Briarlock for a spell, Tycho ends up meeting both Callyn and Jax. The plot centers mainly around a underground movement growing against the new King of Syhl Shallow because of his rumored magic.

The members of this rebellion claim to be loyal to the Queen, but they view the new King’s magic as a threat to their entire kingdom. They’re determined to stamp out that threat.

Tycho, as we know, has connections to both Syhl Shallow and Emberfall. Callyn and Jax, whose village is a part of Syhl Shallow, soon find themselves on opposite sides of the issue. Can their friendship survive all the new drama, and potential new loves, surrounding them?

This was so good. Kemmerer is such a great writer with fantastic world-building and characters. She never fails to pull me in and keep me invested.

Her characters are so likable. Even the ones you aren’t supposed to like, you sort of love to hate them. I loved how the main characters from Cursebreakers were included in the periphery of this one, and as we got further along, they began to appear more and more.

From the conclusion of this, I am left thinking that we are going to be seeing a lot more of them all in the next book, which I couldn’t be more excited about.

There is some romance in this for both Callyn and Jax. I liked the way that built up, the uncertainty of their feelings and all that, but there was a section where there were a few chapters in a row that were quite romance-heavy in lieu of the rest of the plot.

That sort of lost my interest a little, as I would have preferred that more interspersed amongst the rest of the book. Nevertheless, it was a fairly short section when considering the bigger picture, so didn’t really affect my overall enjoyment that much.

The action definitely picked up towards the end and we are in a great position to jump into the next book. There’s a lot of unfinished business and so much more to explore as our characters head in new directions.

I’m so excited for the next book to release. I love that this world didn’t have to end with A Vow So Bold and Deadly. I’ll read anything Kemmerer wants to write involving Emberfall and Syhl Shallow.

I would recommend reading Cursebreakers first, but it’s not absolutely necessary. This is written in such a way that you wouldn’t feel lost without that background, but it definitely adds to the experience if you have read that trilogy.

Content Warning: Animal Content — (view spoiler)
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Review: Tell Me Who You Are by Louisa Luna

Tell Me Who You AreTell Me Who You Are by Louisa Luna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first learned of the existence of Tell Me Who You Are, I excitedly expected it to be a continuation to the Alice Vega series. It was only after I received a copy, that I realized that it wasn’t. That it’s actually a standalone novel.

Nevertheless, it sounded like the kind of Psychological Thriller I enjoy, therefore I was still excited to get to it. I’ve had great success with Luna’s previous work, and had no doubt she would impress me with this as well.

In this story, we are mainly following Brooklyn psychiatrist, Dr. Caroline Strange. While Dr. Caroline isn’t the only perspective we follow, for me, she was definitely the star.

Dr. Caroline is opinionated, head-strong and certainly confident, both in her field and in her every day life. Things take a turn though when she has her first session with Nelson Schack, a disturbing new patient.

Nelson succeeds in getting under Caroline’s skin quickly by uttering two statements, I am going to kill someone, and I know who you really are.

Then a woman goes missing. A woman who Caroline has a loose connection to. Unfortunately, for Caroline, the police know of her connection to the woman and now she’s apparently their number one suspect.

Believing the police to be incompetent, I mean they’d have to be if they suspect her, Dr. Caroline takes matters into her own hands, trying to track down the elusive Nelson, and possibly even rescuing the missing woman.

During this process, Caroline needs to face her own past, and the terrible truth that lies there.

I know Tell Me Who You Are won’t be for everyone, but it’s just my kind of messy train-wreck drama. I found every aspect of this compelling and entertaining.

Going into it, I was aware it didn’t have the highest overall rating, but from the very start it hooked me. The cast of characters are so interesting. I couldn’t keep my brain from thinking about this story. I was eating it up.

I flew through this so fast. As it cycled through the various perspectives, my mind was flipping like a rolodex trying to make all the connections. I thought Luna did a great job piecing this all together and bringing it to an exciting and satisfying conclusion.

I would recommend this to Readers who enjoy books like An Anonymous Girl, The Perfect Daughter or The Golden Couple. All have a similar vibe, part of which is being a fly on the wall during someone’s therapy session.

I did listen to the audiobook and really enjoyed that format. There are different narrators for the various perspectives and I did find it well-done and engaging.

Thank you to the publisher, MCD and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I had a great time with this and look forward to more from this author!

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Review: The Girls on Floor 13 (Detective Maria Miller #3) by Helen Phifer

The Girls on Floor 13 (Detective Maria Miller #3)The Girls on Floor 13 by Helen Phifer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Helen Phifer’s Detective Maria Miller books are all super solid, page-turning Paranormal Mysteries. These books follow Maria Miller and her partner, Frankie, as they investigate cases that lack a normal, scientific explanation, and trust, these stories get DARK.

Located in New York City, there’s certainly no lack of bizarre happenings for them to investigate. Maria and Frankie have quickly become one of my favorite detective duos.

In this, the 3rd-installment to the series, Maria and Frankie are summoned to the Parker Hotel, an infamously haunted NYC-hotel, after the bodies of two teenage girls are found murdered in one of the rooms on the 13th floor.

The girls are laid out on the twin beds, as if on display. It’s a gruesome scene. As the investigation begins, the hotel manager shares some information with Maria that surprises her. A newspaper article reporting on an almost identical double murder that occurred in the hotel decades earlier.

In fact, a lot of people have suffered a tragic end at the hotel, some of the spirits reportedly still stalk the halls. Is there possibly some connection to the past in this case?

The more time they spend at the hotel, the more it seems to be effecting Maria. It feels like something has poisoned her body. It’s truly a race against the clock as they try to find the murderer, before they have the opportunity to strike again.

I found this mystery very intriguing. Phifer wastes no time diving into the main case we’re going to be examining. I appreciate how Phifer’s not afraid to get graphic. This one is definitely not for the faint of heart.

I loved the inspiration I felt from IRL Haunted Hotels. I know the author had a particular hotel in NYC in mind, but it immediately made me think of the Cecil Hotel. I mean, the watertower connection…

There’s def some creepy imagery in this. I feel like Phifer excels in that area. Let it be known, this is a true Paranormal Mystery. It’s not one of those, is it, is it not, cases. Go into this knowing it is absolutely, 100% Paranormal.

As with many Adult Mystery series, you can read this as a standalone. I would recommend reading the other books in the series though, as there is a lot of great character development for Maria and Frankie, as well as some really fun side characters, over the course of the three books.

With this being said, you could actually read this one first and then if you loved it enough, go back and read the other two. I would certainly have no problem with doing that.

This gets absolutely wild at the end. It’s so gripping. It’s compelling throughout, but the pace and the stakes really increase the closer you get to the end.

Overall, this was an entertaining, fast-paced, creepy mystery. I love how Phifer pulls a historical perspective into her stories as well. The back and forth and the way everything builds out is just very pleasing.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Paranormal Mysteries, or Horror Mysteries. Maria and Frankie are like the Mulder and Scully of the NYPD.

Thank you to the publisher, Storm Publishing, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I can’t wait to see what comes next for these characters!

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Review: The Return of Ellie Black by Emiko Jean

The Return of Ellie BlackThe Return of Ellie Black by Emiko Jean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ellie Black has been missing for 2-years when she’s suddenly found by hikers in the woods of Washington State.

She’s distraught and disheveled, but where exactly has she been? Detective Chelsey Calhoun is shocked by Ellie’s reappearance, but unfortunately, Ellie’s not offering up a lot of answers. The mystery lingers.

For Chelsey, any missing person case hits close to home. Her sister, Lydia, went missing when they were just teens, and ever since, Chelsey has been searching for closure for herself, and any other missing girls out there.

As Chelsey begins questioning Ellie, she’s not able to get any real answers from her. It feels off, like Ellie is hiding something, but what? She’s a victim here, right?

This novel is insta-compelling. We kick off with Ellie being discovered and from there, it’s a ride. We get a lot of different perspectives, and even different points in time, as we begin to build out the truth behind this mystery.

I was initially surprised by all the perspectives, but somehow, it just worked. I also loved the tone from the start, how mysterious it all was.

This definitely kept me guessing and I appreciated how Jean continually added to the mystery. What started out as the mystery of what had happened to Ellie, ultimately evolved into so much more.

I thought Jean had some very clever reveals and I loved the thoughtful way she explored the topic of the exploitation and victimization of women.

Overall, I was impressed with this. The tone stood out for me. I’m not sure quite how to explain it, but it felt distinctive from other Missing Persons Thrillers. It’s quite character-drive, but so well-executed.

Thank you to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m looking forward to reading more from Emiko Jean!

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