My Ninth House Reread

Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In anticipation of the recent release of Hell Bent, I wisely chose to reread Ninth House. The first time I read it, in July of 2020, I listened to the audiobook while on a road trip.

I’ve left my full, original review up below. You will see that at that time I rated it 3.5-stars, rounding up to 4. This time, it’s nothing but a full 5-stars, baby!!

I think the difference is I was able to put my full focus on it this time around. I don’t know about you, but when I am traveling, my mind is going a million miles an hour, it can be hard to concentrate.

While I can enjoy a story I am listening to on the road, the premise, the vibe and the characters, I don’t think I was truly able to hold onto the finer points of this one.

Upon reread, I’m in love.

One of the aspects that really stood out to me this time around was the detailed back stories for both Alex and Darlington. I remembered a little bit of Alex’s, particularly the trauma she suffered directly before being recruited to Lethe House, but Darlington’s I remembered not at all.

I definitely have a stronger understanding of both of their characters now, which I feel is going to be important going into Hell Bent.

Also, I feel like I have a better understanding of the structure and functioning of Lethe House. The importance of the different roles and who fills those roles.

I love how dark Bardugo gets with this story. With this being said, though, although most of us are aware of the numerous trigger warnings, if you aren’t, please be sure you find those and are aware prior to jumping into this story.

Finally, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the murder mystery aspects. The investigations into the other houses and all of the supernatural aspects help to make this story quite compelling.

At this point, I have started Hell Bent and am absolutely loving it. I’m not sure how many books are slated to be in this series, but you best believe, I will be picking up every single one.

If this series sounds interesting to you and you haven’t started it yet, you absolutely should. There will be no better time to read these first two books than right now…

Original Review:

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Ninth House is moody, dark and secretive. In other words, it’s everything I love in my fiction!!

This book is a delightfully intriguing start to the all-new Alex Stern series by Leigh Bardugo.

I have been fascinated by the idea of this book for a while. What’s not to love about the Yale campus in Autumn, paired with secret societies and magic?

On a recent road trip, I finally decided to give this one a shot.

I have to say, while I really enjoyed the audiobook, particularly the two narrators, I think I may have enjoyed the story even more if I had read a hard copy.

I feel like I may have been able to concentrate more on the fine details if I had been holding the book in my hands. There’s a lot to take in here.

There are intricate details regarding the setting of the Yale campus, the magic system, the lore of the secret societies, as well as a back and forth between timelines. I think I just got lost somewhere around mile marker 50.

I was intrigued by Alex as a character. Here was a girl who had a rough start at life; raised by a hippie Mom in California, yet somehow, mysteriously ends up at one of the most elite institutions of higher learning in the world.

After a close call, Alex ends up not in the morgue, but being offered a seat in the Freshman class at Yale. Why? Her academic transcript certainly wasn’t recommending her for the slot.

Regardless of any trauma experienced in her life, Alex is a survivor and a fighter. I loved that about her.

When she starts at Yale, Alex gets tapped for Lethe House; the ninth of the secret societies at Yale and the one with the closest ties to the occult.

It’s also the responsibility of Lethe House to oversee the other houses to ensure there are no bad actors.

Alex, as it turns out, is well-suited for her new house, as she has an arcane ability she has been struggling with her entire life. This allows her a close connection to the spiritual underworld surrounding her.

Essentially a Murder Mystery, this novel offers up a lot of darker real world topics for consideration as well.

One of these that I found extremely interesting, was the examination of the amount of privilege on the Yale campus. The way that uneven power dynamics can contribute to an extremely harmful environment.

There is also quite a bit on page regarding drug abuse, addiction, sexual assault and rape culture in general. If you are sensitive to these topics, I would tread cautiously.

With this being said, I was impressed overall with Bardugo’s transition to the Adult space. This is definitely an Adult novel. There are some real dark scenes in here and frankly, I am glad that she went as dark as she did.

It made this seedy underbelly of a privileged world seem incredibly real. I think as the series progresses the stories will continue to get stronger and stronger.

I may even read this one again, my hard copy, before the second novel is released.

I would love to experience this entire story in a more controlled environment than an SUV whizzing down the highway.

Also, does anyone else want to go snoop around New Haven in the middle of the night now, or just me?

The atmosphere, as always with Bardugo, was really something to behold; loved that aspect so much. I am really looking forward to getting back into this world when the next book releases!

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Review: The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious #3) by Maureen Johnson

The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious, #3)The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Hand on the Wall is the third book in the Truly Devious series. At this point in the story, three people connected to Ellingham Academy have died since our intrepid protagonist, True Crime aficionado, Stevie Bell has arrived.

One, the victim of a potential prank gone wrong, the second, dead by misadventure and the third succumbed to a tragic accident in Burlington. Is that all these deaths are though? Were they accidents and misadventures, or something much more sinister. How about murder?

If you haven’t read the earlier books, you may want to avoid the rest of this review. Although I do try very hard not to reveal anything not included in the Publisher’s synopsis.

At this point, Stevie Bell knows who Truly Devious is. She’s cracked the case. One of the greatest unsolved mysteries of our time, and she, a high school girl in rural Vermont has figured it out. At least she thinks she has.

It’s actually hard for Stevie to concentrate strictly on the decades-old case. Paired with the recent tragic events, it’s becoming muddled. Stevie is perplexed. Her gut tells her these three newer deaths are in some way connected to those of the past, but how?

With a storm of epic proportions bearing down on the private school, most students are quickly evacuated for safety. Stevie is right where she wants to be though. She can’t leave. Not when the answers she seeks could lie within these walls.

I loved the two previous books and this was definitely a solid continuation to the series.

I really enjoyed filling in some of the blanks regarding the historic-Truly Devious case. In this installment, as with the previous two, you do get alternating perspectives of both the past and present-timelines.

The information gained in this book really helped to make sense of some of the questions I’ve had regarding that earlier timeline, but where does it go from here?

This left off in a very intriguing place, so I am definitely excited to move forward with the next book.

Stevie has grown so much as a character since the first installment. She’s gaining confidence and really coming into her own. I am looking forward to watching her grow even further as she continues working on the many mysteries surrounding her.

Another aspect I really enjoyed about this one was the inclement weather. The storm essentially evacuating most of the unnecessary players from the school was a nice set-up for creating a spooky, claustrophobic-feeling ambiance.

I am planning to continue onto the next book very soon, in order to be caught up just in time for the 5th-book in the series, Nine Liars, to be released next month!

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Review: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder ClubThe Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Thursday Murder Club is a bloody brilliant start to a Cozy Mystery series. I’m in, hook, line and sinker.

This one features an interesting mystery, fantastic characters and the audibook narration was perfection.

I feel like one of the last remaining people on Earth to have read this delightful Mystery, but I’m so happy to be joining the party, late or not.

I really wanted to listen to the audio, because I had heard great things about the narration by Marian Keyes and Lesley Manville. They weren’t wrong. It was well worth the over year wait for my library hold to come through.

If you aren’t aware, this book follows a charming group of septuagenarians, mainly Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, who live in a retirement village known as Cooper’s Chase.

This fearsome-foursome meet up once a week to discuss and dig into cold cases. They also have a local DS they befriend and consult regarding their cases of interest.

In this book specifically, a property developer involved in the creation of Cooper’s Chase is found murdered. A case of utmost interest to our friends.

The mystery was cleverly-plotted. I enjoyed the many people of interest we came across along the way. There’s a lot of drama going on surrounding this little community.

The members of the Murder Club all got on so well. I loved their moments together and witty dialogue. The narration had me giggling many times, picturing everything perfectly.

There were some great suspects and lots of motives for potentially killing our victim. Not much got past the Murder Club though. They were on it.

In addition to the great mystery, there was also some thoughtful and emotional moments reflecting on aging and issues that may arise later in life.

In fact, there was one scene that had me in tears. It took me by surprise how much I was moved by many of these characters personal journeys.

I’m really looking forward to continuing on with this series. I’ve heard it just keeps getting better and better.

I’m already attached to these characters and am so excited to join in the investigations and solve some more cases!

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Review: Shed No Tears (Cat Kinsella #3) by Caz Frear

Shed No Tears (Cat Kinsella, #3)Shed No Tears by Caz Frear
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

I was truly surprised by how much I enjoyed the first two books in this series. I’m not sure why, maybe because I rarely hear anyone talking about it.

I love the detective duo featured in this series, Cat Kinsella and Luigi Parnell. Basically, sign me up for any case they’re ever on. Thus, I knew when I had a long road-trip coming up, this would be the perfect book to listen to as I drove.

And it absolutely was. In fact, this has been my highest rated book in the series thus far!

In this installment, we follow Cat and Luigi as they work a case related to infamous local serial killer, Christopher Masters, who was convicted of kidnapping and murdering several women in 2012.

When human remains are discovered, they are positively identified as Holly Kemp, Masters alleged final victim. Holly was the only one whose body hadn’t been found and the only one that Masters never owned up to killing.

It was only due to solid eye-witness testimony that she was considered as one of his victims. Six-years have now passed and it seems like with Holly’s remains found, they will finally be able to put closure on the case.

As they examine the evidence however, there appears to be some glaring discrepancies with the case. Cat and Luigi can’t put it to bed until they know it’s the truth; not our heroes.

Thus, they begin digging in, turning over rocks that have long been settled. As they inch closer and closer to the truth, the dangers escalate to heights even they couldn’t have guessed.

As mentioned in my reviews for the first two books of this series, Sweet Little Lies and Stone Cold Heart, this is a fantastic Police Procedural series with a lot of depth in addition to the mysteries.

The characters are well-fleshed out and believable. I love how there are storylines in the background that continue on throughout the books, as far as Cat’s personal life goes. I feel like I am getting to know her, like a new friend, and I’m loving every minute of it.

One of my favorite aspects of these books has been the exploration of Cat’s complicated family situation. In this one, I felt like the interactions weren’t quite as in your face as in the earlier books, but we do get to see more of the internal struggle Cat is going through in regards to her family.

There are things she has done to protect the ones she loves that are ethically an issue for her. She plays her cards close to her chest, but I like that she is the type of character who these choices would weigh on.

She’s a good egg, our Cat. Regardless of how she feels about herself sometimes.

This mystery gets quite intense and just as complex as the earlier cases. Some people can really bring the drama. You’ll find it all on display here.

In my opinion, this series just keeps getting better and more twisted. We love to see it; character growth on point!

The conclusion to this…oh my word! I really need a book 4 and I need it ASAP!!

If you have yet to start this series, and you love a solid Police Procedural with strong, intelligent characters, you absolutely need to check it out.

Don’t delay, start today!!!

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Review: Fractured Tide by Leslie Lutz

Fractured TideFractured Tide by Leslie Lutz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

17-year old, Sia, has been scuba diving her whole life with her parent’s charter business.

She’s used to diving with the tourists, exploring reefs and shipwrecks. There is always something new to interact with in the quiet depths.

It’s quite a serious position for her to be in as well. There’s a lot to be responsible for. Not all the tourists have a lot of experience and getting people to follow even simple instructions can be a challenge.

With Sia’s father currently incarcerated, it’s up to Sia and her mother to keep the family business afloat. On one particular dive, Sia is exploring a sunken craft with some customers when disaster strikes.

Attacked by a mysterious monster of the deep, a customer ends up dead and Sia blames herself.

Making matters worse, they need to call for help when their boat is incapacitated. Another vessel, full of students on a science expedition, comes to their rescue. Sia, her mother and the surviving tourists board that ship.

It’s now that the real fun begins. Again it seems something is after them. The boat sinks and Sia finds herself washed up on a deserted island.

Eventually teaming up with a handful of other survivors, Sia and the others must figure out the secrets of the island and a way to make it off alive. This is no normal place.

Fractured Tide is a unique YA Horror story with an enticing set-up. I was surprised when I discovered that this is told in epistolary format, which is a narrative style I enjoy.

In this case, it is told through journal entries that Sia is writing for her father. It’s a full accounting of all the events happening on the ill-fated trip, including her thoughts and feelings on what is taking place.

I felt like this was a great way to tell this story. You’re literally learning everything as Sia is relaying it and you really only know what she knows, or interprets about the events going on around her.

In the synopsis, this book is compared to Lost and I would 100% agree with that. Especially considering towards the end, I had no clue what was happening; still don’t.

Honestly, I would have preferred more answers. I was a little confused for almost the entire second half and don’t really understand the end much at all. I mean I have theories, but it’s really a shot in the dark.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy this story overall. I found it to be refreshing. I love Horror stories set at sea, so this one was fun in that regard.

I would definitely be interested in picking up more books by Leslie Lutz in the future. I hope she stays in this YA Horror lane, as she is clearly very talented at writing claustrophobic, uncomfortable narratives.

Yessss, that is absolutely a compliment!!!

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Review: Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1)Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Black Sun slapped me in the face. I was not expecting to love this as much as I did. I expected to enjoy it, sure, but this absolutely transported me to another world.

This lush, epic Fantasy is inspired by civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas. I loved the incorporation of those aspects. It was like nothing I had ever read before.

Following multiple-POVs, Roanhorse was able to seamlessly transition from one perspective to the next without disrupting the flow of the narrative. I thought all the different angles were handled so well.

There’s an ancient prophecy that you get to watch coming to fruition right before your eyes, as all the puzzle pieces move into place just in time for a rare celestial event; a solar eclipse on the day of the winter solstice.

The Sun Priest, basically the highest religious position of this ancient land, has stated that this event will bring about an imbalance in the world.

As the story begins, you are introduced to the main characters, Serapio, Xiala, Naranpa and Okoa, who will play fundamental roles in this prophecy. They’re on the move, everyone is heading towards the holy city of Tova, where a great festival for the solstice will be held.

The tension builds at a nice steady pace over the course of the story, but as you approach the end, hold onto your hats, it feels like it is all going to explode. I was shocked an awed by it all.

I loved the level of intrigue, plotting, back-stabbing and danger that Roanhorse brought to this story. It’s multifaceted and fascinating.

Even though this is a complex story, set in a fully built-out world, it never felt overwhelming or info-dumpy. That’s a hard thing to do. To create a world like this, done this well, takes real skill. I doff my cap to Roanhorse.

I’m so excited to get my hands on the next book in this series and am extremely glad it is going to be releasing soon. This first book definitely ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and I don’t want to forget a thing!

This was one of the easiest 5-star ratings I have given this year. I am so happy I finally fit this one into my schedule. A complete delight!

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Review: The Camelot Betrayal (Camelot Rising #2) by Kiersten White

The Camelot Betrayal (Camelot Rising, #2)The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

The Camelot Betrayal is the second book in Kiersten White’s Camelot Rising trilogy. Granted it had been a minute since I read the first book, The Guinevere Deception, so I was concerned about being completely lost when I picked this up.

Alas, I had nothing to fear. White is a seasoned author; she wouldn’t let me down like that.

In this installment, Guinevere is still struggling to find her place in Camelot. She feels completely unmoored by the fact that she cannot remember who she actually is and where she truly came from.

Even though her relationships with Arthur and her new friends continue to grow stronger, there’s still so much she needs to know. She has blanks she wants to fill in.

While she tries to remain focused on all that’s going on around her, such as Arthur working to expand his kingdom, and Brangien pining for her lost love, Isolde, it’s really difficult with these lost pieces of herself constantly looming over her.

When a young lady arrives in the kingdom, claiming to be Guinevere’s true sister, her mere presence threatens everything Guinevere has been working towards in Camelot. Or does it?

I will be honest, I wasn’t too sure about this one in the beginning. It started a little slow for me and the stakes didn’t appear to be particularly high.

I did enjoy the character growth Guinevere was displaying and I also really enjoyed the subplot following Isolde and Brangien; give me a rescue mission any day.

The further the story went on, the more invested I became. In the end, White really brought it around. There were many interesting reveals and now I am itching to get my hands on the final book.

There’s a showdown coming to Camelot and I want to be front and center for it!

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Review: Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Eight Perfect MurdersEight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Years ago, when he first started working at a local bookstore, Malcolm Kershaw, running the store’s online presence, wrote a blog post titled, Eight Perfect Murders.

The mystery aficionado made of a list of what he considered to be the genre’s most unsolvable murders. Little did he know that one seemingly inconsequential post would come back to haunt him.

Presently, Malcolm owns his own Boston bookstore and while he still loves books, he hasn’t been reading as many mysteries as he used to.

After suffering the loss of his wife, a lot in Malcolm’s world changed.

On the day of a terrible snow storm, Mal is in his shop alone when an FBI agent arrives. According to her, she’s investigating a serial killer who appears to be using Mal’s list to commit his crimes.

Mal’s shocked to hear this. How would the killer have even found that old post?

When it starts to appear that the killer not only found the list, but is keeping an eye on Mal as well, Mal begins to think it’s personal. So, he takes matters into his own hands and starts to look for suspects.

Y’all know I love an amateur sleuth trope, and a book seller main character! What a fantastic set-up for a Mystery!

I listened to this audiobook on my drive home from Christmas holiday and it kept me thoroughly entertained. It was a great way to pass the hours.

I loved the narration. It had a sort of film noir quality to it that I felt really fit this story. I would definitely recommend the audio if you are planning to read this yourself.

This was my first Swanson novel and I appreciated how he didn’t hold back. This was completely wild and over-the-top. It was full of unbelievable things, but that’s what made it so fun.

I would definitely be interested in reading more of his work. I know this one had some mixed reviews, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. I think Swanson and I could turn out to have a beautiful friendship.

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Review: The Orphan of Cemetery Hill by Hester Fox

The Orphan of Cemetery HillThe Orphan of Cemetery Hill by Hester Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Tabby can communicate with spirits. She developed this gift at quite a young age and after her parents passed away, she and her sister, Alice, were taken in by their Aunt, who was well aware of Tabby’s blossoming talent.

Seances had grown in popularity in the first half of the 1800s and Aunt Bellefonte wished to use Tabby’s gift in order to make herself rich.

Obviously, anyone who would exploit a recently orphaned child that way, is not a character we can get behind.

Unsurprisingly, Tabby and Alice flee their Aunt’s household and make their way to downtown Boston, a bustling metropolis, where the girls hope they’ll be able to blend into the crowd and avoid their Aunt ever finding them again.

The girls weren’t really prepared for how busy and large the city actually was, however, and they end up getting separated. Without any means to find each other, the girls must do whatever they can individually to survive.

For Tabby, that means ingratiating herself to the steward of a large Boston cemetery, Eli. Over the years, she becomes for all intents and purposes, his daughter, helping him with the general maintenance and other duties.

Things get dark when a string of grave robberies begin to plague the city and a young man Tabby is fond of is accused of committing a dasterdly act, for which Tabby knows he cannot possibly be responsible.

Tabby must tap into her gift, which she has kept buried for so long, in order to try to get to the bottom of both mysteries. Little does she know, they’re all connected in one wild and wicked web.

Set in 1844, Boston, The Orphan of Cemetery Hill is steeped in the broody historical atmosphere I have grown to love from Hester Fox.

The gothic feel, paired with her likable characters, always make for an enjoyable story.

While I didn’t become quite as invested in this one as I have with some of her earlier work, I definitely really enjoyed reading it.

I loved the setting of Boston and the historical topics explored, particularly the robbing of graves for the use in medical and scientific exploration, as well as the popularity of seances at the time. Both of those things made this an intriguing premise indeed.

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Hester Fox. I will continue to pick up anything she releases until the end of time.

This novel, as is standard for her style, is perfect for this time of year; giving off all those chilly, creepy Autumnal vibes!

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Review: I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan

I Hope You're ListeningI Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When she was just 7-years old, Dee Skinner’s best friend, Sibby, was kidnapped as the two girls were playing in the woods adjacent to their houses.

Dee witnessed the incident, but as a 7-year old, was unable to help Sibby. This fact has haunted her every day since. Sibby has never been found.

As a teen, Dee has distanced herself from her peers. Her one good friend, Burke, has remained steadfastly by her side, even though she’s a bit prickly with everyone else.

Burke is also Dee’s secret keeper. He’s the only person who knows that Dee is the creator and host of a hugely popular podcast, Radio Silent, that discusses and investigates missing persons cases from around the country.

Dee feels like the podcast helps to relieve some of her guilt over not being taken while Sibby was. Dee hosts the podcast completely anonymously, using the name, The Seeker.

Her many fans and listeners actively investigate the cases discussed on the show. Dubbed as the LDA, Laptop Detective Agency, they have actually found people!

Two things happen in close succession in Dee’s life though, that soon threaten her hold on her anonymity. An attractive girl moves into the house directly across the street and a little girl, living in Dee’s former house, has gone missing.

Dee wants to do whatever she can to help find the missing girl, Layla, whose disappearance seems too much of a coincidence. Could it possibly be related to Sibby’s disappearance? Even 10-years later?

As Dee and the girl across the street, Sarah, grow ever closer, Dee is able to open up to her in a way she has been unable to before with anyone else. Even though it makes her vulnerable in a way, it also gives her strength, because now she has someone on her side.

Dee has always felt like the people in town judged her after Sibby’s disappearance; like they felt she could have done something to help. Since Sarah just moved to town, she doesn’t have any preconceived notions of who Dee is, which helps Dee to be able to connect with her more naturally.

After Dee opens up to Sarah, the two girls begin to investigate Layla’s disappearance together and go on one heck of an adventure doing so!

Reading Dee and Layla’s relationship evolve was one of my favorite aspects of this story. I loved how Dee could finally let her guard down and be honest about herself with someone else. I think it means a lot to find that one person you can truly be yourself around, especially when you have been hiding a bit, like Dee was.

In addition to the evolution of the girl’s relationship, which if you are wondering, is romantic, I also enjoyed the overall evolution of the story. How Ryan went out revealing the situation with Dee and Sibby; everything that happened leading up to the kidnapping and shortly thereafter.

I also very much enjoyed, unsurprisingly, the podcast element. Listening to the audiobook, you really get a feel for what Radio Silent actually would have sounded like. That was quite compelling.

It got pretty crazy towards the end, but by then, I was committed to these characters and this story. A lot of it was great, wild and fun, but there were a couple of plot points at the very end that just seemed to be wrapped up a little too conveniently for my tastes.

Thusly, my overall enjoyment suffered just a wee bit; but seriously, just a tiny bit.

I definitely recommend this for fans of YA Mysteries, missing person, or cold case tropes, and of course, people who love a podcasting element to their Mystery/Thrillers.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Albert Whitman & Company, for providing me a copy to read and review. I had a lot of fun with it and look forward to reading more from Tom Ryan!

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