Review: When She Was Me by Marlee Bush

When She Was MeWhen She Was Me by Marlee Bush
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When She Was Me is an enticing, and compulsively-readable Psychological Thriller centered around twin sisters.

Cassie and Lenora are permanent residents at a campground in rural Tennessee, Cabin Two to be exact. For the most part, their day-to-day life is peaceful, and they can almost…almost…forget the events of their troubled past.

After the death of the long-time campground owner, a new woman, Sarah, takes ownership and charge. Cassie and Lenora are initially concerned that Sarah will want to change things, thus disrupting their quiet life.

Much to their surprise, she actually seems pretty cool, implementing only minor changes, and Cassie, in particular, ends up interacting with Sarah more. Their life does end up disrupted though, after a teen girl, who’d checked into the cabin next door with her family, goes missing.

The girl, and the unsettling circumstances under which she disappeared, brings back a lot of memories for the mysterious sisters. Both Cassie and Lenora suspects that the other may know more about the events surrounding the disappearance then they’re letting on.

The narrative cycles between the two sisters, filtering in a past perspective as well and with a past that eerily mirrors the present, and everyone’s motivations a little unclear, this story is rife with unreliable narrators.

Both sisters try to figure out what happened to the missing girl, but it feels like a helpless race against the clock, as well as their own personal demons.

When She Was Me is a very promising debut from Marlee Bush. Even though the writing style wasn’t great for me, I still found the story to be incredibly compelling; I couldn’t stop. The characters were well done and I appreciated the way Bush delivered the twists!

When I mention writing style, it’s no shade against the author, it’s just preference. It was more obscure, more stream of consciousness narrative than I tend to prefer.

Nevertheless, the content and the character work kept me flying through. The atmospheric setting was fantastic as well. I loved the isolating feel, not just of the campground itself, but also of the sisters’ way of life.

They had essentially cut themselves off from the outside world and as the intensity increased, you could really truly feel their solitude.

The characters were all so interesting. I had a ton of theories over the course of the story about what was really going on; some panned out, others didn’t. I always appreciate it when an author can keep me on my toes.

Ultimately, I didn’t see the final resolution coming by a mile. It was clever and unexpected, leaving me with a big, sinister grin on my face. I had fun and definitely recommend the audiobook as the format for taking in this story. The narration fit it so well.

Thank you to the publisher, Dreamscape Media, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m really looking forward to reading more from Marlee Bush!

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Review: If Something Happens to Me by Alex Finlay

If Something Happens to MeIf Something Happens to Me by Alex Finlay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Looking for some much desired alone time, Ryan and Ali, a high school couple, find a quiet place to park in their hometown by Suncatcher Lake.

The next thing Ryan knows, it’s hours later, he’s laying on the ground having been bludgeoned in the head and Ali is gone. He remembers being yanked out of the car at some point, and briefly seeing a strange man, but that’s it.

In the aftermath of Ali’s disappearance, everyone suspected Ryan. The ole’ logic of, it’s always the husband, or boyfriend, in full effect. The fact that there’s no evidence against him, doesn’t stop the world from speculating.

Haunted by that night and the blow to his reputation, Ryan changed his last name and moved away for law school. Nevertheless, he hasn’t truly been able to move on. Ali was the love of his life and it tortures him imagining what may have happened to her.

Five years later, in Italy on a trip with some law school classmates, Ryan gets an unexpected call from his father. Ali’s car has just been found submerged in Suncatcher Lake.

Once the car is recovered from the water, a grisly discovery is revealed. There are two dead men in the trunk, along with a cryptic note contained in an envelope that has five words written on it in Ali’s handwriting:

If something happens to me…

Obviously, this reopens everything for Ryan. With that night fresh in his mind, the unthinkable happens. Ryan actually spots the man he remembers seeing that night. What is that man doing in Italy? Who the heck is he?

Ryan is no longer a scared teen. He pursues the man. He needs answers and he’s not stopping until he gets them.

If Something Happens to Me is a whirlwind ride. The drama takes place in multiple countries and follows a few different perspectives. Initially, it’s jarring, but as the pieces start falling into place, the various connections are revealed.

Even though this isn’t my favorite Finlay novel, that distinction goes to The Night Shift, there’s no denying he knows how to deliver the action and page-turning intrigue.

This is a very action-oriented Thriller, most in line with Finlay’s earlier work, Every Last Fear. The various perspectives each help to build out a different aspect of the underlying mystery and it always impresses me how much detail Finlay goes into.

For me, Ryan’s perspective was the most memorable, but I also enjoyed Poppy McGee, a young deputy from Ryan’s hometown, brought onto the case after the car is found.

As a side note, there were certain elements of this that reminded me of the series, Your Honor, featuring Bryan Cranston, but with an international twist.

Overall, this is fast-paced and twisty. I listened to the audio and enjoyed the narration. It felt compelling and I needed to keep reading until it was complete.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. Alex Finlay is a force to be reckoned with in the Thriller space, and I’ll continue picking up his work!

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Review: The Night of the Storm by Nishita Parekh

The Night of the StormThe Night of the Storm by Nishita Parekh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

The Night of the Storm is a debut novel from Nishita Parekh. Honestly, I’ve been a little scared to pick it up, because of the mixed reviews. However, I’m very happy to report that I’m part of Team Really Enjoyed It.

Sure, I see flaws, but at the same time, it worked for me. I found it entertaining. I loved the set-up that left me feeling claustrophobic and unnerved. I love complicated family relationships, and this checked that box extremely well.

In this story, we’re following Jia Shah, an Indian American woman who has recently separated from her husband and moved herself, as well as their 12-year old son, Ishaan, from the family home in Chicago to Houston, Texas.

This is a big deal in her traditional Indian family, and she’s definitely received blow-back stemming from her choices. In spite of other’s disapproval however, Jia did what she knew to be right for her son and herself. She wasn’t willing to live the rest of her life in an unhappy marriage.

It hasn’t been easy though, especially for Ishaan, who she worries about constantly. In fact, Ishaan has newly been suspended from school after being in a fight.

With all this going on, the last thing Jia needs to worry about is a mandatory evacuation order from their apartment building, but with Hurricane Harvey bearing down on the city, that’s exactly what they get.

Luckily, Jia’s sister, Seema, who lives in an fancy house not far away in Sugar Land, has invited them to stay with her and her family to ride out the impending storm.

Jia and Ishaan make it to the house just in time, where they join Seema, her husband, their daughter, Seema’s mother-in-law, as well as her husband’s brother and his wife. It’s a lot of people, but it’s also a big house. They’ll be okay.

Unfortunately, you put that many people together in a house, with severe weather blazing outside and no means of escape, you’re bound to see the tensions rise. Just as things start heating up inside the house, someone ends up dead…

Was it an accident, or is there a murderer amongst them?

For me, and this is completely my unprofessional opinion, I feel like this is more a case of people going into this expecting one thing and then getting another and feeling disappointed, than this being just a 3.21-star book.

I’ve been there many times myself. I get it. When you’re expecting an intense Thriller and you don’t get the thrills, or even necessarily the intensity, your disappointed, and potentially leave an average, or lower, rating because of it.

I really enjoyed this, but I went into it without any real expectations. I feel like this is an engaging Domestic/Family Drama, with an underlying Mystery subplot.

The gem in this for me was getting to know Jia and following along with her tumultuous journey. The storm and being trapped in the house were great bonuses, as I love those elements in any story, but yeah, the real hero of this is Jia.

She’s a woman who has made a very difficult choice and who has had fallout from that. She lost her home and her friends. She’s had to uproot her life.

She’s second-guessing her choices, while getting judged by everyone around her. She’s trying to do what is best for her son, and her own mental health, all while navigating the not always kind outside world. I think everyone can relate to this in one way or another.

When we meet Jia, with the storm moving in, she’s almost at wits end. Being trapped in the house, with these particular people, pushes her even further to the edge.

I like complicated families and this story definitely delivers in that area. I loved the set-up of the storm creating a forced proximity situation and I do feel like Parekh did a great job of revealing all the underlining things going on.

The murder mystery was interesting as well. There were quite a few people acting suspicious, so I did like being with Jia as she tried to figure it out. The more it progressed, the more unsettling it became, leading up to the wild conclusion.

For a debut, I think this was very well done. I think Parekh should be proud of their work and I will definitely be picking up whatever she writes next. Do I think this book deserves a higher-rating? Absolutely.

Thank you to the publisher, Dutton, for providing me with a copy to read and review. We love supporting new authors in this house, and I can’t wait for more from this one!

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Review: The Getaway List by Emma Lord

The Getaway ListThe Getaway List by Emma Lord
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Getaway List by Emma Lord released in January of 2024. I’ve been putting it off because after completing this, I have no more Emma Lord’s to read until 2025.

A sad day, indeed…

But that day has come. I started the audiobook this morning, because I just couldn’t resist anymore and sure enough, I binged it all in one day.

This story is unsurprisingly sweet and cute, full of heart-warming character moments and a #goals Found Family that I wanted to be a part of. I really enjoyed it!

In this story, we meet our MC, Riley, on the day she graduates from high school. She realizes that she’s been working so hard the past 4-years, trying to do everything her Mom wants, that she hasn’t had any time for herself.

She’s at a point when her classmates are moving on to their next steps, and she doesn’t even know what she wants her next steps to be. It hits her like a truck.

Riley also realizes she misses her best friend, Tom, who moved away years ago to New York City with his Mom, and she needs a chance to reconnect with him.

Being with Tom, before he moved, those are the last times she really remembers being able to be herself. She misses him and their easy connection.

Needing the freedom to explore options for what the future may have in store for her, Riley plans an impromptu trip to NYC. Sadly, her Mom doesn’t support her decision and the two get in a row. Her Mom tells her she can’t go.

But Riley’s 18-years old, it’s time she start making decisions for herself. Even though she’s not leaving under the best of circumstances, her mind is made up and off she goes.

The reunion between the two friends is a little uncertain at first. They haven’t seen one another in corporeal form in years. Nevertheless, before long, like true friends, it feels like they’ve never been apart.

After a few days, Riley is feeling more like herself than she has in a long, long time. She decides it would be best if she stay for the Summer. She and Tom have begun to check off items from their Getaway List, and it just feels fated.

There’s also something else brewing in Riley’s mind. What are these butterflies she’s getting in her stomach whenever she’s with Tom? This is a whole new feeling, one she just may now be ready to explore.

One of the things I love most about Emma Lord’s books is the journeys that the characters go on. Her books are very much Contemporary, with Romance being more of a subplot, which works for me.

I’m not a heavy Romance Reader and the books I enjoy the most with Romance in them, tend to focus a lot on other things going on in the protagonist’s lives other than Romance; such as family or career issues.

This book is truly about self-discovery for Riley. She’s lost herself in trying to make her Mom happy, and doing what she needs to do to be the good girl. She’s been doing what her Mom wants, but finally comes to a point where she recognizes she needs to start making decisions for herself.

She’s at that fantastic crossroads in life, just after high school, where all obligations of childhood are completed, and it’s time to start take the first steps into adulthood. The world is literally her oyster.

I liked her desire to reconnect with Tom, and I definitely understood her motivations for tracking him down. It was fun watching them reconnect and being along for the ride as their feelings for one another evolved.

My favorite part, however, was the Found Family that Lord created around Riley and Tom. They were both having difficulties with their Moms, and the added support they received from their friends was so needed.

There was a line in the book, I didn’t flag it, so don’t quote me, but it was something along the lines of, family isn’t who you share blood with, it’s who you’ll spill blood for. That hit in a special way with this book.

If those are the kind of vibes you enjoy in your Contemporary stories, you need to check this one out. It delivered all of that and more. The mix of funny, heart-warming moments, with more serious, quieter moments, was beautifully-executed, IMO.

Overall, I thought this was such a gratifying story. Lord wrapped everything up in a lovely little bow, and I walk away with a big smile on my face.

I’m so happy that I finally made time for this; that I finally caved and read the last Emma Lord book that I have left to read. Emma, I will see you in 2025!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. Clearly, Emma Lord is one of my go-to authors and I cannot wait to pick up more from her.

Her brand of sweet will never get old to me. I eat it up like ice cream with every available topping on it!!

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Review: She Left by Stacie Grey

She LeftShe Left by Stacie Grey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been twenty-years since the Memorial Day Massacre that claimed the lives of five of Amy’s friends. It happened at a small house party they’d been enjoying together.

After Amy was made to feel like she didn’t belong though, she left. Little did she know, that was the luckiest choice she could’ve ever made. Within an hour, all of those left at the house were be dead.

In the present, Amy, along with ten other people connected to that night have been invited to a cliffside lodge by a journalist preparing to do a piece on the murders.

After arriving at the home, and being introduced to one another, events quickly take a dark turn. With inclement weather closing in, isolating them even more from the outside world, it becomes clear that this weekend isn’t what any of them expected it to be.

As bodies start dropping, Amy and the others must fight to figure out who orchestrated this event and stop them before they complete their goal; keeping the secrets they’ve been hiding for twenty-years.

Y’all, I really enjoyed this. I went into She Left with zero expectations. I hadn’t heard anyone talking about it and I was unfamiliar with this author’s other works. I was attracted to it purely for the cover and synopsis.

The synopsis was giving me a classic mystery/horror set-up, where people get invited to an event, like a dinner party or weekend retreat, only to arrive and realize it’s not what they thought. It’s very And Then There Were None, amongst others.

Grey succeeded in her delivery of that set-up. I loved how this started off, meeting all the characters and learning how they were all connected to the Memorial Day Massacre.

They’re not all as directly connected as Amy was, so it was interesting to figure out all of that. We do get glimpses into all the various character perspectives, but Amy is definitely our main focus, and as an FBI Agent, Amy really had the most to offer as far as figuring the whole thing out.

Grey also succeeded in really building out her atmosphere. I loved the setting of this. She didn’t just tell us it was remote, it felt remote. The inclement weather, and potentially hazardous mudslides, added an extra element of danger that only aided in the feeling of anxiety and desperation.

This is extremely fast-paced, as well as engaging and easy to follow. I listened to the audiobook and loved that as a format choice. I absolutely flew through it.

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t say there’s anything particularly ground-breaking about this story, but I didn’t need there to be. It was still highly-entertaining and that’s exactly what I was looking for.

Overall, the plot is gripping and fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still delivers a well-plotted, intense mystery that will keep you guessing until the end.

Thank you to the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press and Dreamscape Media, for providing me with copies to read and review. I’m pumped to read more from this author!

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Review: Indian Burial Ground by Nick Medina

Indian Burial GroundIndian Burial Ground by Nick Medina
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

After reading Nick Medina’s story, Quantam, in the Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology, Never Whistle at Night, I knew I needed to pick up more of his work.

It was one of my favorites of that collection. I loved his storytelling style and couldn’t wait to be immersed in another one of his creative tales.

In this story, we follow two perspectives: Noemi and Louie. Noemi provides us with a Contemporary Mystery. While Louie, Noemi’s Uncle, delivers us a beautifully-executed Coming of Age Horror element.

In present day, Noemi’s boyfriend, Roddy, dies suddenly and tragically. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding his death, but the authorities categorize it as a suicide. That doesn’t track for Noemi though, who feels like something more sinister may be at play upon their tribal lands.

Just prior to receiving this tragic news, Noemi’s Uncle Louie shows up on her doorstep, in town for an upcoming powwow. After more than a decade away, it’s a bit of an awkward reunion, but soon enough Uncle and Niece are bonding just like old times.

When Louie hears the news of Roddy’s mysterious death, it brings to mind for him some very dark memories, all of which occurred in the Summer when he was 16-years old.

We alter back and forth between Noemi, taking us through the current events, and Louie recounting what happened on the reservation, all those years ago.

Medina wastes no time jumping into the intrigue of this story. The very start is fascinating, as we get a glimpse into the events surrounding Roddy’s death.

I was immediately impressed with the writing. IMO, Medina just has a natural storyteller’s voice. The way he delivered this story, specifically the sections from Louie’s perspective, felt like Louie was speaking his story directly to me.

You forget that you are reading a book. It feels that fluid, and comes across as an actual person would tell the story of their life, versus an author trying to impress you with all the big words they know…

This is exactly the type of writing that I like to read!

It was fascinating to go back and forth between the two perspectives. I couldn’t see right away how Louie’s past was going to help Noemi understand her present, and I loved how Medina ultimately wove the two together.

The Coming of Age aspect was the highlight for me, but I think as a genre blend, this worked together so well.

The Horror imagery itself was very well-crafted. There were some truly unsettling moments. Things that gave me downright chills. It was never difficult picturing exactly what was happening to these characters.

I loved the examination of the real life horrors, as well. Particularly in regards to addiction, which really is its own vampire in a way, isn’t it?

Additionally, the family drama and other events occurring on the reservation brought a heavy emotional component to the story. This one definitely moved me and the ending hit me like a punch to the gut.

Ultimately, Louie’s story will live on, rent free in my heart forever, and ever, Amen. This is a special book.

A slow burn mix of Indigenous Horror with a powerful Coming of Age story; what’s not to love about that? The themes explored and rich quality of storytelling are impressive to say the least.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

This is for sure on my Most Memorable List for 2024!!!

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Review: Northwoods by Amy Pease

NorthwoodsNorthwoods by Amy Pease
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Northwoods is a debut Crime Thriller/Mystery from author, Amy Pease. I love checking out new authors and am glad that I picked this one up.

Set in the small resort town of Shaky Lake, Wisconsin, this mystery circles around a well-known crisis in America, the opioid epidemic. Eli North is a deputy in Shaky Lake, whose own life is a bit shaky at the moment.

Eli, after returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, turns to alcohol as a way to cope with his overwhelming PTSD. As expected, it has disastrous effects.

His marriage is over and he’s had to take a job working for his Mom, the only person who would actually hire him and keep him on, putting up with his less than savory habits. His mother just so happens to be the Sheriff of Shaky Lake…

The mystery begins with a teenage boy’s body being found in a boat, and a teenage girl being reported missing. As a resort town, the lake draws a lot of outsiders, so solving crimes like these aren’t always as simple as it may seem and this one is anything but simple.

We follow Eli, and the rest of the small department, as they try to figure out this mess and set their beloved town to rights. They’re also joined by FBI Agent, Alyssa Mason.

I enjoyed this, it’s a good story. I liked how nuanced the mystery was and the setting was great. I live in a resort town, so I totally understand the vibes and the different challenges that these characters were facing there.

I also tend to enjoy main characters like Eli; a little damaged, going through some major struggles, but still doing their best and trying to do the right thing.

I liked how Pease chose to make his Mom the Sheriff. I thought that was a interesting dynamic, particularly as it influenced the investigation. The Department is small and they have limited resources. It made them feel like more than coworkers; they were all in this together.

I’m not sure really, I guess I haven’t looked into it, whether or not this is going to be a series, but I would definitely be picking up the next book, if there is another one.

I feel like Pease did a great job here setting the foundation for what could be a fantastic, gritty, page-turning Police Procedural Mystery series.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Caz Frear’s Cat Kinsella series. This reminded me a lot of that, as far as the overall tone and having a compelling protagonist struggling with personal issues.

Further, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Crime Thrillers that examine the underbelly of our society, and aren’t afraid to really dig into why some of these societal issues may exist, or where they stem from.

Thank you to the publisher, Atria, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I am glad to have been introduced to Amy Pease. I’m looking forward to picking up whatever she writes next!

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Review: Cinderwich by Cherie Priest

CinderwichCinderwich by Cherie Priest
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Decades ago, Kate Thrush’s Aunt Ellen mysteriously disappeared. Even though Kate is too young to even remember Aunt Ellen, she was actually named after her and Ellen has been the shadow looming over her entire life.

As a young adult, Kate befriended Ellen’s long-time girlfriend, a college professor, Dr. Judith Kane. Judith and Ellen were partners at the time of Aunt Ellen’s disappearance, and Judith has never truly been able to let go of that experience.

Eventually, Kate and Judith grew apart, so when Kate hears from Judith seemingly out of the blue, and Judith asks for her assistance, Kate is curious and takes her up on the offer.

Judith has continued searching for any evidence that may tell her what happened to Ellen all those years ago. She’s recently come across something she feels could be connected.

A story, really more of a local legend, regarding a woman’s body found years ago in a blackgum tree in the small town of Cinderwich, Tennessee. Children know the chant, Who put Ellen in the blackgum tree?

Many have traveled to Cinderwich over the years, trying to determine the identity of the body found in the tree. Some of these people were even searching for Ellen’s of their own, others were mere trauma tourists. Either way, the people of Cinderwich are used to strangers passing through and asking questions.

Kate and Judith make a plan, and meet up in the small town, checking into an eclectic local hotel. Immediately, they being digging into the town history, looking for answers. They’re ill-prepared for what they’ll ultimately encounter there.

I really enjoyed this highly-readable Horror novella. I was initially attracted to it because of the eerie cover and I have to say, the cover suits the story perfectly. It’s got a sweet Southern Gothic feel to it, heavy with mystery vibes.

Kate and Judith were such a fun pair. An odd couple of sorts, but I adored the dynamics of their relationship. It was a great premise as well; them meeting up in the small creepy town and looking into a decades old mystery.

The overall themes explored were well done and I found Priest’s writing to be fluid, as well as engaging. This was actually the first I have read from her, and I’m definitely looking forward to picking up more. I’ve had The Toll sitting on my shelves for way too long now.

I had the pleasure of listening to the audiobook for this one and absolutely recommend that format if it’s available to you. We’re getting this story from Kate’s perspective and I felt that the narrator, Traci Odom’s, voice was perfect for Kate.

My only slight critique would be that I wish it could have been longer. I feel like that way frequently with novellas that I enjoy, mainly because I just don’t want them to end. For this one, I feel like it wrapped up rather quickly, I wouldn’t have minded more time to really dig into this conclusion.

Overall, I feel like this is a fast, compelling, creepy read, with great vibes and characters. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Southern Gothic stories, stories that feature small town vibes with creepy local lore, or unlikely friends investigating cold cases.

Thank you to the publisher, Dreamscape Media, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I can’t wait to read more from this author!

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Review: The Invocations by Krystal Sutherland

The InvocationsThe Invocations by Krystal Sutherland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Jude Wolf is the daughter of a billionaire. You’d think she’s a girl that has everything, but worries. Sadly, you’d be wrong. Jude has a serious issue that is literally eating her alive.

Dabbling in the occult at the age of 15, Jude cursed herself and now her soul is slowly turning necrotic. After every remedy she’s tried has failed, she’s been looking for someone to help her purge this blasted curse.

Zara Jones lost her beloved sister, Savannah, to the hands of a vicious serial killer. Savannah was the only person she trusted and now that she’s gone, Zara would do anything to bring her back, including turn to occult methods.

Zara feels if she could bring her back, Savannah could identify her killer and he could be brought to justice.

Two girls on a desperate hunt for someone with the abilities to help them, happen by chance upon one another. Instant attraction and a kinship of need follows.

The girls see a potential ally in Emer Byrne, a witch with a tragic past, who sells spells to women looking to escape desperate situations. Emer has a lot of knowledge and power, two things that Jude and Zara hopelessly seek.

They notice women being murdered at an alarming rate in their city of London and after some thought, it seems they all have one thing in common: connections to Emer.

Now Emer, Zara and Jude must team up and figure out the identity of the serial killer before any of them end up next on his list.

I didn’t have any expectations when I picked up The Invocations. Although I have House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland, and have heard incredible things about it, I haven’t picked it up yet.

I’m so impressed with how this played out. I loved the combination of the intriguing murder mystery mixed with all the vivid occult elements. The character work was fantastic and I truly hope this isn’t the last we see of these characters.

I was hooked into this story very quickly. Initially, we are just learning about Jude and Zara. I loved meeting both of them and Sutherland made their personal stories so believable and compelling.

I was interested to see how their paths were going to intersect and what would keep them together. I think they way Sutherland drew out this process and then their meeting, it was so impactful.

Once Emer comes in, I loved how they all needed to band together to work towards a common purpose. Even though they were very distinct individuals, with different end goals, it made sense for them to combine their efforts to achieve everything they wanted.

I found Sutherland’s writing to be highly readable. The setting was incredibly atmospheric. I loved how ‘our world’ it felt, with a touch of dark magic and stellar witchy vibes.

Additionally, I felt like the occult elements were amazing. The concepts were captivating and well thought out. I also feel like this will be accessible to a broad audience, easily enjoyed by Readers of all ages.

The feminist themes were also well presented and in this case, well received. I’m looking forward to reading more from Sutherland. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who thinks the synopsis sounds interesting. It delivers what is promised.

Thank you to the publisher, Nancy Paulsen Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I cannot wait to see what Sutherland creates next!

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Review: Keep Your Friends Close by Leah Konen

Keep Your Friends CloseKeep Your Friends Close by Leah Konen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Separated from her husband, George, and embroiled in a tense custody battle over their 2-year old, Mary needs a friend to support her now more than ever.

She realizes, as she tries to put her life back together, that over time she’s become estranged from the friends she had before she and George married. He took over her life. He changed her. She feels very alone.

It’s at this low point when Mary happens to meet Willa at a playground in her Brooklyn neighborhood. Mary has never connected with another Mom organically like this before, so it feels a bit fated. Willa seems equally receptive.

The two become fast friends and Mary feels like she finally has someone she can confide in about everything she is currently going through.

One night though, after too many margaritas, Mary says some things about George that she later regrets. It seems too have turned Willa off as well, because after that night, Mary doesn’t hear from her again.

Willa ghosted her.

A couple of months later, fed up with all things Brooklyn and with their divorce almost finalized, Mary decides she needs a completely fresh start.

She travels to a town halfway between NYC and her hometown, where her family still lives. She figures this will be a fair middle ground when sharing custody of Alex.

It’s there that she bumps into Willa again, only Willa pretends not to know who she is. Oh yeah, and she claims her name isn’t Willa, she’s Annie. What the heck is going on? Mary feels like she’s losing her mind.

Things go from bad to worse, when George tracks her down to try to win her back. Mary doesn’t want any of this. She just wants a new life.

When George turns up dead shortly thereafter, Mary quickly becomes the prime suspect. With no one else to turn to, Mary seeks out Willa again for help.

As new evidence comes to light, Mary starts to wonder just how well she really knows Willa, if at all. Is she friend, foe, or something much, much worse? Mary needs to figure it out ASAP before she loses even more than she already has!

Keep Your Friends Close is an entertaining and fast-paced Domestic Thriller. Konen kept the drama high throughout, so it’s easy to fly through. You want to get to the truth.

I liked the back and forth between Then and Now sections as the full scope of Mary’s relationship with Willa, as well as the dissolution of her marriage are presented to the Reader. I actually really enjoyed getting to know Mary.

I think Konen did a great job of keeping me at the edge of my seat with short chapters and several mini-reveals. Just when I thought it was starting to come together, something else would come up that would leave me scratching my head.

I also appreciated getting Willa’s perspective a bit as well. That helped to fill in some of the finer details of what all had happened in this messed up friendship.

I will say towards the end, it did start to get a little convoluted, IMO. It definitely toed the line into the dreaded, one twist too many territory. However, the ultimate conclusion did leave me satisfied.

I would recommend this to Readers who enjoy Thriller, or Suspense stories, involving complicated Female Friendships. Bonus if you love a Twisted Domestic Drama. This one definitely went there as well.

Thank you, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I enjoyed this and am definitely planning to read more from Leah Konen!

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