I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick #bookreview #YA #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

This gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.

What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected–and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

If you’re looking for a compelling beach read, I got you covered.  I Killed Zoe Spanos will keep you in that beach chair for hours.

This is my first time reading this author, but it absolutely won’t be my last.  I was glued to this book from the beginning and conjured up tons of theories about what was happening during the course of the story.  Even then, only part of one of them turned out to be correct by the end.

Martina’s podcast is a clever way to introduce backstory – what happened with Zoe, who the suspects were, what the police did or didn’t do, etc., and it gives the reader a peek into her head since her POV is shared along with Anna’s.  The alternating chapters between past and present made me even more curious to learn how the characters got from point A to point B, and it’s one of my favorite storytelling techniques.  With such an intricate plot, I can just imagine the story boards the author must have created.

Although it works well with the story, I had to suspend my disbelief a tad with the way the investigators handled Zoe’s case.  Still, I devoured this book in two days.  Pay close attention near the end – things move fast and a lot of questions are answered.

With a heavy dose of red herrings and twists to keep you guessing, I Killed Zoe Spanos is a must read for mystery/thriller fans.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Far From You by Tess Sharpe #bookreview #YA #mystery #LGBT

Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.

The first time, she’s fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that’ll take years to kick.

The second time, she’s seventeen, and it’s no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina’s murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina’s brother won’t speak to her, her parents fear she’ll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina’s murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared. 

I read this for my book club.  For that month’s selection, we had to read books recommended by other members – which is scary for me.  I’m always afraid I’ll wind up with a romance.  This one contains some romance, but it’s not the primary focus.  And I’m okay with that.

My heart went out to Sophie.  No one believes she’s still clean, and her parents force her back into rehab.  All the while, she’s grieving deeply for her nearly lifelong best friend and counting the days until she’s released so she can find the killer.  Her frustration is palpable, and she has few friends to lean on for help.

Most chapters rotate between the present and earlier in Sophie’s life, but it wasn’t difficult to keep up – and I listened to the audiobook (which is narrated by the author, who does a wonderful job).  The shifts allow the gradual reveal of backstory and secrets that bring to light multiple suspects.  I guessed who the culprit was, but there’s another component to the story that came as a suprise.

This isn’t my usual genre, but it’s a gripping read and emotional at times.  If you’re looking for a YA mystery, this is one I recommend.

Jackaby (Jackaby #1) by William Ritter #YA #historicalmystery

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

I’ve had this in my TBR for a while and listened to the audiobook during a road trip last fall.

While the narrator’s voice for Abigail is perfect, it didn’t work for me with Jackaby’s voice, but that’s a personal issue.  I appreciated Jackaby’s straightforward manner and the way he approaches the case.  His interactions with some characters are prickly at best, but also amusing.  Abigail is an adventurous soul and determined to live her own life and not abide by the expectations of others.

This was an entertaining enough read while driving, but I identified the killer very early in the book.   I hoped for red herrings to steer me in the wrong direction or an unexpected twist – but neither happened.

With several books in the series, it’s popular with readers, so I’m probably in the minority on my opinions.  I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a quick, supernatural suspense read.

 

End of Day (Hode’s Hill #2) by Mae Clair #bookreview #supernatural #suspense

The past is never truly buried…  

Generations of Jillian Cley’s family have been tasked with a strange duty—tending the burial plot of Gabriel Vane, whose body was the first to be interred in the Hode’s Hill cemetery. Jillian faithfully continues the long-standing tradition—until one October night, Vane’s body is stolen from its resting place. Is it a Halloween prank? Or something more sinister?  

As the descendants of those buried in the church yard begin to experience bizarre “accidents,” Jillian tries to uncover the cause. Deeply empathic, she does not make friends easily, or lightly. But to fend off the terror taking over her town, she must join forces with artist Dante DeLuca, whose sensitivity to the spirit world has been both a blessing and a curse. The two soon realize Jillian’s murky family history is entwined with a tragic legacy tracing back to the founding of Hode’s Hill. To set matters right, an ancient wrong must be avenged…or Jillian, Dante, and everyone in town will forever be at the mercy of a vengeful spirit.

This review was meant to be posted months ago, so I have no idea why it was still in my review draft folder.  Maybe it’s fortuitous, because the first book in this series, Cusp of Night, is free, and this book and the last, Eventide, are $0.99 through February 25th.  Take advantage of this deal now – you won’t regret it!

I loved the first book in this series and was so excited to read End of Day, I made it my choice for book club.

This is the perfect book to curl up with on a cold, dreary night.  Some scenes will send chills up your spine and have you glancing over your shoulder to make sure no one’s there.  With book club members, it spawned spirited conversations ranging from genetics (an odd choice, I know) to our beliefs in ghosts and mediums.  For this horror fan, it was a highly enjoyable meeting.

As with the first book in the series, I especially enjoyed the alternating timelines and how Gabriel’s fate was gradually explained.  I remembered Dante from the previous book and looked forward to learning more about him.  He’s now one of my favorite characters in the series, and his scenes with Elliott in the role of a substitute father figure warmed my heart.  Jillian’s tragic circumstances immediately pulled me in, and I count her therapy dog, Blizzard, as one of the best bookish furry friends I’ve read.

End of Day is a compelling blend of paranormal, thriller, and mystery, and although part of a series, can easily be read as a standalone.  I  highly recommend this well-written, atmospheric read.

#BadMoonRising: Flicker by Len Boswell #paranormal #mystery

A story about a haunted diner with strange goings-on?  Ghosts with murderous intentions?  I’d totally read that.  And it’s what today’s author is here to share with us.  That and the X-Files script he wrote and sent in.  Welcome Len Boswell!

Would you rather be abducted by aliens or a serial killer?

Being abducted by aliens sounds like the best choice. A little travel, a little probing, maybe a meal or a snack, with the bonus of missing time and maybe a strange tattoo. A serial killer? Sounds too stressful and final. At least with aliens there might be a chance.

Would you rather be locked in a haunted insane asylum or lost in the woods with a killer on the loose?

I’ve been to a haunted insane asylum in West Virginia, and as creepy as it was, the alternative sounds much scarier and much more deadly.

Would you rather be part of the X-Files team or Ghostbusters?

I’m totally in the tank for Scully, so definitely X-Files. Again, aliens sound more interesting than ghosts. And I once wrote an episode of X-Files and sent it in for consideration. I’d been commuting over a bridge that had an accident almost every day. I thought, maybe the bridge is occupied by a troll, so the episode had Scully and Mulder in a battle of wits and traffic jams with a troll. Unfortunately, I sent in my episode just as the show was being cancelled. The tyranny of timing.

If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in the same setting, where would you choose?

New Zealand speaks to me, cries out to me. I can’t imagine a better setting for a thriller, mystery, or fantasy.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

A rat terrier, because my own rat terrier, Cinder, sits behind me on my office chair, performing duties as muse each morning as I write.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a memoir of my father called Unboxing Raymond. When my sister died a couple of months ago, my nieces came upon a box marked “Ray Boswell’s treasure box.” There was more than a hundred items in the box, many of which immediately evoked memories of my father and the events of his and our family’s lives. Each chapter involves pulling an item out of the treasure box and writing about its meaning. I’m hoping to finish the manuscript in October.

Flicker is a modern-day ghost story set in a haunted diner. When Charlie Brace buys, refurbishes, and opens a diner that’s been up on blocks for many years, he gets much more than he bargained for, from neon signs that flicker insanely, to a quirky staff, to odd customers, to an even stranger hobo-philosopher who picks through his dumpster while lecturing him on the moon and mythology, to the amorous advances of the previous owner’s widow, to a mysterious mother and child who appear at the diner one morning carrying steaming baskets of pies that are, in a word, charmed, to the appearance of ghosts with murderous intentions.

Are the mother and child ghosts or do they just bake great pies? What about Charlie’s head waitress, who dresses like a woman from the 1950s and spouts diner lingo no one has used in years? What about the man in the dumpster? What about the widow, who seems to be holding back about her husband’s death? And what about the customers, who grow anxious and impatient whenever the pie runs out? Who exactly are the ghosts, why are they haunting the diner, and why do they want to kill Charlie?

“One part Kurt Vonnegut, another part Carl Hiaasen . . . Len Boswell is a quirky, off-kilter, and very talented novelist.” — Michael P. Hartnett, author, The Blue Rat

Purchase Link

Amazon

Author Bio

Len Boswell is the author of nine books, including Flicker: A Paranormal Mystery, Skeleton: A Bare Bones Mystery, Stick Figures, Santa Takes a Tumble, The Leadership Secrets of Squirrels, Barnum’s Angel (2020), and his ongoing Simon Grave mystery series: A Grave Misunderstanding, Simon Grave and the Curious Incident of the Cat in the Daytime, and Simon Grave and the Drone of the Basque Orvilles (2020). He lives in the mountains of West Virginia with his wife, Ruth, and their two dogs, Shadow and Cinder.

Social Media

Twitter: @simonsilverback
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/len.boswell.3
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/simonsilverback/
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/simon-silverback

Five Midnights by Ann Davila Cardinal #bookreview #YA #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

Five friends cursed. Five deadly fates. Five nights of retribución.

If Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre can survive each other’s company, together they can solve a series of grisly murders sweeping though Puerto Rico. But the clues lead them out of the real world and into the realm of myths and legends. And if they want to catch the killer, they’ll have to step into the shadows to see what’s lurking there—murderer, or monster?

 

I’ve never been to Puerto Rico, but the author provides such vivid, immersive descriptions, I feel like I have.  And the food!  I drooled over several pages.

The author gives a balanced picture of Puerto Rico.  While showing the horrors of drugs and addiction, and impoverished neighborhoods, she also demonstrates the deep love of culture and community, and supportive, loyal families and friends willing to do anything to protect their loved ones.  And can I mention the food again?

One of my favorite things about this book is the relationships.  With little parental support at home, Lupe’s relationship with her aunt and uncle is a positive influence, and portrayed so well.  Javier hasn’t made good choices in his past, and battles his addiction every day with the help of Father Sebastian.  Javier’s relationship with childhood friend Carlos is more of brother than friend, even though Carlos’s music career has made him an international sensation.

Mention urban legends in a book description, and I’ll show up, and El Cuco is the stuff of children’s nightmares.  The opening scene is a perfect way to set up the supernatural suspense.  When Javier makes the connection and realizes he’s living on borrowed time, I couldn’t read fast enough.

As a main character, Lupe is feisty, loyal, and determined – all good things.  But her default mode is set to combative, and I felt it got in the way of the story.  The final showdown is tense and exciting, but because it’s seen through several POVs, it stretches on for pages, when it actually lasts the length of a song.

Five Midnights is a briskly paced, dark, YA supernatural mystery that I enjoyed from the first page, and would recommend to fans of urban legends who enjoy a touch of the paranormal.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

Keep This To Yourself by Tom Ryan #bookreview #YA #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

It’s been a year since the Catalog Killer terrorized the sleepy seaside town of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing without a trace. 

Like everyone else in town, eighteen-year-old Mac Bell is trying to put that horrible summer behind him—easier said than done since Mac’s best friend Connor was the murderer’s final victim. But when he finds a cryptic message from Connor, he’s drawn back into the search for the killer—who might not have been a random drifter after all. Now nobody—friends, neighbors, or even the sexy stranger with his own connection to the case—is beyond suspicion. Sensing that someone is following his every move, Mac struggles to come to terms with his true feelings towards Connor while scrambling to uncover the truth.

I was in the mood for a mystery that really made me think, and Keep This To Yourself checked off that box, and more.

The setting is perfect – a small beach town full of secrets, where everyone knows everybody’s business.  I immediately connected with Mac, and his determination to hold onto strained childhood friendships in the wake of a tragedy.  He’s fiercely loyal to his murdered friend, Connor, and the fluctuating emotions he feels are genuine and portrayed well.  Mac’s budding romance with Quill is quick, but totally sweet, and they share the goal of finding the serial killer.

Tension-filled scenes had me reading late into the night, and I finished over half of this book in one sitting.  At some point, I suspected nearly everyone, and the twist at the end is part of something that occurred to me, but I convinced myself I was wrong.

Keep This To Yourself is a clever YA mystery full of red herrings, an endearing narrator (and he works in a library!), shocking twists, and touch of romance.  I enjoyed it from beginning to end, and I’m looking forward to this author’s next book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon #bookreview #supernatural #mystery

A chilling ghost story with a twist: the New York Timesbestselling author of The Winter People returns to the woods of Vermont to tell the story of a husband and wife who don’t simply move into a haunted house, they start building one from scratch, without knowing it, until it’s too late . . . 

In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate abandon the comforts of suburbia and their teaching jobs to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this charming property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. As Helen starts carefully sourcing decorative building materials for her home–wooden beams, mantles, historic bricks–she starts to unearth, and literally conjure, the tragic lives of Hattie’s descendants, three generations of “Breckenridge women,” each of whom died amidst suspicion, and who seem to still be seeking something precious and elusive in the present day.

I’m really behind on my Jennifer McMahon books.  The last one I read was The Winter People, which was an easy five stars for me.  When I saw The Invited on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it.

This author is certainly talented at creating a chilling, atmospheric setting.  Forty-four acres of rural land, very few neighbors, and creepy bog?  Oh, and someone died by hanging at the bog?  Perfect.  Throw in a main character who uses building materials from allegedly haunted locations?  Disturbing.  The author also weaves in some spine-tingling visuals – nothing that kept me up at night, but I’m a horror fan, so that’s a difficult task to accomplish.

The characters are likable in the beginning, but once the supernatural events begin, they’re at each other’s throats.  While both Nate and Helen develop individual obsessions, the reader feels the same frustrations with them as the characters do with each other.  Honestly, if I was Nate, I probably would have tossed Helen out on her keester.  They’re also pretty slow to realize things aren’t quite right in their neck of the woods.

Maybe it was because I read an ARC, but several things are mentioned in the book that didn’t happen – events, something a character said, etc.  Like maybe the author meant to go back and add things during revisions, but forgot?

The Invited is a slow burn, supernatural tale that starts off a bit sluggish, but picks up around the 45% mark.  Enough hints are dropped that readers will probably figure out the twists before the ending, but it was an enjoyable read for me.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

 

Killing November (Killing November #1) by Adriana Mather #bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog #thriller

It’s a school completely off the grid, hidden by dense forest and surrounded by traps. There’s no electricity, no internet, and an eye-for-an-eye punishment system. Classes include everything from Knife-Throwing and Poisons to the Art of Deception and Historical Analysis. And all of the students are children of the world’s most elite strategists—training to become assassins, counselors, spies, and master impersonators. Into this world walks November Adley, who quickly discovers that friends are few in a school where personal revelations are discouraged and competition is everything. When another student is murdered, all eyes turn to November, who must figure out exactly how she fits into the school’s bizarre strategy games before she is found guilty of the crime…or becomes the killer’s next victim. 

What an awesome premise – a school that trains assassins.  Throw in some murders, and you’ve got a ton of suspects, right?

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book.  The cover didn’t do much for me, but the description sounded crazy good.  And it delivered – I wanted to finish this book in one sitting.  November’s life changes vastly almost overnight – and she has no clue what’s going on.  Every student at the school seems to know things about her, but she’s never met any of them, and no one is willing to share their knowledge.  Every student is also a trained killer and strategist, and trusting the wrong person could be a fatal error.  The stakes are high throughout the book, and I found myself holding my breath in some scenes.  I’m pretty sure I suspected almost everyone at some point in the story.  It’s obvious the author did her research in nonverbal communication and  weapons, with some historical tidbits thrown in that add to the authenticity of the story.

Once the secrets are revealed, some are surprising and some predictable, but they sure do make for a tense, exciting read.  With fabulous character development, political intrigue, a complex, thrilling plot, and a main character whose life is in jeopardy on nearly every page, Killing November is addictive, and one of my best reads this year.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

The House Always Wins by Tom Minder #bookreview #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

Someone is shooting up Dirty Sam’s.

Will the Long Harbor police get their man, or woman, before a casino heist, a slots player who disappears in a puff of smoke, a crossbow-toting florist, and an undercover agent who makes a mean goulash, complicate the investigation.

Oh, for the simpler days of illegal gambling.

The quirky character descriptions alone intrigued me before I even knew what this book was about.  A cross-bow toting florist?  I needed to know more about this person.

Long Harbor is filled with some unsavory characters, and it’s difficult to figure out who’s trustworthy – but that’s part of the charm of this book.  There’s no shortage of suspicious characters, and they’ll keep the reader guessing where their loyalties lie, and who did what.

Character development is a strength for this author, and I could easily envision each character, along with their good traits, flaws, and weaknesses.  I also snickered several times over things they did or said, and imagined an Ocean’s Eleven-type soundtrack playing in the background.

Although the author wrote another book set in Long Harbor with several of the same characters, both are considered standalones.  I struggled with the extensive character list – remembering who was who, but that could be because I didn’t read the first book.  I wouldn’t say reading it is a necessity, but it may help with the confusion.

If you enjoy quirky, well-written characters, a briskly paced plot, and a good heist story, I highly recommend The House Always Wins.  

I received an ARC from the author.