Book Review: The Dagger by Pam Anders

The Dagger by Pam Anders

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BOOK INFO
Title: The Dagger
Author: Pam Anders
Publisher: Real Publishing
Publish Date: September 8, 2018
Genre: Mystery
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 4.14

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
Twenty-four year old school teacher KATHRYN (KAT) DELANEY enjoys a comfortable and nondescript life, until events begin to crash down around her, beginning with the murder of her acutely secretive and over-protective father. His death triggers an investigation, which raises questions as to who he really was, and who she is.

Kat is determined to find the answer to her true identity, but the answers find her before she has a chance. Kat is thrown into the violent and chilling world from which her father had protected her all these years, and now she must fight for her life.


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MY REVIEW
Kat’s father was a wonderful dad who loved and protected his daughter, but he was never clear about his past. After Kat’s father is killed, Kat is thrown into a mystery to find out what her father was hiding and who she really is.

This is a fast-paced read. The first part of the novel is a typical mystery, where someone is killed and an investigation into the death begins. Then things take a turn, and a wild adventure begins for Kat as she discovers more about her past. Kat is a young woman, working as a teacher, and living a normal life. She is a little spoiled by her father, but as the novel progresses she starts to take care of herself and become more independent.

An interesting mystery. Kat’s search into her past leads to a wild experience with a variety of characters, including a former boyfriend turned PI, a crazy madman, and a fanatical cult. Suspenseful and exciting.

I received a free digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth

All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth

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BOOK INFO
Title: All These Beautiful Strangers
Author: Elizabeth Klehfoth
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: July 10, 2018
Genre: Mystery – Thriller
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 3.87

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon
One summer day, Grace Fairchild, the beautiful young wife of real estate mogul Alistair Calloway, vanished from the family’s lake house without a trace, leaving behind her seven-year old daughter, Charlie, and a slew of unanswered questions.

Years later, seventeen-year-old Charlie still struggles with the dark legacy of her family name and the mystery surrounding her mother. Determined to finally let go of the past, she throws herself into life at Knollwood, the prestigious New England school she attends. Charlie quickly becomes friends with Knollwood’s “it” crowd.

Charlie has also been tapped by the A’s—the school’s elite secret society well known for terrorizing the faculty, administration, and their enemies. To become a member of the A’s, Charlie must play The Game, a semester-long, diabolical high-stakes scavenger hunt that will jeopardize her friendships, her reputation, even her place at Knollwood.

As the dark events of past and present converge, Charlie begins to fear that she may not survive the terrible truth about her family, her school, and her own life.


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MY REVIEW
Ten years ago, when Charlie was seven years old, her mother disappeared. Charlie is now seventeen, and away at boarding school. When she is tapped to join the A’s, the school’s secret society, she’s excited, but a little concerned about the initiation process. As she plays the game the A’s ask of her, she learns they may not be as great as she originally thought. In addition to school life, Charlie starts to think there is more to the story of her mother’s disappearance, and looks into the past to uncover the secrets.

Told using alternating points of view – Charlie, Grace, and Alistair. Charlie is the main character. She’s popular, rich, smart, and pretty. She seems to have it all, but she is haunted by her mother’s disappearance. From Charlie’s viewpoint, the reader learns about the present and the past. Grace and Alistair are Charlie’s parents. Their chapters are mostly about the past. The alternating timelines and POVs were handled well, and easily distinguished from one another.

A large portion of the book is about Charlie’s school life, friendships, and initiation into the A’s. The initiation process involves an elaborate scavenger hunt, that often has risks. The mystery part comes from Charlie learning something new about her mother, which reignites Charlie’s interest in her mother’s disappearance. She decides to look into the past, and attempt to uncover what happened.

This is listed under adult fiction, but it reads like a YA mystery. I was fine with that, but if you don’t like YA books, then this might not be a good fit for you. If you enjoy YA, mysteries, and books that involve elite boarding schools, then this is perfect for you.

A compelling debut novel. Captivating, mysterious, and clever. I look forward to reading more by this author.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: Guess Who by Chris McGeorge

Guess Who by Chris McGeorge

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BOOK INFO
Title: Guess Who
Author: Chris McGeorge
Publisher: Hanover Square Press
Publish Date: September 18, 2018
Genre: Mystery – Thriller
Goodreads Ratings: Me 3.0 / Community 3.55

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon
At eleven years old, Morgan Sheppard solved the murder of a teacher when everyone else believed it to be a suicide. The publicity surrounding the case laid the foundation for his reputation as a modern-day Sherlock Holmes. He parlayed that fame into a gig as TV’s “resident detective,” solving the more typical tawdry daytime talk show mysteries like “Who is the father?” and “Is he cheating?”

Until, that is, Sheppard wakes up handcuffed to a bed in an unfamiliar hotel room. Around him, five strangers are slowly waking up, as well. Soon they discover a corpse in the bathtub and Sheppard is challenged to put his deductive skills to the test. One of the people in the room is the killer. He has three hours to solve the murder. If he doesn’t find the killer, they all will die.


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MY REVIEW
A group of strangers awakens in a locked hotel room, and soon discovers a dead body in the room with them. To escape the room, they are tasked with identifying the killer, who is one of them.

The main character, Morgan Sheppard, hosts a detective show on television. He is the primary target of the madman who has kidnapped them and locked them in a room with a corpse. The kidnapper appears on the room’s TV to address the strangers, and tells Shappard that to prove he is a good detective, he needs to solve the mystery. Since the punishment of not solving the mystery in the allotted time is death, the others are, obviously, trying to identify the killer too. Lots of drama, distrust, and arguments.

Throughout the novel, flashbacks of Sheppard’s childhood appear. When he was young, Sheppard solved a mystery, and that case brought him a lot of attention and fame. Ever since then, he has struggled with desiring the attention that fame affords, but also battling with personal demons.

A locked room mystery that started off strong. I enjoy this type of mystery, and was curious how the story would end. This one does have some twists, though I felt the story was a little too long and drawn out. Really, the ending was over-explained, and, for me, that took something away from the story. A good read for fans of locked room mysteries. Dark and twisted.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls by Riley Sager

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BOOK INFO
Title: Final Girls
Author: Riley Sager
Publisher: Dutton
Publish Date: July 11, 2017
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Goodreads Ratings: Me 4.0 / Community 3.8

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls: Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit; and Sam, the second Final Girl, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.


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MY REVIEW
The Final Girls is a moniker used to label survivors of horror movie style attacks. While in college, Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with some friends. During their trip, the group was attacked and everyone was killed, except for Quincy. Being the lone survivor of the massacre made Quincy a Final Girl. There are only two other Final Girls, Lisa and Sam. Fast forward ten years… Quincy learns that Lisa, the first Final Girl, has died. Lisa’s death hits Quincy hard. Even though they had never met, the Final Girls have something in common that no one else can understand. Soon, Sam shows up on Quincy’s doorstep. As Sam inserts herself into Quincy’s life, she also pressures Quincy to remember the night of the attack. Quincy starts to realize that something is not right with her memories, Sam’s behavior, and Lisa’s death.

The story is told from Quincy’s point of view in the present day, but also contains flashbacks to the night she and her friends were attacked. Quincy had a very difficult time coping with the massacre, and between self-medicating and her desire to forget, she has managed to suppress her memories of the attack. A big part of the story deals with Lisa accepting her Final Girl status and remembering what happened.

A fun and exciting thriller. Unreliable characters. Twisty plot. Good for fans of psychological thrillers who enjoy the final girl trope. Entertaining and suspenseful.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: River Bodies by Karen Katchur

River Bodies by Karen Katchur

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BOOK INFO
Title: River Bodies
Author: Karen Katchur
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publish Date: November 1, 2018

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
A body just turned up in the small town of Portland, Pennsylvania. The crime is eerily similar to a twenty-year-old cold case: another victim, brutally murdered, found in the Delaware River. Lead detective Parker Reed is intent on connecting the two murders, but the locals are on lockdown, revealing nothing.

The past meets the present when Becca Kingsley, who returns to Portland to be with her estranged but dying father, runs into Parker, her childhood love. As the daughter of the former police chief, Becca’s quickly drawn into the case. Coming home has brought something ominous to the surface—memories long buried, secrets best kept hidden. Becca starts questioning all her past relationships, including one with a man who’s watched over her for years. For the first time, she wonders if he’s more predator than protector.

In a small town where darkness hides in plain sight, the truth could change Becca’s life—or end it.


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MY REVIEW
Becca returns to her hometown of Portland, Pennsylvania, to be with her dying father. Becca has been living just across the river in New Jersey, but hasn’t been back to Portland to visit her father or old friends for 10 years. Her arrival in town coincides with a murder that is very similar to an unsolved murder that occurred 20 years earlier in the same town. Becca’s old friend Parker, who is now a detective, works to uncover who is behind the deaths. Meanwhile, Becca confronts old secrets in her and her father’s pasts.

Different viewpoints are used to tell the story, but Becca is the main character, and most of the story revolves around her. Becca is in a relationship with a man she has doubts about, she is estranged from her father, and she misses her old best friend Parker.

Becca’s father is on his deathbed, but he was once the police chief in Portland. The law enforcement in town has a delicate relationship with the town biker gang, the Scions. When Becca’s father was police chief, his stepbrother was the leader of the Scions. The stepbrother is now deceased and there is a new police chief, but old loyalties still remain, though some secrets are difficult to contain.

This is a mystery because of the murders, but it’s also a story about relationships. The descriptions of the area, the people, and the lifestyles are very well done. The characters are not particularly likable, but they are real. While the story does not have a lot of action, the various relationships between the characters is gripping.

This was my pick for Amazon’s First Reads in October 2018.

Book Review: The Witch Elm by Tana French

The Witch Elm by Tana French

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BOOK INFO
Title: The Witch Elm
Author: Tana French
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: October 9, 2018

BOOK BLURB
Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life – he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.


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MY REVIEW
After returning home from a night out, Toby is attacked when he surprises two burglars in his place. He is severely beaten, and has a long road to recovery. During his recovery stage, he moves to his family’s ancestral home where his uncle resides. One day, when the whole family is gathered there for one of their routine family get-togethers, a skull is discovered in the trunk of an elm tree. As detectives investigate, Toby realizes his past may not be quite like he remembers it.

Toby is a happy and pretty lucky guy. Before the attack, things always seemed to work out for the best in Toby’s life. In some ways, that made his friends and family upset with him, because he didn’t necessarily recognize or understand when they had struggles in life. However, things change for Toby after his attack. This book covers a lot of topics – privilege, bullying, sexual harassment, memories, identity, and family loyalty.

The writing, as usual with Tana French’s books, is superb. The story is slow though. It’s mostly a good slow, but there was a portion of the book where nothing really happened. This book relies heavily on the characters. Other than the attack on Toby and a mysterious skull in the yard, very little other action occurs. I was really into the first part of this book, but then things slowed down. Real slow. Then, a skull was found in a tree. Ooh, a mystery. Then slow, again. I kept waiting for something to finally happen. And then it did happen. And it was glorious. Okay, maybe not glorious, but I was happy with how things unraveled.

A slow burning psychological thriller. Detailed, atmospheric, complex, and tragic.

I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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BOOK INFO
Title: The Last Time I Lied
Author: Riley Sager
Publisher: Dutton
Publish Date: July 3, 2018

BOOK BLURB
from Amazon:
Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. But the games ended the night Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin into the darkness. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. When the paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, she implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor. Seeing an opportunity to find out what really happened to her friends all those years ago, Emma agrees.

Familiar faces, unchanged cabins, and the same dark lake haunt Nightingale, even though the camp is opening its doors for the first time since the disappearances. Emma is even assigned to the same cabin she slept in as a teenager, but soon discovers a security camera – the only one on the property – pointed directly at its door. Then cryptic clues that Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins begin surfacing. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing mysterious threats in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale and what really happened to those girls, the more she realizes that closure could come at a deadly price.


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MY REVIEW
Fifteen years ago, Emma was a camper at Camp Nightingale. Emma was the youngest in the cabin she shared with three other girls. One night, she awakened to see the other girls sneaking out of the cabin, and they never returned. That night has haunted Emma. When the owner of the camp contacts Emma and invites her to their reopening, she accepts the offer, thinking she might be able to finally discover what happened to her friends. Emma is an artist, and she is hired to be the camp’s painting instructor. She is back at camp, and everything is the same – familiar faces, the same cabins, and the same eerie lake.

Emma is an intriguing character. She carries guilt from that summer when her friends went missing, and she questions everyone and everything at Camp Nightingale when she returns. I was never sure if Emma was a reliable narrator, and that made for an interesting read.

This book is a slow-burning read that has the right amount of twists and turns. A great read for fans of dark psychological thrillers. Creepy, clever, and mysterious.

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson

All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson

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BOOK INFO
Title: All the Beautiful Lies
Author: Peter Swanson
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: April 3, 2018

BOOK BLURB
Harry Ackerson has always considered his step-mother Alice to be sexy and beautiful, in an “other worldly” way. She has always been kind and attentive, if a little aloof in the last few years.

Days before his college graduation, Alice calls with shocking news. His father is dead and the police think it’s suicide. Devastated, he returns to his father’s home in Maine. There, he and Alice will help one another pick up of the pieces of their lives and uncover what happened to his father.

Shortly after he arrives, Harry meets a mysterious young woman named Grace McGowan. Though she claims to be new to the area, Harry begins to suspect that Grace may not be a complete stranger to his family. But she isn’t the only attractive woman taking an interest in Harry. The sensual Alice is also growing closer, coming on to him in an enticing, clearly sexual way.

Mesmerized by these two women, Harry finds himself falling deeper under their spell. Yet the closer he gets to them, the more isolated he feels, disoriented by a growing fear that both women are hiding dangerous—even deadly—secrets . . . and that neither one is telling the truth.


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MY REVIEW
Days before Harry is set to graduate college, his father dies. His father’s death is suspicious, and the authorities aren’t sure if his death was an accident, suicide, or murder. Harry returns to the small town in Maine where his father lived. While in town, Harry spends time with his stepmother Alice, works in his father’s bookstore, meets the new girl in town, Grace, and tries to connect the pieces surrounding his father’s death.

This book is told with multiple points of view and multiple timelines. The “then” timeline is Alice’s story. The “now” timeline is Harry’s story. Alice’s story is disturbing and uncomfortable to read. Harry’s story is more mysterious. Harry is not mysterious, but the circumstances of his father’s death and the people connected to his father are mysterious.

A slow-burning thriller that focuses on the characters. The action takes a backseat to the characters, but there are some interesting things happening. Harry’s father’s death isn’t the only suspicious death in the book. Now, let’s talk about the characters. They are complex and seriously messed up. Pretty much every relationship in the book is May-December, and some are more borderline pedophilia. That makes for tough reading.

Suspenseful, twisted, and tragic.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

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BOOK INFO
Title: The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author: Stuart Turton
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: September 18, 2018

BOOK BLURB
The Hardcastle family is hosting a masquerade at their home, and their daughter Evelyn Hardcastle will die. She will die everyday until Aiden Bishop is able identify her killer and break the cycle.

But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up each day in a different body as one of the guests.

Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend. But nothing and no one are quite what they seem.


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MY REVIEW
A repeating day. Aiden wakes up in a different body everyday, but the result is always the same… Evelyn Hardcastle dies. The only way for Aiden to get free of the repeating day is to solve the mystery behind Evelyn’s death.

This novel is a murder mystery, but with a dash of science fiction and a smidgen of historical fiction. The repeating day and body hopping is very sci-fi, the setting and characters read like a period piece, and the atmosphere has a very Gothic feel.

Aiden is in a different body each day, but the story isn’t told in a linear fashion. The body hopping combined with time hopping made for a confusing read. Some of the bodies Aiden inhabits are very similar to one another, and I had trouble keeping up with which guy he was each day. I realize the hopping around adds to the story and makes it more complex. After all, Aiden himself is confused about what is going on. In that respect, it is like you’re in the mind of Aiden and his perplexing situation.

Clever and complex, but confusing. A unique and imaginative debut novel.

I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Speed of Sound by Eric Bernt

The Speed of Sound by Eric Bernt

The Speed of Sound

by Eric Bernt
Thomas & Mercer – June 1, 2018

BOOK BLURB
Harmony House is more than a “special place for special people.” It’s a think tank where high-functioning autistic savants harness their unique abilities for the benefit of society. Resident Eddie Parks’s contribution is nothing less than extraordinary: an “echo box” that can re-create never-recorded sounds using acoustic archaeology.

All Eddie wants is to hear his late mother’s voice. But what he’s created is inadvertently posing a threat to national security.

To Harmony House’s shadowy government backers and radical extremists, the echo box is the ultimate intelligence asset—an end to the very concept of secrecy. Now for Eddie and the compassionate Dr. Skylar Drummond, the true nature of the institution is becoming chillingly clear.

As ruthless competing enemies close in on Eddie and his miraculous machine, Skylar risks all to take him on the run. Because once that prize is won, Eddie Parks will no longer be considered a “special person” but a dangerous redundancy. An inconvenient echo that must be silenced.

MY REVIEW ★★★☆☆
Eddie lives in Harmony House, a think tank residence for people with autism. Eddie’s project is creating an “echo box.” Eddie’s main desire is to hear his late mother sing, and if he can complete the echo box, his dream will come true. Unfortunately, other, less scrupulous people would also like the echo box to work. The newest doctor at Harmony House is Skylar, and she immediately connects with Eddie. As the danger increases, Skylar helps Eddie.

Interesting and likable characters. Eddie has autism, and has a few special abilities that go along with that. He has very delicate hearing and he is a human lie detector. Both of these abilities come into play throughout the story. Skylar is a little more stereotypical character. She is a new doctor at Harmony House, and she also truly cares about the patients. Eddie has a hard time with people, but he quickly learns to trust Skylar.

The story is action-packed. As Eddie gets closer to finishing his project, it seems more people are interested in getting their hands on it. Skylar is important since she wants to keep Eddie safe, but she also wants to see him achieve his dream of hearing his mother sing.

Exciting and fast-paced. This is the first book in a series, and ends on a cliffhanger. Good for fans of techno thrillers.

I received a digital copy of this book via Amazon’s First Reads.