Serena’s Review: “The Stardust Thief”

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Book: “The Stardust Thief” by

Publishing Info: Orbit, May 2022

Where Did I Get this Book:

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: Neither here nor there, but long ago…

Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn.

With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.

Review: I’ve had really good luck with Middle Eastern fairytales, especially ones that focus on the ever-popular jinns. Honestly, I can’t think of the last time I read a jinn story that I didn’t really enjoy. Indeed, the last few have made my favorites lists for the year. This is both a blessing and a curse: I get super excited whenever I see another jinn story coming down the pike, but I get more and more nervous that this next one will be the one to break the streak. Well…NOT TODAY, book gods, not today.

Loulie’s entire existence, her success, even, depends on her anonymity. Selling ill-begotten magical goods is not the type of business that does well with light shone upon it. So when she saves the life a prince and unwittingly draws the eye of his father the sultan, Loulie is dismayed to find herself in the last place she wanted: out in the open and on a mission to find the impossible. With her jinn bodyguard, said cowardly prince (though she may not know it), and a cold-eyed thief with loyalties of her won, the group heads out into a desert known for its secrets…and the fact that no one returns from its endless dunes.

This was one of those interesting books where when I started it I wasn’t quite sure that it was going to be a hit. On one hand, Loulie’s character immediately jumped off the page. But than I realized it was a multiple POV story (both the prince and thief have their own chapters), and I was less immediately enthralled with either of them. It also has a bit of a slower start and is paced is an interesting manner. There are a lot of side quests/stories in this book, which initially kept jerking me out of the main thrust of the story. But as the book continued, I began to see how the author was tying in a great number of the stories from “One Thousand and One Nights” and how each of these smaller excursions all slowly wove together towards our final conflict. By the time I had read the first third, I was totally engrossed and it was nothing but a positive reading experience from there!

Once I understood what the author was doing with the book, I greatly enjoyed it. I also came to appreciate both of the other POVs. Mazen is a bookish, fairly cowardly prince who is clearly entirely out of his depth on this mission with two powerful women, but his story of self-discovery is satisfying in every way. For her part, Aisha, the older prince’s thief and eyes and ears on this mission, begins to learn that she must rely on her own decision making and her own belief of right and wrong to move through the world. What once was a simple mission of revenge quickly begins to look like something else. Loulie, or Layla, also goes through an arch of self-discovery. After having her entire identity centered around her role as a merchant and her reliance on her jinn bodyguard, Layla must confront who she is without these powerful forces. Is her power all a façade?

I also really liked the exploration of stories and myths themselves. How they have incredible power, but also how they can be twisted and used over time for nefarious purposes. The power of the storyteller is central, but the listener can also make their own power from how they interpret what is being told to them. I especially like the history and powers of the jinn, and the role they play in each of our characters’ stories, for both good and bad. While I could predict a few of the twists, there were also a fair number of surprises in store throughout. The book also ends with a bang, leaving the reader ready and eager for the next installation. I for one will definitely be picking it up!

Rating 9: Centered around the power of stories, this book explores themes like self-discovery and self-determination in a magic and adventure filled romp.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Stardust Thief” can be found on this Goodreads list: 2022 Book Releases by Asian Authors

Kate’s Review: “Hide”

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Book: “Hide” by Kiersten White

Publishing Info: Del Rey Books, May 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: The challenge: spend a week hiding in an abandoned amusement park and don’t get caught.

The prize: enough money to change everything.

Even though everyone is desperate to win–to seize their dream futures or escape their haunting pasts–Mack feels sure that she can beat her competitors. All she has to do is hide, and she’s an expert at that.

It’s the reason she’s alive, and her family isn’t.

But as the people around her begin disappearing one by one, Mack realizes this competition is more sinister than even she imagined, and that together might be the only way to survive. Fourteen competitors. Seven days. Everywhere to hide, but nowhere to run.

Come out, come out, wherever you are.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book!

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s always kinda fun when Serena and I have an author that we both really enjoy. Partially because it’s interesting to see how we interact with an author’s work as two people with different literary focuses, but also because it usually means an author is good at genre jumping. And while Kiersten White has been more in Serena’s genres of fantasy and historical fiction, she has dabbled in horror now and again. And for her debut adult novel “Hide”, she returns to horror, enticing fans of the genre with an abandoned theme park, adults hoping to play hide and seek for a cash prize, and sinister ulterior motives from the people who are running the contest. I mean come on. I live for all of this, and I really like White as an author. So you know I was really excited to jump into the thick of it.

White already had me with the premise of a high stakes hide and seek game where money is the prize but undisclosed dangers threaten the players. Given that stories like “Hunger Games” and “Squid Game” have appealed to me for a very long time, it was a no brainer that this theme would work for me in this novel. Especially since I enjoy White’s writing and deconstructions of other tropes she’s taken on. And I’m not going to spoil to much here in terms of big details, but the way that White handles this story, with nods to Greek mythology as well as very real issues regarding the idle rich vs an ever more strained lower class, is a well balanced take on all the things she seeks to take on. I really liked the slow build up, as each day passes we see various players start to drop out of the game, with insights into the moments leading up to their ‘loss’ that start innocuous but then turn more and more sinister as the story goes on. I was in the dark for a lot of the plot, until I started to realize just what the broader picture was, influence wise, and once I did I became all the more invested in seeing how it all played out. And the way that she weaves this in with the social aspects of wealthy elites taking advantage of lower income groups for their own gains makes it all the more interesting. Sometimes the dialog of said wealthy elites was a LITTLE on the nose (which was a bit surprising as this is marketed as an adult novel; I tend to expect more of that in YA, but hey, this is White’s first foray into adult audiences and perhaps some old habits die hard), but it was few and far between and never took me too far out of the story.

I also mostly enjoyed the characters of this book. We mostly focus on Mack, who survived a massacre on her family when her father went full family annihilator, but wasn’t able to find her to kill her as well. Mack felt pretty realistic in her personality and her closed-offness, and I enjoyed how we slowly unpacked her trauma as well as how she perceives her role in some of the outcomes. I was a bit skeptical about how White was seemingly giving bits of perspective to EVERY contestant, as boy, that’s fourteen people in only a certain number of pages. But I thought that, for the most part, she gave at least a little bit of a glimpse into all of their psyches, and let us see why they would agree to this strange contest through their motivations and bits and pieces of their backstories. Some felt more contrived than others, but in general the most important players (be it cast wise or game wise) were given a lot to work with. I especially liked Ava, a disabled veteran with whom Mack becomes quite attached to, in spite of her fears of getting attached. Ava has a lot of great lines and some great characterization, and I was very invested in hers and Mack’s relationship as well as their wellbeing.

This foray into the adult reading demographic was pretty successful, which doesn’t surprise me. Honestly, given that White’s YA books have massive crossover appeal to adult audiences, I wouldn’t be shocked if the same can be said for “Hide” appealing to teens. Regardless, I thought it was fun, and it just emphasizes how much I really like White as a dark fantasy and horror author. I hope we get more of that from her in the near future!

Rating 8: A creative and suspenseful story with nods to Greek mythology and social maladies, “Hide” is a fun new horror novel from Kiersten White and a nice crossover to adult horror!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Hide” is included on the Goodreads list “2022 Horror Novels Written by Women and Non-Binary Femmes”.

Beach Reads: Summer 2022

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Back for 2022, here is a list of some more favorite beach reads! Perhaps a little early, but Memorial Day is the traditional kick off to Summer, after all, and that’s just a week away. “Beach read” is a very fast and loose term for books people read over the beautiful summer months when we really should be outside “doing things” but are instead reading…maybe outside. Some people see these months as an opportunity to slog through long classics (we’re looking at you “Moby Dick”) before the busy-ness of the fall starts up, but for the sake of this list, we’re limiting our choices to fast paced, mostly feel good books (though there’s some obvious leeway here for Kate’s horror tastes!) that could be easily brought along on vacations. So, still a very loose definition, but hey, we had to start somewhere! We will select one title for each of the genres we most read.

Serena’s Picks

Fantasy Title: “Bryony and Roses” by T. Kingfisher

I know I just got done reviewing this book for the blog, so it’s probably pretty familiar to regular readers. But when I sat down and thought of a fantasy beach read, T. Kingfisher immediately came to mind! For one thing, she writes a lot of standalone fantasy stories. For another, it’s a rare thing indeed to find a fantasy author who doesn’t feel the need to write 500+ page tomes with every book they release. All of this makes her a great beach read go-to for fantasy fans! “Bryony and Roses” is also a retelling of a fan favorite fairytale, “Beauty and the Beast.” But T. Kingfisher approaches the story with a fresh look on both her “Beauty” character as well as her Beast. I loved this book, and it has already found a beloved place on my shelf. Definitely check it out if you want a light-hearted, feel-good fantasy novel to read this summer!

Science Fiction Title: “Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves” by Meg Long

Science fiction as genre is also prone to long, sprawling sagas made up of several huge tomes. So it, too, can be hard to find a good beach read from within. This year, I’m going with a YA science fiction title that I think might have been overlooked by many readers in this genre. And that’s because, bizarrely, the cover art looks EXACTLY like fantasy title cover. But no, this is definitely science fiction. It’s a strange tale of essentially a life-or-death dog sled race that takes place on another planet. There isn’t a romance in this story; instead, the emotional resonance comes between our main character, a scruffy survivor herself, and the half-wild racing wolf she slowly befriends. It’s a fast-paced, adrenaline-filled story sure to please science fiction adventure fans.

Mystery Title: “The Murder of Mr. Wickham” by Claudia Gray

Another book that I’ve reviewed recently, but again, another perfect fit for this beach reads list! I had a hard time deciding whether to put this selection under mystery or history, but the title kind of forced my hand since, at its heart, this is a murder mystery. But I think the more important factor is the sheer joy that is found in a well-written Jane Austen continuation. As all Austen fans know, it’s truly hard to find a good adaptation of Austen’s work. And here, the author had to have a handle on not only one character, but ALL of the couples from the original six Jane Austen stories. On top of masterfully presenting these familiar characters, Gray also manages to introduce to two original characters who are able to stand on their own next to these famous faces. This is a must-read for all Jane Austen fans!

History Title: “Velvet was the Night” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Kate and I both read and reviewed this book last year, as we’re both huge Moreno-Garcia fans at this point and will fight over who gets to read her next (you’ll be seeing another such collaborative read this summer as we tackle the issue in the same way!) This is a perfect selection for a beach read in the history genre simply because it tackles a time period and place not often found in historical fiction: Mexico in the 1970s. The story is that of a reclusive secretary and an up-and-coming goon who both find themselves being caught up in the mystery of an art student’s death. Beyond belonging to the historical fiction genre, this is also a political thriller and tale of intrigue and deception. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a force across genres, so really, everyone should check out this and her other books.

Kate’s Picks

Horror Title: “When No One Is Watching” by Alyssa Cole

I reviewed this book last year with high praise after I pretty much sat down and read it in one sitting. And isn’t that exactly the kind of book you want to take on your vacation, one that will suck you in so fiercely? “When No One Is Watching” really fits that characteristic set, and it’s one you would LOVE to have on hand at the beach or pool because of it. Sydney is a homegrown Brooklynite, who has returned to her childhood home after being away in a fraught and troubled marriage. Her neighborhood, however, has started to go through some changes thanks to gentrification, with old neighbors leaving seeminly overnight. New people like Theo and Kim, a white couple that has just moved in, start to encroach, though Theo wants to be a good neighbor. He offers to help Sydney with a project that would delve into the history of the neighborhood. But something shady is afoot, and the old residents may not be leaving of their own accord… Addictive, scary, and super relevant, “When No One Is Watching” is a great horror novel!

Thriller Title: “We Are Watching Eliza Bright” by A.E. Osworth

It happens on occasion that I will read a book in my genres that doesn’t make it to the blog, usually because I didn’t feel like I had much to say about it, other times because of other commitments taking priority. And sometimes I really like a book but I just don’t get my shit together to write a good long review in a way I want, and that is where “We Are Watching Eliza Bringt” by A.E. Osworth falls. Eliza Bright is a female coder and game developer for an up and coming gaming company, but after experiencing workplace harassment she takes it to her superiors. When they do nothing, she takes it to the press. And once it’s made public, she is suddenly targeted by angry, misogynistic gamers who make it their mission to make her life a living hell. This thriller is action packed and really suspenseful/scary (I think I would call it both thriller AND horror), told through perspectives of Eliza, those who defend her, and the collection of dangerous men who are targetting her. It rattled me pretty deeply when I read it, but I also could NOT put it down, the very definition of what one may want in a beach read.

Graphic Novel Title: “Check, Please!” by Ngozi Ukazu

Perhaps it seems odd to have a graphic novel about hockey on a summer themed list, but don’t let the cold sport fool you! The “Check Please” Duology is quick and quippy and just a little bit romantic as well as funny and heartfelt! Eric Bittle is a former figure skater who has arrived as a freshman at college, and joins the hockey team to get on the ice and meet new people. It’s there that he meets Jack, the somewhat broody and serious captain, who takes Eric under his wing, and whom Eric suddenly becomes absolutely smitten with. There is also baking, banter, vlogs, and some decidedly adorable male friendships that don’t reek of toxic masculinity in spite of the masculine context of hockey. I really liked this coming of age hockey romance, and even though it’s two volumes it’s a really easy read that will keep you interested!

Non-Fiction Title: “I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir” by Harvey Fierstein

I knew that in my heart and mind that Harvey Fierstein was an icon, but after reading his memoir “I Was Better Last Night” it only confirmed that he is iconic on EVERY LEVEL. This memoir is candid, funny, sometimes sad, and a super interesting look into the mind and thoughts and craft of an amazing performer. Because of Fierstein’s range most people are sure to know him from something (it could be his activism, it could be his Broadway career, it could be his character in “Mrs. Doubtfire”!), and his voice is so genuine and so funny at times that this book was a quick and delightful read that had me laughing out loud and also tearing up. It’s charming to be sure and not cumbersome in the way some memoirs or autobiographies can be.

Serena’s Review: “Phoenix Unbound”

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Book: “Phoenix Unbound” by Grace Draven

Publishing Info: Ace Books, September 2018

Where Did I Get this Book: from the library!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire’s capital – her fate: to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village’s tithe has been the same woman. Gilene’s sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire’s most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion, and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. And unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will risk everything to return to the Empire and burn once more.

Review: For the most part, I’ve really loved Grace Draven’s books. Nothing has quite lived up to “Radiance,” but it’s definitely a win when I’ve read a good number of books from one author and never actively disliked any of them. This trilogy (comprised of three stand-alone books set in the same world with overlapping characters) is due to be finished up this coming November, so I thought it was a great time to dive in and set myself up to review that last book when it comes out (if all goes well with the first two books, of course!) And I’ll say, if the second one is like the first, I’m definitely already excited for November to come!

It is the Empire’s cruel tradition: each year, every village must sacrifice one of its women to travel to the capitol and be sacrificed on the pyre for the entertainment of the masses. But one village has been able to escape that fate, for they have a fire witch, a woman blessed with fire abilities and able to survive this doom. Only to have to relive the horror each and every year. But this time, when Gilene travels to the city to meet her fate, she is unmasked by the famous gladiator, Azarion, and he has a deal for her: together, they will escape this awful place and he will reclaim his birthright. But Gilene knows that whatever this man promises, she must return to her village before another girl is sent to her death.

Honestly, I didn’t really look at the book description too much for this one before I went in. Part of that is due to my general comfort level with the author: Draven regularly writes romantic fantasy that is approachable and entertaining. The other part was…I don’t know, laziness? Either way, it made the reading experience interesting. For one thing, I’ll say this book was darker than I had expected. Yes, said skipped book description mentions the fact that women are regularly burned alive in some sadistic festival every year. But it fails to mention that the same women are offered to the gladiators the night before for their entertainment. Thus, our heroine’s yearly horrendous experience includes not only walking to her “death” with other women who she knows won’t survive the experience like she will, but she must also allow herself to be assaulted every year. And her magical abilities do nothing to lessen this part of her ordeal. So yes, that’s a dark thought. Even more so since Gilene is not the first fire witch of her village, and she doesn’t expect to be the last.

Her entire journey, even once she has escaped with Azarion, is about her single-minded focus on returning to her village to spare another innocent woman this fate. And knowing that another girl will be born who will have to be trained to take up this horrific mantle after Gilene becomes too old to accomplish it. Her courage in the face of this reality is incredible, but we also see her grapple with the anger that would come in belonging to a village that so fully takes advantage of her abilities. It’s a tough balance, because Gilene acknowledges the lack of real choice before her people, but also simmers with rage that her existence is so reduced to this object of torment to spare others who spend the rest of the year uncomfortably looking away from her with shame. It’s a very interesting exploration of humanity under the pressure of terrible choices.

I also really liked the romance at the heart of this story. It’s a true slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers story. While Gilene and Azarion aren’t necessarily true enemies in the basic sense of the world, they do have opposing goals and spend much of the first half of the book at odds with one another. Their growth to understand and care for each other feels natural and a product of the journey they take together. Each has been brutalized by the cruel Empress and her regime, but that alone isn’t enough to form a lasting relationship. Indeed, in some ways, each is less trusting than they would be due to the nature of their experiences. The growth and slow-gained love for one another is beautiful and heart-warming.

The story also doesn’t take the easy way out in its solutions for the problems thrown at our main characters. The world they live in is brutal, and the power structures they are up against are strong and persistent. I really liked the bittersweet nature of the final fourth of the book. There were no easy solutions presented, and each character remained true to themselves and their goals, neither sacrificing their core essence just because of their romance. But it also ended in a very satisfying way. I can also see easily who the next character will be in the second book, and am very excited to read her story! Fans of Grace Draven or romantic fantasy should definitely check this one out!

Rating 8: A bit darker than I expected, but with two strong main characters and a swoon-worthy romance, this one is definitely a win!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Phoenix Unbound” can be found on these Goodreads lists: Slow Burn Romances that are not YA or Erotica and Fantasy Romance

Kate’s Review: “Parachute”

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Book: “Parachute” by Holly Rae Garcia

Publishing Info: Easton Falls Publishing, May 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from the author.

Where You Can Get This Book: Amazon

Book Description: Angela Rodriguez and her friends aren’t sure what they want out of life now that they’ve graduated high school, but they think there is plenty of time to figure it all out. When a trip to an abandoned elementary school leads to a break-in, they discover an old gym parachute.

Raising the fabric above their heads, the group expects it to balloon out around them like it did when they were younger. But instead, the parachute reveals alternate universes and terrifying worlds.

There’s only one ruleDON’T LET GO.

Review: Thank you to Holly Rae Garcia for sending me an eARC of this novella!

Grade school gym class was never a favorite of mine. This is probably not so shocking, given that I was fairly unathletic and very much an outcast, so there would be MANY reasons to pick me last for the various exercises and games that we would be playing. But there was always one gym class theme that I was super excited for, and that was when we’d walk into the gym and there would be the huge parachute all spread out. That usually meant we were just going to be dicking around as opposed to having to be skilled at sports. So when Holly Rae Garcia sent me the summary of her new novella “Parachute”, I immediately was interested (and definitely let her know that I LOVED the parachute in gym class, which I imagine she has probably heard a lot as of late). A horror novella that makes a gym class parachute into a tool of horror is so out of the box and interesting that I just couldn’t pass it up!

“Parachute” is a novella that takes place during the course of one evening where a group of friends, soon leaving high school behind and feeling a bit lost because of it, decide to break into the old elementary school, and find a gym class parachute. Nostalgia is a huge theme in this story, as not only does it take place during the 1990s (and has many quirks and moments that harken back to my youth), it is about young adults who are nostalgic for a dynamic they are leaving behind. As someone who can’t get enough of nostalgia, especially during trying times, I loved all the 90s references and tidbits. Now I more came of age around the Y2K part of the late 90s, so some of this was a little out of my personal experience wheelhouse, but Garcia made it feel realistic with a little bit of camp value for good measure. I felt like she nailed the time and place, and I thought that I got a good sense of the characters, their group dynamic, and their bravado that also hides insecurity. Of course this group would leap at the chance to play with a relic of their childhoods! Even if that relic is in actuality a portal to other places, dimensions, and supernatural dangers!

But what really sells this tale is how imaginative it is, with alternate dimensions, cosmic and inter-dimensional horrors, chaos, and no true answers to be found. Why can this parachute do this? Where are the places that these teens are being taken to? How many people have fallen victim to this? None of it really matters and I hope you don’t want concrete solutions. And that worked for me, because it adds to the chaotic breakdown of this friend group as one by one they are either lost in time and space, or become victims of the creatures they stumble upon. It really makes the reader have to feel the confusion and terror at the breakneck pace that our characters are feeling, and it amps the anxiety levels up in a way that felt super effective to me. And having the catalyst be an honest to goodness gym class parachute? That’s bananas! We run a gamut from generally unsettling moments of the uncanny to straight up gorefests, Garcia utilizes a lot of horror types and they all work pretty well. It was fun seeing what new weird scary thing Angela et al were going to find with each ripple of the parachute!

“Parachute” is a quick and tension filled horror novella that works outside of conventions in wholly unique ways. It both utilizes and weaponizes nostalgia, and it’s weird and funky. Definitely a fun read.

Rating 8: A quick, scary, and super imaginative read, “Parachute” jumps through time, space, and dimensions, and will make you rethink elementary school gym class activities.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Parachute” isn’t on any Goodreads lists as of yet, but I think it would fit in on “Best Reality Warping Fiction”.

Serena’s Review: “Bryony and Roses”

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Book: “Bryony and Roses” by T. Kingfisher

Publishing Info: Argyll Productions, April 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: from the library!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: Bryony and her sisters have come down in the world. Their merchant father died trying to reclaim his fortune and left them to eke out a living in a village far from their home in the city.

But when Bryony is caught in a snowstorm and takes refuge in an abandoned manor, she stumbles into a house full of dark enchantments. Is the Beast that lives there her captor, or a fellow prisoner? Is the house her enemy or her ally? And why are roses blooming out of season in the courtyard?

Armed only with gardening shears and her wits, Bryony must untangle the secrets of the house before she—or the Beast—are swallowed by them.

Review: The day I discovered T. Kingfisher was a happy day, indeed. The day I realized she had written a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling? Ecstatic! It’s also worth noting that this will be the second book that I’ve read in the last month where the author has written an afterword citing Robin McKinley’s influence on their work. Here, Kingfisher notes McKinley’s less well-known “Beauty and the Beast” book, “Rose Daughter,” as her direct inspiration for this story. And then the author of “Echo North” also referenced McKinley’s “Beauty” as one of her beloved reads. “Beauty,” of course, is well-known and beloved by many fans of this fairytale. “Rose Daughter,” however, is less popular, so I was excited to see that, of the two, it was this work that sparked Kingfisher’s inspiration for this story.

On her way home, Bryony is caught in a storm and finds her only option for shelter in a mysterious manor filled with invisible enchantments. When she unwittingly takes a rose, she finds herself caught in the magical house itself alongside a Beast. But as she spends her time there, she begins to question whether the Beast is also trapped in this strange manor, for while the house seems kind and giving one moment, it’s forces turn dark and violent at the flip of a switch. Determined to get to the cause of this, Bryony sets out to discover the secrets of the Beast himself.

Both Kate and I are firmly on record as loving the “Beauty and the Beast” fairytale. Honestly, I think most librarians prefer it simply because of the library themes. And, luckily, there are a decent number of good retellings of this story, most notably, Robin McKinley’s “Beauty.” There are also, sadly, some that I haven’t enjoyed. But that doesn’t stop me from immediately jumping into the next version I come across. Given how much I’ve enjoyed other books by this author, I was unsurprised to get to the end of this book and find that I had another great one on my hands!

There are so many things to like about this book! While it follows the standard tale fairly closely, there were a few notable differences. One, the curse itself plays out in a way that is completely unique, with the house itself taking on a role that I haven’t seen before in a tale like this. When the reveals come with regards to the curse itself, this, too, was a surprising twist on the way the story is often told. There were few particular surprises here with regards to the classic tale that I thought were absolutely fantastic! Can’t really go into much detail without ruining it, but you’ll know it when you see it.

Fans of McKinley’s “Rose Daughter” will be familiar with a very important twist at the end of that book, and I was pleased to see T. Kingfisher take on this route as well. I have my own preferences for the end of a “Beauty and the Beast” story, but I think there are a solid number of fans in each camp. And Kingfisher pulls off this particular twist in an excellent way, fully earning this final choice.

I also loved Bryony as a character. She was funny, strong, and determined. She was also flawed and not the most creative of thinkers. There were times when I was reading that I came up with solutions for some of the problems she was facing. But, in one of the best aspects of Kingfisher’s writing to date, the author recognizes this about her character and has Bryony’s sister especially point out some of these flaws in our heroine. It was gratifying to know the author was well aware of what she was doing the entire time, and these things that I had thought were plot holes were in fact intentional parts of the story.

I also really liked the slow-burn romance at the heart of the story. This is, of course, a crucial part of any “Beauty and the Beast” story. Beast and Bryony are both hilarious, sweet, and equally trapped in the horrors of this curse. I liked that the story pretty much side-stepped the whole “Beauty is afraid of the Beast for a while” bit. Bryony is quite a different heroine in that way from the other Beauty’s we’ve seen. Beast, too, played a more active role in attempting to solve the curse they are both living with. It was nice to see him actually trying to help Bryony figure out how to save them both, rather than the more passive Beast character that we often see.

Overall, I loved this book. It was so well-written and refreshing. Any fan of this fairytale will love it, and I can’t recommend it enough for any fairytale fantasy fan!

Rating 9: With an endearing heroine, a lovely romance, and a refreshing take on the original fairytale, this one is sure to please all “Beauty and the Beast” fans!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Bryony and Roses” can be found on these Goodreads lists: Magical Books, Libraries and Bookstores and Beauty and the Beast Across Genres.

Blog Tour, Review, and Giveaway: “Hidden Pictures”


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Book: “Hidden Pictures” by Jason Rekulak

Publishing Info: Flatiron Books, May 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from the publisher.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: From Jason Rekulak, Edgar-nominated author of The Impossible Fortress, comes a wildly inventive spin on the classic horror story in Hidden Pictures, a creepy and warm-hearted mystery about a woman working as a nanny for a young boy with strange and disturbing secrets.

Fresh out of rehab, Mallory Quinn takes a job in the affluent suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell. She is to look after their five-year-old son, Teddy.

Mallory immediately loves this new job. She lives in the Maxwell’s pool house, goes out for nightly runs, and has the stability she craves. And she sincerely bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare: trees, rabbits, balloons. But one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body.

As the days pass, Teddy’s artwork becomes more and more sinister, and his stick figures steadily evolve into more detailed, complex, and lifelike sketches well beyond the ability of any five-year-old. Mallory begins to suspect these are glimpses of an unsolved murder from long ago, perhaps relayed by a supernatural force lingering in the forest behind the Maxwell’s house. With help from a handsome landscaper and an eccentric neighbor, Mallory sets out to decipher the images and save Teddy—while coming to terms with a tragedy in her own past—before it’s too late.

Review: Thank you so much to Maris Tasaka of Macmillan for sending me an ARC of this book and for including our blog on the Blog Tour of this book!

I’m the person on here who reads and reviews the graphic novels for the blog, so books with visual components are pretty common in terms of me coming across them. But I always like seeing novels that use the occasional visual component to add to the story. I think of books like “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, or the more recent (and recently reviewed on here) “Secret Identity”, which use photos or illustrations in regards to what a character may be seeing in the story. Which is why when Flatiron Press reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in participating in a Blog Tour of “Hidden Pictures” by Jason Rekulak I jumped at the chance. I already love a ghost story. But I’m even more interested by a ghost story that has creepy drawings that tie into the ghost story!

In terms of plot, “Hidden Pictures” is straight forward and moves at a fast clip. It’s a relatively long book (almost four hundred pages) but I was basically able to devour it in two evening’s time because it is such a quick read. It’s told through Mallory’s eyes, a new babysitter to a precocious little boy named Teddy who is newly clean off hard drugs and desperate for a second chance. Teddy’s parents have very high standards for his care, and while they are seemingly supportive Mallory feels a little judged by them due to her past and their very elite lifestyle. So when Teddy starts drawing strange pictures and talking about his imaginary friend Anya, and things start to escalate, Mallory has to worry about keeping Teddy safe from a potential unseen force, and not overstepping boundaries that could destroy the progress of a new life she’s made. I liked how Rekulak sets up many good reasons for Mallory to be feeling pretty alone in this as she worries more and more about Teddy, and I liked how she slowly starts to investigate and uncover clues about who could potentially be haunting her charge. The puzzle pieces aren’t overly complicated and they are familiar themes, but they are well placed and timed out. There were a lot of good twists and turns on the way to the ultimate solution, with a lot of really creepy and sometimes downright frightening moments involving a presence whose intentions are not clear. The pacing works really well and I just couldn’t put it down.

In terms of characters, it’s a little bit of a mixed bag. Mallory is probably the most interesting, which isn’t super surprising as she’s our narrator, but Rekulak brings out her layers and her background in ways that made her easy to like and empathize with. I appreciated that Rekulak took care (as far as I could tell? Tell me if I’m wrong please!) to portray her past addiction and the fallouts of that as she rebuilds in a sympathetic light, avoiding stereotypical pitfalls or trying to make a potential relapse a side plot. Her backstory is also treated with care, and it all made sense in how she makes decisions and the actions she takes as the story goes on. In terms of other characters, they were hit or miss. I liked her friend and love interest Adrian, as it was nice having someone in her corner and I liked their chemistry. Teddy was your typical precocious kid who communicates with ghosts, and his parents Caroline and Ted were a right mix of saccharine supportive and perhaps a little untrustworthy (the way they treated Mallory was another well done unease to the story; supportive but conditionally only is one way I’d describe it). Other supporting characters like Mallory’s sponsor, or the ‘eccentric’ (read belligerent and racist, but not really called out enough about it) neighbor next door didn’t work as well. But hey, the strength was Mallory and that’s what you need in this kind of mystery horror story.

And oh boy, let’s talk about the pictures. I loved that Rekulak decided to use both words and images for this book, as while I appreciate using my imagination to create images when I read, I also REALLY love a visual medium that enhances a reading experience. And the pictures in “Hidden Pictures” are awesome, running a full range of realistically five year old aesthetic, to creepy unsettling, to genuinely beautiful and moving. They really added to my enjoyment of the story overall.

With summer just around the corner, you may be looking for a fast and fun read to take on a trip or just to read while hanging around the house. “Hidden Pictures” would be a great choice for such occasions!

Rating 8: A fast and compelling plot, a creepy ghost story, and some truly unsettling artwork make “Hidden Pictures” a fun horror tale just in time for Summer!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Hidden Pictures” is included on the Goodreads lists “Anticipated 2022 Horror/Thriller Releases”, and “52 Book Club 2022: A Book With Photographs Inside”.

And as mentioned in the title of this post, I am running a giveaway of the ARC of this novel! So if you think this sounds right up your alley, enter a chance to win! The giveaway is open to U.S. Residents only and will end on May 24th.

Enter The Giveaway HERE!

Diving Into Sub-Genres: Vampire Horror

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We each have our own preferred genres of choice. Kate loves horrors and thrillers, really anything that will keep her up at night! And Serena enjoys escaping through hidden doors into realms of magic and adventure. We also read mysteries, historical fiction, graphic novels, etc. etc. And that’s not even counting the multitude of sub-genres contained within each greater genre. In this series, one of us with present a list of our favorites from within a given sub-genre of one of our greater preferred genres.

I have been obsessed with vampires for a very long time. While in childhood I liked vampire stories just fine, it was “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in middle and high school that really gelled with me, genre wise. And vampire horror is still a sub-genre that I really love, even if I have VERY picky standards for it. There is so much you can do with vampires, mostly because they are not only iconic in horror, they have so much history in folklore all around the world.

There are so many types of vampire stories to tell. The tried and true Gothic sensibilities with castles and or manors run by monsters. The deeply romantic vampire story with eroticism bubbling over. The feral creatures who are just out to destroy and eat. I’ve read many vampire tales and vetted through the highs and the lows (here’s a tip: if you aren’t into Amish romance, a vampire themed Amish romance isn’t going to do it for you). The books I’ve selected for this list kind of tap into the different themes, and are, to me, stand outs in the genre for various reasons. I could have listed many more but limited myself. Just know these are by no means the only good vampire stories out there! They’re just jumping off points.

Book: “The Vampyre” by John William Polidori

I mean, I’ve mentioned “Dracula” in other book lists, and while “Dracula” is absolutely a great vampire novel (like, the grandfather of the genre, really), I wanted to think outside the box. Instead, let’s talk about “The Vampyre” by John William Polidori, which was one of the influences on “Dracula”. Taken from the short tale that Lord Byron told on that fateful trip with Mary Shelley, Poliodori expanded upon it and created a complete short story that was published (and repeatedly misattributed to Byron, as much as both men tried to correct this misconception). It follows a young man named Aubrey, who travels to London and meets an aristocrat named Lord Ruthvern. They hit it off, and Ruthvern asks Aubrey to travel with him around Europe. As they travel together, people around them start dying in strange ways, namely their throats being torn out. By the time Aubrey has put two and two together regarding his friend, it’s too late. Poliodori was the guy who took the idea of feral creatures of folklore and made them into a predatory, enigmatic, and charming high class man of society who preys upon those around and below him.

Book Series: “The Vampire Chronicles” by Anne Rice

A lot of the sexy and erotic vampire themes we see in today’s vampire stories can be directly traced to the likes of Louis, Lestat, Armand, et al in “The Vampire Chronicles”, Anne Rice’s dreamy, vicious, and subtly steamy vampire series. Starting with a fairly simple “Interview With the Vampire”, in which a vampire named Louis tells his story of becoming a vampire and the way it changed him, and going to stranger realms with “Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis”, we follow a complex mythology and history of a group of vampires and their melancholy, or outlandish, backstories. From 18th Century New Orleans to 1980s America to BCE Egypt, Rice takes her characters to many settings and connects them through time and relationships and blood. Lestat is the clear center of the tale, his vain and over the top personality so much fun follow (seriously. I love Lestat), but with other interesting characters who pop in and out the stories have a lot of influence on today’s vampire mythos. And the simmering sexiness of Lestat and his implied and/or confirmed lovers is PALPABLE. While sexy vampires have always been a thing, Rice tapped into it in ways others had not, and it works. I haven’t read them all (I never went past “Queen of the Damned”), but I wholly intend to keep going. If only because Lestat is such an iconic vampire in literature.

Book: “Let the Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist

If you’re looking for a claustrophobic vampire story involving children, loneliness, friendship(?), and coming of age, “Let the Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist is going to be the one to check out. I read this around the time the film came to America’s arthouse movie theaters, and was immediately pulled in by how it was simultaneously sweet as well as deeply unnerving. Oskar is an isolated twelve year old boy who lives in a Swedish housing complex with his mother. Oskar has no friends at school and is repeatedly bullied, but then a new girl named Eli moves into the building with her father…. Although, he isn’t her father. And Eli isn’t a normal little girl. She’s a vampire who has been around for hundreds of years. Both Oskar and Eli are seeking connections, though their reasons are very different. On the surface this story seems like a lovely tale of friendship found between outsiders, and to some extent it is. But there is also the nagging sensation that Eli has darker motives for wanting a new companion, and taps into the ideas that vampires are, by nature, predatory, and even if they think they can love, they never really can. It hits ya right in the feels.

Book: “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” by Holly Black

I felt a need to have an example of YA vampire fiction on this list, but wasn’t going to highlight “Twilight” (it’s just not my bag, baby). Instead, I turn to Holly Black’s “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown”, a YA vampire story that is less romantic and more thriller and horror driven in its storytelling. Tana is a teenage girl who wakes up at a friend’s house after a raucous party… and finds most of the guests are dead, killed by a vampire. Her ex boyfriend Aidan survived, but looks like he’s been infected by vampirism. And there is a strange vampire boy who claims his innocence, and needs protection. So Tana opts to rescue them all and take them to the nearest Coldtown, a fenced off community where vampires and other creatures can live in sanctuary. But usually when you enter a Coldtown, you can’t leave. So Tana has to figure out how to get around that. This book is fast paced and feels a bit like a YA vampire “Escape from New York”, and Tana is a very enjoyable main character who kicks a lot of ass.

Book: “‘Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King

I’d be remiss if I left my man Stephen King off this list, and “‘Salem’s Lot” is his entry into the vampire zeitgeist. And because it’s King, he brings in not only some good vampire horror, but also some other more ‘elevated’ themes, as elevated as Danny Glick was outside Mark Petrie’s window. Ben Mears returns to the small town of Jerusalem’s Lot, where he spent a good chunk of his childhood, after years of being away. When he arrives, he finds himself in the midst of strange occurrences. Little does he know, at least at first, a new community member named Kurt Barlow is a vampire, and he intends on turning the entire town into a vampire community. So Ben has to team up with other towns people to stop him. So while we have our ‘vampire infiltrating a human community’ story, King also dabbles in the metaphors of homecoming and the darkness and dissipation of small town America.

Book Series: “The Strain Trilogy” by Guillermo del Toro, and Chuck Hogan

And finally, I wanted to tackle a vampire story that has a SUPER unique idea of vampirism and how it comes to pass, and that is “The Strain” Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. While many modern vampire tales stick to the tried and true ‘vampires sire other vampires’ mechanism, del Toro and Hogan ask ‘what if it was like a parasitic disease?’ When a commercial airliner arrives at JFK and comes to a halt halfway down the runway, with all the communication down and no signs of life aboard, the fear is bioterrorism. So when Ephraim Goodweather of the CDC arrives to check out the threat, he thinks he knows what to expect. But then he boards the plane, and finds everyone dead, he’s horrified. What Ephraim doesn’t know, however, is that this isn’t a bioweapon that anyone can conceive of. What it is is a vampire virus that infects people via parasites, and makes them in the thrall of a master who intends to wipe out humanity. The first book, “The Strain”, is pretty darn good. Admittedly the other two didn’t live up to it, but it’s still super unique and fun to see del Toro play with expectations of the genre.

What are some of your favorite vampire books? Let us know in the comments!

Serena’s Review: “Hall of Smoke”

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Book: “Hall of Smoke” by H.M. Long

Publishing Info: Titan Books, January 2021

Where Did I Get this Book: audiobook from the library!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream. Banished for disobeying her goddess’s command to murder a traveler, she prays for forgiveness alone on a mountainside.

While she is gone, raiders raze her village and obliterate the Eangi priesthood. Grieving and alone, Hessa – the last Eangi – must find the traveller, atone for her weakness and secure her place with her loved ones in the High Halls. As clans from the north and legionaries from the south tear through her homeland, slaughtering everyone in their path, Hessa strives to win back her goddess’ favour.

Beset by zealot soldiers, deceitful gods, and newly-awakened demons at every turn, Hessa burns her path towards redemption and revenge. But her journey reveals a harrowing truth: the gods are dying and the High Halls of the afterlife are fading. Soon Hessa’s trust in her goddess weakens with every unheeded prayer.

Thrust into a battle between the gods of the Old World and the New, Hessa realizes there is far more on the line than securing a life beyond her own death. Bigger, older powers slumber beneath the surface of her world. And they’re about to wake up.

Review: I heard great things about this book last year when it came out. I diligently researched it on Goodreads and quickly added it to my TBR list. And then….I waited over a year to read it. Sometimes this works out well for me, and this was one of those instances! If you wait long enough, sometimes your local library will acquire the audiobook. And sometimes that audiobook will have an excellent narrator. And sometimes all of the procrastination pays off with having a great book to listen to throughout the week while you clean the house and care for kids!

Hessa’s entire life she has been centered around a task set her by her priestess and her goddess: she must kill a particular man when the signs align. But when that time comes, Hessa is swayed by mercy and stalls her hand. Now banished by her goddess and with her village razed, Hessa struggles to re-organize a world that has gone mad. Gods are fighting and dying. Strange beings are rising and claiming that these gods are not even gods at all. And an entire history and world order that Hessa thought she knew is beginning to crumble before her. What’s more, it seems the role that she and the man she spared will play is much bigger than she could ever have imagined.

There were many things to like about this book. Hessa herself goes on an incredible journey of both understanding herself and understanding her world. She starts off as a priestess who, while currently out of grace, still understands who she is and who she serves: her warrior goddess Eang. Throughout time, the goddess’s priestesses have fought and served her, and in return she has given them her blessing and abilities to quell their enemies with a magical scream. But as the story continues, Hessa begins to question Eang and her entire world order.

Unlike many other fantasy books that include a sprawling pantheon of new gods, this one is unique in the fact that the gods themselves are very much characters in their own right. They walk the land, fight amongst themselves, and interact with their followers. It was such a unique take to have these gods present in this way. Like Hessa, we see Eang and her fellow gods and begin to question the stories they tell about themselves and the roles they play for their followers. Eang, of course, is central, and her coolness and cruelty towards Hessa immediately raises eyebrows. But an entire lived experience and history of one’s own people is not easy to dismiss, so Hessa’s journey towards self-discovery and her decision to take the reigns of her own choices is slowly earned over time.

Beyond the sprawling history of gods (there is Eang and her fellow gods, a set of gods that she and the new gods defeated, another set of gods who may have come before those, and then another god making his own way onto the scene, to the dismay of Eang and her brethren), the world itself is quite large and peopled by a variety of cultures with their won practices and gods. I believe there is a map in the physical book, so this was definitely a struggle with the audiobook. I really enjoyed the narrator, so on that front, it was a complete win. But with such a big world with so many lands and peoples, I had a hard time keeping track of where exactly Hessa was on the map and where she was headed.

The story is also very narrowly focused on Hessa and her own personal experiences. There are a few side characters who play important roles, but no side-kick, no love interest, and no quirky best friends. Her world is burned down on the first page, and the story doesn’t shy away from the very unbalanced individual that is Hessa after this fact. While I always enjoy love interests and friendships, Hessa’s story was also completely satisfying on its own.

Readers who enjoy sprawling epic fantasy where you’re plopped down in a completely new world with very little initial explanation, this is definitely a book for you! It’s a nice balance of focused character work and grand-scale storytelling.

Rating 8: With a world equally peopled by its gods as its human characters, this is epic fantasy at some of its best.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Hall of Smoke” can be found on these Goodreads lists: Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy of 2021 and Vikings and Viking-inspired Fantasy.

Kate’s Review: “Like a Sister”

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Book: “Like a Sister” by Kellye Garrett

Publishing Info: Mulholland Books, March 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: A twisty, voice-driven thriller for fans of Megan Miranda and Jessica Knoll, in which no one bats an eye when a Black reality TV star is found dead in the Bronx—except her estranged half-sister, whose refusal to believe the official story leads her on a dangerous search for the truth.

When the body of disgraced reality TV star Desiree Pierce is found on a playground in the Bronx the morning after her 25th birthday party, the police and the media are quick to declare her death an overdose. It’s a tragedy, certainly, but not a crime. But Desiree’s half-sister Lena Scott knows that can’t be the case. A graduate student at Columbia, Lena has spent the past decade forging her own path far from the spotlight, but some facts about Desiree just couldn’t have changed since their childhood. And Desiree would never travel above 125th Street. So why is no one listening to her?

Despite the bitter truth that the two haven’t spoken in two years, torn apart by Desiree’s partying and by their father, Mel, a wealthy and influential hip-hop mogul, Lena becomes determined to find justice for her sister, even if it means untangling her family’s darkest secrets—or ending up dead herself.

Review: Sometimes a good book can be a balm during very trying times. That has become abundantly clear during these past two years, though sometimes a fresh hell will be a good reminder of that, since this pandemic hell can sometimes fade into the background because it’s been with us for awhile (ugh, how depressing). My personal fresh hell was one of my cats having a sudden health spiral, and at nearly 18 years of age (14 of which were with me and my husband) we had to put her down. As her health deteriorated over the course of a few days, when I wasn’t tending to her and wrangling my toddler, on my down time I needed an escape. Enter “Like a Sister” by Kellye Garrett, a thriller mystery I got from Book of the Month that had been on my radar for a bit. It kept me well distracted and entertained when I really, really needed to decompress.

Garrett has a great set up for her mystery. Lena Scott finds out that her reality show star half sister Desiree has been found dead, in the Bronx, in lingerie, with signs of a drug overdoes. Though Lena has been estranged from her, she is struck with grief, and also refuses to believe that Desiree OD’d. So she starts to investigate what could have actually happened to her. That is a hook in and of itself, and we follow Lena as she has to unpack and untangle the complicated life her sister had built in the past few years. Garrett does a really good job of creating a hook, but also carefully exploring all of the suspects that Lena comes upon, as well as many of the things that Desiree had been up to that give various suspects very clear motives of why they would want her dead. I really enjoyed the twists and turns, and while I called a few of them here and there, a lot of the time I was surprised or tricked. We also get the story told through Lena’s voice, as well as through descriptions of various social media posts that Desiree has made that give hints as to what is going on, and I like how both could be insightful as well as deceptive. Lena as a main character is enjoyable to follow, and while sometimes her voice was repetitive I thought that she had a very clear perspective (I really liked how Garrett used this to talk about a lot of pressures as racism she faces as a Black woman; from having to don a ‘Strong Black Woman’ demeanor at all times to preconceptions about who she is as a person due to her race and her family, these moments flow very well and feel very realistic.

But I also really loved the complexities between all of the characters in Lena’s family circle, not just that between her and Desiree, and how her deliberate distancing from much of her family has worked both as armor and also as grief. Lena is determined to find out what happened to Desiree, unwilling to believe the narrative that seems logical, but is also bogged down in societal ideas about race and wealth. But Lena also admittedly didn’t really KNOW Desiree anymore in the months leading up to her death, as their estrangement was bitter, and perhaps this guilt is what is driving Lena’s determination. The other relationship that is fraught (and had more interaction in the moment) is the one between Lena and her father Mel, the record mogul, who left Lena’s mother for Desiree’s mother, and seemingly left Lena in the dust. Lena resents Mel and tries to keep her distance, but resents him for respecting that distance, and the unsaid resentment about his public relationship with Desiree weaves in and out of Lena’s investigation. Mel is one of the more mysterious characters, who sounds a lot like Suge Knight, but who has many depths that Lena can’t, or won’t, acknowledge. These circumstances of the estranged father and daughters means we have more mysteries to unravel for Lena, and a lot of emotional baggage to go with the murder mystery. Which Garrett depicts very well.

I really enjoyed “Like a Sister”. It’s very entertaining and will hold your attention, and if you’re looking for a thriller with some well done family strife, this is a good pick. It certainly helped me get through a very difficult week due to how darn enticing it is.

Rating 8: A gripping mystery that has complicated family relationships at the center, “Like a Sister” is a compelling thriller.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Like a Sister” is included on the Goodreads lists “Can’t Wait Crime, Mystery, & Thrillers 2022”, and “Thrillers by ITW Authors”.

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