Kate’s Review: “Just One Look”

Book: “Just One Look” by Lindsay Cameron

Publishing Info: Ballantine Books, July 2021

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

Book Description: Eyes aren’t the windows to the soul. Emails are.

Cassie Woodson is adrift. After suffering an epic tumble down the corporate ladder, Cassie finds the only way she can pay her bills is to take a thankless temp job reviewing correspondence for a large-scale fraud suit. The daily drudgery amplifies all that her life is lacking–love, friends, stability–and leaves her with too much time on her hands, which she spends fixating on the mistakes that brought her to this point. While sorting through a relentless deluge of emails, something catches her eye: the tender (and totally private) exchanges between a partner at the firm, Forest Watts, and his enchanting wife, Annabelle. Cassie knows she shouldn’t read them. But it’s just one look. And once that door opens, she finds she can’t look away.

Every day, twenty floors below Forest’s corner office, Cassie dissects their emails from her dingy workstation. A few clicks of her mouse and she can see every adoring word they write to each other. By peeking into their apparently perfect life, Cassie finds renewed purpose and happiness, reveling in their penchant for vintage wines, morning juice presses, and lavish dinner parties thrown in their stately Westchester home. There are no secrets from her. Or so she thinks.

Her admiration quickly escalates into all-out mimicry, because she wants this life more than anything. Maybe if she plays make-believe long enough, it will become real for her. But when Cassie orchestrates a “chance” meeting with Forest in the real world and sees something that throws the state of his marriage into question, the fantasy she’s been carefully cultivating shatters. Suddenly, she doesn’t simply admire Annabelle–she wants to take her place. And she’s armed with the tools to make that happen.

Review: Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

Given that Caroline Kepnes is one of my favorite authors, anything that she recommends I am going to jump all over. So when I saw that she had put a blurb on a book called “Just One Look” by Lindsay Cameron, I was definitely interested to see what it was about. If the blurb piqued my interest, the description totally reeled me in: a woman who is overseeing emails for a large fraud issue stumbles upon personal emails between a married couple, and starts to obsess about them and covet their life. Oh hell yeah, that sounds right up my alley! I figured I knew what I was in for. But boy, I was wrong. And in this instance that was a good thing.

“Just One Look” is a slow burn of a creepy tale of obsessive love and wanting, as a woman who has lost everything starts to covet a life that is laid out in front of her in emails. Cassie lost a very prestigious position at her previous firm, and her downfall was viral and well known enough that she has been reduced to humiliating drudgery. We slowly get to see just what Cassie did, and we do this as we watch her start to obsess over Forest and Annabelle Watts thanks to private emails between them that have been caught in this email review. As Cassie obsesses more and more and starts building up a narrative of their lives in her head, she starts to see herself there as well, and creeps ever closer to Forest as she pieces his life together. But I can tell you that this plot isn’t what you think it is. Cameron does a really good job of building up a lot of tension along with a very unreliable protagonist, so anything she says could be completely false, even if she doesn’t know it. I thought that this story was going to be one thing, but it took many different directions that I didn’t expect, and I really, really enjoyed being surprised at a new moment or reveal. It’s so unsettling watching Cassie seep more and more into Forest and Annabelle’s life, and Cameron yanks it so taut that it could easily snap. Especially when she pulls the rug out from under you.

But what I liked the most about this book was our protagonist, Cassie. I went into the book with some preconceived notions about how it was going to go, and just what kind of person Cassie was going to be. I mean, in my defense, since Kepnes was used as a blurb on the cover, I figured ‘okay, so it’s gonna be like ‘You’ but with a woman creepazoid’. And hey, I was here for that, don’t get me wrong! But Cameron has other tricks up her sleeves, and Cassie is a very interesting protagonist with a lot of layers. Some of those layers are incredibly sympathetic, and others are very, very disturbing. In some ways, there are definitely similarities to Joe Goldberg, but Cassie has more of a broken feeling to her, and in some ways that makes her all the creepier. But along with that, Cameron affords her some interesting exploration that female characters don’t often get. While it’s true that the things that Cassie does in this book are super, super unethical and also absolutely stalker behavior, it was kind of nice to see the background as to why she is this way, without excusing any of her behavior or making it okay. Cameron walks that fine line between romanticizing a dangerous obsessive, and making her a cartoonish caricature.

I really enjoyed “Just One Look”. It got under my skin, and surprised me in a lot of ways. Don’t sleep on this one, thriller fans! And be careful about what you put in emails that others can potentially see..

Rating 9: A slow burn of a suspense thriller with a creepy protagonist and some really well done twists!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Just One Look” is included on the Goodreads list “Mystery and Thriller 2021”, and would fit in on “Thrillers ft. Stalkers or Obsessive Love”.

Find “Just One Look” at your library using WorldCat, or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Kate’s Review: “The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives”

Book: “The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives” by Kristin Miller

Publishing Info: Ballantine Books, July 2021

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

Book Description: Meet the trophy wives of Presidio Terrace, San Francisco’s most exclusive–and most deadly–neighborhood in this shrewd, darkly compelling novel from the New York Times bestselling author of In Her Shadow.

Mystery writer Brooke Davies is the new wife on the block. Her tech-billionaire husband, Jack, twenty-two years her senior, whisked her to the Bay Area via private jet and purchased a modest mansion on the same day. He demands perfection, and before now, Brooke has had no problem playing the role of a doting housewife. But as she befriends other wives on the street and spends considerable time away from Jack, he worries if he doesn’t control Brooke’s every move, she will reveal the truth behind their “perfect” marriage.

Erin King, famed news anchor and chair of the community board, is no stranger to maintaining an image–though being married to a plastic surgeon helps. But the skyrocketing success of her career has worn her love life thin, and her professional ambitions have pushed Mason away. Quitting her job is a Hail Mary attempt at keeping him interested, to steer him away from finding a young trophy wife. But is it enough, and is Mason truly the man she thought he was?

Georgia St. Claire allegedly cashed in on the deaths of her first two husbands, earning her the nickname “Black Widow”–and the stares and whispers of her curious neighbors. Rumored to have murdered both men for their fortunes, she claims to have found true love in her third marriage, yet her mysterious, captivating allure keeps everyone guessing. Then a tragic accident forces the residents of Presidio Terrace to ask: Has Georgia struck again? And what is she really capable of doing to protect her secrets?

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

Soapy trashy stories about potentially villainous men and women who are hiding and spilling secrets is something of a guilty pleasure of mine, and I mostly try to own that fact. I loved the first few seasons of “Desperate Housewives” (after season 4 it went downhill VERY fast, in my honest opinion), and while I haven’t been able to bring myself to consume reality TV like “The Real Housewives” or anything like that, I do enjoy watching drama porn like “Untucked” when watching “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. So a book with the title and description of “The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives” by Kristin Miller absolutely caught my attention. I’ve found some really fun books involving bored housewives behaving badly (Hello, “Big Little Lies”!), and if you have some potential murder and whodunnit elements to go with it, I am absolutely there! I went into this book with high hopes for soapy thrills. And I got that. But I also remembered why sometimes that isn’t enough.

But, as I always try to do, I will start with what I did like about this book. It was a very fast, very entertaining read in the moment. I picked it up over the Fourth of July weekend, and basically read it over the course of two days. It has some really good moments of sudsy drama, and there were pretty well done moments of shocking reveals as well as a build up to a nutty and soapy climax that is hinted at right at the start. So it tantalized me as a reader, and definitely gave me that “Desperate Housewives” vibe of manipulation, bitchiness, and over the top whodunnit/who are these people really and what are they hiding. A breezy read it always a plus in my book, as it makes the experience enjoyable in the moment.

But there were a few things that really bogged down “The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives” and made it a pretty meh book once all is said and done. The first is the cast of characters. Our main focus are on the perspectives of Erin, the neurotic and (horror and shock!) aging news anchor who is trying to keep her allure and lost youth at the forefront, lest her husband Mason stray, and Brooke, a mystery writer who is trying to keep up appearances for her much older husband, but is sniffing out a potential new plot with Georgia, the supposed Black Widow. Both Erin and Brooke have things that they are hiding, but getting into their heads doesn’t make them all that interesting, nor does it let them branch out from their two dimensional character tropes (admittedly there is a bit of a twist here, but I’m not going to go into that because spoilers). We see Georgia through their eyes, and while we do learn a bit about her through various reveals that each character has through action in the moment and past actions, she TOO is very flat and predictable. On shows like “Desperate Housewives” this kind of thing can work for awhile, but that is because we also get to see characters complexities come out as stories go on (well, in some cases; Teri Hatcher’s Susan was always two dimensional). But in this book, we don’t really get to see any growth. Even aforementioned twist couldn’t save it in the end. The other issue is that once I was done and I was no longer in the moment, upon reflection there wasn’t really much new or interesting to the story and how the mystery all shook out. It felt a bit like it was trying to be similar to “Big Little Lies”, but never really hit the emotional plot beats that that book did. The problem with gooey sudsy tales is that in the moment I really enjoy them, but without some solid foundation and substance to keep it up I look back and realize that there wasn’t really much to work with.

“The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives” could be a good read if you just need something to pass the time. Pass the time it will! But I found it to be middling when all was said and done.

Rating 5: The read itself was quick and breezy, but the characters were middling and the story upon reflection was a bit ho hum.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives” is included on the Goodreads lists “Mystery & Thriller 2021”, and I think it would fit in on the list “Desperate Housewives”.

Find “The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives” at your library using WorldCat, or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Kate’s Review: “For Your Own Good”

Book: “For Your Own Good” by Samantha Downing

Publishing Info: Berkley, July 2021

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

Book Description: Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the esteemed Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest. He says his wife couldn’t be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.

Teddy really can’t be bothered with the death of a school parent that’s looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is on pushing these kids to their full academic potential.

All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way. It’s really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.

USA Today bestselling author Samantha Downing is back with her latest sneaky thriller set at a prestigious private school—complete with interfering parents, overeager students, and one teacher who just wants to teach them all a lesson…

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

I don’t know about you, readers, but I definitely had a high school teacher who probably had no business teaching students. He was the type that would stand at the cafeteria door, hands behind his back in full blocking stance, and then would inspect kids to make sure they weren’t taking food out of the lunch room. He once fully kicked me out of class for the day because I realized that I left my homework in my locker. Another run in involved him taking down signs for a student band for Battle of the Bands, and when I asked him why he said that it was a vulgar picture. It was a picture of a kid with a bag on his head, and his hand maybe sort of in the vicinity of his crotch, but just kinda resting on his thigh. I told him I didn’t see it, and I got screamed at for being deliberately obtuse (though frankly, HE was the one projecting masturbation connotations onto that of a minor, but hey, what do I know?). As I was reading “For Your Own Good”, I kept thinking back to good ol’ Mr. E, sociopathic bully that he was. But even Mr. E never went so far as to commit murder. At least, not that I know of. Given that soapy thrillers that take place at elite public schools usually involve students behaving badly, this was a fun change of pace!

“For Your Own Good” is a soapy and murderous new thriller from Samantha Downing, and like her other works it hits all the right notes without straying too far from well worn territory. We have a few different third person perspectives we are following, the most significant being that of Teddy Crutcher, Teacher of the Year and psychopath, who tells himself he only wants his students to be the best they can be as he wreaks havoc in their lives. He hides behind a mask of tough but fair mentor, though he targets those that he thinks are undeserving or smug. And given that he’s a teacher at a wealthy prep school, well, he feels that way a lot. He’s a fun character in his villainy, and it’s entertaining following him around and watching him plot and scheme. Other perspectives include that of Zach, one of his students that he has been especially cruel to (in subtle, unprovable ways), as well as other teachers and past victims. Teddy is definitely the person that we get to know the best, and while Zach is a close second, the rest have their parts to play and don’t really go outside their intended tropes and foil moments. And that being said, while Teddy is fun to read, he too isn’t very complicated in his psychopathy. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you, as sometimes you just want to read an over the top sudsfest with murder and asshole characters without having to think about it. In that way, “For Your Own Good” succeeds.

The plot itself is also a bit predictable, at least in how you see things playing out for various characters. Sure, there were some surprising moments and reveals here and there, and I enjoyed the ride of getting from start to finish. But it’s kind of things that we’ve seen before. And since our characters are pretty run of the mill, there isn’t as much tension because we aren’t as invested in them, and therein aren’t as invested in how things shake out for them. It is, however, a very readable book, and I definitely had a hard time putting it down because of that. And this is why I don’t really want to knock books that don’t think outside the box, because sometimes familiarity is a really good thing for the reading experience. Downing definitely as written a book here that I kind of knew what to expect as I read through, and I found it to be a fun experience because of that. And again, how fun was it to see the teachers being the assholes this time around?

“For Your Own Good” isn’t reinventing the wheel, but it’s super entertaining and addictive. It’s the kind of book you should take to the pool or beach in these waning summer months.

Rating 7: Entertaining, if a bit predictable at times, “For Your Own Good” is a breezy page turner that kept my interest until the end.

Reader’s Advisory:

“For Your Own Good” is included on the Goodreads lists “Dark Academia”, and “Mystery and Thriller 2021”.

Find “For Your Own Good” at your library using WorldCat, or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Kate’s Review: “Falling”

Book: “Falling” by T.J. Newman

Publishing Info: Avid Readers Press/Simon & Schuster, July 2021

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

Book Description: You just boarded a flight to New York. There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped. For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die. The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

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

So it’s not a sub-genre of action movies that I find myself watching too much, but I do enjoy a good ‘a plane is in peril’ kind of movie. My favorite is 100% “Con Air”, though I recently experienced “Air Force One” for the first time and thought it was a hoot. Understandably these kinds of films aren’t really a thing anymore, but they can be a lot of fun, if a little mindless. I kept thinking about this genre when I picked up “Falling” by T.J. Newman, and figured that I would pick at it over a couple days and then go rent “Con Air” or something. Well, the Soupy Brain was back, because I read the entirety of “Falling” in one night, staying up way too late to do so.

Me as I read this around 11pm, caring not for the fact I had to wake up to care for a toddler the next morning. (source

“Falling” is a highly addictive thriller that sucked me in from the get go. Bill is a pilot who has picked up a shift, much to his wife Carrie’s chagrin, as he had plans with her, their son Scott, and their baby Elise. But almost the moment Bill leaves, Carrie finds herself and her children held hostage, and Bill is soon relayed a message by their kidnapper: crash the plane, or his family dies. From there, we jump from perspective to perspective as Bill has to try and figure out if he can have his cake and eat it too, while contending with the fact that there is another terrorist on board who is perhaps keeping tabs to make sure he doesn’t do anything. We have settings for Bill, for Carrie as she is interacting with her kidnapper, as well as flight attendant Jo, and various people on the ground who get leaks of information and try to track down the culprit. In a lot of ways it feels like “Speed” in the air, and frankly, the works for me on basically every level. “Falling” keeps the pace and tension going and rarely lets up, as every breakthrough of good news can potentially lead to a new problem, and every reveal can have something lurking that you don’t see coming. As mentioned above, I kept reading far later than I should have until I had finished. It’s entertaining as hell.

Character wise, it was a little bit of a mixed bag. By far my favorite people to follow were those of the flight attendants, led by the fearless Jo, as they try to figure out how to keep the passengers safe when things start to take turns. What I loved most about Jo is that she and Bill have a very close relationship, but Newman never falls back on hackneyed ‘there could have been something there’ nonsense which would motivate her to trust him so much. Bonus, she had great interactions with her coworker Big Daddy, another no nonsense flight attendant who was always good for a laugh. I also liked seeing Carrie interact with her kidnapper, and seeing her slowly pull out not only information from him, but how she also connects with him and builds a bond that could keep her and her children more likely out of harms way. I love seeing compassion used as a weapon, for lack of a better term, as sometimes it isn’t valued as much. Oddly enough, the least interesting character was Bill himself, as the main action and how it’s affecting him in the moment is really the only thing we learn about him. He’s a good man in an impossible situation, which was a bit bland, but ultimately, that’s really what you get in stories like this (hello, Nic Cage in “Con Air” and Keanu Reeves in “Speed”!).

But what I found to be one of the most compelling aspects of this novel (and a bit of a relief as well) is the character of Sam, who has taken Carrie, Scott, and Elise hostage and is making Bill make the choice between his family and his passengers/crew. I’ve been talking about airplane action movies a bit, and for the most part the bad guys are terrorists, criminals, psychopaths, and a lot of the time they are very two dimensional and chew the scenery until there is little left. That can be fun, but it can also be very problematic, and in the aftermath of September 11th terrorists taking over planes has become more of a touchy subject. In “Falling”, Newman manages to walk a very fine tightrope with Sam (mild spoilers here, in regards to a bit of his motivation, just so you know!). Sam is definitely doing something very bad, in which innocent people are going to die. But Newman slowly shows us Sam’s background through flashbacks, and his own words. I was super worried that he was going to be a Middle Eastern terrorist, but instead he is Kurdish, and through horrific trauma and loss he has lost himself in the desperation of both wanting revenge, but also to just be seen when he feels like the atrocities that his people are constantly falling victim to are not only preventable, but due to American jingoism as well as American indifference. Does it always land? No. Are there still some sticky elements that we’re treading into by making him a terrorist? Sure. But I thought that he was supremely compelling, and he was the character that I felt for the most.

“Falling” is a REALLY fun thriller, and if you haven’t picked it up yet this summer, do so! If you have some pool or beach time ahead of you, this will be a GREAT read to complement it! Though proceed with caution is air travel goes along with that…

Rating 9: SUPREMELY addictive and suspenseful, “Falling” feels like an airplane disaster movie of the 20th century, but with more rumination on how devastation can lead to violence.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Falling” is included on the Goodreads list “Mystery and Thriller 2021”.

Find “Falling” at your library using WorldCat, or a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Kate’s Review: “Firekeeper’s Daughter”

Book: “Firekeeper’s Daughter” by Angeline Boulley

Publishing Info: Henry, Holt, & Co., March 2021

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Book Description: As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.

The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home. Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

Review: Sometimes, when you are reading a book, there is a moment where you just know that it is going to knock your socks off. I couldn’t pinpoint where it was in “Firekeeper’s Daughter” by Angeline Boulley, but I know it was early. I know there was a moment where there was a switch that flipped, and I said to myself ‘this is going to be fantastic’. I bought it after hearing a bit of buzz, but it admittedly sat on my pile for awhile. I happened to pick it up the same day that I had the pleasure of seeing Boulley talk during a virtual conference, and what began as ‘oh, that’s cool serendipity’ shortly thereafter morphed into something more.

It was very this. (source)

I loved this book. I LOVED it. Angeline Boulley is a fantastic writer who has a gift for imagery, characterization, and plotting, and the result is a hell of a debut novel. The mystery at hand as so many layers, and not just in terms of evidence and components, but also in terms of the consequences and difficult realities that it has because of the community it is affecting. Our main character, Daunis, is such an effective and complicated but easy to root for protagonist, and she is completely believable in every step she takes based on her experience, background, and personality. We slowly learn her backstory while we are meeting her in the middle of a huge traumatic change, as her maternal grandmother has just had a stroke and months previously her maternal uncle was found dead of a meth overdose. Daunis is feeling adrift, even when she has already felt a bit adrift, being the biracial daughter of a white mother and an Anishinaabe man, so her very existence was a huge scandal (parentage aside, her mother was a teenager when she became pregnant, and shortly thereafter he left her for another girl he’d also gotten pregnant). Daunis has had to straddle the privileged white identity as well as her Indigenous one, and has never felt truly and fully accepted by either side of the family, no matter how much love she feels from both sides. Her need to find herself, and her need to avenge the death of her best friend Lily (whose murder she witnessed), as well as her uncle, drives her even more. Daunis is such a compelling main character, I just loved her and loved everything about her. When I saw Boulley speak during the Virtual U.S. Book Show, she described Daunis as a ‘Native Nancy Drew’, and while meth is a bit more high stakes than secrets in old clocks, her pluckiness and likability is totally an homage to young women detectives in literature. And yes, her chemistry with Jamie is…. it’s just wonderful, and heartbreaking, and beautiful, and that’s all I am going to say about her and Jamie. Because you gotta read the book.

But Daunis’s Indigenous cultural identity plays a huge part in this story, and Boulley weaves it all in spectacularly. I think that in a lot of YA thrillers in which a young adult protagonist would be asked to be a CI for the government, it may be a hard and dangerous decision, but on that they would ultimately do for ‘the greater good’ without many personal qualms outside of danger. But that isn’t so in Daunis’s case, nor can it be. Her decision to work with the FBI and the BIA is certainly not one to take lightly, given the terrible history both organizations have with Indigenous people in this country (really, the United States Government in general has just been awful in this regard). But once she’s in it, we get a gritty and suspenseful, as well as critical, look at what it means to be a CI, as well as the way that the FBI and BIA approach communities with such systemic and cyclical oppression. Daunis approaches this as ‘the greater good’, but never truly trusts Ron, the FBI agent, as his motivation is to stop the criminals, as opposed to helping the community that is being affected by the meth supply heal and get better.

There is also the complicated relationship that Daunis has with her maternal side, in particular her Grandmary, who absolutely loves her granddaughter, but is racist towards the Indigenous population in the community as seen through flashbacks and second hand accounts. While it could be written that Daunis either completely excuses her grandmother, or completely shuns her grandmother, instead we find a very realistic and complicated middle ground for her. Along with both those really complicated examinations, every time we get information about Daunis’s culture, be it through conversation, demonstration, or flat out explanation, it is done in a way that is so natural that it always fits the moment. It feels strange to say that it’s ‘unique’, as the uniqueness of it probably comes from the fact that Indigenous voices in literature have been underrepresented for far too long, but it was certainly a fair amount of new information to me, someone who grew up on Dakota Land and has spent a lot of time north on Ojibwe/Anishinaabe Land.

AND, as if I haven’t gushed on long enough, BUT I’M GOING TO CONTINUE, the mystery is also great. I may have guessed some parts of it, but that didn’t even matter to me because it was well crafted, complex, and it was really able to hit home the tragedies of meth running in this community and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women that are at the center of the mystery. There is so much power in this story. As well as a lot of darkness (content warnings here an there, from domestic abuse to murder to a sexual assault that happens off page, but is definitely upsetting). But the darkness always has a bit of hope and resilience to go along with it, and that made all the difference.

“Firekeeper’s Daughter” is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Do yourself a favor and read this book. It is almost assuredly going to be on my Top Ten list this year.

Rating 10: It’s just fantastic. A healthy and powerful mix of a well done mystery and a meditation on being Indigenous in the 21st century, “Firekeeper’s Daughter” blew me completely away.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Firekeeper’s Daughter” is included on the Goodreads lists “Books by Indigenous Women”, and “Hello Sunshine YA Book Club Book List”.

Find “Firekeeper’s Daughter” at your library using WorldCat, or a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Kate’s Review: “Survive the Night”

Book: “Survive the Night” by Riley Sager

Publishing Info: Dutton Books, June 2021

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

Book Description: It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer. Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father. Or so he says. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there’s nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing–survive the night.

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

One of the things I’ve looked forward to every summer for the past few years is that, like clockwork, Riley Sager has written a new thriller novel. I’ve been reading Sager since his debut, “Final Girls”, and I have genuinely enjoyed every book he has come out with. Sometimes with varying degrees of enjoyment, but enjoyed nonetheless. Sager is a reliable thriller author for me; I know what to expect, I know I will probably like his characters, and I know that he will find ways to surprise me. So, of course, I’ve been looking forward to “Survive the Night” since I first heard of it. I wanted to savor it, saving it on my Kindle for awhile, knowing that it would probably be devoured right up as soon as I began but hoping I’d restrain myself. And I didn’t, really, as I read it in two big chunks over the course of two days. But hey. That’s reliable as well.

The book is mostly from Charlie’s point of view, as while it’s in the third person, it is mostly from her perspective. Charlie is a fairly typical protagonist for a book like this; she has a lot of baggage stemming from childhood trauma, which has been compounded by the fact that her roommate and best friend Maddy was brutally murdered by The Campus Killer, and Charlie blames herself. It’s the kind of thing we’ve seen before, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just worn. Adding into this well worn treading into overdone territory is that Charlie’s unreliability as a quasi narrator is partially based in some mental health issues, in that she has hallucinations and dissociative states she calls ‘going to the movies’. So of course, a scene that could be one thing, will end up not being real. There are a lot of things to be said about using mental health as a plot point in this way, and while I don’t necessarily think that it’s damaging or offensive, I do think that it’s something we’ve seen before. I LIKE Charlie, she’s just not really reinventing the wheel. Josh is our other main character, who has a few moments of perspective, but most of what we see is what we get from Charlie, and her paranoia and trauma could make her unreliable when it comes to him. Again, things we’ve seen before. It works out fine, Sager does it well, and I enjoy Josh as a character too. But again. We’ve seen it.

The plot, however, is a true rollercoaster from beginning to end, and Sager sprinkled little clues in here and there that I definitely missed. It could have been a healthy mix of sleight of hand on his part and me being so engaged with wanting to find out what happened next, but missed them I did, and it made some of the surprises all the more fun. I talked above about how using dissociative episodes in fiction to make someone unreliable is a bit old hat and overused, but there were lots of other well done tricks and twists that obfuscated details and solutions that I wasn’t too put off. The cat and mouse elements between Charlie and Josh slowly build and build, and even when one reveal happens a new conflict or danger will start to slowly build almost immediately after, so the release doesn’t last too long. It makes for a very tense and addictive mystery at hand, and it hooked me from start to finish. And while Sager sometimes tends to tread a bit towards outlandish twists nearing the end of the book, I felt that “Survive the Night” never quite overdid itself in that regard. And I’m not going to spoil anything, really, but I will say that the sappy romantic in me who gets invested in fictional relationships had a lot to work with in this story.

Yes, I find ways to swoon in a story with a plot like this, sue me. (source)

So while I thought some of the character choices were slightly underdeveloped or tropey, overall I found “Survive the Night” to be a really fun thriller novel. Riley Sager hasn’t failed me yet, and this is definitely the kind of book you should pick up if you like suspense.

Rating 8: Suspenseful, cinematic, and highly addictive, “Survive the Night” is another entertaining rollercoaster of a book by Riley Sager!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Survive the Night” is included on the Goodreads list “Mystery and Thriller 2021”.

Find “Survive the Night” at your library using WorldCat, or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Kate’s Review: “Darkness and Grace”

Book: “Darkness and Grace” by Kathryn Schleich

Publishing Info: Self-Published, March 2021

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from Book Publicity Services

Book Description: Even the strongest of families aren’t immune to malice, betrayal, and deceit. Supportive, loving, and affluent, the Pierson family is delighted to celebrate the marriage of sensitive middle son Paul Pierson and his wife, Pamela. Everyone rejoices that Paul has finally recovered from the tragic loss of his beloved first wife and looks forward to Paul and Pamela’s new life together. But just as family members are celebrating his happiness, they start noticing that his beautiful bride may not be what she seems.

As the strain between siblings and spouses worsens, the Piersons discover that neither their money nor their considerable influence can keep the family safe from one woman’s malicious intent. When the true nature of this family member is revealed, each of the Piersons is confronted with the quandary of human conduct and moral responsibility.

Darkness and Grace is a compelling story of the classic struggle between good and evil, as well as the violent undercurrent running beneath the illusory serenity of a close-knit Midwestern family. 

Review: Thank you to Book Publicity Services for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

It wasn’t until very recently that I saw the Scorsese film “Casino”, which is admittedly strange as it is my husband’s favorite Scorsese feature. I’m sure that he loves it for the Vegas aspect as well as the interesting mob entanglements, but I think that for me the strongest feature is Sharon Stone, who plays Ginger, the narcissistic and potentially psychopathic wife of Robert DeNiro’s Sam. Stone puts in a powerhouse performance of a charming and vivacious woman who slowly turns into a nightmare as she is overtaken by drugs, alcoholism, and her sociopathic tendencies, which makes DeNiro’s life a bit of a nightmare. But Stone also brings a sad bit of vulnerability to Ginger, and even though you absolutely want her to have to face responsibility for her actions, you do feel a little sorry for her. As I was reading “Darkness and Grace” by Kathryn Schleich, I felt like I was reading about Ginger, only taking place in Minnesota, and without any of the vulnerability and empathy.

Our first person protagonist, Kay Pierson-Scott, is telling the story of how her family got entangled with Pamela, her brother Paul’s wife who turns out to be a psychopathic manipulator who runs an emotional mac truck through their happy family. Pamela is relentless, Paul is beaten down, and Kay and her family are running out of patience and the wherewithal to deal with it. As a family drama with a lot of suds to go around, it is entertaining as hell, making my blood pressure rise as Pamela’s manipulations and machinations run amok and Kay becomes more and more harried and the Pierson clan is targeted more and more. I liked Kay as a protagonist, who is a devoted and somewhat doting oldest sister who wants to protect her brother and the rest of her family as best she can. It’s all from her POV, so there are definitely some blind spots as to the other characters, deliberate or not, but she was enjoyable enough that I was okay with focusing on her. Pamela is the other big character in this book, and she is pretty much a cartoony villain in a lot of ways, though that said I know people who have dealt with people like her in their lives. So I’m not about to say that she’s unrealistic. You definitely spend the entire book waiting for her to get what is coming to her, and holding your breath in suspense as to whether or not she will do something REALLY terrible along the way (oh how I was SCARED for her daughter, Kaitlin!). All of this makes the plot easy to consume, and the side of me that lives for this kind of over the top drama was definitely entertained.

One of the hurdles “Darkness and Grace” faces is that the writing style is very simple, almost conversational, as though Kay is telling this story to a person over cocktails or brunch. I do think that this CAN work if done well, but it felt kind of stunted and a bit informal in this case, and therefore distracting. But it’s important to note that this was the first novel from Schleich, and that this is a re-release. Given that the other book of hers I read “Salvation Station”, didn’t have these issues, it’s really just a sign that this is a debut, or at least very early, work for an author who has time to grow and evolve.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out to the numerous, NUMEROUS Minnesota references peppered throughout this book. I know that Schleich is local, and that aspects of this story are loosely based on something her family had to deal with in the 1990s, so it’s not too surprising to see all the MN moments. For me, a Minnesotan born and raised, it was fun to be like “I know what neighborhood that is!” or “I’ve been to that place!”. It may be laid on pretty thick for other readers, but trust me, us Minnesotans LOVE to have our state acknowledged in media, so this was a-okay by me.

“Darkness and Grace” is an entertaining and soapy thriller that kept me interested. It doesn’t reinvent any wheels, but it gets the job done, and sometimes that just what you want in a suspense novel.

Rating 7: The story is engaging and easy to invest in, even if the writing style felt a little rudimentary to me at times. But the Minnesota references were top notch!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Darkness and Grace” isn’t on any Goodreads lists as of yet, but I think it would fit in on “Family Drama Books”.

Find “Darkness and Grace” at Amazon.com.

Kate’s Review: “That Weekend”

Book: “That Weekend” by Kara Thomas

Publishing Info: Delacorte Press, June 2021

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

Book Description: Three best friends, a lake house, a secret trip – what could go wrong?

It was supposed to be the perfect prom weekend getaway. But it’s clear something terrible happened when Claire wakes up alone and bloodied on a hiking trail with no memory of the past forty-eight hours. Three went up the mountain, but only one came back. Now everyone wants answers – most of all, Claire. She remembers Friday night, but after that… nothing. And now Kat and Jesse – her best friends – are missing.

That weekend changes everything. What happened on the mountain? And where are Kat and Jesse? Claire knows the answers are buried somewhere in her memory, but as she’s learning, everyone has secrets – even her best friends. And she’s pretty sure she’s not going to like what she remembers.

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

Kara Thomas is one of those authors who has never disappointed me. I have genuinely enjoyed and been surprised by all of her books, and she has easily been one of the authors whose works I am guaranteed to read as soon as I possibly can. I admit that the pessimist in me tends to worry whenever I pick up a book by one of these ‘can do no wrong’ authors, as I am always wondering ‘is this the book that is going to disappoint me?’ Thus far, with her newest novel “That Weekend”, Thomas has never done so. Hell, when I was reading this book and I was enjoying it and trying to figure out what was going on, I had an epiphany moment in the tub (when I wasn’t even reading the book) in which I thought that no, THIS was going to be the big reveal that was going to change everything. I wasn’t even mad about it, as it was, to my mind, a great reveal and surely that was what was going to happen because that would be genius.

And then, like she always does, Kara Thomas went and pulled the rug out from under me and my expectations of what was to come.

SHE DID IT AGAIN! (source)

But I am so ahead of myself. “That Weekend” is a YA thriller that could have used some tried and true tropes to tell a pretty familiar story. Thomas is a talented enough writer and mystery weaver that she could have done this and still made it work and feel fresh, but no, instead she takes it to other places that make it all the more interesting and suspenseful. We mostly follow Claire, a girl who went on a camping trip with her best friends Kat and Jesse, and woke up in the wilderness with a head injury, blood on herself, and no memory of what had happened for the past twenty four hours. On top of that, Kat and Jesse are no where to be found. From the jump we are in the weeds as much as Claire is, as she is the perfect unreliable narrator in that she has memory loss AND has some issues with Kat and Jesse that she is only starting to work through (specifically, the fact that they are now a couple, and she has been in love with Jesse for years). The mystery of what happened to Claire and what happened to Kat and Jesse seems pretty straight forward at first, with familiar beats and plot points, but never fear; Thomas has much more in store. What happens next is an engaging and very addictive mystery about friendship, secrets, trauma, and the things we don’t know about the people we love most. I really liked Claire’s storyline trajectory, as she goes from victim of something, to scrutinized potential suspect, to hard boiled amateur detective, all while realistically dealing (or perhaps not dealing) with the horrifically traumatic experience she went through and continues to go through as time moves on. Her characterization felt realistic in it’s messiness, and her resentment and determination was organic and never forced. Because of this, she was easy to root for, even if she was sometimes hard to like. We do get to see into the minds of other characters a little bit, and while they are all done well too, it’s really Claire that shines as a flawed but mostly empathetic protagonist.

And as I was gushing above, the mystery is so well plotted that I was always a few steps behind. Thomas has all the clues laid out so that you can trace everything back, but she knows how to keep them close to the vest. The reveals and surprises are all pretty darn rewarding because of this, and the pacing was such that I found it very hard to put this book down. And even one kind of out there late game twist that could have been seen as overkill was done in a way that I really didn’t hate it. It didn’t necessarily ADD to anything, but it worked well enough that the late revelation wasn’t the cheap moment that it could have been. Thomas also brings up some good, damning points about true crime tourism and media, as not only are there some armchair detectives online who come off as pretty terrible, there is a VERY clear nod to that horrible trauma scavenger Nancy Grace in one of the characters whose only goal is to get ratings by turning the public against literal teenagers. It’s one of the things that the true crime community really needs to reckon with, as people like Grace (and this character) see blood in the water and exploit it for ratings, even if they make chum of innocent people in the process.

“That Weekend” continues the streak that Thomas has had from the get go. It may be my favorite of her books. Thriller fans of all ages should definitely check it out.

Rating 9: Thomas has once again written a suspenseful, engaging, and surprising YA thriller!

Reader’s Advisory:

“That Weekend” is included on the Goodreads list “2021 YA Mysteries and Thrillers”.

Find “That Weekend” at your library using WorldCat, or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Kate’s Review: “When No One is Watching”

Book: “When No One is Watching” by Alyssa Cole

Publishing Info: William Morrow Paperbacks, September 2020

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: The gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood takes on a sinister new meaning…

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised. When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?

Review: While it doesn’t happen often these days, between chores, day to day commitments, and a rambunctious toddler to chase after, there is very little more satisfying, reading wise, than sitting down and reading a book in one go. Being able to consume a book in one sitting can leave my brain a little soupy, but overall I love feeling that engaged with a story, even if I rarely make it happen. When I sat down on a Friday evening with Alyssa Cole’s “When No One is Watching”, I figured I’d probably start it and make may way through it that weekend. What actually happened was that I didn’t put it down until I finished the very last page. So yeah, I guess you could say that this thriller really took me on a ride in all the best ways!

“When No One is Watching” is a suspenseful thriller that uses the genre to make an effective social commentary on the harm and damage that gentrification, corporate greed, and systemic racism has on minority communities, specifically the Black community in Brooklyn. While a lot of people have been comparing it to “Get Out”, I think that a more direct comparison is that of “Vampires vs The Bronx” (though not as funny, but that’s by design). We have two perspectives in this book: Sydney, who is a Black woman who has just moved back to her childhood home after leaving an abusive marriage, and Theo, who is a white man who has just moved into the neighborhood with his white girlfriend Kim (though their relationship is in shambles). Both of them serve their own purposes for the reader besides being two narrative roads. Sydney is experiencing the frustration, anger, and pain that comes with a gentrifying Brooklyn as white people move in, prices go up, and Black residents start to move out for other options (or are they? We’ll get to that). She is also an unreliable narrator as the story starts to have suspense moments, as her former husband was a gaslighting abuser, and now she has anxiety attacks and questions her sanity when seemingly outlandish things start happening. Theo, on the other hand, is the well meaning but clueless and ultimately complicit white guy who doesn’t see himself as a racist, but also has never had to think about what gentrification and White Supremacy do to Black communities, and his own role in those systems. He’s likable enough, and has many lessons to learn as he and Sydney are put together when he volunteers to do the research for her burgeoning Black History of Brooklyn walking tours. But he too has some things from his past that he’s trying to move past, and while Sydney is understandably easily frustrated with his cluelessness, he is also genuine in wanting to learn. Both voices worked well for me, and I was invested in both of them.

In terms of the plot, “When No One Was Watching” has a lot of slow burn build up which I personally liked. I like a steady creep of dread as a story goes on, and as more and more things that just aren’t right keep happening to Sydney, and Theo too, the more suspense I felt until I was ready to break from the tension. Since we have two perspectives, we have two different ways of seeing clues laid out, as well as having a third device of a continuing online conversation on a “Next Door”-like website. As more white businesses and people start to move in, Sydney’s neighbors, some of whom have been there for years, abruptly leave, with rumors of them moving on to other neighborhood after being outpriced, or needing a change of scenery. But the more the story goes on, the more reasons we find to believe that maybe that isn’t really the case. Because no matter how much Sydney doubts her senses, something is very not right. Admittedly, the pacing is a LITTLE stunted, as the slow burns turns into a VERY fast and action heavy finale that feels rushed. But overall, I highly enjoyed the mystery and the big reveal, no matter how bananas some of the reveals felt.

The strongest part of “When No One Is Watching”, however, is the stark social commentary on gentrification, capitalism, and systemic racism in housing in urban settings. White it’s true that this book takes it to conspiracy theory laden extremes, the heart of the problem is very real. Sydney and her Black neighbors have to deal with over-policing, as well as the entitlement of their new white neighbors who deal out micro-aggressions to flat out racist acts. Kim, Theo’s girlfriend, is the main antagonist in this case, as we see a litany of familiar actions from her. Be it complaining about noise, to threatening to call the police on her Black neighbors for any little thing, to using not so coded language when talking about them, she is racist white womanhood at its worst. But we also get to see systemic predatory behavior of real estate companies, to the disparities in healthcare, to the historical racism of Brooklyn in all forms. This book is very much about the dangers of White Supremacy, and as satire it’s biting as well as educational for those who may need to become familiar.

I quite enjoyed “While No One Is Watching”. Fiction can teach readers about very real issues, and this one does that as well as being genuinely thrilling.

Rating 8: The twists and turns are well done and the main characters are likable. The ending is a little bananas, but overall “When No One Is Watching” is a fun, suspenseful read with some good satire and social commentary.

Reader’s Advisory:

“When No One is Watching” is included on the Goodreads lists “Tales of New York City (fiction and nonfiction)”, and “Horror/Thriller Books by Black Authors”.

Find “When No One is Watching” at your library using WorldCat, or or a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

Kate’s Review: “The Other Black Girl”

Book: “The Other Black Girl” by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Publishing Info: Atria Books, June 2021

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

Book Description: Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada in this electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.

Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW. It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.

A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.

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

Satire and horror go together like cheese and crackers as far as I’m concerned, and I’m always looking for some good commentary in the horror stories that I consume. When I came across “The Other Black Girl” by Zakiya Dalila Harris on my Twitter feed, I was immediately interested. Described as a mix of “Get Out” and “The Devil Wears Prada”, I went to see if I had access to a copy on NetGalley, and downloaded it post haste. I’m always one for workplace drama thrillers, but even more important it’s always great to see more diverse voices have space in genres that can feel very white a lot of the time. And if you’re going to say “Get Out” as a descriptor, well, I’m almost certainly in.

“The Other Black Girl” definitely lives up to the pop culture descriptors, though I would also throw in the horror movie “Bad Hair” as well, as “The Other Black Girl” takes on not only racism and microaggressions, but specifically Misogynoir in a work place that doesn’t think it has a racism problem, and weaponized tokenism. Our main character is Nella, an editorial assistant at the prestigious Wagner publishing house, and is the only Black woman in her department. Her job is exhausting enough on its own, and having to maneuver a work place that is filled with seemingly well intentioned white people who are constantly tossing microaggressions her way just makes it all the more isolating and tiring. Harris does a really good job of establishing the work environment and culture of Wagner, and how it bogs Nella down. Nella is a sympathetic and relatable protagonist, who is really hoping for success at Wagner, but is also insecure in her wants and needs to be accepted by a workplace that doesn’t really give her a chance. From the jump, you understand Nella, and her characterization is drawn in a way that her choices down the line make sense.

So when Hazel is hired on, Nella’s relief and excitement is palpable that she may at least have a companion in this difficult sea to navigate. Of course, nothing is ever that easy, and what seems could be a racist and sexist industry making two Black women feel like they have to be pitted against each other, is actually something far more insidious. What that is, we don’t know, but Harris is more than happy to slowly unpack and reveal darker and more far reaching dangers for Nella, all of it satirizing and critiquing white industries and how they treat their Black employees, and how these power structures can in turn make these employees feel the need to outgun each other, or conform to racist mores in order to succeed. Especially if those employees are women. And while these themes may be taken to outlandish places within this story (I’m holding this all close to the vest, though, as I think you need to go in with little idea of where Harris is going to take you), as satire is works really, really well.

And as a thriller novel, I’d even go so far as to say horror novel, “The Other Black Girl” is completely effective. I was totally sucked in right away, wondering who was trying to intimidate Nella, wondering what Hazel’s motivation was, and wondering how everything connected. Especially since early one, we see that there are other players who are a part of this story, some of whom we don’t know how they connect to Nella’s situation. I loved how Harris slowly established settings, timelines, and players, and then carefully and slowly brought them together. While sometimes the structure could be a little confusing (there were moments where we’d go into an extended flashback in the middle of an action point, which caused a little whiplash), overall I felt that all the pieces fall into place when they need to. On top of that, there is also a lot of humor in these pages, most of which comes from Nella’s close friend Malaika, who is a bit more confident and willing to give Nella some hard truths with wit and sarcasm. All of these things make this book not only a biting social commentary, but also super entertaining and a page turner until the very end.

“The Other Black Girl” is a buzz worthy and propelling horror-thriller that has a lot to say about Misogynoir and racism. If you like satire in your horror like I do, absolutely do not miss this.

Rating 9: A suspenseful an satirical horror-thriller about race, identity, and the workplace, “The Other Black Girl” has bite and hard truths, as well as some genuinely funny moments.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Other Black Girl” is included on the Goodreads lists “Well-Read Black Girl Book Suggestions”, and “Horror/Thriller Books by Black Authors”.

Find “The Other Black Girl” at your library using WorldCat, or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!