Thoughts on Books (#21): LITTLE THREATS • MAGIC DARK AND STRANGE • THE AWAKENING


Little Threats
Little Threats by Emily Schultz *
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In 1993, teenage twin sisters Carter and Kennedy Wynn rebel against their suburban upbringing with grunge, drugs, and dangerous guys. The night after a bad acid trip, their best friend Haley is murdered and Kennedy takes the blame, and she spends 15 years in prison wondering what really happened. In 2008, Kennedy is finally free to start her life, but soon true-crime tv show host Dee Nash comes to town intent on stirring up the past.

While it is part mystery, LITTLE THREATS is mostly a slow-burn family drama about the repercussions of a young girl’s murder. The characters were difficult to like, though I thought their dilemmas were compelling. Kennedy’s conviction at 16 was a stretch. Motive is important, and to me there wasn’t one. She ends up accepting the charges against her though maintaining her innocence because she blacked out and couldn’t remember what actually happened. What lazy police work. The victim’s younger brother and Dee Nash investigate further and open a nasty can of worms. I wasn’t surprised by how things turned out, though I found it intriguing, and rather depressing.

The best part of the book was the early 90s nostalgia — grunge music, doc martens with floral peasant dresses, Kurt Cobain — this story brings it all back. Fun to revisit, though so glad I didn’t go through it with this disturbing crew.

* I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Magic Dark and Strange
Magic Dark and Strange by Kelly Powell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

MAGIC DARK AND STRANGE is a YA historical fantasy set in the Victorian-like city of Invercarn. The main character is 17-year old Catherine Daly who works at a print shop by day, and by night she raises the dead for grieving families who just want a few more moments with their departed loved ones — for a price. She and Guy Nolan, a watchmaker’s son, end up entangled in a mystery involving a charmed timepiece said to be buried in an unmarked grave. Catherine’s boss wants her to retrieve this item at any cost, but she and Guy get more than they bargained for when the coffin is opened.

There was much to enjoy in this Gothic mystery — dark atmosphere, creepy cemeteries, slow-burn romance, clever characters, and a Victorian setting. I was disappointed, though, with the lack of world-building. All of this amazing magic, and no explanation of where it comes from and how it works. Why is Catherine magical? Has she always been that way? It almost felt like this was book two of a series. Some backstory was missing. MAGIC DARK AND STRANGE had a lot of potential, but it needed to be fleshed out more.


The Awakening (Graveyard Queen #6)
The Awakening by Amanda Stevens *
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading THE AWAKENING was bittersweet, as it’s the conclusion to one of my favorite series. I didn’t want it to end! Known as the Graveyard Queen, protagonist Amelia Gray has made a successful career restoring dilapidated and often forgotten cemeteries. She’s also gifted with being able to see and communicate with ghosts. Her latest job restoring Woodbine Cemetery brings her face to face with the malevolent spirit of a young girl. She seems to be fixated on an unnamed baby’s grave, and it’s up to Amelia to figure out the connection between them and what will finally allow the child to rest in peace.

A lot more juicy secrets are revealed in this book, and Amelia’s turbulent on-again, off-again relationship with John Devlin comes to a head. Though I was sad to see the story end, I was pleased with the way the author wrapped things up. Emotional! I highly recommend the Graveyard Queen series to fans of Gothic suspense and creepy ghost stories, just start at the beginning with The Restorer (#1) or The Abandoned (#0.5).

* I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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THE TWO MRS. CARLYLES by Suzanne Rindell


Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: July 28, 2020
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★★★


A suspenseful and page-turning descent into obsession, love, and murder in the wake of San Francisco’s most deadly earthquake–and Suzanne Rindell’s most haunting novel since her acclaimed debut, The Other Typist

Which wife holds the darker secret?

San Francisco, 1906. Violet is one of three people grateful for the destruction of the big earthquake. It leaves her and her two best friends unexpectedly wealthy–if the secret that binds them together stays buried beneath the rubble. Fearing discovery, the women strike out on their own, and orphaned, wallflower Violet reinvents herself.

When a whirlwind romance with the city’s most eligible widower, Harry Carlyle, lands her in a luxurious mansion as the second Mrs. Carlyle, it seems like her dreams of happiness and love have come true. But all is not right in the Carlyle home, and Violet soon finds herself trapped by the lingering specter of the first Mrs. Carlyle, and by the inescapable secrets of her own violent history.


The cover of this book is so stunning that I had to read it! Suzanne Rindell has written a Rebecca-esque historical mystery set against the backdrop of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

Violet and her two best friends ran away from an orphanage the day it burned down. A few years later, after a dreadful stint working in the red-light district, the great earthquake strikes, and the girls come into an unexpected fortune. Their new-found wealth comes with the burden of a dark secret, and Violet, Flossie, and Cora decide to go their separate ways.

Violet reinvents herself as a proper, upstanding shop girl, and she catches the eye of the dashing and wealthy widower Harry Carlyle. The one sore subject with Harry is any discussion of his wife, the first Mrs. Carlyle. Harry and Violet marry, but life inside his mansion is anything but bliss.

The oppressive presence of the first Mrs. Carlyle is everywhere. What really happened to her? Violet hears shocking rumors about her fate, but should she ignore them and believe Harry? And who’s behind the strange occurrences happening at night?

THE TWO MRS. CARLYLES is classic Gothic suspense, and I enjoyed it. There were a few times that I wanted to scream at Violet for being so naive or not standing up for herself! Overall, though, it was an intriguing historical mystery with some surprising twists. Borrowed from the library.

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

MR. ROCHESTER by Sarah Shoemaker


Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: March 20, 2018
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★½


A deft and irresistible retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s beloved classic Jane Eyre – from the point of view of the dashing, mysterious Mr. Rochester himself. For 170 years, Edward Fairfax Rochester has stood as one of literature’s most complex and captivating romantic heroes. Sometimes cruel, sometimes tender, Jane Eyre’s mercurial master at Thornfield Hall has mesmerized, beguiled, and, yes, baffled fans of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece for generations. But his own story has never been told.

We first meet this brilliant, tormented hero as a motherless boy roaming Thornfield’s lonely corridors. On the morning of Edward’s eighth birthday, his father issues a decree: He is to be sent away to get an education, exiled from all he ever loved. Young Edward’s journey will take him across working-class England and the decadence of continental Europe before he lands on the warm, languid shores of faraway Jamaica, where his inheritance lies.

That island, however, holds secrets of its own, and Edward soon grows entangled in morally dubious business dealings and a passionate, whirlwind love affair with the town’s ravishing heiress, Bertha Antoinetta Mason. Eventually, in the wake of a devastating betrayal, Edward must return to England with his increasingly unstable wife to take over as master of Thornfield. And it is there, on a twilight ride, that he meets the stubborn, plain young governess who will steal his heart and teach him how to love again.

Mr. Rochester is a sweeping coming-of-age story and a stirring tale of adventure, romance, and deceit. Faithful in every particular to Brontë’s original yet full of unexpected twists and riveting behind-the-scenes drama, this novel will completely, deliciously, and forever change how we read and remember Jane Eyre.


I spent my summer with Mr. Edward Rochester, and it was lovely. I received an eBook copy from the publisher through NetGalley, though I listened to most of it on audio from the library. (Wonderful narration by Simon Shepherd!)

MR. ROCHESTER is an engrossing tale about Jane Eyre’s Gothic hero, a re-imagining from his point of view, but mostly about his life leading up to Jane. The writing is gorgeous, and I feel like it is complementary to the original.

Edward is sent away to school at a young age, away from Thornfield Hall, the home he dearly loves. His father then sends him to Jamaica to take over the family’s business holdings there, where he meets Bertha Mason, his first wife. The story of Bertha’s life and madness, and the effect it had on Edward was fascinating. Eventually he returns to England where he meets Jane, and from there we hear his side of their love story.

This is a well-written piece of historical fiction, and I greatly enjoyed the author’s vision of Mr. Rochester, and seeing how his turbulent past shaped the man he became.

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

THIS TENDER LAND by William Kent Krueger


Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★★★★


A magnificent novel about four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the bestselling author of Ordinary Grace.

1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an en­thralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.


THIS TENDER LAND is a beautifully written historical novel about the river adventure of four young vagabonds sailing to Saint Louis in the summer of 1932. It richly describes the hardships and desperation of the Great Depression, and the cruelty forced upon Native American families, especially children, at that time. Set adrift on the river, these young people encounter a unique cast of characters along their journey to find home. Though dark at times, the story left me hopeful. Highly recommended!

BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN by Diane Chamberlain


Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★★


From New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain comes an irresistible new novel in Big Lies in a Small Town.

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?


BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN is an absorbing story of two young artists from different eras, tied together by an abandoned mural meant for a post office wall in a small Southern city.

In 1940, New Jersey artist Anna Dale wins a national contest to paint a post office mural for a North Carolina town. Almost 80 years later, Morgan Christopher gets early release from prison with the condition that she restore the badly damaged mural so it will be hanging in a new museum on opening day.

Why was the mural abandoned and never installed? Why was troubled Morgan chosen to be the restorer? And what dark secrets are held beneath the grime of the old painting? I enjoyed the back and forth between time periods as intriguing and sometimes disturbing details were revealed. Very well written! This is the first book by Diane Chamberlain I’ve read, and I’m already a fan.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.