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

Now in Paperback: THE VANISHED BRIDE by Bella Ellis [Re-Post Review]


Series: A Brontë Sisters Mystery, #1
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★½


Before they became legendary writers, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and Anne Brontë were detectors in this charming historical mystery…

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters–the Brontë sisters–learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors.” Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril…


Hello! I’m re-posting my review of THE VANISHED BRIDE from last year to celebrate the paperback release with a brand new cover (which I love!). I’m also including the cover and blurb for the next book in the series, THE DIABOLICAL BONES, coming in November…♥


THE VANISHED BRIDE is a unique historical mystery that casts the famous Brontë sisters as amateur sleuths who set out to solve a local missing persons case. It’s 1845, and Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are once again living at home with their father Patrick and brother Branwell, before they became published authors. The sisters are struggling to find their place in the world as unmarried women who would prefer to set their own course in life. When they hear a young wife has disappeared under gruesome circumstances, the Brontës become “lady detectors” and use their smarts & daring to find out what happened.

I enjoyed this book very much! Not only was I intrigued by the twisty mystery, I absolutely loved being able to live in the world of the Brontës for a little while. From what I’ve previously learned about them, I think the author did a fantastic job capturing the sisters’ personalities, conflicts, and closeness to one another. Though the mystery was fictional, it had many elements that would have influenced this Charlotte to write Jane Eyre. THE VANISHED BRIDE is a must read for Brontë fans — intriguing, well-written, and great fun.

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

…and coming November 10, 2020, THE DIABOLICAL BONES:


Haworth Parsonage, February 1846: The Brontë sisters — Anne, Emily, and Charlotte — are busy with their literary pursuits. As they query publishers for their poetry, each sister hopes to write a full-length novel that will thrill the reading public. They’re also hoping for a new case for their fledgling detecting enterprise, Bell Brothers and Company solicitors. On a bitterly cold February evening, their housekeeper Tabby tells them of a grim discovery at Scar Top House, an old farmhouse belonging to the Bradshaw family. A set of bones has been found bricked up in a chimney breast inside the ancient home.

Tabby says it’s bad doings, and dark omens for all of them. The rattled housekeeper gives them a warning, telling the sisters of a chilling rumour attached to the family. The villagers believe that, on the verge of bankruptcy, Clifton Bradshaw sold his soul to the devil in return for great riches. Does this have anything to do with the bones found in the Bradshaw house? The sisters are intrigued by the story and feel compelled to investigate. But Anne, Emily, and Charlotte soon learn that true evil has set a murderous trap and they’ve been lured right into it…


 

THE VANISHED BRIDE by Bella Ellis {Review}


Series: A Brontë Sisters Mystery, #1
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★½


Before they became legendary writers, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and Anne Brontë were detectors in this charming historical mystery…

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters–the Brontë sisters–learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors.” Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril…


THE VANISHED BRIDE is a unique historical mystery that casts the famous Brontë sisters as amateur sleuths who set out to solve a local missing persons case. It’s 1845, and Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are once again living at home with their father Patrick and brother Branwell, before they became published authors. The sisters are struggling to find their place in the world as unmarried women who would prefer to set their own course in life. When they hear a young wife has disappeared under gruesome circumstances, the Brontës become “lady detectors” and use their smarts & daring to find out what happened.

I enjoyed this book very much! Not only was I intrigued by the twisty mystery, I absolutely loved being able to live in the world of the Brontës for a little while. From what I’ve previously learned about them, I think the author did a fantastic job capturing the sisters’ personalities, conflicts, and closeness to one another. Though the mystery was fictional, it had many elements that would have influenced this Charlotte to write Jane Eyre. THE VANISHED BRIDE is a must read for Brontë fans — intriguing, well-written, and great fun.

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

Quick Thoughts: HOW QUICKLY SHE DISAPPEARS by Raymond Fleischmann


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: January 14, 2020
Source: Penguin’s First to Read Program
Rating: ★★★★½


The Dry meets The Silence of the Lambs in this intoxicating tale of literary suspense, set in the relentless Alaskan landscape, about madness and obsession, loneliness and grief, and the ferocious bonds of family…

My proposition is very simple: I am going to ask you for three gifts, and for each gift you deliver, I will take you one step closer to Jacqueline.

It’s been twenty years since Elisabeth’s twin sister, Jacqueline, disappeared without a trace. Now thirty-year-old Elisabeth is living far from home in a small Alaskan town. She’s in a loveless marriage and has a precocious young daughter she loves more than anything but who reminds her too much of her long-missing sister.

But then Alfred, a dangerous stranger with a plan of his own, arrives in town and commits an inexplicable act of violence. And he offers a startling revelation: He knows exactly what happened to Elisabeth’s sister, but he’ll reveal this truth only if she fulfills his three requests.

Increasingly isolated from her neighbors and imprisoned by the bitter cold and her own obsession, Elisabeth can almost hear her sister’s voice saying, Come and find me. And so she will, even if it means putting herself—and her family—in danger.


This was my final selection from Penguin’s First to Read program. Unfortunately it is shutting down today! I’ve greatly enjoyed being a part of the program for the past few years. I’ve found many favorites through them, including this book, HOW QUICKLY SHE DISAPPEARS.

A historical suspense novel set in Alaska in the 1940s was too tempting to pass up, and I got pulled into the story right away. A tiny, isolated town in the Alaskan Interior was the perfect setting for this eerie story. I was very intrigued by Elisabeth’s quest to find her missing sister, gone for 20 years, and the lengths she’d go to get answers. Alfred was a truly creepy character, and I was flipping the pages to find out what he knew! The author did a great job building up tension, and I was pleased with the conclusion. Haunting, riveting, and enjoyable!

Disclosure: A free copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.