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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HAUNTED HOMICIDE by Lucy Ness


Series: A Haunted Mansion Mystery, #1
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: September 29, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★


Avery Morgan has been hired to breathe new life into the Portage Path Women’s Club, but first she’ll have to deal with a dead body and a meddling ghost.

Avery Morgan has had a harrowing first week on the job as manager of the Portage Path Woman’s Club. Not only is she in charge of a grand old home with a mountain of maintenance problems and scheduling nightmares–thanks to a recent fire in the Marigold meeting room–but she’s also got Muriel Sadler to deal with. Muriel is the current president of the club, the one “nay” vote when the rest of the board voted “aye” to hiring Avery.

After a morning of dealing with another one of Muriel’s snits and a meeting with the delicious and delightfully unsettling Ben Harkness, who will be handling renovations in the fire-damaged portions of the house, the last thing Avery needs is for one of the fuses to blow. Again.

She grabs her handy flashlight and heads into the basement, where she stumbles across Muriel’s body. She also stumbles across an unexpected helper, Clemmie Bow, the ghost of a young woman who was accidentally killed in the building almost a hundred years ago.

Together Clemmie and Avery are determined to solve Muriel’s murder before the killer sends Avery to join Clemmie on the other side.


What a fun beginning to a promising paranormal cozy mystery series! Main character Avery has landed a new job as manager of Portage Path Woman’s Club, though she’s off to a rocky start when she finds the body of the current club president in the basement, along with a ghost from the 1920s.

Clever and determined, Avery had grand plans to modernize the club, but first she must use her smarts to catch Muriel’s killer. I enjoyed the club setting in the old mansion, and I especially liked Clemmie, the flapper ghost helping Avery with her investigation. The cast of quirky characters was interesting and likable, though the author kept me guessing as to whom would want Muriel dead.

HAUNTED HOMICIDE is an intriguing murder mystery with just the right amount of paranormal. I hope to learn more about Clemmie in future books!

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

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

A SPELL FOR TROUBLE by Esme Addison


Series: An Enchanted Bay Mystery, #1
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Release Date: May 12, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★½


Aleksandra Daniels hasn’t set foot in the quiet seaside town of Bellamy Bay, North Carolina in over twenty years. Ever since her mother’s tragic death, her father has mysteriously forbidden her from visiting her aunt and cousins. But on a whim, Alex accepts an invitation to visit her estranged relatives and to help them in their family business: an herbal apothecary known for its remarkably potent teas, salves, and folk remedies.

Bellamy Bay doesn’t look like trouble, but this is a town that harbors dark secrets. Alex discovers that her own family is at the center of salacious town gossip, and that they are rumored to be magical healers descended from mermaids. She brushes this off as nonsense until a local is poisoned and her aunt Lidia is arrested for the crime. Alex is certain Lidia is being framed, and she resolves to find out why.

Alex’s investigation unearths stories that some have gone to desperate lengths to conceal: forbidden affairs, family rivalries, and the truth about Alex’s own ancestry. And when the case turns deadly, Alex learns that not only are these secrets worth hiding, but they may even be worth killing for.


A SPELL FOR TROUBLE kicks off the new Enchanted Bay Mystery series featuring former risk assessor, Alex Daniels. After some trouble at her New York office, Alex accepts an offer to visit her Bellamy Bay relatives whom she hasn’t seen in many years. There is much she didn’t know about her long lost aunt and cousins and their enchanted apothecary shop, and all the family secrets start bubbling to the top when Aunt Lidia is arrested for murder.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The good: I loved the charming setting of Bellamy Bay and the Polish folklore that was woven into Alex’s family history. The world-building set a solid foundation for the series going forward. What I struggled with: Alex did some silly things that put the case and herself in jeopardy, especially since she has a career in risk management. I also thought the mystery itself wasn’t that interesting once the “whys” starting being revealed. However there was a nifty twist regarding the culprit that I enjoyed.

With its magical roots I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes in future books.

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

THE SUN DOWN MOTEL by Simone St. James


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: February 18, 2020
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★


Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.


Amazing! THE SUN DOWN MOTEL is an addictive and chilling paranormal mystery set in the small town of Fell, New York. The story is told in dual time periods — Viv in 1982, and her niece, Carly, in 2017. Viv was the lone night clerk of the creepy motel when she went missing without a trace 35 years ago. Now Carly has come to Fell and taken Viv’s old position in hopes of finding out what happened to her aunt decades ago.

Simone St. James knows how to create the perfect dark, eerie atmosphere and compelling mystery. I adored the cast of characters who were mainly strong and intriguing women. Of course, one the most fascinating characters in the book was the motel itself. That place felt so alive and real with the creepiest vibe ever!

THE SUN DOWN MOTEL is a haunting page-turner that kept me reading all night. Highly recommended!

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

R.I.P. XIV Reading Challenge #ripxiv

What? Readers Imbibing Peril Reading Challenge
When? September 1, 2019 – October 31, 2019
Where? Link up @ readersimbibingperil.com
Why? It’s fun!!! 🎃
How? Read Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy,
Supernatural, Gothic, and Horror

R.I.P. XIV Books Read:

      1. A GIRL NAMED ANNA by Lizzy Barber
      2. THE WOLF WANTS IN by Laura McHugh
      3. THE STRANGERS by Margaret Peterson Haddix
      4. THE VANISHED BRIDE by Bella Ellis
      5. WE SPEAK IN STORMS by Natalie Lund
      6. THE GHOST OF CRUTCHFIELD HALL by Mary Downing Hahn
      7. THE SILENT COMPANIONS by Laura Purcell
      8. THE BODIES IN THE LIBRARY by Marty Wingate