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.

SCRITCH SCRATCH by Lindsay Currie @SourcebooksKids


Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★


For fans of Small Spaces comes a chilling ghost story about a malevolent spirit, an unlucky girl, and a haunting mystery that will tie the two together.

Claire has absolutely no interest in the paranormal. She’s a scientist, which is why she can’t think of anything worse than having to help out her dad on one of his ghost-themed Chicago bus tours. She thinks she’s made it through when she sees a boy with a sad face and dark eyes at the back of the bus. There’s something off about his presence, especially because when she checks at the end of the tour…he’s gone.

Claire tries to brush it off, she must be imagining things, letting her dad’s ghost stories get the best of her. But then the scratching starts. Voices whisper to her in the dark. The number 396 appears everywhere she turns. And the boy with the dark eyes starts following her.

Claire is being haunted. The boy from the bus wants something…and Claire needs to find out what before it’s too late.


SCRITCH SCRATCH is a fantastic and spooky middle grade book that blends Chicago history, an intriguing ghostly mystery, and a story of friendship. Claire’s 7th-grade year has been a challenge, with her dad’s ghost tour business being super embarrassing, and a new girl moving in to steal her best friend.

Claire is a scientist and doesn’t believe any of that paranormal nonsense her dad is pushing, until one night she’s forced to help him on his ghost tour, and a very troubled spirit follows her home. Claire must overcome her fear of new situations and new people, while using her tried and true scientific method to solve the mystery of the ghost boy.

“Look for the story history doesn’t tell, because that might be the one that matters.”

As the parent of a middle grader, I feel like SCRITCH SCRATCH had just the right amount scariness for this age group, and the Chicago history woven into the story was fascinating. I ended up researching all of the places and events mentioned for even more details and pictures. I had heard the legend of Resurrection Mary, but the rest were new to me. Some were truly heartbreaking.

I loved the message of friendship and the rewards of opening your heart to new people. Claire’s relationship with her older brother Sam was wonderful too. SCRITCH SCRATCH is the perfect spooky read for Halloween or any time you’re in the mood for a chilling ghost story. Highly recommended!

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through the Early Reads program from Sourcebooks 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.

THE BROKEN GIRLS by Simone St. James {Review}


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: March 20, 2018
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★


Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears…

Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced…


THE BROKEN GIRLS was an amazing book, combining many elements I love: mystery, ghost story, historical fiction, dual time periods, and crime drama. I loved it – yes, it was dark and unsettling, but I was glued to the pages.

The story alternates between the early 1950s and 2014 in a tiny Vermont town. In the past, four teenage girls attend a local boarding school for troubled girls called Idlewild Hall when one goes missing; in the present, a journalist named Fiona investigates the death of her sister whose body was found on Idlewild’s abandoned property two decades earlier. Fiona agrees to write an article on the restoration of Idlewild when it’s purchased by a mysterious buyer. During renovations, a shocking discovery pulls Fiona into the unsolved case of the missing girl. Will it also lead her to answers about her own sister’s death?

This was an atmospheric and creepy read, with some definite chilling moments. Like many Gothic novels, the house, Idlewild, was a haunted, complex character itself, and the tale of its resident ghost was heartbreaking. The mystery was complicated, and I enjoyed how the well-researched historical elements were woven into it. I love Simone St. James’ storytelling, and I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes a spooky story full of emotion and depth.

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