Review: “Killman Creek” (Stillhouse Lake #2) by Rachel Caine

Killman Creek (Stillhouse Lake #2) by Rachel Caine

A review by Amanda.

I received a copy of this ebook from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This review may contain spoilers for book one in the series, Stillhouse Lake.

Gwen Proctor, formerly Gina Royal, is on the run with her kids yet again. Her ex-husband, convicted serial killer Melvin Royal, has escaped from prison. He has help from Absalom, Gwen’s ally-turned-betrayer. Gwen has help this time as well, from someone she knows she can trust. Sam Cade, whose sister was Melvin’s final victim, is running with Gwen and the kids (fifteen-year-old Lanny and eleven-year-old Connor). Their partnership is beginning to blossom into something more, but at a glacially slow pace. Absalom continues to help Melvin track Gwen, calling to threaten and taunt her regularly, despite their vigilance with disposing of phones and staying off the grid. Eventually, Gwen decides that they need to go on the offensive and hunt Melvin before he finds them. She and Sam send the kids to stay with trustworthy friends, and the hunt is on.

Killman Creek is a creepy, thrilling page-turner that may need to be consumed in one sitting, if only to stave off nightmares. Told from various perspectives, readers get most of the story while certain characters are left in the dark. Even with that extra knowledge, the author manages to pull off surprising plot twists left and right. Gwen and Sam’s journey takes unexpected turns, including new information about Absalom and new doubts about Gwen/Gina’s innocence. Readers also get a peek into Lanny and Connor’s thoughts, which provides plenty of emotional depth.

This book will be released on December 12, 2017. I look forward to the rest of the series, especially if it keeps the intense pace of books one and two.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Final Girls” by Riley Sager

Final Girls by Riley Sager

A review by Amanda.

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter and five friends rented a cabin in the woods for a birthday party getaway. Quincy is the only one who survived after a deranged killer savagely murders her friends. Surviving made her a “Final Girl”, so called by the media, as a reference to the horror movie trope where the only person to make it to the end alive is the lone female character. Lisa, who barely lived through a massacre at her sorority house; and Sam, who survived a brutal attack at the motel where she worked, are also Final Girls, grouped together despite having never met in person. Quincy has done her best to move past that horrific event. She runs a successful baking website, has a solid relationship with a lawyer boyfriend, and maintains regular contact with the officer who saved her life. A Xanax prescription keeps her anxiety at bay, and her mind has protected her further by firmly repressing her memories of the attack. Everything that she has worked for is turned upside down when she gets the call— Lisa, her Final Girl mentor of sorts, has been found dead in her bathtub in an apparent suicide. Sam shows up out of the blue, the press starts harassing Quincy again, some of her memories start to return, and things are not lining up. Is someone coming after the Final Girls? What are Quincy’s memories hiding?

Final Girls is a rollercoaster of misdirection and plot twists. Readers will question everything and everyone by the time the explosive finale is revealed. Quincy is a ball of anxiety in denial. Her reactions after the massacre seem expected for someone who has experienced trauma; she absolutely has PTSD. Her relationship with her mother is strained and Quincy is encouraged to pretend like everything is fine. Shoving those feelings away instead of dealing with them in a healthier manner may work for a short time but eventually will backfire – which is exactly what happens, in surprising ways. The story is told in alternating perspectives, going from present day and first person from Quincy’s point of view, to flashbacks to the events leading up to the cabin massacre, told in third person omniscient. This adds to the suspense, especially as readers start to wonder if there is a connection to the present day. Readers will not want to put this spooky book down, particularly if they are reading at night. It does drag a bit in the middle, but the mystery keeps going and unraveling until the very end.

There is some sexual content, graphic violence, and strong language.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Bring Her Home” by David Bell

Review: "Bring Her Home" by David Bell

A review by Amanda.

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

Tragedy has struck the small town of Jakesville. Fifteen-year-old Summer and her best friend Haley, who has been missing for two days, were found in a local park. Both girls had been severely beaten beyond recognition and only Summer is still clinging to life. Summer’s mother died a year and a half before and her father, Bill, has been struggling to raise his only child on his own. Relief that she has been found alive is mixed with anger at whoever has done this horrible crime, and guilt over mistakes he has made as a parent. The investigation into the girls’ disappearance has uncovered some surprising and troubling details about things that shake Bill to his core, and lead to more questions than answers.

Bill Price appears to be an average middle-aged man who has been thrown into some extraordinary and tragic circumstances. He is overcome with grief, shock, and occasional bouts of rage, and has some secrets of his own that he’d prefer to keep buried. His sister Paige is his only real confidante as he tries to find the truth about what happened to Summer on his own. The beleaguered lead detective, Detective Hawkins, has his work cut out for him with Bill’s attempts to find the person responsible alternately hindering and helping the investigation.

The story is told exclusively from Bill’s perspective, so readers only know what he knows as the investigation unfolds. Bill is not the most sympathetic of characters; at times he is downright unlikeable in spite of the circumstances. Readers will be drawn in through the mystery and the unexpected twists and supporting characters will keep them engaged. Getting to know Summer, Paige, and Bill’s late wife Julia, albeit through Bill’s eyes, gives the book depth and warmth and gives readers characters to connect with and root for. Aside from the unlikeability of the main character, the story is well written and intriguing. The unpredictable plot twists are a pleasant surprise amidst the oversaturated mystery genre. Violence and strong allusions to sexual assault are mentioned but not graphically described.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “Nightshades” by Melissa F. Olson

A review by Amanda.

Vampires, more commonly known as shades, are terrorizing Chicago. Teenagers have gone missing and bodies are turning up, and Chicago’s newly formed Bureau of Preternatural Investigations has been tasked with hunting down the shades responsible. The recently promoted Special Agent-In-Charge, Alex McKenna, and his team will have to think outside of the box to catch these bad guys. Alex goes farther beyond the box than any other agent has by adding a shade to the team, hoping to use her wealth of inside information to gain the advantage. Perhaps, in extreme cases, only a shade can catch a shade.

Lindy Frederick has gone “mainstream” for the last several decades, forgoing her kind’s habit of living off the grid. She’s worked hard to blend in and put the past behind her, using her knowledge of languages to work as a translator. Working for the BPI puts her human pretense at risk, but the shades who have been taking the teens are risking exposing everyone and Lindy has to decide for herself which risk is greater. She agrees to join Alex’s team under the condition that her human cover stays intact. Can they put their prejudices aside to solve this case, before anyone else goes missing?

Nightshades reads as a police procedural with a supernatural bend. It is quick-paced and a bit dry, but definitely not boring. The twist on the overused vampire mythology is different enough to be entertaining rather than predictable. The characters do not have a ton of depth. There is definitely room for growth and further development for each of main characters but they are all interesting people. I found myself wanting to keep reading so I could get to know them better. The author has set the stage beautifully for a sequel, which I will read without hesitation.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “A Criminal Magic” by Lee Kelly

BOOK TOUR Review, "A Criminal Magic" by Lee Kelly

A review by Domoni.

Joan is desperate to take care of her family. Since the awful day her mother died, her main concern is caring for her young sister Ruby and making sure to keep a roof over the heads of her sister, cousin, and even the uncle she despises. Their family barely survives off the money they make selling her uncle’s shine. In Prohibition times, the bottled magic gives a high that can’t be beat. But that magic is illegal and since her uncle drinks as much as he makes, the money doesn’t come in as much as it is needed. Joan hid her own magic abilities from everyone in her life. Until the day that Gunn came offering her uncle an opportunity to turn their fortunes around.  When her uncle Jeb’s wasted form doesn’t impress the gangster, Joan steps up and confesses her abilities. Now she is caught up in a job that could save her family, or ruin her.

Alex despises magic and its allure. He used to help his father bottle shine before his father’s arrest. Then he hid his abilities and even began training to become a Prohibition agent. He claims to hate magic, but really he just hates the life he lost with his father’s arrest. When he is brought before some top Prohibition agents and unmasked as a sorcerer, he can either go undercover as a sorcerer to the mob, or face prosecution of his own. Maybe he can get back the life he wants, but trying to take down this gang could take all he has left.

This book takes place in an alternate reality. The time of Prohibition and gangs ruling the streets are alive and well, but magic is the center, not alcohol. The world the author created was a shadow to the story though. I found myself often forgetting the era that was supposed to be portrayed. It could literally be anytime or place. So if you are looking for a story that embraces the mob culture, this is not it.  That does not make this a bad story though. I did enjoy the tale.

Joan and Alex are well developed characters with personalities and conflicts that evolve and grow through the story. With their evolution, my enjoyment and opinions of the characters also changed. I found myself becoming more invested in Alex as time passed and more disappointed in Joan. The smaller characters were not as fleshed out and I do wish there was a bit more about them included in the story. In the end, the idea of the story itself held me more than the events taking place in the pages of this book.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: "A Criminal Magic" by Lee Kelly

A Criminal Magic
Lee Kelly
Publication date: February 2nd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult

THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets THE PEAKY BLINDERS in Lee Kelly’s new crossover fantasy novel.

Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive – and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.

It’s 1926 in Washington, DC, and while Anti-Sorcery activists have achieved the Prohibition of sorcery, the city’s magic underworld is booming. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Smugglers funnel magic contraband in from overseas. Gangs have established secret performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer’s shine.

Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.

Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous world of criminal magic – and when their paths cross at the Shaws’ performance venue, despite their orders, and despite themselves, Joan and Alex become enchanted with one another. But when gang alliances begin to shift, the two sorcerers are forced to question their ultimate allegiances and motivations. And soon, Joan and Alex find themselves pitted against each other in a treacherous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.

A CRIMINAL MAGIC casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iTunes / Kobo

 

Lee Kelly

Author Bio:

Lee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper. An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced law in Los Angeles and New York. She lives with her husband and children in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she can’t help but still call herself a New Yorker. She is the author of A Criminal Magic and City of Savages. Visit her at http://www.NewWriteCity.com.

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Fangirl Book Club Pick of the Month: “First Grave On The Right (Charley Davidson #1)” by Darynda Jones

Every month, our club votes on the book that we will read for that month. August’s winning book was First Grave On The Right by Darynda Jones. The following review is based on a verbal discussion at August’s meeting.

Spoiler-­free Synopsis:

Charley Davidson is a private detective with a unique edge on her competition – she can see and speak with ghosts. Working alongside her assistant Cookie, and her police detective Uncle Bob (also known as Ubie), Charley has a reputation for closing difficult cases. She also has a reputation for talking to people that no one else can see, and for being a snarky, strange lady who gives nicknames to body parts and inanimate objects, but that’s beside the point. Life is business as usual until the case that she’s on takes an unexpected turn, bringing a mysterious savior from her past back into her world. Cue the sexy dreams and sexual frustration…

What We Liked:

We had quite the discussion about this book at August’s meeting. A few members had read this series before and enjoyed the chance to start it over. Most of those who read it for the first time were hooked and immediately hunted down book two, Second Grave On The Left, to continue the series. Fans loved Charley and her unfiltered snark, Cookie’s unflinching loyalty in the face of extreme weirdness, and the sexy times starring Reyes Farrow. The chapter headings were a huge hit, featuring hilarious quotes from t-shirts, bumper stickers, and Charley herself. The plot kept us interested by switching between the main case that Charley worked with the police, one of her own PI cases, and her personal dramas, sometimes intertwining in unexpected ways. Charley was engaging, charismatic, and someone that we wanted to be BFFs with. She was oddly relatable, with her humor, flaws, and coffee addiction. Her friendship with Cookie gave us definite Squad Goals. Several members reported reading parts of the book out loud to family members and laughing aloud frequently. The story went by faster than expected; once we began reading it was difficult to put it down again.

What We Didn’t Like:

As for the downsides, there were only a couple of issues that came up in the discussion. First, as it’s the first book in a series, there was a lot of information given to set the world up and some members felt like parts were rushed. There appeared to be some gaps in information as well, although those are likely cleared up in future books. The interactions between Reyes and Charley bothered a few because they felt forced and one-sided. Perhaps because so many members related to her on a personal level, we felt somewhat protective of Charley and concern was expressed at Reyes’ callous behavior. Our collective hope is that this changes in future books, and we are eager to keep reading to make sure that Charley gets a happy ending, no matter who she ends up with!

Fangirl Rating: 4/5 stars

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Review: “Fight Club 2” by Chuck Palahniuk and David Mack

"Fight Club 2" by Chuck Palahniuk and David Mack

A review by Domoni.

Fight Club 2 picks up 10 years after the original ended. Sebastian, the nameless narrator from the first book, is now married to Marla and they have a son. Living a basic 9 to 5 lifestyle, full of work, family and psychiatric medications, his fight club days are long past. Marla however feels like their love life has gotten a little boring, so she has been switching out some of his meds for placebos. A little bit of Tyler Durden in the night keeps her happy. But crazy slips easily through the cracks. Tyler is back and up to no good.

Many people in the world, not just Marla, were out to bring Tyler back from Sebastian’s subconscious. Tyler Durden is a genetic mental illness that can spread apparently. He is still plotting the end of the world and can control not just Sebastian, but Sebastian and Marla’s son as well. When he kidnaps the boy the parents go separate ways to find him.

Sebastian returns to the club. He infiltrates the group to find out where Tyler is holding his son and what his plans are. Marla goes back to a support group. She connects with a group of kids with Progeria and manipulates them into becoming her own tiny aged army. When the boy is located and Tyler’s plan to create his own sort of Noah’s ark comes out, will they save the planet?

So this sequel is in graphic novel form, which I was excited about. Reading it in the serials will probably be more difficult than the full omnibus edition though, because this book is kind of a mess. I was very let down by the chaos and the poor storyline. The writer injecting himself in such an odd way and addressing his readers dislike of the series was even more odd.

Even discussing the book is difficult as it was all over the place and chaotic to read. I did not enjoy it and doubt I will return for the proposed fight club 3. The last portion of the omnibus edition contains some interesting art and bits from the original as well as conversations about the planning of the books and was somewhat interesting to read through.

The art style was very impressive and my favorite part of the book. I enjoyed the line work and the watercolor dividers. I wish the story had held up as well as the graphics.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 2/5 stars.

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