Book Review: Book of Night by Holly Black

Book of Night on wooden background surrounded by a black crow, blue candle, black books, a black quill, and scattered pages

Book of Night Book CoverTitle: Book of Night
Author: Holly Black
Genre: Fantasy
Date of Publication: May 3, 2022
Publisher: Tor Books


Synopsis

#1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black makes her stunning adult debut with Book of Night, a modern dark fantasy of shadowy thieves and secret societies in the vein of Ninth House and The Night Circus

In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.

Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.

With sharp angles and prose, and a sinister bent, Holly Black is a master of shadow and story stitching. Remember while you read, light isn’t playing tricks in Book of Night, the people are.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Book of Night is Holly Black’s debut adult fantasy novel. Her style is so beautiful, and her worldbuilding is phenomenal. I loved her wild imagination and how the magic of shadows works in such complex, yet logical ways. The unique shadow magic that she’s developed is ubiquitous in the world, and the author expertly inserts the worldbuilding and casual mentions to this magic throughout the book. That said, the beginning does feel a little information dumpy, particularly with regards to the different types of magic and the different types of people who can manipulate shadows. 

Holly Black has a way with words, where everything she writes feels lyrical and poignant. I highlighted dozens of lines in the book itself, but since I had an arc and didn’t feel like checking out the “finished copy” I can’t share them here. But seriously, wow. You’ll just have to check out the book yourself to know what I mean 😉 

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Book Review: Unforgiven by Rebecca Zanetti

cover249572-mediumTitle: Unforgiven 
Author: Rebecca Zanetti
Genre: Thriller, Romantic Suspense
Series: Deep Ops #5
Date of Publication: June 7, 2022
Publisher: Kensington Books, Lyrical Press


Synopsis

Run:
Gemma Falls never expected to use her game theory expertise to outrun a killer. But for years, that skill is all that kept her one step ahead of a deadly stalker. When Gemma gets the chance to teach at D.C. University, she hopes she and her young daughter have found a safe harbor. The only flaw is the arrogant philosophy professor who’s always underfoot giving unwanted advice—in his sexy British accent . . .

Hide:
Jethro Hanson has blood on his hands. He’s working within ivy-covered university halls now, but he knows that his work with the Deep Ops team and the deadly acts he once committed for the sake of Queen and country place him beyond forgiveness—until he meets Gemma . . .

Seek:
Soon, the passion between them stuns them both. But when Jethro discovers a threat is fast overtaking her, he must choose between the redemption he seeks—and releasing the ever-present killer inside . . . 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Gemma Falls is a single mother who’s been on the run from her child’s abusive father for years–ever since she found out she was pregnant and made her escape. She manages to orchestrate a temporary job for herself as a professor at a university outside of DC, but her new life is far from easy. She doesn’t have much money, and a fellow professor, a handsome Brit, is paying her far too much attention. It turns out that he has secrets of his own–ones that put the both of them in grave danger.

This book was not at all what I was expecting! While Gemma’s backstory is one of the plots of the book, the main premise surrounds Professor Jethro Hanson, a former MI6 operative who now works as a professor. A serial killer who he hunted in his previous life has crossed the pond to target him–and whoever he cares about. Unfortunately for Gemma and her daughter, that now includes them.

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Book Review: Wicked Beauty by Katee Robert

Wicked Beauty book surrounded by black and gold books, a black candle, and black roses

58945351Title: Wicked Beauty
Author: Katee Robert
Genre: Romance, Paranormal Romance
Series:  Dark Olympus #3
Date of Publication: June 7, 2022
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca


Synopsis

She was the face that launched a thousand ships,
The fierce beauty at the heart of Olympus,
And she was never ours to claim.
*A scorchingly hot modern retelling of Helen of Troy, Achilles, and Patroclus that’s as sinful as it is sweet.*

In Olympus, you either have the power to rule…or you are ruled. Achilles Kallis may have been born with nothing, but as a child he vowed he would claw his way into the poisonous city’s inner circle. Now that a coveted role has opened to anyone with the strength to claim it, he and his partner, Patroclus Fotos, plan to compete and double their odds of winning.

Neither expect infamous beauty Helen Kasios to be part of the prize…or for the complicated fire that burns the moment she looks their way.

Zeus may have decided Helen is his to give to away, but she has her own plans. She enters into the competition as a middle finger to the meddling Thirteen rulers, effectively vying for her own hand in marriage. Unfortunately, there are those who would rather see her dead than lead the city. The only people she can trust are the ones she can’t keep her hands off—Achilles and Patroclus. But can she really believe they have her best interests at heart when every stolen kiss is a battlefield? 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Wicked Beauty is the third steamy and suspenseful paranormal romance with a plotline that reminded me of an adult Triwizard Tournament from Harry Potter.

This book is a little different from the first two books in the series, in that it doesn’t feature an MF couple, but an MMF couple. Achilles and Patroclus have been together for over a decade. Achilles wants nothing more than to become the new Ares, so when the current Ares dies and trials are set up to appoint someone to replace him, he’s eager to prove that he’s the best for the job. The problem is that anyone can enter these trials, including non-Olympians. Patroclus also enters the competition as an ally for Achilles, so that he can help him as far along as he can. But what they don’t bank on? The beautiful Helen Kasios entering the trials, especially when part of the prize is supposed to be her hand as a wife. 

Helen is the sister to the new Zeus and her other sister is Aphrodite, and she’s tired of being a pawn and viewed as nothing more than an object because of her extreme beauty. She wants to become Ares–not just to prove herself to her family and everyone else in Olympus, but because she wants to have a meaningful impact on the city she loves. 

I loved the dynamic between Helen and the couple, though I did get a little bit of whiplash and feel weird about it at first, because Achilles and Patroclus have been a couple for so long, and their jealousy of each other and Helen gave me cheating vibes. Fortunately, that clears up rather quickly, and all three of them end up becoming the perfect throuple. However, the book does end rather abruptly, and it might have benefited from either an epilogue or a scene set a little while after the end of the main events of the book to cement their relationship as a success. 

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Book Review: Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel

Just like Mother book surrounded by blue blanket, white flowers, and a blue burning candle

Just like motherTitle: Just Like Mother
Author: Anne Heltzel
Genre: Thriller, Horror
Date of Publication: May 17, 2022
Publisher: Nightfire


Synopsis

A girl would be such a blessing…

The last time Maeve saw her cousin was the night she escaped the cult they were raised in. For the past two decades, Maeve has worked hard to build a normal life in New York City, where she keeps everything—and everyone—at a safe distance.

When Andrea suddenly reappears, Maeve regains the only true friend she’s ever had. Soon she’s spending more time at Andrea’s remote Catskills estate than in her own cramped apartment. Maeve doesn’t even mind that her cousin’s wealthy work friends clearly disapprove of her single lifestyle. After all, Andrea has made her fortune in the fertility industry—baby fever comes with the territory.

The more Maeve immerses herself in Andrea’s world, the more disconnected she feels from her life back in the city; and the cousins’ increasing attachment triggers memories Maeve has fought hard to bury. But confronting the terrors of her childhood may be the only way for Maeve to transcend the nightmare still to come…

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Just Like Mother is an atmospheric, twisted story that starts off innocuous enough, but gradually evolves into a horrific nightmare fuel.  

After an explosive first chapter, the novel is slow paced as Heltzel sets the stage for what eventually becomes a twisted and disturbing story. At first, the book reads like a mild psychological thriller, but the author gradually weaves in the terror until a horrifying and quite satisfying conclusion. The pacing reflects this, in that it’s quite slow to start, but the events gain momentum as the story progresses, leading to a book that no one can question being a true horror novel.

Maeve is a survivor from a cult, which was disbanded when she was only eight years old, but the damage is long lasting. The book mostly focuses on present day events, when Maeve is thirty-three years old, but there are flashbacks throughout. They almost read as an additional timeline, but they jump back and forth. The majority of the flashbacks are to when Maeve has already left the cult and is adopted by a nice elderly couple. I was initially disappointed by this – why read a book about a cult without flashbacks to the horrors of the cult? But Heltzel’s writing is far more subtle than that. Sure, we’re following Maeve after the “good stuff” has happened, but we can infer a heck of a lot from observing her time being integrated into normal society afterward. We can glean the gist of what happened to her from her reactions and interpretations of the world around her. This allows the reader to use their imagination, with just enough handholding and flashbacks to her time at the commune to truly traumatize the reader. 

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Book Review: In the Midst of Magic by Christian Cura

In the Midst of Magic surrounded by a crystal ball, blue candle, black books, and a black skull

58995486._SY475_Title: In the Midst of Magic 
Author: Christian Cura
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Date of Publication: June 4, 2022
Publisher: Self-published


Synopsis

Meet Kara Hartman, a photojournalist who is hiding her magic from the world. Traumatized by her brother’s death, she wants nothing more to do with magic. But just when she thought she could neglect her gift, it becomes apparent that the universe has other plans for Kara. When she discovers that an old foe has broken out of prison, hellbent on destroying her new life, Kara has no choice but to embrace the only power that can stop her.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

In the Midst of Magic is an epic fantasy story set in modern day America. It has it all–action, romance, betrayals, all in the midst of magic (See what I did there?)

Right on the very first page, we’re dropped into the action. While the world that Cura has created is complex and dynamic, very little time is spent on worldbuilding at the beginning, which is perfect for those who aren’t fans of exposition or information dumps. It seems like most fantasy novels have those early few chapters which are spent explaining to the reader how the world works, which sometimes feels like reading a textbook. With this novel, I found it quite easy to slip into the magical world the author created. While the worldbuilding is scant in the beginning of the book, Cura makes up for it with plenty of theology and backstory for characters, with explanations for why the world is the way it is, all inserted into the narrative at the appropriate spots.

This novel has many strong female characters (almost exclusively!) which I greatly appreciated. Kara, the protagonist, is a photojournalist, and she’s hiding her magic from the world ever since her best friend’s betrayal, which resulted in her brother’s untimely demise. But when she witnesses a rogue demon hunter in action, she’s required to expose herself, using her magic to save innocent lives. I liked Kara a lot as a protagonist. She’s strong, yet vulnerable. She carries a lot of guilt about what happened to her brother, and she’s in denial about who she is. Selene, the rogue demon hunter, is a total bada$$, but she has her softer side too, which she gradually reveals to Kara as the novel progresses. This book has a romantic subplot between Kara and Selene, but it by no means overshadows the overall plotline. It’s quite sweet, and it provides some much-needed breaks from all the action sequences!

Action packed with detailed fight scenes, this book would make for a fabulous TV show. With the ensemble cast, dynamic worldbuilding, and lots of cliffhangers, I could easily see this book as a limited series or even a movie.

At one point, a character says “they’re a hybrid of Harry Potter and Robocop”, which is a perfect way to describe this fast-paced, action-oriented book.

In the Midst of Magic surrounded by a crystal ball, blue candle, black books, and a black skull

*Thank you to the author for the ebook to review*

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Book Review: A Final Call by Eliot Parker

A FInal call on wooden background with a blue candle, notebook, pen, a forensic science book and a pair of binoculars

59148763._SY475_Title: A Final Call 
Author: Eliot Parker
Genre: Mystery, thriller
Date of Publication: October 19, 2021
Publisher: Headline Books


Synopsis

Cleveland Homicide Detective Stacy Tavitt is contacted by a former college classmate who asks for help in finding her missing son, Colton. Still reeling physically and emotionally from her last investigation—which led to the disappearance of her brother–Stacy reluctantly agrees. At first, there is little reason to suspect foul play in his disappearance until he becomes the primary suspect in the murder of an ex-girlfriend. It’s a race against the clock as Stacy tries to find out what happened to her brother and clear his name, all while stopping a lethal killer who continues to target the friends and family connected to Colton. Beset by threats inside and outside of her life, Stacy must go to great lengths to find a killer and save her brother.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

A Final Call is a fast-paced procedural thrill ride, chock full of twists and genuine surprises in the plot. Told in third person, we get multiple perspectives throughout the book, which layers on levels of depth to an original storyline and engaging voice.

The heroine, Detective Stacy Tavitt, is far from perfect, making her the perfect protagonist. She’s dedicated to her job, but after her brother, Chance, went missing, she’s been driven to find him–no matter the cost. In addition to these conflicting drives, she also has a medical condition that impairs her ability to do her job. She has something called ‘thoracic outlet syndrome’, which makes it difficult for her to breathe at times, causing her to pass out and require oxygen. This adds yet another layer of suspense to the novel, because she’s vulnerable, and you never know when an attack might flare up, putting her in even more danger. Though, her condition does make her more reckless than I would have liked (Maybe don’t run into a burning building when your lungs can barely handle a jog through the woods?) As if all this isn’t enough to make Stacy a memorable heroine, she also has complex relationships with her coworkers and family members, which adds yet more drama and tension to an already engaging story.

I recommend this book to those looking for a jam-packed thrill ride with lots of twists and an intriguingly unique protagonist. 

A FInal call on wooden background with a blue candle, notebook, pen, a forensic science book and a

*Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours and the author for the ebook to review*

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Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft

A Far Wilder Magic book surrounded by yellow flowers, pine cones, a green candle, and stacks of books

48909025Title: A Far Wilder Magic 
Author: Allison Saft
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Date of Publication: March 8, 2022
Publisher: Wednesday Books


Synopsis

When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. If Margaret wins the hunt, it may finally bring her mother home. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist.

Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist–yet. Fired from every apprenticeship he’s landed, his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret and her bloodhound Trouble. Margaret begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.

Although they make an unlikely team, Wes is in awe of the girl who has endured alone on the outskirts of a town that doesn’t want her, in this creaking house of ghosts and sorrow. And even though Wes disrupts every aspect of her life, Margaret is drawn to him. He, too, knows what it’s like to be an outsider. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt – if they survive that long.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

A Far Wilder Magic is a unique, epic young adult fantasy with a splash of romance. 

The world that Allison Saft has created is unique and intricately crafted. As a somewhat casual fantasy reader, the level of depth of the worldbuilding was at times overwhelming. The beginning of the book had quite a bit of information for me to consume and interpret before the action begins. Once I pushed through that part, the book became compelling enough that I wouldn’t have been able to stop reading if you’d paid me. 

The novel’s world is full of magic and mystery, and the writing style reflects this original approach. The book feels like it could be set in a present day world where magic reigns. There’s mention of modern technology, but the book has a bit of a medieval fantasy edge to the plot, setting, and language used. The author’s writing style, while antiquated, has quite a bit of dry humor and hilarious lines interspersed in the descriptive language. 

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Book Review: The No-Show by Beth O’Leary

The No Show book on a blue book cart with blue flowers in a little vase

cover233033-mediumTitle:The No-Show
Author: Beth O’Leary
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
Date of Publication: April 12, 2022
Publisher: Berkley


Synopsis

Three women who seemingly have nothing in common find that they’re involved with the same man in this smart new rom-com by Beth O’Leary, bestselling author of The Flatshare.

Siobhan is a quick-tempered life coach with way too much on her plate. Miranda is a tree surgeon used to being treated as just one of the guys on the job. Jane is a soft-spoken volunteer for the local charity shop with zero sense of self-worth.

These three women are strangers who have only one thing in common: They’ve all been stood up on the same day, the very worst day to be stood up–Valentine’s Day. And, unbeknownst to them, they’ve all been stood up by the same man.

Once they’ve each forgiven him for standing them up, they let him back into their lives and are in serious danger of falling in love with a man who seems to have not just one or two but three women on the go….

Is there more to him than meets the eye? And will they each untangle the truth before they all get their hearts broken? 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

The No-Show follows three women after being stood up on Valentine’s Day. Siobhan is stood up at breakfast, Miranda, at lunch, and Jane at dinner. These three women could not be more different. Siobhan is a life coach from Ireland who flies into London occasionally for work, and meets up with a man she’s casually seeing on the first Friday of every month. Miranda is a tree surgeon (which is like a lumberjack in the UK, I guess?) who’s dating a lawyer who could not be more different from her. Jane volunteers at a charity shop, has very rigid rules–including that she doesn’t date. She asks her coffee shop friend to be her fake date for a work event she’s committed to. What do all these women have in common? They’ve all been stood up on Valentine’s Day. By the same man. 

This book is more of a women’s fiction than a romance, similar to the author’s book The Switch. If you read it through that lens, it’s quite enjoyable, and while there is some romance, it definitely takes a back seat to the story.

All three women are flawed and have a lot of character growth and growing up to do. The plot is complex, and while the major twist of the book is predictable, I still kept reading, because I couldn’t quite figure out how O’Leary was planning to pull it all off. 

Continue reading “Book Review: The No-Show by Beth O’Leary”

Book Review: The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters

45701350Title: The Dead Girls Club
Author: Damien Angelica Walters
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Date of Publication: December 10, 2019
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books


Synopsis

Red Lady, Red Lady, show us your face…

In 1991, Heather Cole and her friends were members of the Dead Girls Club. Obsessed with the macabre, the girls exchanged stories about serial killers and imaginary monsters, like the Red Lady, the spirit of a vengeful witch killed centuries before. Heather knew the stories were just that, until her best friend Becca began insisting the Red Lady was real–and she could prove it.

That belief got Becca killed.

It’s been nearly thirty years, but Heather has never told anyone what really happened that night–that Becca was right and the Red Lady was real. She’s done her best to put that fateful summer, Becca, and the Red Lady, behind her. Until a familiar necklace arrives in the mail, a necklace Heather hasn’t seen since the night Becca died.

The night Heather killed her.

Now, someone else knows what she did…and they’re determined to make Heather pay. 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

“The Dead Girls Club” is a slow-paced, riveting horror novel that keeps readers on their toes from start to finish. 

The novel is told in dual timelines. In the past, twelve-year-old Heather and her friends were members of “The Dead Girls Club”, where they shared their interest in the macabre, from telling ghost stories to talking about true crime. It’s just harmless fun, but when Heather’s friend, Becca, becomes obsessed with the story of the “Red Lady”, things become a lot more sinister.  Is the Red Lady embellished fact or pure fiction? The lines begin to blur for both Heather and the reader. The present day timeline is set decades later, where Becca has been missing for years and Heather has become a child psychologist. One day in the office, Heather receives a mysterious message from someone who might just know what happened to Becca years ago. But how does Heather know that these messages aren’t coming from Becca herself? Because she killed her. 

This book is compelling, and while we know the outcome of the past timeline right away, it is still unputdownable. How Becca’s death happens is unknown to the reader, and there are a few startling twists along the way. 

Heather is a sympathetic protagonist, and it’s clear that the guilt from what she did has been weighing on her all these years. The anxiety that she feels is almost palpable in the writing. Little things, like the way that she picks at her cuticles until they bleed, are realistic, disturbing, and incite higher stress levels in the reader. 

The book is gruesome at parts, and the tension never truly lets up. As the book progresses, Heather grows more and more obsessed with figuring out who’s reaching out to her, and her own sanity starts to come into question. 

All in all, this is an enjoyable read, but not for the faint of heart!

The Dead Girls Club book cover surrounded by pink flowers, pink books, and a candle, on a black backdrop

*Thank you to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for the ebook to review*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Resting Place by Camilla Sten

57693360Title: The Resting Place
Author: Camilla Sten
Genre:  Horror, Thriller
Date of Publication: March 29, 2022
Publisher: Minotaur Books


Synopsis

The medical term is prosopagnosia. The average person calls it face blindness—the inability to recognize a familiar person’s face, even the faces of those closest to you.

When Eleanor walked in on the scene of her capriciously cruel grandmother, Vivianne’s, murder, she came face to face with the killer—a maddening expression that means nothing to someone like her. With each passing day, her anxiety mounts. The dark feelings of having brushed by a killer, yet not know who could do this—or if they’d be back—overtakes both her dreams and her waking moments, thwarting her perception of reality.

Then a lawyer calls. Vivianne has left her a house—a looming estate tucked away in the Swedish woods. The place her grandfather died, suddenly. A place that has housed a dark past for over fifty years.

Eleanor. Her steadfast boyfriend, Sebastian. Her reckless aunt, Veronika. The lawyer. All will go to this house of secrets, looking for answers. But as they get closer to bringing the truth to light, they’ll wish they had never come to disturb what rests there.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

The Resting Place is a slow-paced horror/thriller with a novel premise and lyrical prose. 

The novel is told in two timelines. In the present day chapters, Eleanor is venturing into the secret mansion that her grandmother bequeathed her in her will. She’s accompanied by her boyfriend, her aunt, and a lawyer. She had never even known that her grandmother had this mansion out in the middle of nowhere, and there is a lot of mystery surrounding why she would keep this place a secret. Five months ago, Eleanor’s grandmother had been murdered, and Eleanor saw the killer. The catch? She suffers from prosopagnosia–a rare mental disorder that makes her unable to recognize faces. She can’t recognize anyone, not her boyfriend of six years, her grandmother, or even the woman staring back at her in her reflection. The killer could be right in front of her, and she would never know. 

The past timeline is diary entries written in the 1960s, following a young woman, Anushka, who works as a maid for Eleanor’s grandmother. This storyline is much slower paced, though these chapters are quite short and span over a much greater amount of time. 

The psychological aspects of the story go far beyond just Eleanor’s inability to recognize faces. Her grandmother, Vivian, was mentally abusive, and even in death, the effects of her maltreatment resonate throughout the narrative. Eleanor regularly has intrusive thoughts–critical, cruel asides in the voice of her grandmother. This adds to the suspense in otherwise slow-paced scenes, racketing up the tension, as these comments and insertions are far from benign. 

This book, while slow paced, is engaging and unputdownable. I read it for the POPSUGAR reading challenge category “Read in one sitting”, and I literally didn’t get up once, not even for a bathroom break! (Granted, I was on a plane, so I really didn’t want to get up!)  I thought I’d predicted the end of the story early on, and while I had some aspects figured out, the twists were well plotted out and cleverly surprised me in the end. 

One thing that I do want to point out is that Eleanor’s inability to recognize faces didn’t play as big of a role in the plot as I’d been hoping. I saw the Milla Jovovich film “Faces in the Crowd” years ago, where Jovovich played a character with this same condition. Part of the suspense in that film was that she never truly knew who she was interacting with, and anyone could be the killer, even those she trusted. In this book, while her prosopagnosia is critical to the main premise of the book, the rest of the story only has a handful of characters. The book would have been more suspenseful had she regularly encountered strangers or acquaintances and constantly questioned if they could have been the killer. 

All in all, this is a suspenseful, beautifully written psychological thriller. 

*Thank you to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for the ebook to review*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon