Book Review: The Hiding Place by C. J. Tudor

The Hiding Place book photo

The Hiding Place book cover

Title: The Hiding Place
Author: C. J. Tudor
Genre: Non-fiction
Date of Publication: February 5, 2019
Publisher: Crown Publishing


Joe Thorne never thought he’d return to Arnhill, the little northern England town where he grew up, but he finds himself taking a job as a teacher at the local school.  But he doesn’t take the job because he’s desperate for an income, or even because he’s driven to help the students.  Something terrible happened in this town when he was a child, and he thinks that it might be happening again.


I was enthralled by The Hiding Place from cover to cover.  This is one of the most engaging books I’ve read in a while.  Giving it 5 stars was a no-brainer.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes that feel of Gothic horror without it being too terrifying to be able to sleep afterwards.

While insanely atmospheric, C. J. Tudor keeps the plot moving forward.  There are numerous extended flashbacks to Joe’s schoolboy days, slowly revealing what really happened twenty years ago.  The book is incredibly creepy, but I wouldn’t quite classify this book as a horror, although towards the end things definitely turn… horrific.

There are quite a few twists in this story. A few of them I saw coming a mile away, but I didn’t mind.  The tumultuous journey towards these twists was so damn appealing.  


While I’m beginning to tire of the trope of the main character being incredibly flawed and unlikeable, this book is an exception. Joe Thorne is a liar. He’s a coward.  He’s a tad narcissistic.  He even has a limp and a gambling addiction which contribute to the myriad of problems he faces in the book.  But he still has a spark of likeability, and I think it’s because of a combination of two things. He’s got a great sense of humour—that dry sarcasm that I greatly appreciate in a protagonist. He also feels terribly about how he handled things when he was child, and he’s hoping to make up for his mistakes.  All these characteristics make for a dynamic and fascinating main character.


This book wouldn’t be so mind-blowing if it weren’t impeccably written.  C. J. Tudor has a gift for language, and she had more than a handful of lines that gave me chills. That said, occasionally the book bordered on pretentious.  Joe Thorne has a lot of observations about the world, and occasionally I would cringe at how ostentatious he was coming across.  That said, I really didn’t notice this too much until towards the end, and by then I was so invested that it would have taken a sledgehammer of prose to get me to quit reading.

The Hiding Place book photo

While this book has supernatural elements, it shares a lot in common with the typical psychological thriller that it would appeal to everyone, except for people who detest anything remotely fantastical with every ounce of their bones. I recommend this who wants to read a spooky story set in a small town that’s rife with a dark history, muddy present, and unclear future.


*Thank you to Crown Publishing and Netgalley for the ARC for review*

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Book Review: The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis

The boy in the suitcase picture

The Boy in the Suitcase book cover

Title: The Boy in the Suitcase
Author: Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis
Series: Nina Borg

Genre: Thriller 
Date of Publication: November 8, 2011
Publisher: Soho Crime 


Nina Borg’s old friend Karin gives her a key and tells her to follow her vague instructions, to go to the train station to pick up what’s in a locker, no questions asked. When Nina does this, she finds a suitcase with a tiny three-year-old boy inside. He’s still alive.  Nina hurries back to Karin to demand answers, but she discovers that her friend has been brutally murdered. Nina knows that her life–and the little boy’s–are also in danger.


The book begins by providing the points of view of several seemingly unconnected characters in quick succession. It was confusing, and not at all representative of the rest of the book, which was much easier to follow.  One of the characters that we follow from the beginning is Sigita, the mother of the little boy who was abducted.

The book is very fast-paced, but there are quite a few (quick) flashbacks that bog down the storytelling. The story probably could have been told in a hundred fewer pages.  There is one twist in the novel, which is revealed towards the end; however, it’s quite predictable, with the clues clearly laid out so that I saw it coming less than halfway through the book.  That said, the storytelling is intriguing and it’s a very quick read.


I did find that the characters were hard to relate to.  Told in third-person perspective, we never truly get into the heads of the characters–not even Nina, the main character.  I didn’t quite find that the emotions that different characters were feeling were carrying through in the writing.  For example, Sigita wasn’t panicking enough for my liking. If my child was kidnapped I’d probably spend about twenty minutes rolling on the floor in pure terror. Especially considering the circumstances surrounding her child’s abduction. She didn’t really think her husband had taken him. She knew from the start that he was taken by strangers.

The boy in the suitcase picture

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to dip their toes into a Nordic Noir mystery, but doesn’t know where to start. It isn’t as dark as others I’ve read, and it’s much easier to follow–both because of the writing style and because there aren’t quite as many different characters to keep track of.


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Book Review: Androcide by Erec Stebbins

Androcide book photo

Androcide book cover

Title: Androcide
Author: Erec Stebbins
Genre: Mystery, Action, Spy
Date of Publication: September 26, 2017
Series: Intel 1 # 5
Publisher: Twice Pi Press


A serial killer targetting men is on the loose, leaving their mutilated bodies on display for women to find.  Meanwhile, Intel 1, a top-secret government agency, is tracking down the elusive Nemesis in Tehran… But how are these two stories connected?


This novel isn’t just a mystery. Just like the Goodreads blurb says: It’s an espionage thriller, a bio-thriller, political satire, and a police procedural.

I hadn’t read the previous four instalments in the this book, yet I jumped into this book with ease.  There are a lot of characters, but they very distinct from one another and Stebbins introduces them gradually enough that they’re easy to keep track of.

There are two main plotlines that are seemingly completely isolated from one another (at first).  There is a serial killer named the Eunuch Maker who is targetting men. Detective Tyrell Sacker is working with a PI named Grace Gone (LOVE her name AND her personality) to track down this elusive killer.

The second storyline follows the Intel 1 team, who I assume seasoned readers have already gotten to know in the previous four books in this series, as they complete a mission overseas.

These two stories are quite disparate, but Stebbins flows between them effortlessly.  That said, I preferred the storyline following the serial killer, but that might be because of my own twisted preferences.

Continue reading “Book Review: Androcide by Erec Stebbins”

Book Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Wicked Saints book display

Wicked saints book cover

Title: Wicked Saints
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Something Dark and Holy #1
Date of Publication: April 2, 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books


The countries of Tranavia and Kalyazi have been at war for over a century.  Kalyazi is the land of the divine, and Tranavia is the land of heretics.  Nadya is a cleric, one who has been hidden away in a monastery for her entire life because of her ability to commune with and channel the power of the gods.  But when Tranavians invade the monastery, killing everyone with their heretical blood magic, Nadya learns that her safe haven is no more. She must run if she’s to survive.  But she encounters some strangers in her travels, and they show her that she can’t run forever. She will have to fight if she wants to end the war and save her land from ruin.

~My Thoughts~

Wicked Saints is a non-stop thrill ride right from the very first pages. We are barely introduced to the main character, Nadya, before a battle erupts at the monastery she’s called home for her entire life.  

The novel also follows Serefin, the High Prince of Tranavia, who is a blood mage and a warrior.  While Nadya believes him to be a ruthless killer, he is revealed to be much more complicated than that.  

This novel has incessant action, which makes the worldbuilding even more impressive. Duncan weaves the intricate details of how the different types of magic work into the story just as the reader needs to know it. It never feels like an information dump. The plot plunges onwards far too quickly for me to feel like I was being bombarded with too much information.

Both types of magic–the power of the gods and the blood mages–are unique and fascinatingly executed.  Blood mages carry a book of spells, ripping out pages and activating them with their own blood. As a cleric, Nadya calls upon the favour of the gods, hoping that they will assist her when she needs their help the most.  

There is a fascinating recurring theme of faith throughout the novel, as Nadya grapples with her beliefs and what she’s coming to learn of the world she lives in.  

Nadya is a relatable, loveable main character. She wants to help those she cares about, she wants to protect her country, and she wants revenge against the mad king of Tranavia for all that she has lost.  Upon escaping the monastery, she meets several strangers, including a Tranavian. She wants to hate him just for what he is, but there’s something undeniably alluring about him. I won’t reveal more in fear of spoiling any twists, but their burgeoning relationship is a highlight of this book.  It isn’t overdone, by far it isn’t the focus of the story, but it is a compelling romance that kept me turning the pages.


Wicked Saints book display

Just like the advertisements say: This book is recommended to anyone looking for a blood-drenched young adult, high fantasy fairy tale. It’s not for the faint of heart, or for those who think that they can just put this book down and pick it up again a few days later. Nope, this is a consume-in-one-bite type of novel.


*Thank you to Wednesday Books and OLA Super Conference for the ARC for review*

Find the book:

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Book Review: Killing November by Adriana Mather

Killing November

Killing November book cover

Title: Killing November
Author: Adriana Mather
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery
Date of Publication: March 26, 2019
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers


When November Addley’s father sends her away to boarding school because it’s too dangerous back home, she doesn’t know what to expect. But she definitely doesn’t expect to be sent to a school that’s completely off the grid–with no access to the internet or even electricity. Classes range from poison to dagger-throwing, and November starts to question who her father really is. But she doesn’t have much time to worry about that.  Someone’s killing the students in the school, and November might be next…


This book is fast-paced and intriguing.  There’s a lot of mind-games being played by the teachers and the students, and it’s all explained in detail and incredibly interesting.  It’s definitely a major appeal that sets this book apart from the rest.  The book has quite a few twists along the road, and Mather effectively instills a sense of distrust in every one of the characters, despite the fact that the main character is an optimist.

There are a few tropes present in this story, none of which that I can go into depth over without spoiling major plot points.  However, despite these tropes, the plot is well executed (pun intended 😉 ) and not at all derivative of recurring themes you tend to see in young adult novels these days.  

Like any young adult book, this one has a little romance thrown into the mix, but it isn’t the main focus of the story (no the main focus is training in the art of deception and murder and whatnot).  The romance is cute and moves the story forward, rather than detracting from it.


It’s nice to read a young adult book where the main character is an extrovert. A lot of bookworms can relate to the introverted bookish protagonist, but it can get old pretty quickly.  Killing November is a refreshing take on the student-training-to-be-an-assassin trope. (She’s a friendly extrovert who loves people!? Not exactly what you’d expect from an expert knife thrower.)

Because November is at a school where everyone is hiding their true selves, Mather employs an interesting writing technique to help us get a better sense of who November is.  She frequently refers to her best friend Emily in her inner dialogue. The way that she talks about Emily and the things that Emily would say to her is very informative about November’s personality and past.
Killing November

I recommend this book to those looking for a quick read about people training in the arts of poison and deception. There’s a lot of politics and deceit, and it’s nothing like your typical high school drama.  I’m definitely looking forward to the next instalment in this series!


*Thank you to Knopf Books for Young Readers and OLA Super Conference for the ARC for review*

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Book Review: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

The Escape Room

the escape room book cover

Title: The Escape Room 
Author: Megan Goldin
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Date of Publication: July 30, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press


Four Wall Street finance hot shots are invited by their company to an escape room.  How bad can it be? The rules are simple: Solve the puzzles to escape. They quickly discover that this escape room is unlike any other: it’s in a cramped elevator.  The puzzles are also different from typical escape rooms. The questions are personal… and the stakes are high. There’s also one puzzle that’s up for the reader to solve. Which one of them is a killer?


The Escape Room is gripping from its very first page.  The writing is fast-paced and engaging.  While characters are fleshed out quite nicely and there is a lot of description and introspection, the plot never lags. Every word serves a special purpose, drawing the reader deeper and deeper into the pages.

There are two timelines in the novel. There’s the one with the escape room. Sylvie, Jules, Sam, and Vincent all work on the same team at Stanhope, a top-tier finance company.  The company has lost some big clients in the last quarter, and all four of them are worried about losing their jobs. And when they receive a strange invitation to an escape room, how can they to refuse?  

The second timeline follows Sara Hall as she gets her first job out of her MBA at Stanhope. She had wanted to become a doctor, but her parents are sick, and she needed a job that would pay right away so that she could cover their medical bills.  Once she arrives at Stanhope, she’s assigned to work closely with Sylvie, Jules, Sam, and Vincent…

Both timelines are engaging and fit seamlessly together. There are many little cliffhangers at the end of chapters that left me reading way past my bedtime.  The novel also has a lot of commentary on sexism in the workplace.  The world of finance is a particularly bad culprit for this.

My only complaint is that the escape room clues are a little on the nose. I found it a little unrealistic that these high-flying finance geniuses couldn’t solve the puzzles with a quick glance.  The first puzzle made sense–they wouldn’t expect it to be personal.  But after that?  One of the clues was a riddle that I heard and thought was clever in elementary school. The fact that it was a clue for adults made me chuckle.


As mentioned before, the novel is set at a top-tier finance firm on Wall Street.  Everything that Goldin writes emphasizes this. She does a lot of designer brand name dropping, which accentuates this quite nicely. She also does something that a lot of books don’t do–by putting price tags on everything.  Salaries, the cost of designer suits, etc. is all spelled out for the reader. For the average person like me, the cost of things was slightly stressful, which I think was the author’s purpose. Sara doesn’t have much money, and a lot of what she’s making has to go back to pay her parents’ medical bills and their rent, this writing technique instills the anxiety that Sara Hall feels about money into the reader.  Also, it made me think that maybe I should go back to school for an MBA.  


Sara Hall gets the first-person POV scenes.  She’s clearly the main character. She has quite a bit of character development, and she is a likeable and relatable protagonist.  Goldin shows the deterioration of her relationship with her family as Sara becomes more and more caught up in the world of finance.  The four people trapped in the elevator, on the other hand, are not at all likeable, which is clearly the point that the author was trying to make.  Vincent, Sam, Jules, and Sylvie are each loathsome in a unique way that has nothing to do with the fact that they’re money-grubbing and ambitious to a fault. This should have made each of the characters interchangeable (aren’t all Wall Street types the same?), but Goldin distinguishes them quite nicely in their flaws, with their complicated pasts, intriguing presents and uncertain futures.

The Escape Room

I recommend this book to anyone looking for an intense and quick read.  If you’re a slower reader, you shouldn’t pick this up too close to bedtime, or you’ll never get to sleep.


*Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for the ARC for review*

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Book Review: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Orange is the new black

orange is the new black

Title: Orange is the New Black
Author: Piper Kerman
Genre: Memoir
Tantor Media
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Date of Publication: 2010


Ten years ago, Piper Kerman made a mistake. She fell in love and became a criminal–transporting a suitcase of drug money across borders.  Now she has to pay the price:thirteen months imprisonment in a women’s minimum security prison. This book is her memoirs from this time.

My Thoughts

I came into this book expecting it to be like the TV show. I was pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t.  It isn’t an over the top or blatantly exaggerated or stereotyped version of what prison is like.  

While reading this book I had to keep in mind that it’s memoirs.  The odds are that Kerman is fudging the truth a little. This became apparent a few times. She talks a lot about overcoming adversity in the prison, and her relationships with the other women.  She doesn’t dwell on the negatives, which tells us a lot about her as a person, but weakens her message. Towards the middle of the book she mentions that it’s a ghetto, and that society has left people in this prison to rot.  I think this is ultimately the message that Kerman is trying to get across, and it becomes more obvious as the book progresses. The government and corrections workers were doing nothing to help these women reintegrate into society after they’ve finished their time. It’s the reason why so many ex-cons re-offend–because they aren’t able to succeed in the outside world. There’s one scene where the inmates are going through training on how to survive on the outside. Someone is giving them  a lecture on the type of roofing to have in their new homes. A woman raises her hand and asks how to find a place to rent. The lecturer coughs and says something about using the internet before continuing to talk about roofing. I hope to God this is an exaggeration, but I’m willing to bet it’s the truth. Prison (especially minimum-security prison) is supposed to be about rehabilitation, not retribution, but it’s clear that a lot of the people working in the prison don’t feel this same way.

Throughout the memoirs, Kerman talks about how privileged she is because she’s blond-haired, blue-eyed, has a huge support network on the outside, money to help her through, etc.  Life on the inside wouldn’t be considered “easy” for her, but it was a lot easier than it was for anyone else, and Kerman does a good job of acknowledging this. Hardly a chapter goes by where Kerman doesn’t acknowledge this privilege.  

The fact that this book got published itself is quite telling. Would a book about a hispanic or black woman going to prison have been published in 2010? Would it have become a bestseller? Probably not.  Especially since this story, while well-written, doesn’t have any of the drama or the pizzazz of the TV show. It’s quite bland. She didn’t get into any fights or nary a scuffle.

Orange is the new black

I recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in finding out what goes on in those minimum-security prisons.  It’s a heartfelt story of making up for her mistakes, and a woman discovering that society has failed so many of its people.  


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Book Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

Beautiful Bad Photograph

Beautiful Bad book cover

Title: Beautiful Bad
Author: Annie Ward
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Date of Publication: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Park Row Books


Maddie and Ian meet in southeastern Europe, fall in love, and move to suburbs in Kansas to raise their son, Charlie.  After a mysterious camping accident, Maddie starts going to therapy, where she gradually reveals to her therapist what her life is really like.  Told in three timelines, the events of Beautiful Bad lead up to the horrifying events that occur on “The Day of the Killing”…


Beautiful Bad is at its heart a psychological thriller, but it does have elements of military fiction and drama thrown into the mix. At times the book is set in different parts of the globe, giving the book an international feel that is uncommon in typical domestic suspense novels.

Annie Ward uses three plotlines across three different timelines to tell this story.  One is set years before the main events of the book, when Maddie and Ian first meet.  Maddie, who is living in Bulgaria, writing for Fodor’s travel guides, frequently visits her best friend, Joanna, in Macedonia, despite the political unrest in the region.  She meets Ian at a bar, and they gradually fall in love.  This is my least favourite storyline, which, unfortunately, makes up the bulk of the book. The “will they or won’t they?” dance goes on a little too long for my liking.

The second plotline is set in the months and eventually the days before “The Killing”.  Maddie is seeing a therapist who is helping her with her issues.  Not long ago, Maddie fell while on a camping trip with Ian and their son, Charlie, and she doesn’t remember what happened. She has a horrible scar down half of her face, and the police at the time were convinced that this couldn’t have been an accident…

The third plotline is set on “The Day of the Killing”, and we follow police officer Diane as she answers a call to a potential domestic violence case. These scenes are the least frequent in the novel.  They provide readers with the reminder that something horrible is going to happen in this beautiful home in the dreamy suburbs of Kansas…

Beautiful Bad has lots of twists and turns.  The ending is downright shocking.  I love a good book that lays out all the clues for you in plain sight, yet you still don’t see the twist coming until the very end.


Maddie is an intriguing main character.  When she hit her head on the camping trip, there was some brain damage, causing her to forget what had happened. Ward takes the amnesia and unreliable narrator tropes seen so frequently in psychological thrillers, and she puts a new spin on them. In the months before the killing scenes, Maddie’s therapist has her do writing therapy.  Maddie’s answers to the writing prompts provide a peek into her past and tell us why Maddie is the way she is.  Her therapist accuses her of “catastrophizing”, which is all too apparent in the answers that Maddie provides to the questions.  This personality ‘quirk’  makes for a fascinating protagonist.

Maddie’s former best friend, Joanna, is also a compelling character. While Joanna has dedicated her life to aid in Macedonia, doing whatever it takes to ensure that much-needed supplies make it across the border of a country in turmoil, she isn’t quite what you would expect. She doesn’t come across as a stereotypical do-gooder, who’s sweet and caring and willing to always do what’s best.  She parties a lot and the author hints that she’s partially in it for the danger, not just to help people.  Although we don’t get any chapters from her point of view, Joanna is a well-fleshed-out, unique, and interesting character, which is uncommon in secondary characters in psychological thrillers.

While most of the book is from Maddie’s perspective, we do get some pivotal scenes from Ian’s. His chapters contribute significantly to the narrative, revealing his thoughts, motivations, hopes, fears. Without them, we would only have seen Ian from Maddie’s point of view, and the story would have been severely lacking. These scenes add something special to the book, and at the risk of spoiling any twists, I’ll leave it at that.

Beautiful Bad Photograph

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a thrilling psychological thriller with a lot twists and turns and a surprising conclusion.  Set in exotic locales like Macedonia, Iraq, and Kansas (just kidding on the last one), Beautiful Bad is a unique take on the genre, which should not be missed by seasoned fans and new readers alike.


*Thank you to Park Row Books for the ARC for review*

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Book Review: The Women’s War by Jenna Glass

The Women's War

The Women's War book cover

Title: The Women’s War
Author: Jenna Glass
Series: The Women’s War #1
Genre: High Fantasy
Date of Publication: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Del Rey


In this patriarchal, high-fantasy world, women are used by royals as bargaining chips and are valued only for their ability to reproduce.  But the tables have finally turned. A curse has been cast, one that allows all women to choose whether or not they want to bear a child.  Women have finally regained some control over their lives, but the battle has just begun.  Many men will do whatever they can to keep their power.

Plot & Characters

Touted as a feminist high-fantasy, The Women’s War does not disappoint in this regard.  This curse that is cast upon all the kingdoms gives women some semblance of power, but of course, men still seek to control them.

The novel follows several women over the course of the months following this curse that befell all the kingdoms.  Each of the women is in a different stage of life – whether eighteen or the ripe old age of forty, and each of them experiences different levels of oppression. Each woman is controlled (to varying degrees) by the men in her life. These women’s journeys, while quite different in plot, are also eerily similar.  It’s fascinating to watch their characters develop over the span of this 550-page book.  However, because there are so many different characters living in different kingdoms, they can be hard to keep track of, which does slow down the pace of the book.  The individual chapters are a tad too short, giving you a taste of what is going on with one character before switching over to the next, which can add to the confusion. Although a lot happens in this book, this is not a quick read.

While there are several main female characters in this story, I will focus on three: Ellin, Alys, and Jellin.  When her family is tragically killed, Ellin becomes the new Queen of Rhozinolm.  Having a female sovereign has precedent in her land, but the men of the council seek to manipulate her and seize the throne for themselves.  Alys is a forty-year-old widow with a gift for magic, which before now she was unable to use.  She hopes to use magic to make the world a better place for her children.  Jellin is Alys’s eighteen-year-old daughter who must use her wits to avoid marriage to an unsavory man.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Women’s War by Jenna Glass”

Book Review: The Huntress by Kate Quinn

The Huntress Book cover reading

The Huntress book cover

Title: The Huntress
Author: Kate Quinn
Genre: Historical Fiction,Thriller 
Date of Publication: February 26, 2019
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks


Nina Markova was a female bomber pilot in World War II.  Badass, reckless, and a little crazy, Nina was a member of an infamous regiment called the Night Witches, which comprised solely of women fighter pilots.  But when Nina crosses paths with a Nazi murderess, The Huntress, she barely manages to escape with her life.  After the war, she joins forces with Nazi hunter Ian Graham to hunt down the elusive Huntress…


The Huntress follows three seemingly disparate storylines across the length of the book.  Told from three unique POVs, the three stories are also set at different times – one before and then during World War II, one that begins a year after its end, and one set in 1950.

Nina is a Russian pilot, and, according to the book’s blurb, the main character. The novel follows her in the years before joining the Night Witches, revealing to the reader just how harsh it was to grow up in an isolated rural region in Russia. But when she joins the Night Witches, she finds her true love – the sky.

Ian Graham is a former British war correspondent turned Nazi hunter. He works with his partner Tony to find and capture Nazi war criminals. After taking down numerous bad guys, he decides to target the one he’s really after–the Huntress–the woman who murdered his brother.

Jordan McBride is a Bostonian teenager whose father falls madly in love with a secretive German woman with a mysterious past. Her father marries this woman, Annelise, adopting her child as his own, but Jordan can’t fight the sneaking suspicion that Annelise isn’t quite what she seems. A burgeoning photographer, Jordan is always looking to snap pictures of her family. But why won’t Annelise let her take her picture?

Continue reading “Book Review: The Huntress by Kate Quinn”