LOVE IS RED by Sophie Jaff

August 14, 2015
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The Nightsong Trilogy (Book 1)

It’s summertime in New York and the city is plagued by more than just hot weather. The Sickle Man stalks the streets, killing women in their own homes. Though this does mean a certain extra level of caution, it doesn’t mean that Katherine Emerson has given up on  the dating scene and finding Mr. Right. In fact, she’s recently met two men who could fit the bill.

What Katherine doesn’t know is that the Sickle Man already has her in his sights. In fact, he’s been looking for her for quite some time and now that he’s found her, her death is his ultimate goal.

Love is Red is a book that almost defies every attempt to sum it up in a nutshell. First, there’s the fear of giving too much away. Second, it’s truly standout and somewhat unconventional. It’s a cross-genre thriller, one that includes supernatural elements, romance elements, and mystery elements. As such, unless you really shy away from dark reads (because it is quite dark) there is something for just about every kind of reader here.

The story alternates between Katherine and The Sickle Man himself. Jaff plays with the style of the narrative quite a bit with The Sickle Man’s chapters told from a second person perspective and by adding in therapy Q&As, internal monologues, and other different aspects in Katherine’s narrative as well. This ratchets up the suspense quite a bit while also giving the reader a more unique experience.

Honestly, this is one of my absolute favorite reads of the year. It’s also the first in a trilogy and there is a pretty massive cliffhanger of an ending. Of course that means that I’m waiting, along with everyone else who’s so far enjoyed the book, with baited breath to see what will happen next.

8/15 Becky LeJeune

LOVE IS RED by Sophie Jaff.  Harper (May 12, 2015).  ISBN 978-0062346261.  384p.


THE PERFECT WITNESS by Iris Johansen

October 16, 2014

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Sixteen-year-old Teresa has a gift, she can read people’s memories when she is near them, and it makes her feel like a freak, especially when her father, a New Jersey crime family boss, uses her.

Her mother is a trophy wife extraordinaire; when her husband is killed, she immediately ingratiates herself with the new crime boss, despite the fact he’s trying to kill her daughter.

Teresa takes off and is rescued by Andre Mandak, who kills the three men who are chasing her. She is very distrustful, but Mandak convinces her that he can help her learn to control her gift. In the process, he changes her name to Allie, places her with an older couple and she lives a relatively normal life of a college student.

Then her cover is blown and she’s on the run again, and Mandak helps her flee in return for her help; it turns out he has need of her gift and she is determined to help.

Their mutual attraction adds another layer to this fast moving story, and this standalone thriller combines suspense, paranormal and romance into one whirlwind read.

Copyright ©2014 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

10/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE PERFECT WITNESS by Iris Johansen. St. Martin’s Press (September 30, 2014). ISBN 978-1250020055. 352p.


SPARROW HILL ROAD by Seanan McGuire

September 23, 2014

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It was 1952 when Rose Marshall was killed on Sparrow Hill Road on her way to the prom. She was only sixteen. The circumstances of her death left her a hitcher, a ghost forced to roam the roads in search for rides.

The Phantom Prom Date who murders those who offer her a ride. The Ghost of Sparrow Hill Road whose date died alongside her. The Girl From the Diner who is an omen of bad things to come… for generations her story has been passed on, becoming twisted into a legend that barely resembles the once real story. But Rose herself isn’t a harbinger of doom. Instead, she can tell when an accident is on the horizon and can sometimes save someone who would otherwise die. In other cases, she helps those who have passed on get to their final destination.

In 2010 Seanan McGuire released a dozen Rose Marshall stories through the ezine The Edge of Propinquity. While the mag does still have a few stories in its archives, including McGuire’s “Good Girls Go To Heaven,” the rest have been collected here in the author’s latest release.

This is a story most readers probably know in one form or another, but McGuire expands it and gives it a depth that the word-of-mouth urban legend never could. What’s more, she’s placed the story smack dab in the middle of an urban fantasy world populated with some of the most unusual characters I’ve ever seen: routewitches, trainspotters, crossroads and dead highways, strigoi who don’t suck blood, and a bevy of ghosts ranging from the hitchhikers to maggy dhu (ghost dogs who collect souls).

Sparrow Hill Road is a ghost story, a love story, a horror story, and a story of the road.

09/14 Becky LeJeune

SPARROW HILL ROAD by Seanan McGuire. DAW Trade (May 6, 2014). ISBN 978-0756409616. 320p.


DEAD OF NIGHT by Jonathan Maberry

September 7, 2014

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Dead of Night Series (Book 1)

Stebbins County, Pennsylvania is in for a rough night. With a dangerous storm in their midst, many of the people in the area are unaware of another more pressing danger.

Notorious serial killer Homer Gibbons has recently been executed and has been secretly transported to Stebbins County where his only living relative has insisted on burying him. Locals are unaware of the connection – everyone had thought Gibbons had no living relatives at all – and it’s this change of plan that sets Stebbins County and its citizens on an awful and catastrophic path. See Gibbons isn’t dead, at least not in the traditional sense. Gibbons has been the focus of a very secret and deadly experiment, an infection that will soon be unleashed on an unsuspecting community.

Maberry is a longtime favorite for horror fans. His Pine Deep trilogy is hailed as a phenomenal debut series and his Joe Ledger books are the perfect blend of science fiction, horror, and action. Dead of Night delivers on all fronts – it’s a zombie apocalypse tale that begins with a science experiment gone wrong. Of course everything works together to become a perfect storm for the spread of the zombie plague and before long the fictional Stebbins County is all but done for. But only just – there is a sequel, after all.

While the reader gets a glimpse at many of the area’s inhabitants, the main focuses of the story are Dez Foz, a local cop with a military background and serious abandonment issues, and her ex Billy Trout, a regional newsman. Trout uncovers the truth behind the outbreak just as Dez is facing it down. And as their home gets literally torn apart, they both have to come to terms with the impossible and try and figure out a way of surviving it. Basic zombie apocalypse fare but with a style and flair that’s all Maberry.

9/14 Becky Lejeune

DEAD OF NIGHT by Jonathan Maberry. St. Martin’s Griffin; Original edition (October 25, 2011). ISBN 978-0312552190. 368p.


DEADLY CURIOSITIES by Gail Z. Martin

July 5, 2014

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Charleston’s Trifles & Follies may look like your average antique shop, but in reality it’s so much more. Cassidy Kincaide is just the latest descendant to inherit the shop. They cater to the many antique hounds and interior decorators of the area but their prime focus is handling magical and supernatural items.

Cassidy has the ability to experience an item’s past, something that frequently opens her up to strange and even dangerous visions. But it seems Charleston has lately had an influx of items causing even the most psychically challenged locals to see and experience things that are beyond ordinary.

It soon becomes clear that there’s something strange at work in the historic city. It also seems the strange happenings may be connected to a recent spate of murders and could possibly trace back to the deaths of an underwater salvage team just six months ago. Cassidy and her partners, Sorren (a centuries-old vampire who helped start Trifles & Follies) and Teag (a man gifted with spell weaving) know they’re up against something big but just how big – and how dangerous – is the real question at hand.

Gail Z. Martin has made a name for herself with her epic fantasy series but now she turns an eye to urban fantasy as well. In actuality, the Deadly Curiosities series began with a number of short stories penned by the author. There are a few references to those adventures in the novel but no need to have read the shorts prior to Deadly Curiosities.

Charleston makes for the perfect setting here. The author plays off the city’s history and landmarks but has also cleverly invented people, places, and events unique to the story.

The premise of the series is quite fun but there are a few rocky moments in this first installment. Nonetheless, this is a series that I will be looking forward to more of in the future.

7/14 Becky Lejeune

DEADLY CURIOSITIES by Gail Z. Martin. Solaris (June 24, 2014). ISBN 978-1781082331. 464p.


SEKRET by Lindsay Smith

May 25, 2014

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An empty mind is a safe mind.

Yulia has a gift: with just a touch she can see the history of an object or a person. It’s this gift that a secret branch of the KGB hopes to use to their advantage in 1963 USSR.

The country is in the midst of the Space Race and convinced that the Americans have spies within the Russian program. Yulia and her fellow comrades – other teens who share similar abilities – are tasked with various tests and ops to advance the country’s efforts. But Yulia has no desire to help the KGB, especially considering she’s basically a hostage with her mother and brother being used as bait to keep her in the program. The temptation to escape is overwhelming but the punishment linked to such an attempt may not be worth it.

Sekret is a fabulous debut. Smith incorporates real history into the tale, including the Space Race, the Kennedy assassination, and bits about Russia’s move into Communism (and the results). And of course there’s the psychic spy aspect as well. (I especially appreciated the author’s note in the end outlining much of the factual basis for the book.)

The characters and setting are built wonderfully and the paranormal aspects aren’t too overwhelming for readers who may not normally gravitate to that kind of subject.

Sekret is an intense and quick read with great cross over appeal for adults.

5/14 Becky Lejeune

SEKRET by Lindsay Smith. Roaring Brook Press (April 1, 2014). ISBN 978-1596438927. 352p.


THE SILENT WIFE by A.S.A. Harrison

May 24, 2014

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For years Jodi has endured her husband’s philandering in silence. She knows, after all, that he’ll always come home to her. Which is not to say that Jodi doesn’t get her revenge – she punishes Todd in little, almost insignificant ways. It makes her feel better. But when Todd’s latest affair leads to their separation, Jodi begins to lose it.

Given the comparisons to Gone Girl and all the hype around A.S.A. Harrison’s first and only release (she sadly passed away last year), I had high expectations in going into The Silent Wife. But not far into it, I was set to write this one off as something that just wasn’t my cup of tea. Fortunately for me I did stick it out to the end – and oh, what an end it was.

Todd and Jodi are both pretty equally unlikable. I found it hard to sympathize with either of them given their natures. A.S.A. Harrison actually does a pretty phenomenal job in that regard, as I’m certain the reader isn’t really supposed to like either of them. To say much more would be to give too much away and I wouldn’t want to spoil this one for anyone. I will say that fans of Gillian Flynn will likely enjoy The Silent Wife and I would also add that if you’re like me and waffling at the start, do stick it out to the end.

5/14 Becky Lejeune

THE SILENT WIFE by A.S.A. Harrison. Penguin Books (June 25, 2013). ISBN 978-0143123231. 326p.


STARTER HOUSE by Sonja Condit

February 27, 2014


For Lacey and Eric, the hunt for the perfect first home is starting to feel impossible. Nothing lives up to their expectations or list of requirements. Nothing, that is, until Lacey sets eyes on 571 Forrester Lane.

This house has it all—it’s in a perfect neighborhood, the drive into work wouldn’t be too bad for Eric, and amazingly it’s in their price range. It’s a house in which Lacey can easily imagine herself raising their growing family.

But 571 Forrester Lane has a history of death and violence. The real estate agent alludes to some of this, simply stating that a previous owner died, but to Lacey this is unavoidable with any house of significant age. Then Lacey meets Drew, a strange little boy who always seems to be around. The longer she and Eric reside in the home, the more attuned Lacey becomes to its strange sense of malevolence. As she begins to learn more about the house’s history and Drew, Lacey starts to realize her dream home is anything but.

Sonja Condit’s debut is not your typical haunted house tale. The narrative does rely on many of the traditional tropes associated with ghost stories but Condit adds an unexpected and unique twist in her tale. Starter House is a chilling and wonderful read.

2/14 Becky Lejeune

STARTER HOUSE by Sonja Condit. William Morrow Paperbacks (December 31, 2013). ISBN 978-0062283054. 400p.


FIRE by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg

February 22, 2014


THE ENGELSFORS TRILOGY BOOK II

This follow-up to The Circle begins with the start of eleventh grade and the remaining Chosen Ones who survived the previous year. Their showdown with the last demon blessed enemy was only the beginning of their fight to save the world and this time they have an additional enemy in the notorious Council.

The governing body amongst witches previously let Adriana serve as their representative but now they’ve arrived to take on the task of investigating and prosecuting Anna-Karin’s unauthorized use of magic from the year before. But the rest of the girls aren’t going to stand by and let it go down without a fight; their strength lies together and even Ida grudgingly comes to her fellow Chosen One’s defense.

Barred from developing their skills further and under the watchful eye of the Council, the Chosen Ones are limited in their ability to fight off yet another coming evil. Meanwhile, Engelsfors is getting a healthy dose of positive energy thanks to Elias Malmgren’s mother and her Positive Engelsfors movement. But this happy revolution soon turns sour as its detractors find themselves under fire.

Fire loses none of the energy set forth by its predecessor. The second installment of the Engelsfors trilogy not only moves the plot as a whole along but also holds its own as a worthy follow-up to The Circle.

As before the story switches between each of the characters’ viewpoints but this time even Ida gets a say. And not only do we get to finally see Ida’s POV, scary as that is in the beginning, we also get to learn more of Nicolaus’s background as well as Matilda’s story.

Of course the other big inclusion in this second installment is the introduction of the Council. There are a few new characters that come along with this and more revelations about the prophecy of the Chosen Ones.

The Engelsfors trilogy is really exceptional. I highly recommend both The Circle and Fire and can’t wait to get my hands on the final book, The Key. I’m also incredibly excited to hear that there’s a movie in development in Sweden with shooting set to begin in the coming months.

2/14 Becky Lejeune

FIRE by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg. Overlook Juvenile (January 30, 2014). ISBN 978-1468306729. 704p.


THE CIRCLE by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg

February 21, 2014


THE ENGELSFORS TRILOGY BOOK I

High school is tough on everyone but for Minoo, Linnéa, Rebecka, Vanessa, Ida, and Anna-Karin it’s about to get downright dangerous. Tenth grade begins under an ominous cloud when a fellow classmate is found dead on school grounds. Elias Malmgren was bullied and picked on most of his life. Given that and the circumstances of his death everyone is ready to believe it is suicide, but his best friend Linnéa isn’t convinced. And she’s right. Under a blood red moon Linnéa and five of her classmates come together to discover that they are the Chosen Ones—six girls tasked to fight an evil that has been lying in wait for centuries. Elias’s death is just the beginning.

The Circle kicks off Elfgren and Strandberg’s Engelsfors trilogy. Already a hit in Sweden, the teen paranormal series debuted in the States just last year.

In the series there are witches, magic, and a prophecy as well as a mythology behind the witchcraft that’s quite fascinating. In addition to the paranormal aspects, however, Elfgren and Strandberg bring a realism to this series debut that’s often missing from teen fiction: each of the characters gets almost equal face time and a good amount of development throughout the story. Their problems range from regular high school issues —grades and concerns about what comes after school— to bullying, relationship issues, and family problems. They are average teens with average issues on top of being told they have to save the world.

The Circle is the kind of book that gets under your skin and leaves you wanting more.

2/14 Becky Lejeune

THE CIRCLE by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg. Overlook Juvenile; Reprint edition (May 2, 2013). ISBN 978-1468306583. 608p.