Book Review: The Remaking by Clay Chapman

Inspired by a true story, this supernatural thriller for fans of horror and true crime follows a tale as it evolves every twenty years—with terrifying results.

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Release Date: September 15, 2020

Publisher: Quirk Books

Price: $9.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Ella Louise has lived in the woods surrounding Pilot’s Creek, Virginia, for nearly a decade. Publicly, she and her daughter, Jessica, are shunned by her upper-crust family and the local residents. Privately, desperate characters visit her apothecary for a cure to what ails them—until Ella Louise is blamed for the death of a prominent customer. Accused of witchcraft, Ella Louise and Jessica are burned at the stake in the middle of the night. Ella Louise’s burial site is never found, but the little girl has the most famous grave in the South: a steel-reinforced coffin surrounded by a fence of interconnected white crosses.

Their story will take the shape of an urban legend as it’s told around a campfire by a man forever marked by his childhood encounters with Jessica. Decades later, a boy at that campfire will cast Amber Pendleton as Jessica in a ’70s horror movie inspired by the Witch Girl of Pilot’s Creek. Amber’s experiences on that set and its meta-remake in the ’90s will ripple through pop culture, ruining her life and career after she becomes the target of a witch hunt.

Amber’s best chance to break the cycle of horror comes when a true-crime investigator tracks her down to interview her for his popular podcast. But will this final act of storytelling redeem her—or will it bring the story full circle, ready to be told once again? And again. And again . . .

Grade: B

Review:

The novel starts off with an exciting premise, two witches, a mother and a daughter duo are burned after a herbal remedy gone wrong and endangers the life of one of the villagers. Now, the town of Pilot’s Creek, Virginia is haunted by the ghosts of these two witches. The novel begins to be very repetitive when it introduces us to Amber Pendleton, the young girl that is going to play Jessica Ford’s ghost in the making of the horror movie, Don’t Tread on Jessica’s Grave. Initially, I found the repetition annoying, but once I realized that the author was purposely using repetition as a means to express the spiraled cycle that began with the witches and continues with Amber even as an adult, it made artistically sense and I wasn’t as annoyed by it. The author was trying to create the feeling of an ouroboros with the cycle going on and on, without a break.

I really enjoyed the first few chapters when we get to know Ella Louise Ford and Jessica Ford, the two witches. I love urban legends, so a town that is haunted by this legend (whether it’s true or not) was really fascinating. I also enjoyed the social commentary the author made about child stars and actresses in horror films.

Overall, this was a spirally horrific ride that’s just what anyone needs right now for the Halloween season.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Quirk Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Even If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp

Are you ready to play?

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Release Date: September 15, 2020

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Price: $14.99 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

FIVE friends go to a cabin.
FOUR of them are hiding secrets.
THREE years of history bind them.
TWO are doomed from the start.
ONE person wants to end this.
NO ONE IS SAFE.

For five friends, this was supposed to be one last getaway before going their separate ways―a chance to say goodbye to each other, and to the game they’ve been playing for the past three years. But they’re all dealing with their own demons, and they’re all hiding secrets.

Finn doesn’t trust anyone since he was attacked a few months ago. Popular girl Liva saw it happen and did nothing to stop it. Maddy was in an accident that destroyed her sports career. Carter is drowning under the weight of his family’s expectations. Ever wants to keep the game going for as long as they can, at all costs.

When the lines between game and reality start to blend with deadly consequences, it’s a race against time before it’s game over―forever.

Grade: C

Review:

I had written a longer review, but somehow I lost it and now you’re going to receive the condensed version of what I originally wrote.

Pros: Diverse representation. There is a non-binary character, a trans, someone with autism, and two characters that aren’t fully able-bodied. I liked that there was diversity, but it also felt a little forced. A group of misfits play a compelling live-action RPG game.

Cons: This book was touted as a thriller. There are no thrills. Someone is murdered and yet the murderer is so freaking obvious that you have to be kinda slow to NOT catch it. Also, I hated that it took forever to get to an ending after there was an essential ending four chapters prior. I read a previous book from this same author (This Is Where It Ends) and it was full of obsessive thoughts, exaggerated feels, and just drama for the sake of drama.

Overall, this book would be best suited for actual teens, because the overdramatization and overload of angst can only be tolerated by teen readers since they’re going through similar feelings. An adult reader will just roll their eyes and exclaim, “Get over it!” way too often.

The author is a talented writer, but I don’t think I’ll be picking up her next book.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Unboxed by Briana Morgan

unboxed

What would you do for fame?

Release Date: July 25, 2020

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Price: $9.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Greg Zipper is a paranormal vlogger whose livelihood relies on his online popularity. When a fight between him and his girlfriend goes viral for all the wrong reasons, Greg purchases a dark web mystery box in hopes of restoring his audience’s faith in him and hitting one million subscribers. But when Greg opens the box, he gets much more than he bargained for, including a Boxer who’s determined to stop him from taking his loved ones for granted. Now Greg must do all he can to stop the Boxer, or else he’ll lose his livelihood—along with the woman he loves.

Grade: A

Review:

I’ve previously read other works from Briana Morgan, but I strongly believe that she excels as a playwright. Unboxed has everything you’d want a traditional horror movie to have, the anticipation of dread, creepiness, and an overlying lesson meant to be learned the hard way. Although this is a play, I can see it becoming a movie in the vein of many Blumehouse movies (putting this thought out into the universe cause you never know if wishing about it will make it happen!).

First of all, I’m not well-versed in the world of the dark web, but I enjoyed how Zipper explained it in the play to his girlfriend. I enjoyed the fact that the dialogue felt very realistic to how people speak and weren’t clunky or awkward at all.

The premise of the play is that a paranormal vlogger is so obsessed with reaching 1 million subscribers that the decides to film himself unboxing a mystery box bought from the dark web. Everything you can imagine about what could possibly grow wrong does in this play. It was a dark and twisted, but also packed an emotional punch where the protagonist had to learn a very difficult lesson, and would he be willing to lose everything he cared about for fame and fortune?

I enjoyed this very much and I don’t usually reach out to purchase plays, but the premise was intriguing and I wasn’t disappointed in the execution. Pick this up if you want to spend 45 minutes exploring the dark and twisted realms of the supernatural and the underbelly of notoriety.

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Book Review: Blood Victory by Christopher Rice

blood victory

On a cross-country journey to hell, fear is the engine and vengeance is the destination.

Release Date: August 18, 2020

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Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Price: $14.99 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

As the test subject of an experimental drug, Charlotte Rowe was infused with extraordinary powers. As the secret weapon of a mysterious consortium, she baits evil predators and stops them in their tracks. But it takes more than fear to trigger what’s coursing through Charlotte’s blood. She needs to be terrorized. Serial killer Cyrus Mattingly is up to the task.

Cyrus is a long-haul truck driver, and his cargo bay is a gallery of horrors on wheels. To stop his bloodshed, Charlotte will become his next victim, reining in her powers so she can face each of his evils in turn.

As much as they know about Cyrus—his method of selecting victims, his prolonged rituals—there is something they don’t. What happens on the dark and lonely highways is only the journey. It’s the destination that’s truly depraved. Before she can unleash vengeance on a scale this killer has never seen, Charlotte and her team will have to go the distance into hell.

Grade: A-

Review:

Blood Victory is the third book in the Burning Girl series and by far my favourite of the series. We follow the same cast of characters that we’ve been introduced to from the very beginning, Charley the only woman who can withhold a strong drug that enables her to have superhuman strength for 3 hours, in which she uses those powers to take down serial killers, since her own mother had been a victim of a serial killer couple, Luke, Charley’s ex-high school bully turned boyfriend who now helps her on her missions to take down the serial killers, Cole, an uber-rich guy who pays for Charley’s missions, and Noah the mad scientist that discovered the drug that enables Charley to have extraordinary strength.

This third installment in the series is both very compelling and fast-paced. I was intrigued by the serial killers introduced in this book as opposed to the past ones, and I felt like our characters were a bit more fleshed out than in the previous books. I enjoyed being on the mission with Charley and wondering if she’d be able to take down the serial killers since she had so much going against her (I can’t say what, no spoilers!).

Initially, I thought this series was going to be a trilogy, but by the way it ended, I have a feeling there are going to be more Burning Girl series books, and I’m not complaining!

I highly recommend this if you’re into fast-paced action thrillers, this is Mission Impossible meets The Hulk with a dash of Silence of the Lambs. You won’t be disappointed!

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards

fivetotal

She thought being stranded was the worst thing that could happen. She was wrong.

Release Date: October 6, 2020

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Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Price: $10.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Mira needs to get home for the holidays. Badly. But when an incoming blizzard results in a canceled layover, it looks like Mira might get stuck at the Philadelphia airport indefinitely.

And then Harper, Mira’s glamorous seatmate from her initial flight, comes to the rescue. Harper and her three friends are renting a car, and they can drop Mira off on the way home. But as their trip begins, Mira discovers her fellow travelers aren’t friends like she thought—they’re total strangers. And every one of them seems to be hiding something dangerous.

Soon, Mira is in a panic. The roads have gone from slippery to terrifying. People’s belongings are mysteriously disappearing. Someone in the car is clearly lying…and Mira beings to suspect that one of them is sabotaging the trip. If she wants to make it home alive, she’ll need to uncover the truth about these strangers before this nightmare drive turns fatal.

Grade: B-

Review:

Fast-paced is the saving grace for this novel. But let me backtrack a moment. I hate snow. So the idea of being stuck in a car with four other strangers during a snowstorm feels like my idea of hell. And since I find snow to verge more on the creepy than beautiful (after all, notice how bright blood looks in the snow!), I was eager to read this book. The fact that the novel mostly takes place within the confines of the car makes for some masterful claustrophobia. Not to mention the fact that if it weren’t for it being the dead of winter, any of these characters could’ve just taken their changes on walking to the nearest house instead of staying inside a car where they each were becoming suspicious of the other, especially when things start to go missing.

If you love movies along the lines of I Know What You Did Last Summer and the hit TV series YOU, then you will love this fast-paced novel where not only does the protagonist Mira, have to contend with dire weather and a creepy drifter than continually see at all their rest stops, but also one of the four in the car with her has been stalking her for a year. All those things line up to create one hell of a thrill ride.

I didn’t enjoy any of the five characters in the novel and sometimes I was tired of Mira because while yes she was in a car with four strangers, a lot of her assumptions towards one character seemed plain our judgmental. And that she automatically assumes that her stalker is the one person she has been judgmental about during the whole trip is just plain annoying. Sure, the character in question wasn’t the best person out there but he wasn’t the worst either.

I recommend this book if you love YA novels that read like a Blumehouse horror. If they hurry up and turn this book into a movie, Lucy Hale could still pull off playing high school senior, Mira.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: The Living Dead by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus

the living dead1

We had to devolve to realize we’d never really much evolved.

Release Date: August 4, 2020

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Publisher: Tor Books

Price: $27.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

George A. Romero invented the modern zombie with Night of the Living Dead, creating a monster that has become a key part of pop culture. Romero often felt hemmed in by the constraints of film-making. To tell the story of the rise of the zombies and the fall of humanity the way it should be told, Romero turned to fiction. Unfortunately, when he died, the story was incomplete.

Enter Daniel Kraus, co-author, with Guillermo del Toro, of the New York Times bestseller The Shape of Water (based on the Academy Award-winning movie) and Trollhunters (which became an Emmy Award-winning series), and author of The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch (an Entertainment Weekly Top 10 Book of the Year). A lifelong Romero fan, Kraus was honored to be asked, by Romero’s widow, to complete The Living Dead.

Set in the present day, The Living Dead is an entirely new tale, the story of the zombie plague as George A. Romero wanted to tell it.

It begins with one body.

A pair of medical examiners find themselves battling a dead man who won’t stay dead.

It spreads quickly.

In a Midwestern trailer park, a Black teenage girl and a Muslim immigrant battle newly-risen friends and family. On a US aircraft carrier, living sailors hide from dead ones while a fanatic makes a new religion out of death. At a cable news station, a surviving anchor keeps broadcasting while his undead colleagues try to devour him. In DC, an autistic federal employee charts the outbreak, preserving data for a future that may never come.

Everywhere, people are targeted by both the living and the dead.

We think we know how this story ends.

We. Are. Wrong.

Grade: A+

Review:

It’s no secret that George A. Romero was pretty much the progenitor when it comes to the zombie genre. First in the films and then even in comic books and novels. If you’re a fan of George A. Romero, then you’re well aware that the iconic director’s zombie movies aren’t merely a gore fest. Instead, Romero uses the zombie genre to explore the human condition or reveal the incompetence of government or lack of empathy in humans. Ultimately, the real monsters in Romero’s movies are rarely the zombies, but rather the humans. We’re deadlier than the undead because we’ll turn on our own when the going gets tough. Unfortunately, Romero passed away in 2017 and never was able to complete the novel himself, so his widow asked Daniel Kraus to complete the novel using Romero’s notes. The end result isn’t disjointed nor can the reader tell where Romero begins and Kraus takes over. The writing style is seamless throughout the whole novel and doesn’t change.

Now, I don’t know how much Romero had completed before his death, but this novel is a horror saga (it’s over 600 pages!) but it doesn’t mean that there’s ever a moment of dullness, because there isn’t. There are so many diverse characters in this novel, much like how Max Brooks’ novel World War Z was fashioned. Third person omniscient works superbly as there’s so much ground to cover that we need to know what’s happening to everyone at any given time. Sure, there are some characters that I favoured over others, but the fact that Romero always managed to create characters that we cared about means that even when we know that most of them will face dire endings, in our heart of hearts we can’t help but hope that there’s another way out. But this novel isn’t about comfort, this novel is brutal. I don’t read many zombie books but since I am a huge fan of Romero’s zombies, I knew that I had to read this novel and I’m not disappointed. If you’re going into this book thinking it’s going to be full of zombies, you are correct. But you’re also going to walk away with a feeling that ultimately the book wasn’t about zombies, but it’s about us, and how much humans CAN be both resilient and full of heart.

For a book about the undead, you’ll depart the novel with all the feels. You’ve been warned.

livingn dead

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

survivorsong

 “This is not a fairy tale. It is a song.”

Release Date: July 3, 2020

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Publisher: William Murrow

Price: $27.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

In a matter of weeks, Massachusetts has been overrun by an insidious rabies-like virus that is spread by saliva. But unlike rabies, the disease has a terrifyingly short incubation period of an hour or less. Those infected quickly lose their minds and are driven to bite and infect as many others as they can before they inevitably succumb. Hospitals are inundated with the sick and dying, and hysteria has taken hold. To try to limit its spread, the commonwealth is under quarantine and curfew. But society is breaking down and the government’s emergency protocols are faltering.

Dr. Ramola “Rams” Sherman, a soft-spoken pediatrician in her mid-thirties, receives a frantic phone call from Natalie, a friend who is eight months pregnant. Natalie’s husband has been killed—viciously attacked by an infected neighbor—and in a failed attempt to save him, Natalie, too, was bitten. Natalie’s only chance of survival is to get to a hospital as quickly as possible to receive a rabies vaccine. The clock is ticking for her and for her unborn child.

Natalie’s fight for life becomes a desperate odyssey as she and Rams make their way through a hostile landscape filled with dangers beyond their worst nightmares—terrifying, strange, and sometimes deadly challenges that push them to the brink.

Grade: A-

Review:

I’ll begin this with the admission that I wasn’t a big fan of Paul’s most popular novel, A Head Full of Ghosts. However, there were genius moments in that novel that made me want to check this new book out. The publishing world is slow, so when the author actually wrote this book he was merely speculating on a long-distance future. However, months into a global pandemic and the future that Tremblay describes in his book is suddenly our reality.

In the novel, a new form of rabies virus has made the jump from animals to humans and the effect is devastating. Since the onset of rabies plays much like flu-like symptoms, this feels very eerily similar to what we’re dealing with right now with COVID-19.

The reader can automatically assume which President the author had in mind when he wrote the following: “A president unwilling and woefully unequipped to make the rational science-based decisions necessary.” Especially given the fact of how our current President has managed the pandemic we’re living.

The novel is very fast-paced as all the events take place within the same day, much like how horror movies do. If you wish to read a fast-paced horror with strong female bonds, then this book is for you.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and William Murrow for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda

girlwidow

Everyone knows the story of “the girl from Widow Hills.”

Release Date: June 23, 2020

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Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Price: $18.89 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

Arden Maynor was just a child when she was swept away while sleepwalking during a terrifying rainstorm and went missing for days. Strangers and friends, neighbors and rescue workers, set up search parties and held vigils, praying for her safe return. Against all odds, she was found, alive, clinging to a storm drain. The girl from Widow Hills was a living miracle. Arden’s mother wrote a book. Fame followed. Fans and fan letters, creeps, and stalkers. And every year, the anniversary. It all became too much. As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and disappeared from the public eye.

Now a young woman living hundreds of miles away, Arden goes by Olivia. She’s managed to stay off the radar for the last few years. But with the twentieth anniversary of her rescue approaching, the media will inevitably renew its interest in Arden. Where is she now? Soon Olivia feels like she’s being watched and begins sleepwalking again, like she did long ago, even waking outside her home. Until late one night she jolts awake in her yard. At her feet is the corpse of a man she knows—from her previous life, as Arden Maynor.

And now, the girl from Widow Hills is about to become the center of the story, once again, in this propulsive page-turner from suspense master Megan Miranda.

Grade: C

Review:

Let me preface this by stating that I really loved All The Missing Girls, but was sorely disappointed in The Last House Guest. But I was willing to give Miranda another chance and was thrilled when I was selected to review her latest novel.

My biggest issue with this book is that for a thriller, it’s very slow-moving. There’s no sense of urgency and there are a lot of repetitive phrases and rehashing of the same story over and over again, and I don’t know if that was to fill a certain page quota or what, but a lot of the flashback, news clippings, or 911-calls chapters didn’t really reveal anything new. There isn’t even a body until 30% in the book!

Another issue that I had with the book is that I just couldn’t get invested in any of the characters. All the side characters felt shady and the protagonist, Olivia was annoying beyond measure.

Now, there are two major twists, one that I saw coming a mile away and another that I didn’t really expect. Did these two major twists save the novel? Yes and no. It’s always nice when a thriller can throw a surprise ending, but for a novel that was at a snail’s pace with no sense of urgency or threat, it was a little too late.

If you’re more of a cozy mystery sort of reader, then you may enjoy this novel very much. But if you’re a reader who loves fast-paced thrillers, then you may want to pass on this one.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Coming Soon: Baby Teeth in Midnight in the Pentagram

zhorror

2020 has been both the best of times and the worst of times for me. Oddly enough, it’s been a most fortuitous year in regards to my writing. I signed two new contracts for short stories, have a short story coming out in June, and Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology had the best sales ever. The worst of times, of course, refers to all of us having to deal with a global pandemic and all the stress and worry that comes along with that.

Not to dismiss a serious topic aside, I do wish to focus on the positives. And one of the best thing that has happened this year so far is having my short story, Baby Teeth selected for the anthology Midnight in the Pentagram published by Silver Shamrock Publishing. These guys are total badasses when it comes to horror publications so I was over the moon at being selected.

Baby Teeth is the story of a young mother, Melissa, who begins to feel that there’s something seriously amiss with her new baby. I was slightly inspired by Rosemary’s Baby, but I was also fascinated with the notion of, what part is real and what part is merely Melissa suffering from post-partum depression?

It’s one hell of a twisted, scary treat and I’m looking forward to all of you getting a chance to read it soon. As of right now, I don’t have any official release dates, but I’m hoping for a Fall 2020 release as it seems the most appropriate.

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Book Review: Little Creeping Things by Chelsea Ichaso

creeping

What happens when your mortal enemy disappears and you’re to blame?

Release Date: June 2, 2020

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Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Price: $10.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

As a child, Cassidy Pratt accidentally started a fire that killed her neighbor. At least, that’s what she’s been told. She can’t remember anything from that day. She’s pretty sure she didn’t mean to do it. She’s a victim too. But her town’s bullies, particularly the cruel and beautiful Melody Davenport, have never let her live it down. In Melody’s eyes, Cassidy is a murderer and always will be.

When Cassidy overhears what sounded like an abduction and Melody goes missing, Cassidy knows she should go to the cops, but… She recently joked about how much she’d like to get rid of Melody. She even planned out the perfect way to do it. It’s up to Cassidy to figure out what really happened because if she comes forward without a suspect, she knows people will point fingers at her. Again. And she can’t let that happen.
But the truth behind Melody’s disappearance will set the whole town ablaze.

Grade: B-

Review:

This book started out strong. But somewhere along the halfway mark it started to sizzle. Somehow, the book went from being about a murder mystery to dwelling in teenage angst. I could forgive the angst if it were crucial to the plot, however, it felt more like filler. Cassidy is the sole survivor of a fire she started when she was little, ever since that day she has been tormented and bullied and dubbed Fire Girl by her peers. One of her biggest tormentors is Melody Davenport, a girl she’d love to see drop dead. And drop-dead she does right after Cass executes the most brilliant murder and shares her step by step guide with her brother’s best friend, Brandon. Now, the murderer knows of her desire to kill Melody and has proof (her notebook). The murderer threatens to spill everything if she doesn’t comply with his needs, mostly to not disclose this info with anyone else or grave consequences will follow.

My only issue is that there was minimal sleuthing being done for this being a murder mystery and even when Cass disclosed the whole truth to her best friend, there were no repercussions! So why was there even a threat made if nothing was going to come of it?

Now, none of the teenage angst would’ve annoyed me if I actually LIKED the protagonist. But Cassidy isn’t your usual unlikeable unreliable narrator, meaning that she’s not mean and charming, but rather just a big whiner and being bullied but then goes and spreads rumors about SOMEONE else and she pretty much treats anyone close to her like shit too. She really had no redeeming qualities nor was she witty or clever that I could overlook her not having any redeeming qualities. There’s a fine line between being Patrick Bateman charming and just falling into the terrible person with a blah personality box, and Cassidy falls into that.

So why did I continue to read despite all the negatives? Well, the author DID manage to keep me hooked on the premise of Who Killed Melody Davenport? I was curious to see if my hunch was right about a certain character or not (I was right).

I know this is a debut novel and there’s room for the author to grow, and I do think that the author has promise, so I won’t write this book off entirely. This book is for you if you like slow burn thrillers with a protagonist with a traumatic past.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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