All Eyes on Her by L. E. Flynn

Hello Kittens! I’ve been on more of a mystery/thriller kick lately, so I hope you’ll indulge me for a little while longer. This week I’ve got a Young Adult Thriller revolving around a young woman and her boyfriend who go for a hike in the woods one day. Only one of them comes out of those woods alive. I can tell you, that from my perspective, mistake number one was definitely going into the woods in the first place…just kidding. I love hiking under the right circumstances. This was a gripping story about a small town that is rocked when one of their young stars winds up dead in what everyone at first believes is an accident. It has love, betrayals, court room drama, and teen angst all rolled into one 320 page story and it was quite the ride. I hope you’ll give it a shot if you see this one in stores or in your local library.

Title: All Eyes On HerAll Eyes on Her

Author: L. E. Flynn

Author website:

Publisher: Imprint

Publish date: August 18, 2020

ISBN: 9781250158161

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble


Mark Forrester and Tabitha Cousins were the “it” couple in their town. He was a Princeton boy, fulfilling his dreams of becoming a big name in collegiate swimming, while she was finishing up her senior year at the local high school. They are well-known in their town and their relationship has been electric from day one. The town is heartbroken when Mark, their golden boy, falls to his death during the hike and Tabitha gets lost in the woods for hours trying to find help. People say they never should have gone on the hike if they didn’t know what they were doing, and why did they go to a notoriously dangerous spot if neither of them even liked hiking?

In the days and weeks following Mark’s death speculation abounds about Tabby and how their relationship played out. Yes, they were hot and heavy and everyone knew it, but everyone also knew that the two had been having some problems lately. Both were accused of exhibiting jealousy and possessive behavior. Both had friends who were begging them to end things. Both had their own reasons for going on the hike that day. With Mark out of the picture, the town begins to wonder about how far Tabby would have gone to free herself from a toxic relationship, and as the investigation into his death heats up, people all over the country will take sides.

This story is told from the alternating perspectives of Tabby and Mark’s friends. The reader never gets a chapter from Mark, so they are left to depend on his friends and other bystanders to hear his side of the story. Some chapters also feature text exchanges and the online stories from various news websites, along with their comments sections. Information is given out slowly, with the reader left to piece together large parts of the story themselves, largely depending on how different people saw the same event. Some characters are convinced that Tabby is a murdered and some are convinced that she may have been forced to defend herself against an increasingly aggressive Mark.

Tabby is the only one who knows the truth, and hers is a perspective that is only briefly shared with the reader. In chapters from each of their best friends and their siblings, the reader gets to know how Tabby and Mark acted towards each other and how everything led up to that moment in the woods. Parts of the story are missing, understandably since Mark’s version is not represented and Tabby’s story is told the way that Tabby wants it told. It creates a situation where the reader has a cast of potentially unreliable narrators, all twisting the story to meet their own needs. It’s a thrilling mystery that utilizes the versatile nature of teenage friendships and relationships to make an already complicated situation even more complicated. Every person the reader meets had some role to play in what happened then and what happens next.

Why I liked it:

This story is much more complex than I originally thought it would be based on the synopsis. It is much more about the relationships that these teens had with each other and other people in the town than it is about what actually occurred when they were in the woods.

I appreciate that we see real emotional growth from some of the characters, as would be expected in a book that takes place over more than 12 months. At first it seemed liked the characters were going to be cast in somewhat stereotypical roles for the entirety of the novel, but the second half of the book is a turning point for several characters, most notably Bridget, Lou, and Kyla. They each get an arc that is more developed than I originally imagined for them.

What I would like to change:

I can’t give too much detail without spoiling anything, but I will say that the ending lacked the resolutions that I was looking for. Also, it felt like some characters just fell by the wayside at the end (Beck).

Disclaimer: I received an electronic galley of this title from the publisher on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My library rating: For a book that dealt with teenagers and murder, I actually thought this title was pretty tame. There’s some cursing and there is discussion of an abortion, but nothing graphic.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

My personal preference rating: I rated this title 4 stars. The character development was good and the mystery was solid. It had moments of high intensity and kept my interest throughout.

The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard

Hello Kittens! Today I’ve got a book that I have been raving about to my coworkers for several days now. It’s a brand new thriller that’s just published today from an established author. If you read Michelle McNamara’s fantastic true crime book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, you’ve probably wondered if the Golden State Killer ever read her book. Catherine Ryan Howard takes that concept and gives it to us in book form here. This was one of those books that made me want to read faster because I just couldn’t get through it fast enough.

Title: The Nothing ManThe Nothing Man

Author: Catherine Ryan Howard

Author website:

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

Publish date: August 4, 2020

ISBN: 9781538519738

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble


Twenty years ago, Eve Black was the sole survivor of a brutal attack that left the rest of her family dead. She was 12 years old at the time and has very few memories of the night in question. Eventually, the murders are linked to the work of a serial killer that has become known as “The Nothing Man”. He is known as the Nothing Man because the police have nothing on him. No DNA, no evidence, no reliable witness accounts.

Eve hasn’t spoken out about what happened that night. She has led a life that was sheltered from the horrors of what happened to her family. The Nothing Man went dormant after murdering her family and he was never caught. As Eve gets older, she can no longer stand by and deny that this event changed her life forever. She can longer stand to live in a world where everyone seems to have accepted the fact that this man will not be caught. She can’t stand to think that no one is looking for him. So she comes up with a plan, and she writes a book.

“The Nothing Man” is the title of Eve Black’s memoir of her experiences that night and of those of the other victims and their families. In writing it, she reveals her true self to the world, but she also issues the world a challenge. She pleads with them to help her find this man, to take what her book reveals about him and his methods and to come forward with new information.

The story that is told here is of what happens when the Nothing Man picks up Eve’s book and begins reading. He wants to see how she remembers that night and what she has uncovered about him. He wants to make sure that she isn’t getting any closer than the police ever did. The reader experiences the book as the Nothing Man does, by reading it along with him.

Why I liked it:

Howard takes a concept that I wondered about myself and explores it to the end. I have often wondered if the Golden State Killer read Michelle McNamara’s book and worried that it would lead to his capture. With The Nothing Man, readers are treated to a new take on the serial killer perspective.

There were a few twists that I definitely did not see coming, but even those that I did were satisfying to read.

I also really appreciated the focus that the story puts on victims and their families while also acknowledging the fascination that serial killers hold for the general public.

What I would like to change:

I don’t know if I was just anxious to keep reading or not, but the pacing for the first 50% of the book felt a little slow. This is one of those things that happens when a book starts with an ending and then works its way back, but I can also appreciate that Howard puts us deep into the mind of this serial killer.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced electronic copy of this title from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My library rating: There are some gruesome descriptions in this story of assault, rape, and violence. I don’t believe that they are needlessly graphic, but it would be triggering for some people.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

My personal preference rating: I gave this title 5 stars. It has been one of my favorite thrillers of the year so far.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Hello Kittens! Today I have for you one of those books that everyone agrees sounds great, but few people actually pick up and read. That’s because this is on big honkin’ book. It’s just over 800 pages long. I actually read it in about a week, though that’s just a guess because I paused and read a few other things that had piled up after I got to the end of part 1. In any case, this is a standalone high fantasy book for adult readers that has dragons, magic, court intrigue, and a strong f/f romance set in a partially matriarchal society. While it is a large book, the experience of reading it didn’t feel that way. I felt like I was flying through this book and the only thing that reminded me that it was big was the fact that my arms kept getting heavy while I read it. It looks daunting, but it is absolutely worth the read.

Title: The Priory of the Orange TreeThe Priory of the Orange Tree

Author: Samantha Shannon

Author website:

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Publish date: February 26, 2019

ISBN: 9781635570304

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble


In The Priory of the Orange Tree we meet an expansive cast of characters. We meet Tané, a young woman who has trained for most of her life to be eligible to become a dragonrider in the East. She is getting ready to take the test that will determine if she is worthy to be chosen by a dragon when a stranger appears in the night who could alter her fate and delay or destroy her dream. She asks a friend for help in dealing with the situation and both of their lives, plus several others, are changed from that day forward.

We meet Ead, a young woman serving in the court of Queen Sabran IX, the 36th Queen of Inys and head of the House of Berethnet. Ead has been placed in the queen’s court to secretly protect her. While the court thinks she is an average servant, she is actually a mage working on behalf of the Priory of the Orange Tree. In Inys, she is forced to worship a religion that goes against everything the Priory has taught her, but she will risk everything to keep Queen Sabran safe. The longer she stays at court and the closer she gets to Queen Sabran, the more her feelings for this foreign Queen grow. While Ead may have a duty to the Priory, she is finding that more often than not, situations are not as clear as she once thought them to be.

Queen Sabran is a force to be reckoned with who has lived her life with the shadow of prophecy on her shoulders. The Queens of the House of Berethnet all have exactly one child, a daughter, and as long as they do, they keep their world safe from a red wyrm known as the Nameless One. The Nameless One has been sealed in a watery tomb for 1,000 years, but there are rumors all over the land that he is about to break free. The last time the Nameless One was free, he destroyed cities and brought a deadly plague to people that causes them to burn with an unquenchable fever. Sabran and her people believe that as long as she can keep the bloodline going, they will be sage from the Nameless One. As such, there is tremendous pressure in her court for Sabran to marry and become pregnant, thus ensuring the safety of her people.

We also meet Areloth, known as Loth to most. He is Sabran Berethnet’s best friend and when we first meet him he is being banished to Yscalin, a nearby land that has been invaded by enemies of Inys. He is being sent away because some in the Queen’s court felt that he was getting too close to the Queen and would not make an appropriate husband for her. As he faces an uncertain future, Loth has to work to figure out how to survive, how to get back to Inys, and how to make sure Sabran is safe. When he discovers that matters in Yscalin are more complex than he first thought, he will set out on an adventure in an attempt to keep all those that he holds dear safe. He is hardly an adventurer, but he pulls courage from somewhere deep inside to do what he must for those he loves.

All of these stories and more come together to tell a tale of many lands preparing to do battle with an old and dangerous foe. Across an immense world that Shannon weaves brilliantly, these characters will bring pieces of information from one land to the next that will help them figure out how the Nameless One was defeated last time, and how they might do so again. Watching all of the pieces come together is masterful, and even though this is a fantasy book, there are plenty of twists that will have readers flying through the pages.

Why I liked it:

The world-building is amazing here. In 800 pages, there was only one small part of the book that I didn’t feel had a lot of importance to the entire book. That’s amazing for a tome of this size. Every little thing flowed into the next thing and so on so that very few words are wasted. It was a huge book that didn’t feel cumbersome to read.

I also loved that we had matriarchal societies that were functioning beautifully. While there was trouble brewing on the horizon, all of the female characters are presented a formidable in their own right. We get some representation here, in that as far as I can tell, most of the characters are described as having dark or brown skin. We also get a variety of romantic relationships, with m/m, f/m, and f/f relationships represented. We don’t get any graphic descriptions of sexual scenes, but we do get beautiful relationship development. This is the kind of book that is going to hit you with some feelings.

I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but the cover on this book is truly stunning. I got the paperback edition (a trade paperback, not a mass market) and it has the most beautiful blue foiling on a dragon on the front. It features a slightly raised tower (which the dragon is curled around), and the rest of the cover is a vibrant orange-yellow tinge. It is absolutely stunning in person.

What I would like to change:

Like I said, there’s only one scene in the entire book that I didn’t completely understand. It is a scene where Ead is crossing a desert while attempting to return to the Priory. She meets a character and has a conversation with him, but as far as I can remember, we never see that character again and Ead leaves soon after without explanation to the rest of the party. It was just a little bit like a throwaway scene for me. It could have just been written in a few sentences and appended to the beginning of her next chapter. There were other places in the book where the passage of time was indicated and characters were in a new place without us getting detailed information about their journey, and it worked fine.

Disclaimer: No disclaimer needed. I purchased this book to participate in a read-a-thon and it looks gorgeous on my shelves.

My library rating: While the representation of homosexual relationships will turn some readers away, the lack of violence or descriptive sex scenes makes this one easy to recommend. The biggest hurdle other than that will just be getting people to pick up a book that big.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

My personal preference rating: I gave this book 5 stars and I’ll be picking up more of Shannon’s work in the future. While this is a standalone, she also has a 7-book series that already has 3 works published, with a 4th due out next year.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Hellooooo Kittens! I have got an upcoming spooky thriller release for you today. I found Riley Sager’s books just as quarantine was getting going and quickly became a big fan. I will literally read anything he writes from now on because everything I’ve read from him ends up being a favorite. It doesn’t come out for about a week and a half, but if you have not pre-ordered it or reserved it from your local library, hopefully this review will convince you to do so. This book is being widely compared to The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (I’ll just have to take their word for it since I haven’t read that one, but you best believe I have added it to my TBR after reading this one!)

Title: Home Before DarkHome Before Dark

Author: Riley Sager

Author website:

Publisher: Dutton

Publish date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 9781524745189

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble


Maggie Holt has lived her life in the shadow of a house she lived in as a little girl, and the book her father wrote after they lived there for only 20 days. The house is now one of the most famous haunted houses in the country and Maggie’s name is synonymous with the little girl whose terror is portrayed in her father’s famous book. The only problem: Maggie doesn’t remember any of the events from that book and suspects that her parents made the whole thing up. She has grown up an outcast because of that book, and her demands for real answers have gone unheeded by her parents, which stilted her relationship with them.

After her father’s death, Maggie gets the unexpected opportunity to return to the house as an adult to try and find out what really happened. As a designer, she approaches the house like any other project she tackles, but she sets aside time to dig into the house’s history and what really happened to her family in the time that she spent there. The longer she’s in the house, the more memories begin to return to her, and she is forced to confront a startling truth: maybe the book wasn’t as full of lies as she originally believed? As the house’s caretaker once said, “Baneberry Hall remembers…And sometimes history has a way of repeating itself.”

It’s classified as both Thriller and Horror, so prepare yourself before you start because it’s going to get creepy.

Why I liked it:

The story is told in alternating chapters between what Maggie is experiencing and remembering and corresponding chapters from her father’s book. I really loved that approach to telling this story, especially because the similarities between the chapters increase as the book goes on.

I also love how Maggie’s character approaches the entire history of the house. She doesn’t believe it’s haunted and goes through every logical explanation that she can. Some of her explanations are so solid that even the reader will be questioning her dad’s book before long. This is an awesome device as you are reading, because it essentially turns her father’s book into an unreliable narrator.

I also loved how many twists there were! Twists on twists on twists. It is a thriller reader’s paradise. All of the twists are believable and you have the information in there to parse a few of them out if you pay attention. I will tell you that I pegged a villain pretty early on, then retired that guess when one twist made me re-evaluate, only to get some vindication for my guess in the end. On the other hand, I also have to admit that I pegged another character as a villain, only to be completely wrong. He wasn’t a villain, he just annoyed me and acted in a somewhat creepy manner.

Sony already bought the film rights for the book and I cannot wait to see what they do with it.

What I would like to change:

I think there may have been a few unplugged plot holes in there regarding some of the spooky events. At some point in the near future I’m going to re-read this one and see if those things actually were explained and I just missed it (entirely possible). At times I was reading so fast to get to the next “thing” that was going to happen that I was actually just skimming some of the words.

Also, this book may have ruined what was previously one of my favorite scenes in The Sound of Music. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to hear that song again without getting goosebumps.

Disclaimer: I originally received an e-galley of this title from the publisher via NetGalley, but then it came out as an early release Book of the Month pick, so I ended up primarily reading the physical copy that way. Either way, the preceding review is my honest opinion of the book.

My library rating: This rating is primarily due to the number of curse words in here. I’ll admit that I barely notice them when I’m reading anymore, but I still have patrons who will mark them out in the books that they read (welcome to the South). I did a search on my e-galley to see how prevalent they were, and it was actually…pretty prevalent. I will still be recommending this book to a wide variety of adult readers. It was fantastic.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

My personal preference rating: No surprise here. I gave this one 5 full stars. It was great and I look forward to reading it again soon (I already loaned out my copy to a friend). If you love thrillers, you need to get on the Riley Sager bandwagon like right now.


The Murder By the Book Bookstore is doing a live Zoom event with Riley Sager on June 30th, at 6pm Central time. Purchasing a copy of the book from the bookstore counts as your admission to the Zoom event, and it will even be a signed copy (not personalized since that deadline already passed, but signed is still cool.) The link for the event is here if you’re interested:

I don’t earn anything from the event or sale of the book, etc. I just thought it was a cool opportunity for anyone who was interested. I live in a town that doesn’t get a lot of big authors for book signings generally, and while I know this event is solely because COVID-19 is preventing them from doing an in-person event, I would love to see bookstores offer stuff like this permanently. I don’t think we should stop having in-person events once it’s safe, but it would be nice to have more digital events for those of us who can’t attend locally.

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Hello Kittens! This title was a little late to get on my radar considering it’s a trilogy that will be complete this October. I’m going through a YA Fantasy renaissance and going back to start some of the series that I missed from the last 5 years or so. If you, like me, missed this one the first time around, I highly recommend giving it a try. Plus, if you start it now, you can have the first and second books done before the finale this Fall.

Title: FurybornFuryborn (Empirium, #1)

Author: Claire Legrand

Author website:

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Publish date: May 22, 2018


Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble


Furyborn is told in two timelines focusing on two women and a prophecy. The book starts with a foundational scene where a character named Rielle is giving birth to her first child, a girl. She is mostly alone for this process and we learn that her husband, the king, has died and that she is viewed as responsible for his death. After a traumatic event, we find ourselves meeting a character named Eliana who lives 1,000 years later. Alternating chapters tell us their stories. While their lives are very different, we learn that they are bound together by the same prophecy regarding two queens in this land, one who will destroy the land and one who will save it.

In a land of elemental magic, Rielle has had to hide her abilities because she has had trouble controlling them in the past. When her magic makes itself known at a public event, Rielle is challenged by the King and his court to prove that she is the Sun Queen, the queen from the prophecy who will save her people. In order to prove this, Rielle is forced to undergo a series of challenges to show that she can master all of the elements in this magic system. If she fails, she will most likely be killed, but if she succeeds, she will assume her role as a protector of the realm.

Eliana just wants to keep her family safe. If that means working for the Empire, so be it. She emotionally disconnects herself from the work that she is doing, even though she knows that nearly every person she turns over to the Empire’s forces will be executed, regardless of age, gender, or other factors. The people around her, especially her little brother Remy, are always working to remind her of her humanity. She’s not a big fan of their efforts and justifies that her work keeps them all much safer. When the Empire asks her to find a rebel mercenary known as the Wolf, she is all too happy to oblige. Unfortunately, the Wolf finds her first, her mother is taken by seemingly invisible forces, and Eliana is forced to work with the rebels in order to try to get her back.

Why I liked it:

It’s fast-paced and very well-developed. The elemental magic system is well thought out, and we really only get a taste of the lore surrounding it from this first book. I also appreciated how much the story was starting to come together. As the reader, you’ll catch on to certain elements of commonality before the characters do, but I didn’t mind that at all.

I’m definitely invested enough to keep going with this series. I already got the second book, Kingsbane, from a nearby library offering curbside services right now.

What I would like to change:

The book lacks symmetry for my taste. When we get that first chapter, I expected that we would be circling back to that event by the end, but that was not the case. While we did get much closer to it, we evidently won’t be resolving a lot of what happened in that first scene until the second or third books.

Disclaimer: No disclaimer needed. I borrowed an e-book of this title from my library.

My library rating: While I didn’t think it was too much, some people might object to the steamy scenes in the book (there’s only 2). It also gets a little gruesome towards the end and that was a little tough to read (think innocent people being used without willpower).

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

My personal preference rating: 4 stars. I really enjoyed this one and didn’t mind the steamy scenes or the tough battle scenes. We’re just getting started with what I think are going to be some epic love stories and truly magnificent strong female characters.