The Shadows by Alex North

Hello Kittens! I was looking through my archives in preparation for writing this review because I just knew that I had reviewed The Whisper Man by Alex North sometime last year. I absolutely had to have reviewed it because I raved about the book to nearly anyone who would listen and recommended it to all of my colleagues who read thrillers. But, guess what? I must have been so busy talking about the book that I forgot to write about it, because there was no review on the site. I will not make that mistake again. Here today for your reading pleasure, I offer my review of Alex North’s second book, The Shadows. It is even creepier than The Whisper Man was. If you like spooky thrillers, then you need to clear your calendar for this book, because it is definitely worth the read.

Title: The ShadowsThe Shadows

Author: Alex North

Author Twitter (no website found):

Publisher: Celadon

Publish date: 7/7/20

ISBN: 9781250318039

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble


Twenty-five years ago something terrible happened in the town of Gritten Woods and Paul Adams was an unwilling witness to most of it. As a young man, his best friend James got caught up with two other local boys who were nothing but trouble, Billy Roberts and Charlie Crabtree. Before the school year is out, Billy and Charlie will murder one of their classmates in a ritualistic effort to leave this world for a dreamworld that they have worked to convince James and Paul is real. That murder will tear many lives apart for many reasons, but the biggest one of all will be that while Billy is brought to justice for the crime, Charlie is never seen again. Did his sacrificial offering work? Did he die in the woods? Is he still out there somewhere? These questions will haunt everyone who was involved in the case then and have unforeseen repercussions in the present.

Paul left Gritten Woods as soon as he was old enough, severing contact with nearly everyone there. He hasn’t been back since he was a teen and only returns now because his mother has been placed in hospice care. Coming home is not easy and he is bombarded by the memories that he has been shutting out for so many years. He is forced to confront everything that happened then and works to figure out what actually happened wtth Charlie. Someone is leaving creepy and threatening messages for Paul in the present and this time he is determined to stand his ground instead of running away.

We also reunite with Detective Amanda Beck (who readers will remember from The Whisper Man). While she was not involved in the original case, a current case in her jurisdiction sends her looking for answers in Gritten Woods. What starts out as an isolated incident suddenly seems to have connections to the dark past of this desolate town. Amanda will be facing her fears and confronting her feelings about her job and her relationship with her deceased father, all while chasing a killer who seems to be pure evil.

Is it all just a story made up by twisted teenagers or is there something lurking in the shadows of Gritten Woods? Something that wants to finish what it started 25 years ago?

Why I liked it:

It’s seriously creepy right from the start. While we only have 2 books to judge, this seems to be an Alex North hallmark. He sets the scenes perfectly in these dying towns which are described as being lacking in purpose and opportunity. These are the places that people want to leave but often find themselves stuck in. These descriptions really add to the perception that the characters are going to become trapped in their situations.

I loved the twists in this book. It made writing the review a little tricky, because there’s one piece of information about 75% of the way through the book and it makes the reader re-evaluate everything they’ve read up to that point (as all good twists should). Once you know, you can’t un-know it, and I look forward to re-reading this title with that knowledge the second time around.

I also like that North gives the reader everything that they need to know for the story to make sense without twisting the plot too dramatically in an effort to shock the reader. I don’t love when authors make the bad guy at the end an unknown entity with motives that the reader would not have known ahead of time. North gave us all of the clues and I appreciated that, even if I didn’t catch them all at the time. I did peg one of the twists, but the second one caught me completely off guard and I loved that.

What I would like to change:

I wish that I had re-read The Whisper Man more recently before starting this. For me, Detective Amanda Beck started out as a stranger for me. I had to go back and re-read some reviews from the first book to remember her character. I really appreciated that she was there and that there was a reference to the “Whisper Man” case in this book, since it was like finding an Easter egg for the fans, but I really had forgotten a lot about her in the meantime.

Disclaimer: I received an e-galley of this title from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My library rating: There are a lot of f-bombs and a little bit of gore in this book. I would probably be a little more selective about who I recommended it to. While it is a thriller, it’s darker than a traditional thriller and leans heavily towards horror.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon3 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could recommend to coworkers and friends you don’t know very well.

My personal preference rating: I gave this title 5 stars. I have no idea how long we’ll be waiting for the next book from Alex North, but it will be an auto-buy for me for sure. This was no sophomore slump effort as far as I was concerned. I may have even liked it better than The Whisper Man.

Extra stuff:

The Mysterious Alex North

Alex North is a somewhat mysterious author at the moment. This is his second book written under this pen name and there is no author website or photo associated with him, only a Twitter account and some brief info on the publisher’s page. A little internet digging is suggesting however, that Alex North and Steve Mosby are one in the same ( Mosby has 11 published works that might be worth a look, just based on how great Alex North writes. I’m not sure what the point of separating the works is at this point, but I can only guess that his work as Alex North is drastically different from the Mosby writings. Either way, it adds an air of mystery to Alex North’s titles.

Lucid Dreams

A good bit of the plot in this book deals with a concept called lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is a type of dreaming that involves the dreamer being aware that they are asleep and having the ability to control what happens in the dream (a simplistic definition). As it turns out, this is an actual thing. If you’re interested in learning more about it, I found a list of books on Goodreads that focus on lucid dreaming.

Goodreads list:

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.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Hello Kittens! I hope everyone is staying as well as they can. I know that for many people these are scary and uncertain times and I hope that you are finding comfort in any small ways that you can. I have been finding some small solace in reading. I’ve only been home for a few days but I’ve managed to immerse myself in my TBR pile and plow through a few books that had been lounging without the attention they deserved over the last few weeks. Reading allows me to get out of my head. I only know that things have gotten to be too much in my life when I can no longer focus on a book. Fortunately, I have not reached that point yet. This book is a creepy one that just might take your mind off of the real world for awhile. I know that it did the trick for me.

Title: The Sun Down MotelThe Sun Down Motel

Author: Simone St. James

Author website:

Publisher: Berkley (Penguin Random House imprint)

Publish date: February 18, 2020

ISBN: 9780440000174

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Simone St. James came on my radar last year when I read The Broken Girls as part of my PopSugar Challenge and it blew me away. She’s now on my must-read list, so when her newest book, The Sun Down Motel was offered as one of the options for the January Book of the Month Box, I jumped on it. St. James sets the scenes for creepy mysteries like no one else that I have ever read. She integrates more supernatural elements in this story than she did in The Broken Girls but still creates plenty of scary moments with her earthly characters as well. The story opens with two narratives, separated by 35 years, following Vivian Delaney in 1982 and Carly Kirk in 2017.,

In 1982 Viv Delaney has run away from home and is on her way to New York City to start a new life. She ends up only making it as far as Fell, New York, a sleepy town with limited opportunities. Viv finds work as the night desk clerk at the Sun Down Motel. The job doesn’t require too much of her, since the motel only has a few customers at a time. Soon after starting work, Viv begins to notice some strange happenings at the Sun Down. The more she works there, the more it seems like some of the hotel’s guest checked in…and never left. As Viv begins to unravel the mysteries of the Sun Down, both past and present, she puts herself in real danger. By the end of the first chapter we know one thing for sure about Viv Delaney: by 3am on November 30, 1982, she will vanish.

In 2017, Carly Kirk makes her way to Fell, seeking purpose in her life after the death of her mother. She is drawn to Fell because of an unsolved family mystery, the disappearance of her aunt Viv in 1982. No one in the family would talk about what happened to her aunt, and Carly doesn’t want to live with that mystery hanging over her any longer, so she travels to Fell to find out what really happened. Carly settles into town and starts investigating, ultimately following in her aunt’s footsteps and taking the night desk clerk job at the Sun Down Motel. Along the way she meets a cast of characters who are both helpful and unnerving, including the Sun Down’s long-term residents. She begins putting all of the pieces together and finds herself following the same trails that her aunt did. Carly discovers the truth. Viv Delaney wasn’t the first woman to go missing in Fell. In fact, the town has a history of women meeting violent ends…but Viv was the last.

Told in alternating narratives between Viv and Carly, the reader gets deeply inside the heads of both women. The setting of Fell, New York is eerie, with everyone in town seeming to acknowledge that bad things happen to women in their town. The ambivalence of the townspeople and the local police force in light of these facts only adds to the novel’s tension. Viv’s old-school armchair detective work contrasts sharply with the information that is available to Carly with modern technology. Even as both women are leading the reader to the same conclusion, the story holds so many twists that the reader is going to be flying through the pages, unable to put the book down for fear that they’ll miss something. St. James has a knack for adding supernatural elements that don’t bog down the story. When the final conclusion comes to bear, the real monsters are all too human.

The story is excellent entertainment, but it doesn’t shy away from addressing the very real nature of gender disparity in the 70s. It also succinctly covers issues like mental health and the need to disengage from the facts when they get too dark. The thing that makes this story so good for me, is the fact that Fell, New York, could have been almost any town in the 70s and the story still could have played out this way. Those were dark times, but in all honesty, the story translates well into 2017’s narrative as well. The high point of this story comes when the reader learns how little has actually changed in all those years.

It’s a fast-paced read that mystery readers will love unraveling. Figuring out the whodunnit is only half the battle in this story, where the why and the how is so much more compelling than the who. I would recommend this read to anyone who likes their mysteries a little spooky and isn’t afraid of a little gore. Most of the violence is left off of the page, with the reader left to imagine based on descriptions of the injuries, but it could definitely be a trigger for those who are sensitive to violence against women. Fair warning.

Disclaimer: No disclaimer needed. I got this one through the Book of the Month service that I subscribe to. It’s pretty neat and if you’re an avid reader, I recommend trying it out. You get your choice of books each month across a variety of genres. Some of them are pre-release titles. If you don’t like that month’s offerings, you can pause and choose a book the next month. The prices are reasonable and the titles are top-tier.

My rating:

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.


Most of the violence takes place off of the page. I think this would be a great book group selection because it is going to spur discussion of why society has so much trouble taking the endemic problem of violence against women seriously. It’s also pretty thought provoking when it comes to the nature of justice. There is a very minimal amount of foul language in the book, primarily spoken by villains, which I feel makes it more palatable to readers. Overall, I will be recommending this book to several of my patrons and most of my co-workers.

Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

Guten Tag Kittens! I don’t know about y’all, but Fall is just starting to make its presence known here in the South. Whatever the calendar might say, it’s been hot as Hades around here and I am loving the 15 degree drop in temperature we got this weekend. When the heat gets too oppressive down here I like to dive in to a read that gives me the heebie jeebies. Thankfully, I won a copy of Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall which cooled me down quick by giving me goosebumps for hours. This YA horror title came out just a few weeks ago and deserves some attention.

Title: Rules for Vanishing

Author: Kate Alice Marshall42872940

Author website:

Publisher: Viking Books (Penguin Randomhouse imprint)

Publish date: September 24, 2019

ISBN: 9781984837011

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

If you’re looking for a YA horror novel going into the haunting season, this one is a good bet. Rules for Vanishing follows two sisters, Sara and Becca, in Briar Glen, MA, in the spring of 2017. Told in the form of interview transcripts from a Dr. Ashford, first-person accounts from a number of teenage participants, and text messaging/email transcripts from the involved teens. One year ago, Sara’s sister Becca disappeared in the woods near the hometown. She was rumored to have been involved in a game related to a local legend about another teenage girl who disappeared in those woods named Lucy Gallows. For some reason, people in town believe that Becca ran away with a boy that she was dating, but Sara doesn’t buy it. She can’t figure out why people aren’t taking the legend seriously, but despite her own doubts, the legend of Lucy Gallows is her only lead, and she’s determined to follow that road in the woods wherever it may lead.

When all of the students at the local high school get a text message challenging them to solve the clues and go to the woods to free Lucy Gallows, many believe that Sara is behind taunt, but a few of her friends from before Becca disappeared are less certain, and they want to be there for Sara in any way they can. So, on the preordained night, the teens meet in the woods and the road appears to them. The rules for the road seem simple: stay with your partner, stay on the road, don’t let go, thirteen steps, get through all of the gates and you’ll be able to leave. The road is not easy and the teens are in for a horrifying trip from which they will not all return.

This read reminded me a lot of Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood. You’ve got teens in the woods on a magical and terrifying journey where they are in over their heads and being influenced by forces beyond their comprehension. The narrative style of Rules for Vanishing is unique, blending a little of the Blair Witch Project with modern technology to an enthralling effect. The paranoia builds and the reader is on the road just as much as the teens are, trying to figure out who to trust and keeping track of all of the major players and their motives. There’s more than just horror in this story however, as it also addresses the bonds of sisterhood as well as the evolving nature of multiple relationships.

The road gets real pretty fast, and while the copy I’ve got lists the ages as 12 and up, I would probably say 15 and up would be more appropriate. But then again, I’m a scaredy cat who won’t watch horror films and will only read YA horror, nothing more hardcore. The characters are well developed and the setting is richly detailed. The set-up is also there for additional books, focusing more on the mysterious Dr. Ashford than the sisters in this case. The ending is a little ambiguous for my taste, but the storytelling was masterful and I truly didn’t see any of the twists coming. If more titles are coming from this author, I definitely want to read them.

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Readers’ Edition of this title from the publisher via BookishFirst with the expectation that I would write an honest review.

My rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_icon2 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could probably recommend to family and close friends.  They may not like everything that’s in it, but they’re not going to start sending you cards with holy scripture written in them as messages to get you back on the path of righteousness after reading them either.

This one gets a lower lemonade rating because there are some gruesome deaths and there’s a homosexual relationship. Before you get your pitchforks, remember that I am a Southern Librarian talking about the recommend-ability of this book to potential patrons. I loved this book, but I would hesitate to recommend it because of those two things unless I had a clear idea of the patron’s comfort level with those topics.