The Project by Courtney Summers

I’m a little backed up on my reviews here, but in early February I picked up Courtney Summers’ new release, The Project. I was a big fan of her previous work, Sadie, which was a thriller about a young girl who was investigating the disappearance of her little sister. This new book takes on that same theme but in a very different setting.

Title: The Project

Author: Courtney Summers

Published: February 2, 2021

This was a story about 2 estranged sisters, Bea and Lo, that was told in a dual timeline. One sister was in a disfiguring car accident that also killed their parents and one sister joined a cult-like organization called the Unity Project when she couldn’t deal with the aftermath of the accident. As Lo, the sister who was injured, searches for her sister Bea, who joined the Unity Project and then fell off the grid, Lo finds herself attempting to infiltrate the same group where her sister found a home. Lo is a young woman who is searching for both a home and a family and the Unity Project is a tempting potential answer for both of those needs.

I enjoy reading about cult stories and I love a dual timeline, so this story really appealed to me. While I won’t spoil it, I really enjoyed the ending, not the resolution about Bea, but the parts that came after. Those parts represented trauma very well, in my opinion. I rated this one 4 stars personally. I will continue to pick up future titles from Summers because she writes female trauma and familial bonds so well.

Lemonade rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon3 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could recommend to coworkers and friends you don’t know very well. There are some sex scenes and some violent scenes, but the story is addictive and you’ll want to keep reading once you’re hooked.

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 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.