Review: Light & Shadow Trilogy by Moira Katson

Series: Light and Shadow trilogy
Author: 
Moira Katson
Genre(s): Young Adult Fantasy
How To Purchase: Kindle | Paperback | Kobo

It has been only two generations since Arthur Warden seized the throne of Heddred from the Conradines, and now the crown rests on the head of Garad, sickly and weak. Shadows gather: legacies of the centuries-long rivalries for power, old betrayals, the endless plots of the courtiers, and the murmur of rebellion in the southern provinces …

Catwin, plucked from her life at the edge of the Kingdom, is thrust abruptly into the world of the Court when she is chosen by the Duke of Voltur to be a Shadow-spy, shield, and blade-to his niece, the Lady Miriel DeVere. The Duke’s ruthlessness is legendary, and he will stop at nothing to become the power behind the throne, using Miriel as a pawn to catch Garad’s heart.

But the Duke’s carefully-laid plans are only a piece of the intrigue of the court, and greater forces than Catwin can imagine are massed against her, determined to eliminate Miriel and impose a new order of their own. If Catwin and Miriel are to survive, they must learn quickly who to trust, and when to turn their skills against the very people who have trained them …

Shadowborn by Moira Katson

Book #1: Shadowborn
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Shadowforged by Moira Katson

Book #2: Shadowforged
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Shadow's End by Moira Katson

Book #3: Shadow’s End
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I was impressed by this series, the Light and Shadow trilogy, which was another one of my fabulous Bookbub bargains. (Er, by the way, since I talk about them so much, one might wonder if I’m affiliated, but I’m not. Though I’ve acquired enough $0.99 and free books from them, I should probably take out stock.)

This is both a fascinating character-driven and an interesting plot-driven story, wrapped in an engrossing fantasy world. Catwin, the main character, comes from a poor family, and until she’s noticed by the Duke of Voltur, she’s destined to amount to nothing but kitchen help. Instead, he sees potential in her and sets to training her to be his niece Miriel’s bodyguard and assassin–whether she wants to or not.

Her struggles with the atrocities she’s forced to commit are potent and heart-rending. The uneasy friendship that grows from initial hatred between the two girls is well-crafted. They dance around one another, neither sure if the other can be trusted, but having no choice but to rely on one another.

I’m not going to spoiler anything from the second and third books, but I loved how the story developed. The stakes continue to raise, as Miriel must do her uncle’s bidding and, well, Catwin must, also.

I rated the third book as four stars because I wasn’t impressed with the culmination of Catwin’s prophecy: As a baby, her mother refused to raise her because she foretold that her daughter would be betrayed. A lot of that back story made no sense, and when the betrayal comes, I can’t really understand why. It’s almost … or completely … a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I don’t really understand why the characters involved choose their actions.

Overall, I loved this series and I heartily recommend it. If you enjoy fantasy, either young adult or adult, you’ll enjoy the Light and Shadow trilogy. Ms. Katson is now on my list of “Authors I Must Read More of If Ever My TBR Pile Diminishes.”

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: One Lucky Night by Various Authors

One Lucky Night by Various Authors

Title: One Lucky Night
Authors: Aria Kane, Grace Teague, Ana Blaze, Constance Phillips, Melinda Dozier
Genre(s): Adult Romance Short Story Collection
How To Purchase: Kindle (Forthcoming) | Paperback – Amazon (Forthcoming)

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of One Lucky Night in exchange for an honest review.

One night can change everything…

The crew at Boston’s Brazen Head Pub hasn’t been very lucky in love. Can a mysterious visitor inspire them to look past old hurts and misconceptions and give romance a chance? One Lucky Night is a collection of five sexy interwoven novelettes by Aria Kane, Grace Teague, Ana Blaze, Constance Phillips, and Melinda Dozier.

One Lucky Night is a compilation of five contemporary romance short stories / novellas, all by different authors. Every story, at least in part, takes place in a pub where the main characters either work or are regulars. And every story has the same mysterious stranger that appears briefly to talk to at least one of the characters.

I was swayed to read these stories by the mysterious stranger bit, but I was disappointed in its execution. He interacts with the main character, always talking about the fledgling romance but never enough to affect the outcome of the story. Every couple seems destined to be together, by their own histories and their own attraction to one another, so the stranger is simply a bystander, offering some advice or encouraging the conflicted person to move forward, take a chance, give in to love. He doesn’t play a large role, and we only learn a few tidbits about his life.

Other than that, the stories were typical contemporary romance. Hot guy, hot girl, kept apart by their own stubborn refusal to give into love until … tonight. Tonight, they all work through their baggage, and tonight, they all get lucky.

I don’t normally post favorite lines (although maybe I should–there are a few that have struck me in previous novels I’ve reviewed that I could have shared), but here is one that I liked. The female main character of one story was describing another male character, not her love interest, but another gal’s love interest. She said that he had “a jaw sturdy enough to ride side saddle on.” It’s an entertaining metaphor, but part of my infatuation with the line is that I can’t decide if it’s dirty or not. What do you guys think?

If you’re a fan of contemporary romance, you’ll probably like this compilation. I personally am not a romance fan–I had visions of intrigue when contemplating the role of the mysterious stranger–so you can’t really take my lack of enthusiasm as meaning anything. One Lucky Night is cute, has plenty of sex when the main characters finally give into their passion, and is a good read if you want to discover a new favorite romance writer.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: Running into the Darkness by D. A. Bale

Running Into Darkness - DA BaleTitle: Running into the Darkness (The Deepest Darkness #1)
Author: D. A. Bale – Blog | Twitter
Genre(s): Adult Thriller
How To Purchase: Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of Running Into Darkness in exchange for an honest review.

“I never intended to kill the President. As a doctor, I swore an oath to protect life – not take it. But that was before…”

Second year resident, Dr. Samantha Bartlett, is swept from the frigid New York winter to once again confront the sting of death back home – and face those she left behind. But she’s not alone. A strange man she dubs Shades haunts her every step as she seeks answers to the inferno which claimed her grandmother, an eerie reminder of her parents’ deaths. The secrets Samantha uncovers forever changes her image of those she only thought she knew.

Confronted by Shades, Samantha joins a secret underworld known only as the Elite, where a web of power and control is woven deep within governments worldwide. Their sights are set on the power structure of the United States, and Samantha becomes the unlikely key to infiltrating the White House at its most intimate levels.

The quest for blood threatens to destroy Samantha. From the darkness there is no escape.

Running Into the Darkness is a thriller with medical advancements and tech that, as far as I’m aware, are just outside the range of what’s possible now. Then again, what do I know about what the most shady government divisions have? Probably some interesting stuff, just like the tech in the book. I guess it says something more about me than about the book to say that I wish there was a little more of that. But the story itself is about Samantha and her world getting turned upside down when her life starts to crumble around her.

I’ll get this out of way early on, since no review would be complete without mentioning the incest. For other reviewers, this was a complete turnoff. I can’t say that I liked it–I mean, ew–but it served a purpose. It showed how the main character Samantha was able to become another persona. It also opens up a question as to what constitutes incest. She never knew her father, so he wasn’t a “dad” to her. He was just another guy, one who’d done a lot of bad things, and one she wanted revenge on. I still can’t wrap my head around why the Elite would insist she go through with sleeping with him, but she is the perfect person to hate him enough to kill him.

While incest is a darker subject, I didn’t feel like the book was dark enough, especially for one with “Darkness” in the title. I didn’t quite feel Samantha’s angst with her. I understood it, but it wasn’t gritty enough for me. I saw it, from the outside, but I didn’t have much of an emotional reaction. I wasn’t there with her. I did like the book well enough, so maybe the sequel brings us into the depths of emotional despair.

If you’re looking for a thriller-like contemporary read with elements of sci-fi, you’ll like Running Into the Darkness. The sequel, Piercing the Darkness, is out, so if you hate waiting for the next installment, fear not, it’s available. The third and final book is releasing soon, so you hopefully won’t have to wait for long until it’s out.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: Futurity by Michael Bunker

Futurity by Michael BunkerTitle: Futurity
Author: Michael Bunker
Genre(s): Adult Science Fiction
How To Purchase: Kindle | Kobo

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Everyone wants to travel to the past. Not Malcolm. He wants to go into the future… and he’s just found out that Dr. Paulsen, Professor of Optics at Rochester-Finney University has figured out how to do it. Malcolm is a third year physics student and a gamer. He’s about to get more than he ever bargained for and he’s going to take you along for the ride.

I really liked Futurity, really, really a lot. It was something I’d been craving for awhile–a science fiction grounded in real science–so I was happy to find it in my pile of Bookbub bargains. There was so much of it to like: The only slightly fictional science unfolded amid an interesting plot and likable main character.

At times, protagonist Malcolm reminded me of myself, the young and eager physics student who wants to unlock all the mysteries of the universe. (Yes, I was all those things ten years ago, believe it or not.) At other times, his cheerful density–college age guys, so clueless when dealing with their girlfriends, *rolls eyes and smiles*–was frustrating but completely endearing.

I completely agreed with Malcolm’s interest in the future. When spending lazy nights talking over time travel with my physics friends, I’d look forward to the future, not the past, as many others do. The future is where the interesting stuff happens! The past is, well, the past. Before you ask, yes, Part II was my favorite Back to the Future movie. So I enjoyed the time spent on developing “the pinnacle of technology” that Malcolm travels to in the end.

While I enjoyed the culmination of the story, the heavy-handed morality lesson got under my skin. It’s been done … and done … and done … to compare our society of people disconnected by technology to the collapses of other empires. I would have liked to see the book end on a different note than “and so the world’s gonna end cause we don’t ‘see’ each other any more.'” I will, however, admit that it was done in a surprising and unique way.

I sat down and read this book in one session, which is something I don’t do much any more. It helps that it was short. The author himself notes that it evolved from a short story to a short novel. If you like science fiction and time travel stories, you’ll like Futurity. Just steel yourself for the lecture at the end.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: The Well of Being by Jean-Pierre Weill

The Well of Being: A Children's Book for AdultsTitle: The Well of Being: A Children’s Book for Adults
Author: Jean-Pierre Weill
Genre(s): Adult Non-Fiction Picture Book
How To Purchase: Amazon

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of The Well of Being in exchange for an honest review.

The Well of Being: a children’s book for adults is an illustrated inquiry into the pursuit of happiness, and what it means to be radically alive in our daily moments. This adult picture book takes its reader on a quest for well‐being and self‐acceptance, following the story of a wondering everyman. The projective tale summons the reader’s inner child as a complimentary vehicle to drive the plot through bold reflection and earnest doubt. Assisted by cosmic perspective, the faceless protagonist sets out to retrieve the deep self-comfort and inner wellness lost along life’s way.

I like quirky and strange things. The Well of Being isn’t strange, but it is an off-the-beaten-path kind of book, one that defies a simple description.

The content is an exploration of a certain philosophical view, illustrated by watercolor paintings that are quiet and emotionally evocative. I reviewed the book on .pdf on my tablet, so it loses something that would be there when the reader holds a hard copy in his or her hands. The pictures are meant to being as thought-inspiring as the words, and I felt that the author/illustrator accomplished this goal.

At the very beginning, the book explains that this is “a teaching of Ramchal, the 18th Century Italian philosopher and mystic.” At the end, further information is given on symbology in the paintings and Ramchal’s teaching. But this is a primer, something to resonate with the soul, something to pique one’s interest in finding inner peace, an offering to learn more.

The only small complaint I have is that it is, as many religion-based books, male-centric. The “representation of you” is clearly a masculine figure, as it wears a suit and tie and top hat. At the end, the book claims that the figure is androgynous, representing “Everyman and also Everywoman.” If it weren’t for the specific note, I might not even mention it, but the pictures clearly don’t represent “Everywoman.” The philosophy itself, of course, is for everyone, and I wouldn’t dispute that at all.

The book is moving in a quiet way. For some, it might awaken a desire to explore one’s inner self. For others, it might seem silly and pointless. For still others, like myself, it reminded me that life is, indeed a spiritual pursuit, and that perhaps I can find solace from busyness by remembering that more often. If any of this review or the book description has interested you, I would suggest picking up a copy of The Well of Being: A Children’s Book for Adults. The art alone is beautiful, despite the hefty price-tag. Self-published illustrated books aren’t cheap to produce, and it was courageous of the author to produce it despite how expensive it is.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: Cowards and Killers by Dennis Liggio

Cowards and Killers Cover ArtTitle: Cowards and Killers
Author: Dennis Liggio
Genre(s): Adult Urban Fantasy
How To Purchase: Kindle

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of Cowards and Killers in exchange for an honest review.

Michael has died, but a mysterious voice on the phone has kept him in the world. They have a simple deal for him: kill and they’ll stop his soul from going to Hell. In a suit that conceals his identity and with a black gun that never runs out of bullets, he becomes their agent. He doesn’t want to be their assassin, but he has no choice if he wants to survive. However, he is not alone in this trap; other agents are trapped in this same dilemma. They all receive calls and must kill their targets before the timer winds down. Together with another agent, he plots to rebel against the voice. But can they really do much against their fate when the voice holds all the cards? With each kill, their humanity is slipping away. Is there a way to escape this dilemma, or do all roads lead to Hell?

I liked Cowards and Killers. I was compelled to keep reading and annoyed at my general sleepiness (recall: I’m pregnant) when trying to get through the ending the night I finished it. Enough of a mystery exist around the origin of the Voice on the phone and the killings that I wanted to keep reading, to unravel the mystery, to understand what was happening.

The problem was that this book was a little long. I think it would have been better as a longer short story or maybe short novella. Intriguing ideas bound the book together, but the actual story-telling left something to be desired.

The beginning was linear without much weaving of plot threads. Much of the middle was talking, explanation, discussion of which agents could be trusted and who couldn’t. The climax was explosive and satisfying, the ending intriguing, but the wrap-up left something to be desired. The explanation we receive on who is doing the killers and who is orchestrating the events at the end is 80% complete, but there are holes. The “big reveal” at the end as to Michael’s history and previous life left me scratching my head, since I never clued in throughout the book that we needed a big reveal. Even the mysterious informational benefactor that appears in the last 25% is left as a deus ex machina to pull together bits of the plot but not ever give a full explanation (although it’s completely obvious from his name as to who he is and what faction he represents).

I have a lot of complaints, it seems, but I still liked the book. As I said, the ideas are strong and unique, but I feel that Mr. Liggio needs to work on his storytelling. Bring the exciting parts on camera rather than telling us about them, get multiple plotlines going at once, and ensure that each bread crumb being dropped gives us a tad more than the last bread crumb. If you like heaven/hell urban fantasies, you’ll probably like this one.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: Gateway by Christina Garner

Gateway by Christina GarnerTitle: Gateway (Gateway Trilogy #1)
Author: Christina Garner
Genre(s): Young Adult Urban Fantasy
How To Purchase: Kindle | Barnes & Noble

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of Gateway in exchange for an honest review.

Ember has always known she doesn’t belong in this world. But when she tries to correct the mistake, she wakes to find herself in a mental institution.

She’s soon drawn to Taren, the mysterious boy with hazel eyes. He’s not what he seems, but what is he?

When chaos erupts, they are forced to flee the institution together, and the secret that Taren has been keeping brings Ember closer to understanding her own. And leads her to… the Gateway.

I liked Gateway, but it lacked something. Although it’s full-length novel, it seemed short, as if the plot was too small. I enjoyed the world-building, and I really liked Ember, but I wished for more from this first installment in the Gateway Trilogy.

I’m particular about Young Adult books, as I’ve mentioned before. I decided to read this one because I liked the premise–demons and chaos. What’s not to love? There’s plenty of that in the book, although I wished for more revelation of the world behind the world. I’m guessing more will be uncovered as the series progresses.

One of the things I loved about the book was the main character, Ember. I’m particularly picky when it comes to my YA protagonists. I’ve never been one for teenaged drama, even when I was a teenager, so now that I’m adult, I’m fully out of that phase. (Pregnancy hormones not-withstanding–we’ll just not go there, since my condition is temporary.) But Ember never comes across as angsty or whiny. She’s always forging onward, looking to the next crisis, and generally being a badass. Even cynical old me found the romance interesting, with little to no time spent mooning over the color of Taren’s eyes or where the relationship was going. A+ on the character development.

I’ve pondered what it is about the plot that makes me feel like it wasn’t enough, but I can’t put my finger on one thing exactly. The ending seemed satisfying, although some of the prose got a little purple and over-dramatic for my taste. It just feels like there’s not enough development of the middle. Ember gets swept away into a new world after she’s committed to a mental institution, and then BAM! Time to fight the boss at the end.

If you like urban fantasy young adult books, you’ll enjoy this. The characters are interesting, and the world seems fully fleshed out. Hopefully more will be revealed in later books, and Ember continues to be a rock-steady teen protagonist.

Find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Part 3 of 3)

Note: This is the final installment of a three part series reviewing New York Times Bestselling Author Gillian Flynn’s current releases.

Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnTitle: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Adult Contemporary
How To Purchase: Kindle | Hardcover (Amazon) | Kobo

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River.

Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media–as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents–the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter–but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

There’s little more I can say about Gone Girl that hasn’t already been said. I was engaged from the first page, and as the story unfolded, I was more and more awestruck with the tight weaving of the tale. I won’t spoiler anything in my review, but let me just say that I loved and hated both main characters multiple times as the novel progressed. Even now that I’m finished, I love and hate both of them.

Certain people are unhappy with the world. It’s like they’re born hating their very existence, perplexed why they’re here, and angry that they are being asked to live. This is who I think the book is about: Someone whose soul was tainted before they proceeded to this earth. That, quite frankly, is fascinating to me and always has been. And I will never get enough of books and movies and television shows about those kinds of people.

Before reading this, I had heard the term “unreliable narrator” applied to the book. That’s not precisely what we’re dealing with, at least not the Holden Caulfield definition. Instead, it’s unreliable storytelling, secrets within secrets, lies by omission and painting reality a certain way, all for a reason. And that reason is to make you feel about the characters. And that’s what makes me love it.

While I like speculative fiction, I like dark, thinking books more. This one definitely fills both those criteria. After I read this, I decided I was going to pick up Gillian Flynn’s other two books and devour them as quickly as this one, though I posted my reviews in the order she published them. That was my fabulous Christmas break 2013–and there’s no question in my mind as to why she’s a New York Times Bestselling Author.

Find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: The Foul Mouth and the Fanged Lady by Richard Raley

The Foul Mouth and the Fanged Lady by Richard RaleyTitle: The Foul Mouth and the Fanged Lady (King Henry Tapes #1)
Author: Richard Raley
Genre(s): Adult Fantasy
How To Purchase: Kindle | Kobo

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

King Henry Price is fourteen, he loves everything he’s not supposed to and hates everything he’s supposed to. One day after his usual hour of detention he comes home to find an enigmatic woman named Ceinwyn Dale sitting in his kitchen, telling his parents lies about a special reform school. What she tells King Henry is different, she tells him he’s a mancer, a Geomancer to be exact, that he’s special, one in million maybe. She sure ain’t a fairy giant and King Henry sure as hell ain’t Harry Potter, but why not? Got to be better than the life he’s already got.

King Henry Price is twenty-two, a recent graduate of the Asylum as an Artificer. With the special ability to create lasting items of the Mancy, he’s spurned the Artificer’s Guild and struck out on his own to found an Artificer workshop looking to do things his way. One night, a vampire baroness claiming she’s named Anne Boleyn walks into his shop, telling King Henry he’s going to help her, and she’s not taking ‘no’ for an answer. King Henry is pretty sure the whole name thing is just a joke, but only pretty sure…

Boy, did I ever like The Foul Mouth and the Fanged Lady. A few months back, I went on a Bookbub binge, and this was one of the cheap or free purchases I had sitting around on my Kobo. Sometimes they turn out all right–especially since Bookbub is known for its quality–and sometimes they don’t. This one, well, they did a good job. (I’ve decided that in 2014 I want to make my way through all my Bookbub books, so you’ll see more reviews that reference Bookbub.)

Poor fourteen-year-old King Henry and his foul mouth. He’s such a little shithead that I couldn’t help loving him. The kid doesn’t have much chance not getting picked on in a world in our times when his mother thought it would be cool to actually name him King Henry. Then again, he doesn’t do himself any favors. The story is told from the perspective of an older King Henry, who is wise (ha!) in the ways of the world and is reflecting on getting dragged off to a magic school whether he wanted to or not. The way the book is written has some more intricacies, but I will leave it to you to find out. Suffice it to say that it’s an entertaining and interesting way of relating a story.

The TVTropes.org term for an element that threatens the reader’s suspension of disbelief is “lampshade hanging,” which Mr. Raley does marvelously. Sparkly vampires and Harry Potter are handled in such an entertaining way that I felt like, yeah, vampires really are blood creatures that wear our bodies as a disguise and Hogwarts has nothing on the real magic school where artificers study their natural craft.

I also wanted to call out the world-building. This is one of those worlds I can’t help but believe exists in another universe (or does it exist in ours and I’m just not aware?). I see in my head Mr. Raley’s writing desk, the walls covered in sticky notes that explain the magic and keep track of all the little idiosyncrasies of the artificers–yet none of it is heavy-handed. It’s casual, without being confusing. Informative, without being an info-dump. It is very well done.

A few grammatical errors spoiled the fun (note the comma splice in the first sentence of the description, sad face), but I was so enamored of King Henry’s exploits that I just didn’t care. And I don’t think I need to comment on the cover. I get the vision now that I’ve read the book, but it is an eyesore that almost stopped me from trying the book out.

If you have a special place in your heart for a foul-mouthed but likeable kid telling it like it is while he’s trying to find his way in this confusing world of magic, you’ll love The Foul Mouth and the Fanged Lady. I can’t wait to pick up the next book in the series and see what new mischief King Henry has gotten himself into.

Find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Part 2 of 3)

Note: This is the second installment of a three part series reviewing New York Times Bestselling Author Gillian Flynn’s current releases.

Dark Places by Gillian FlynnTitle: Dark Places
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre(s): Adult Contemporary
How To Purchase: Kindle | Paperback (Amazon) | Kobo

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.”

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived–and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her.

The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details–proof they hope may free Ben–Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club… and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.

As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members–including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started–on the run from a killer.

I see glimmers of a future bestselling author in this book, but I don’t quite love Dark Places because it doesn’t deliver on some of the things it hints at. Don’t get me wrong–I still gave it 3.5 of 5 stars because I love the darkness inside Libby. But it doesn’t resonate the same way Gone Girl does.

Libby is, quite clearly, disturbed. She’s angry and doesn’t care who knows it. She’s desperate, greedy, and lazy, and willing to do anything but get a job, since getting a job means interacting with people. Of course, she can’t avoid interacting with people–but every interaction drains her and makes her hate the world more.

Quite frankly, I didn’t like Libby, not even a little bit, but I could identify with her struggles. What must it be like to become a child celebrity not for your cherubic face on the Mickey Mouse Show but because your family was brutally murdered? We see child stars become desperate, tearing their clothes off on television and humping the air (though I have a very strong suspicion that most of the time, that’s not their own desperation but their managers’/parents’, who see their cash cow drying up–but I digress). And Libby is even more desperate than that.

As with Sharp Objects, some of the big moments aren’t handled as well as I would have liked. They’re softened, blunted somehow, an “ah, I felt it all along” moment rather than an “OMG! I didn’t see that coming AT ALL!” moment. Yet with each novel, Ms. Flynn’s depiction of some of the saddest and dislikable of humanity becomes stronger, more compelling, sharper.

If you liked Gone Girl, I recommend picking up Dark Places. And next Friday, I will talk about the book that started this blog series, the one I read first, and why I loved it.

Find me on Twitter and Pinterest.