Thoughts on WALKING THROUGH NEEDLES

Howdy, howdy! How is everyone doing? It’s the last Wednesday of June. Can you believe it? I have no idea where time is going. But that means it’s time for another book review! I wanted something a little more intense this month, so I decided to request a thriller mystery instead of a cozy. Walking Through Needles by Heather Levy sounded like just the ticket. It was released from Polis Books on the 29th. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. So, let’s get to it!

Not a bad cover, but I don’t really understand why the lightning is there.

Walking Through Needles follows Sam as she struggles to deal with the repercussions of the abuse she suffered as a teenager. When she discovers her abuser has been murdered, it forces her to relive that time and the confusion and inner turmoil that went with it. But she needs to focus on the here and now in order to keep an innocent man from being charged with the crime, as well as keeping herself out of the spotlight. But who actually killed him? Sam isn’t sure she really wants to know.

I have to be honest. This book feels more like an excuse to write softcore stepsibling porn that dabbles in kink than an actual thriller. I mean, the very first scene is Sam masturbating while choking herself. That’s an awkward start to a book when you’re not prepared for it. However, the whole porn vibe isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Porn is fine. It can even be great. This porn is not. It’s rape-y and underage (she’s 16-17 during the rape parts). And the murder plot feels like an afterthought. Something thrown in to make the actual story more palatable to a wider audience. It was super easy to figure out who killed the dude. So easy that the red herrings (those side plots meant to throw you off the scent) came across as ridiculous. Aside from the lack of actual mystery, it was a story (neither good nor horrible) if you’re into dark stuff. It at least tries to handle the complexities of rape, especially when it comes to a grown ass man taking advantage of a teenager’s willingness when she really has no clue what she’s getting into. It just doesn’t do it well. There’s this whole “I was asking for it” mentality when Sam’s younger and it never really addresses when she finally stops blaming herself. Everything is skimmed over. Anyway, it just wasn’t what I was expecting or hoping for, so I wasn’t ready for it.

My face after reading that opening scene.

The characters are all a little on the flat side. Sam’s a budding masochist who matures into the role as an adult, but she never really becomes an actual person for me. She’s pretty stereotypical. Isaac has the potential to be an interesting character, but we never get a glimpse into his motivations/why he’s the way he is, so he ends up being a typical asshat. Arrow is the most interesting character because he actually demonstrates a willingness to change and adapt, but even he doesn’t get his due. Mom and Grandma are caricatures. Everyone else is just meh. They all have some kind of potential, but sadly fall flat.

Me to every single character.

As far as the writing goes, it was fine. There was nothing captivating about it, but nothing to complain about either. It was just words on the page. That’s about it. But I should probably stop thinking about this book because the more I do, the more I dislike it.

Ultimately, Walking Through Needles was not my cup of tea. I have no desire to pick up another book by Heather Levy just because of this one. It might be because I wasn’t in the mind space for something like this. It’s not like I haven’t read and enjoyed things even darker than this. But this one didn’t do anything for me.

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Overall, I gave it 2 out of 5 stars. Closer to 1.5 stars. Mostly because there are people who apparently enjoyed it, even if I’m not one of them. If you’re into softcore porn with a super dark storyline, you might enjoy this. If you’re looking for a thriller, this is not the story you want.

Thoughts on A SPELL OF MURDER

Howdy, howdy!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas (or whatever it is you happen to celebrate)!  It’s the last Wednesday of the month (and year), so it’s time for another book review.  I looked for something festive, but ended up going with another cozy mystery.  For December, I got a hold of an ARC (advanced reader copy) of A Spell of Murder by Clea Simon, which was released earlier this month.  As usual, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, Polis Books, for granting me access to this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Now, let’s get to it!

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Cute cover.  And it actually refers to things in the story.

A Spell of Murder is the first in the new Witch Cats of Cambridge series.  It follows Clara, a calico cat, and her two sisters, Harriet and Laurel, all of whom happen to be witch cats (yes, they are cats who can do magic).  They do their best to keep their “owner,” Becca, out of trouble as she embarks on a new adventure in her life.  Recently single and newly unemployed, Becca is on a mission to find herself.  She researches her family history and even joins a local coven.  But when a covenmate is murdered, Becca is pulled down the rabbit hole of wanting to find out what happened.  Her cats must help keep her out of trouble.  Whether out of love or the desire for more food and treats depends on which cat you ask.

You might be wondering why I said it follows Clara instead of Becca.  That’s because the book is (mostly) told from Clara’s POV.  It’s part of the reason I wanted to check this book out.  A murder story from a cat’s POV?  Sounds neat.  And it was.  But it slips out of Clara’s POV at random moments, which is jarring and occasionally really confusing.  For the most part, Clara finds ways to be in each scene, but a couple of times the POV just flat out changes to Becca because Clara isn’t around.  If this was a braided narrative set up so we expected the POV shifts, that would be fine.  But it’s not, so the shifts feel lazy.  An easy out when putting a cat in the scene is too difficult.

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It’s random like this, except way less cute.

Other than that, the story is solid, if somewhat predictable.  I guessed at the murderer as soon as they showed up, but I also have a strong dislike of that type of person, so maybe it was just wishful thinking.  Correct wishful thinking, but still.  There’s a douchenozzle of a love interest, an actual love interest, an overzealous bestie, and a plethora of other characters you would expect in a story like this.  The most interesting characters are the cats.  Clara is all about loving and protecting Becca.  Harriet basically just wants food and treats and all the comforts she can get.  And Laurel simply likes drama, especially when it involves a man.  The humans are just kind of there.

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At least in this book.

The writing style is easy going and carries the reader along for the most part.  It tries to get you to follow it to awkward conclusions, instead of going with your gut.  That’s what cozy mysteries do.  The descriptions of the people in the book are pretty vague, which makes it a little difficult to separate them, but that’s how the cats see people.  It was interesting to see the world as a cat.  And it makes for a light, quick read.

Ultimately, it was an okay read.  I probably won’t go looking for future books in the series, but if I randomly run across them, I’ll flip through and see if anything has improved.

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Overall, I gave A Spell of Murder three stars.  It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  If you like magical cats and Hallmark channel murder mysteries, you might like it.  If not, you’re not missing much.