5 Binge-worthy Reads Unofficially Inspired by Real Killers

If you’re a true crime addict, and you’re looking for a new way to explore your favorite obsession, then check out one of these five books unofficially inspired by real-life serial killers.

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Fourteen years after her disappearance, high school popular girl Angela Wong’s remains are discovered. No one suspected that her best friend Georgina “Geo” Shaw had anything to do with it, but the remains were discovered near her own childhood home. Detectives have determined that Angela was a victim of serial killer Calvin James, but who is Calvin to Geo? Geo and Calvin are both sent to prison where Geo tries to make a name for herself, so she has money when she leaves to start over. But Calvin quickly escapes and evades recapture. Which means when Geo’s time is up, she won’t be safe anymore.

The Vibe: Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka

The read the rest of the list, click here!

Thanks to Tittle-Tattle for having me!

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

I was so excited to receive a copy of The Happy Ever After Playlist from the publisher to read and review. At first, I was a little concerned that I would so willingly take on this challenge after getting my heart ripped out by the first installment, The Friend Zone. But then I remembered that while Abby takes you on a whiplashed tour of all the emotions that you experience in love (including love), she also heals your heart and puts you back together by the end.


In HEAP, Sloane Monroe ends up the pup-sitter for a dog whose owner, Jason, is currently across the world on tour. She cares for the dog and tentatively plans to meet up with Jason when he returns to
 maybe give his dog back. Then it turns out that Jason is actually Jaxon Waters, the musician whose music got her through her fiancé’s death. 


Sloane doesn’t plan on falling for Jason, but fortunately for us Abby oversees her fate. So instead of Sloan playing it safe, we get to play the HEAP on Spotify while we read the book and follow Sloane through her very interesting and entertaining life after loss. And of course, Kristen and Josh are back from the first book as well as cute little Stuntman Mike. This one pulled at my heart strings but thankfully Abby is an expert romance
 and comedy writer so that readers can laugh just as hard as they cry.


This was wonderfully written – I LOVE books that read how I imagine the author talks. That’s how I write and so it really appeals to me. I also love how she weaves together such different elements from drama, to baking, to dog care, to outdoor life, to music, to love, to loss. It makes for a really captivating read. I cannot wait for the third installment, assuming there is one. If there isn’t then I imagine we fans need to immediately start a petition to remedy that.

The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

fow pic

                WOW. I had no idea what to expect with this book. I had never listened to the podcast before reading The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home nor had I read the other books. This was an incredible read. It was weird and fascinating and so well written. I couldn’t tell where this was going for a little bit, but I did figure out the twist because there wasn’t a huge cover up for it. The authors kind of lead you there. However, they did it in such a way that even if you do guess the end game before getting to the end there’s no way to be disappointed because it was 100s of years in the making.

This was Poltergeist meets Pirates of the Caribbean and it was everything I never knew I wanted in a book. The Faceless Old Woman, who is never named, and I will here on out refer to as FOW, grew up on an estate with just her father and his business partner Edmond. When her father is killed by a pirate organization called The Order of the Labyrinth, FOW dedicates her life to revenge and tracking down those responsible. With the help of Edmond, she is trained to be a pirate and incorporated into The Duke’s Own, another organization her father rivaled with before his death.

In alternating time lines between the pirate life of FOW and present day inside a man named Craig’s home, we see the events leading up to how FOW ended up living in multiple homes at once haunting the people of Night Vale, and what exactly she’s doing to Craig. Among other things, putting centipedes in his ears, setting up a meet cute for Craig and his future wife, putting dead animal limbs in his pockets, and setting all his shoes on fire. This read was at times haunting (perfect pun), adventurous, and humorous.

If I go any further into this or I will ruin it for you. Everyone should just go into this basically blind to the premise. It was a magical and wonderful and kind of horrific story that I didn’t want to end. Go read this. It was a delightful spider-filled treat.

*Thanks to the publisher for my copy to read and share.*

Postscript by Cecelia Ahern

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

The long (LONG) awaited sequel to the amazing P.S. I Love You from Cecelia Ahern is here! Yes, you heard that right: the sequel to the book that brought us the movie that brought us Holly and Gerry’s story that brought us Gerard Butler. 20 pages in and I was crying and scolding myself, “THIS is why you don’t read romance.” But it was worth it.

I loved the beginning and the end, the middle was a little slow for me. I was also was a little annoyed with Holly and Gabriel’s attitudes toward each other’s current hobbies. Gabriel upset about Holly getting involved in a club to help people cope with death. Holly upset that Gabriel asked his daughter to move in over her even though she wasn’t sure she wanted to move in anyway. Those two, man. Breaking my heart left and right.

On top of this, Holly and her attitude. She helps her sister out with a podcast episode on dealing with loss of a loved one. Then suddenly there is interest in starting The P.S. I Love You Club for terminally ill patients to leave something of themselves behind for their loved ones. I loved this idea! I thought it was so sweet. Holly did not. She warmed to it and decided to dip her toe into involvement with the club but she had a such a bad attitude at multiple points that that in itself was a little heartbreaking.

I sound like I’m bashing Holly, but I’m not at all. Of course I realize that Holly had a good reason to be wary and upset – she thought she was past Gerry’s death but this club brought it all back to the surface. And then as we get deeper into the book and Holly gets more involved with The P.S. I Love You Club we see what she’s working through and the different feelings coming up due to confronting Gerry’s death again. We also see Holly bring into question Gerry’s motives for leaving her the letters in P.S. I Love You. At first it’s sad. Did he do it more for himself than Holly? Or both of them? Was it completely selfless? And how can Holly use this to ensure her club leaves the best things for their loved ones?

Holly grows a lot in this novel about love, growing up and moving forward, helping others, and loving yourself enough to know when to say no. As I said before, the middle was a little slow for me – due to the flip flopping in emotions for Holly. But ultimately, the book comes full circle from Gerry’s death and Holly moving forward and was a really heartwarming read. Yes, it cracked my heart at certain points, but it was a really good read about love and, sometimes more importantly, self-love.

Fans of P.S. I Love You will love this much anticipated sequel, finding more than a story about the loss of a loved one.

Flower by Safira X

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Flower 🌸 🌺 🌹

THIS is a short story.

This is an INCREDIBLE short story.

A FEMINIST, TWISTED, BLOODY, HORRIFIC, incredible short story.

I was on the edge of my seat the entire time which is what I expect from thriller/horror stories. And if it’s short? I expect you to pack an explosive story in there. I know I have high expectations BUT Safira X accomplishes that several times over in this 40 page sucker punch.

Murder ✅ Revenge ✅ Torture ✅ Fragile Masculinity ✅ Sexism ✅ Blood & Gore ✅ Animal Abuse (not my fav but works in favor of the story) ✅ Sex ✅ Supernatural ✅ “40 pages? No way there could be any of the back story or character development needed to make it so good.”FALSE.

I am so impressed and I canNOT wait for the next book!

How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Raymond Fleischmann gives us a beautifully written debut novel with How Quickly She Disappears. Following Elisabeth on dual timelines we witness in one the grooming and taking of her 11-year-old twin sister, Jacqueline, and in the other we watch Elizabeth slowly unravel at the appearance of a mysterious man named Alfred. Alfred, who claims to know what happened to Jacqueline. Alfred, who knows everything about Elisabeth though they’ve never met. Alfred who might be a little bit mad.


Elisabeth is living in remote Alaska with her distant husband and fiercely intelligent daughter, Margaret. When Alfred shows up claiming he needs to rest before a flight, Elisabeth allows him to stay in their guest room. From there things quickly spiral out of control. Even after murder, her daughter’s attempts to get attention, her husband constantly battling her beliefs and actions, and prison (among other things) Elisabeth pursues the truth about her sister. 


This book reads like The Silence of the Lambs watches (I’ve only seen the movie) with a drawn-out cat and mouse chase between Alfred and Elisabeth. Alfred’s quickly changing moods do nothing to quell Elisabeth’s hunt for facts. Repeated attempts from her husband and police to stop her vigilante investigationdoes not deter her. I loved the steady pace of this book and the way Raymond really brings us with him to watch Elisabeth lose herself in her search for her 20-years-missing sister.


This book is dark and beautiful and haunting and I will absolutely be buying Raymond’s next book.

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Cecilia “Cilka” Klein has every reason to hate her life, the people involved in the pain she’s had to endure, and humanity in general. The amazing thing about her is that she doesn’t. No matter what happens to her, Cilka continues to stand up for herself and those around her and be the best person she can be. I would like to think that I would respond to Cilka’s circumstances as valiantly as she did. But based on my reaction to people not using a blinker in traffic I don’t think it’s likely.

Joking aside, this book is incredible. I am so glad Heather Morris decided to continue her work from Lale and The Tattooist of Auschwitz and let us know what happened to an important and influential character. This is a devasting and heart wrenching story, but it is an as important one as any from the Holocaust and World War 2 are.

Not only is this the story of what happened to Cilka, it also the story of how her very soul endured and continued to give humanity chance after chance to be good when she had no reason to believe it ever would. In Cilka’s Journey we follow Cilka after the release of the concentration camps at the end of World War 2. Cilka is pointed out as having aided the enemy as a spy as well as having slept with the enemy. There is no investigation and few questions asked to find her guilty. Did she in fact speak many languages? Was she sleeping with the commander? The facts the she was intelligent and was not sleeping with the man by choice were not factors in condemning a child who went into Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp at 16 and was forced into exile in a Siberian prison upon her release at age 19.

This journey is what happened next. What Cilka’s life was after Auschwitz-Birkenau and during her time in Siberia. Once again unable to go unnoticed, Cilka draws the attention of the male prisoners. She draws the attention of her female prisoner roommates. She finds and tries to protect Josie while she is found out for her past by Hannah and tries to survive her threats. Finally, she captures the attention of a female doctor at the prison who takes her under her wing and teaches her to be a nurse.

This is an incredible journey to be sure. If you are a WW2 or historical fiction fan, then this is for you. If you like human trial and success stories with themes of love and friendship, then this is for you. If you have a heart, then this is the book you need to read.

On A Quiet Street by J.L. Doucette

Synopsis

Stacy Hart has the perfect life: a great job, a perfect fiancé, a beautiful house. Then, Stacy is murdered. But if her life was so perfect then why was she murdered? Detective Beau Antelope is teaming up with Dr. Pepper Hunt to find out why.

Review

Let me just say first, I loved Detective Antelope’s character. He is a Native American officer who left the reserve to pursue the thing he is best at: solving murders. In this book, he teams up with Dr. Pepper Hunt (from the first book, Last Seen) but he does most of the talking. The narrative of this book is different from the first. In Last Seen, Dr Hunt is the lead character. In this sequel, there are a lot of alternating points of view, but Detective Antelope is the main character. He refers often but also superficially to his ancestry as a reason for his moods and behavior. He is a serious but respectful cop with a dry sense of humor. He also seems real – not an over the top action-movie cop, but one who is instead uses his brain. (and when he hits a dead end he does what any smart person would do-he asks a woman!)

Detective Antelope is the leading character in On A Quiet Street. He is pursuing several people of interest in the murder of Stacy Hart. First, Jack Swailes. He was Stacy’s contractor for home improvement, and per her fiancé he was also interested in Stacy as a love interest. That brings us to Connor Collins, Stacy’s hot shot Assistant District Attorney fiancé. As we all know from every true crime documentary ever, the significant other is usually the killer. Of course, Dr. Hunt is also helping – she is brought on a psychological expert with the police department. She is also the therapist for the third person of interest, Max Hunt, Stacy’s brother.

These are just a few of the POVs we see throughout the book, which seems overwhelming until you start reading and realize that they are perfect for this slow burn of a murder mystery. On A Quiet Street builds very slowly, bringing more and more people into the case, some from over 15 years before. The alternating POVs are short spurts of chapters which make for a relatively quick read.

There a few loose ends which I believe are Easter eggs for the third book. For example (not a spoiler but interesting), we are told that Val Campion (Jack Swailes’ uncle) has a rather sordid history that he doesn’t want anyone looking into but at the same time he owns all the seedy joints in town. As you can see there is a lot going on in this book.

Then ending is wrapped up both satisfactorily and unsatisfactorily in my opinion. Of course, we get our final showdown with the killer, but it seemed a little unrealistic to me in how the killer revealed his/herself. BUT, a major theme in this book is sociopathic and narcissistic behavior so it could be completely accurate. (Maybe I just like a lot more drama?) On the other hand, a lot of the loose ends are tied up very nicely which I like. Then there are the ones that were not, which is characteristic of a series. So, I do believe there will be more books…thus more murder and blood for us thriller lovers!

Huge thank you to BookSparks and J.L. Doucette for my free copy to review and share!

The Vanishing Season by Dot Hutchison

The team is back in The Collector series by Dot Hutchison! This time Eliza Sterling takes the lead as both detective and story teller in Dot’s most recent case, The Vanishing Season. I am so excited because this is a series that has really stuck with me. Usually I find a series fizzles out after a few books but somehow Dot is doing what others can’t seem to do. I am again, truly, so impressed with her.

Brooklyn Mercer has disappeared. On her walk home from school, the same walk she takes every day, she vanishes without anyone seeing a thing. This throws Eliza and her team into action…a day late. The local authorities didn’t report Brooklyn as a missing child because they were sure they would find her that night. So, their case starts half way to the 48-hour mark, a critical timeframe for missing children.

This is an intense case on top of a currently stressed-to-the-max team as one of their own, Brandon Eddison, is struggling with the time of year: the anniversary of his own missing sister, Faith Eddison. Put all of this together, plus Brandon’s mentor and retired Detective Ian Matson showing up with new links, and suddenly the team has uncovered a chain of missing girls all over the United States. All look alike. All have been the same age. All have been taken during the same time of year, late October to early November, every other year. All have no evidence. It could be a coincidence. It could be a serial kidnapper.

One of the things I love about these books is that each one is told by a different person. Each book also introduces the next likely narrator. In the Butterfly Garden it’s Vic Hanoverian (and a tiny bit of Brandon Eddison) along with Maya telling the unthinkable story of The Gardener. In the next book Brandon takes the lead. It’s incredible how Ms. Hutchison can do this. She tells these amazing stories using all these different characters (from all different backgrounds no less) and yet she does it so seamlessly that I wonder what her real life looks like to do this so effortlessly. (Personally, I imagine she travels all over the world and interviews all kinds of people from different countries and backgrounds to use in her books.)

Another thing that draws me in with this series is that it’s not all serious or all funny or all one tone. Dot seems to really tell the story of a team. Everyone has different personalities, and all are better at something than the others, which contributes to the overall greatness of the team as a whole. Being able to do this makes it harder to stick her books in one genre as well. They are not just horror stories. They also have a true sense of humor as well as drama. They have a true crime sense, as these types of cases are definitely rare but also likely. I’m going to keep calling them thrillers because that’s their best fit but honestly these books would be enjoyable for everyone. Or, mostly everyone. They are “scary stories” after all.

I cannot wait for the fifth book, which there is currently no promise of, but I am placing my bet now: something with dead bodies narrated by the newest team member, Cass Kearney.

When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica

Mary Kubica is an expert at twists, as you know if you’ve read Pretty Baby or Don’t You Cry. The twists you expect are the breadcrumb clues she lays out for you to follow, only to make a 180 at the last minute. However, what I loved the most about this book was not the plot twists (the last of which was kind of genius), but rather the genre twist. What starts out as a mystery/psychological thriller does not end in the same way. Mary sets you on one path only to realize you were never really going in the right direction.

Another aspect of Mary’s writing that is appealing to me is how much detail she uses. Personally, I have never had an issue going to sleep. It may not be great sleep, but falling asleep in and of itself is not a problem I can say that I have had. Insomnia as a major theme in the book is something that drew me to it. I knew that I would be able to experience it (if only in my imagination) if Mary was the one describing it – and I was not disappointed. My point here is not that I want to have insomnia, but rather that an author that can use details like Mary does is an amazing thing in helping you really be transported into the story. Nevertheless, due to the detail-oriented writer that she is, there were no doubt sometimes that I wanted the descriptions to just “Hurry up already!” so that I could get to the good stuff – what did she find in the closet crawl space? Who was the man in the garden? Did the clues lead where I thought they would? (Almost never.) Instead I found mini-cliffhangers and then I would be hooked again, reading for hours at a time as I followed a new lead.As an avid reader, I rarely don’t finish a book. I always try to push my way through to give every book a chance. Of course, this has been a waste of time on many books; not this one. Even though I did find myself at certain points begging to know whose social security number it really was, I know that if it weren’t for all the scenic descriptions I wouldn’t be as invested in the story. So, instead of judging a book solely based on what I feel while reading it (this time: frustration, anxiety, determination to guess the twists), what I rely on is the feeling I get after I am finished reading. Is it easily forgettable or am I still constantly thinking about it days later? In this case, and this is my mini-cliffhanger gift to you, the ending was in no way what I expected and I am still heartbroken for Eden’s story even days later. I urge you to give this book a chance to play with your mind a little. I challenge you to get ahead of Mary and figure out her ending.