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review 2020-04-01 00:07
The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel
The Familiar Dark - Amy Engel

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

This was a fantastic novel! I read this author's previous book, The Roanoke Girls, and fell in love with this author's writing so I knew I wanted to read this book just as soon as I saw it. I went into the book with rather high expectations and they were met. This was a book that I found very hard to put down. The story was surprising at times and emotional in others. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent reading this story.

The book opens with Eve receiving a visit from her brother Cal while working her shift at the local diner. Cal is a local police officer and is there to tell Eve that her 12-year-old daughter, Junie has been murdered along with another child. My heart broke right with Eve's. The descriptions of how she got through those first few days really got to me. Eve worked hard to be a good mother to Junie and only had her brother Cal to lean on. After Junie's death, Eve has nothing left to lose and decides she will stop at nothing to get justice for her daughter.

I thought that the characters in this story were very well done. There is a pretty eclectic group of characters represented in this story and they all felt very real to me. I found that while I was pretty shocked by some of the turns the story took, the actions of the characters always felt authentic. I really felt like I was in Eve's head and I understood her motivation to learn what happened to her daughter.

I love the fact that this book was able to surprise me. And it didn't just surprise me once because there were several times where the story took a turn that I didn't expect. I love that this story made me feel. There were times that this story really got to me. Eve was such a strong character who was put in one of the most difficult situations that I can imagine. I honestly don't know how someone could read this book and not feel for Eve. I also love that the mystery in this story really kept me guessing. I had no idea who killed those two girls but I was just as desperate as Eve to find out. I found the mystery to be complex and very well done.

I would highly recommend this book to others. I found this to be a wonderfully told story that was heartbreaking at times. I cannot wait to read more from this very talented author!

I received a digital review copy of this book from Penguin Publishing Group - Dutton via Edelweiss.

Initial Thoughts
This falls somewhere between 4 and 5 stars for me. I am going with 4 for now but might bump it up after I have some time to think about it. I had a really hard time putting this book down. I couldn't imagine going through what Eve does in this story and reading about it made me uncomfortable at times. There were a few twists that I found to be rather shocking. This is one of those books that will stay with me for a while.

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review 2020-03-08 01:17
A Man and His Cat (manga, vol. 1) by Umi Sakurai, translated by Taylor Engel
A Man and His Cat, Vol. 1 - Machiko Sakurai,Taylor Engel

Fuyuki Kanda is a widowed music teacher who decides to buy a homely one-year-old cat at a pet store. The cat, who he names Fukumaru, is worried that his new owner will take him back or abandon him, but luckily for him, Mr. Kanda adores him.

This series is sweet, gentle, and warm, and I absolutely love it. I found out about it via a review on The Manga Critic, and then I kept coming across it via other sources until I finally broke down and bought it. I'm so glad I did.

This had some of the usual things you'll find in cat manga: a newbie cat owner who has to learn some of the basics, shopping for supplies at the pet store, and kitty antics, like scratching on things they're not supposed to, being goofy, and inadvertently making a mess. However, this first volume was as much about Kanda as it was about Fukumaru, and watching these two lonely characters love each other, become accustomed to each other, and form a little family together was a treat.

There were flashbacks for both Fukumaru and Kanda. Fukumaru's showed him as a kitten - remembering his mother and gradually realizing that no one wanted him. Kanda's showed him and his wife, and what their lives had been like over the years. They'd intended to get a cat together but never got around to it. They had children, and readers haven't yet been given enough information to know whether they just live too far away to regularly visit or whether Kanda's estranged from them. At any rate, he lived alone, and it was apparent that both the cat and the man had become a little depressed before they came into each other's lives.

A few other character POVs popped up here and there: Kobayashi, Kanda's dog-loving childhood friend, Yoshiharu Moriyama, one of Kanda's energetic young coworkers, and Miss Sato, the pet store employee who assisted Kanda. They all provided different views of Kanda and/or Fukumaru, which I appreciated. For example, Moriyama saw Kanda as the epitome of cool elegance and idolized him, while Kobayashi knew the loneliness his friend had been going through and appreciated the joy that Fukumaru added to Kanda's life, even if he didn't personally understand what Kanda saw in Fukumaru.

I loved the artwork. Fukumaru's cartoonish looks were initially a bit odd, but I got used to it. And oof, Kanda. It was easy to believe that his younger male coworker would idolize him and younger female coworkers would crush on him a bit.

I absolutely plan on preordering the next volume. I'm looking forward to seeing Fukumaru and Kanda make each other happy, and I'm interested to see what Sakurai plans on doing with this series.


A couple pages of full-color artwork and a full-color four-panel comic, as well as a one-page comic-style afterword by the author.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2020-03-07 23:30
Reading progress update: I've read 145 out of 145 pages.
A Man and His Cat, Vol. 1 - Machiko Sakurai,Taylor Engel



I'm absolutely preordering the next volume.

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text 2020-03-07 21:32
Reading progress update: I've read 59 out of 145 pages.
A Man and His Cat, Vol. 1 - Machiko Sakurai,Taylor Engel

I need to sit down and write a couple reviews, and instead I'm risking being drowned in my review backlog again by reading this. OMG, it's adorable.


A lonely widower (who happens to be a hottie - I'm pretty sure at least one of his younger coworkers has a bit of a crush on him) buys a homely cat at a pet store. The cat, who he names Fukumaru, is well aware that no one wants him and is worried he'll be abandoned again, but he slowly starts to become comfortable in his new home.


It's a slice-of-life series, so there isn't much going on, but I'm looking forward to getting to learn more about Mr. Kanda, the widower, and seeing him and his cat become friends. Man, I wish this volume weren't so skinny.

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review 2019-12-27 20:56
5 Out Of 5 STARS⇢ The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel
The Familiar Dark - Amy Engel



A spellbinding story of a mother with nothing left to lose who sets out on an all-consuming quest for justice after her daughter is murdered on the town playground.

Sometimes the answers are worse than the questions. Sometimes it’s better not to know.

Set in the poorest part of the Missouri Ozarks, in a small town with big secrets, The Familiar Dark opens with a murder. Eve Taggert, desperate with grief over losing her daughter, takes it upon herself to find out the truth about what happened. Eve is no stranger to the dark side of life, having been raised by a hard-edged mother whose lessons Eve tried not to pass on to her own daughter. But Eve may need her mother’s cruel brand of strength if she’s going to face the reality about her daughter’s death and about her own true nature. Her quest for justice takes her from the seedy underbelly of town to the quiet woods and, most frighteningly, back to her mother’s trailer for a final lesson.


A BookisObsessioFavorite













BOOK COVER⇢ It doesn't do the book justice

SETTING⇢ Missouri Ozarks

SOURCE⇢ I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

eBOOK LENGTH⇢ 256 Pages




What makes a murder mystery a favorite?  This is a question I've asked myself quite a few times since I started reading this genre.  Seriously, there's not a lot to love about murder. Near as I can come up with...is a book that really affects you in some way, whether it be fear, loathing or one you just can't get out of your head.  This book is kind of all three of those, and then some.  I also still think about the Roanoke Girls by this same Author.  I've rated both 5 stars and they both totally deserve it.  Deeply affecting.


I've read a couple of other books that deal with the area of Central to the Eastern United States Mountainous ranges (Winters Bone & The Weight of This World).  But, The Familiar Dark has been the best one of all three so far.  This book hooked me from the start, I felt like I was on this quest with Eve to solve the murder of her daughter and her daughter's friend.  Experiencing everything she experiences, from the lows to the even lower's and even the few highs. 


The beginning of this gutted me and the middle had me transfixed and the end left me gasping and in tears...such a gut-wrenching story. That is not just superbly written but is also perfectly plotted.  I highly recommend.





Plot⇢ 5/5

Characters⇢ 5/5

The Feels⇢ 5/5

Pacing⇢ 5/5

Addictiveness⇢ 5/5

Theme or Tone⇢ 5/5

Flow (Writing Style)⇢ 5/5

Backdrop (World Building)⇢ 5/5

Originality⇢ 5/5

Ending⇢ 5/5



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