Monday, February 22, 2021

Welcome to Amontillado, Ohio, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept… for a price.

Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things.

Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.

But she’ll have to.

Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.

In the first book of this duology, award-winning author Mindy McGinnis draws inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe and masterfully delivers a dark, propulsive mystery in alternating points of view that unravels a friendship... forevermore.


 “๐˜š๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ด๐˜ข๐˜บ๐˜ด ๐˜›๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ด ๐˜”๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ช๐˜ต’๐˜ด ๐˜ข ๐˜ฏ๐˜ข๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ญ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ด. ๐˜š๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ด๐˜ข๐˜บ๐˜ด ๐˜ช๐˜ต ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ’๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ญ ๐˜ง๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ด. ๐˜ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ๐˜ญ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ ๐˜ช๐˜ต. …. ๐˜ ๐˜ซ๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ต ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ’๐˜ต ๐˜ฌ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ ๐˜ช๐˜ง ๐˜ ๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฌ๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ญ ๐˜๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜บ ๐˜›๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ฏ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ.”

All the stars for this creative retelling of Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado. The Initial Insult is a gender-bent twisty retelling that reveals just what went wrong between two best friends, leading to a darkly disturbing story that kept me turning pages well into the night.

Tress Montor and Felicity Turnado used to be best friends until one night when Tress’s parents (Annabelle and Lee – Love this nod to Annabelle Lee!) are taking Felicity home and tragedy strikes. The only person left to tell the tale is Felicity but she doesn’t remember what happened … or does she? After Tress’s parents disappear without a trace, she goes to live with her grandfather; the alcoholic, coldly unemotional and sketch ‘zoo-keeper’ Cecil, who barely provides for Tress while Felicity gets to go on with her life as if nothing has happened. At least this is the way Tress sees it. She has everything that Tress doesn’t; family, friends, popularity …. Basic needs such as cleanliness and clothes, things that Tress lost when she lost her parents. As the years (and the offenses) go by, Tress decides that she’s going to get the truth out of Felicity, no matter what, and the way she does this is unsettling but coming from a place of desperation.

The Initial Insult is an unnerving slow-burn thriller that reveals each transgression through the chapters, giving each girl’s point of view on certain incidents, presenting a unique insight into the characters motives and psyche. Outside influences and pressures play a big role along with guilt and regret especially with Felicity and her choices. This is where the secondary characters come in full-force, beautifully fleshed out in their supporting roles. The addition of the big cat’s perspective was the chef’s kiss and I loved this!

And, ah, that cliff-hanger ending did me foul! I don’t know how I’ll wait until the next book but I’m here for it!

Literally. I. Am. Waiting.

My most sincere thanks to @epicreads for this #gifted copy of The Initial Insult!

TW: Death of pet/animals

Tuesday, February 16, 2021


Dark Horses by Susan Mihalic 

Pub day 2/16 

My thanks to @gallerybooks & @scoutpressbooks for the gifted copy


Fifteen-year-old equestrian prodigy Roan Montgomery has only ever known two worlds: inside the riding arena, and outside of it. Both, for as long as she can remember, have been ruled by her father, who demands strict obedience in all areas of her life. The warped power dynamic of coach and rider extends far beyond the stables, and Roan's relationship with her father has long been inappropriate. She has been able to compartmentalize that dark aspect of her life, ruthlessly focusing on her ambitions as a rider heading for the Olympics, just as her father had done. However, her developing relationship with Will Howard, a boy her own age, broadens the scope of her vision.

My Review

Dark Horses is one of the most soul-crushing books I’ve read and also a book that had me feeling so uncomfortable and disgusted, helpless and I admit, vindictive and vengeful. It’s unapologetically raw and emotional and I’m having a hard time reviewing it because how do you put into words the horrific physical, sexual and emotional abuse of a child?

Dark Horses is a dark and painful look at what happens behind closed doors in a dysfunctional home riddled with abuse and control. The manipulation and fear tactics used by the abuser and the effect on the victim. It is a vivid and graphic portrayal and at first, I wasn’t sure if this was necessary until I thought about it; every emotion, every feeling, every injurious occurrence that Roan has, both during the abuse and after, speaks volumes on the power the abuser has over the victim. I won’t go into details but I felt that this is the authors intent; to make the reader uncomfortable and repulsed because, after all, this is a taboo subject that is often swept under the carpet and shames the victim more than the abuser. And in true abuser style, this is a tactic used to control.

There are a lot of TW including incest, abuse, animal cruelty and death, sexual assault, substance abuse.

#QOTD: Do you read books with difficult topics?

Be safe and be well, my friends

#DarkHorses #ScoutPressBooks #GalleryBooks #ScoutPress #SusanMihalic 


Monday, February 15, 2021

When You Look Like Us by Pamela N. Harris is twisty and suspenseful but along with this there is a strong underlying element that explores the ongoing issues surrounding classism, racism and privilege. Jay and his sister, Nic live with their grandma, MiMi, since their dad passed and their mom went to prison. They’re a close-knit family but since Nic started dating local drug dealer, Javon, she’s changed. Staying out all night, skipping out on school and tripping on Bliss, so when she texts him one night from what sounds like a rager, Jay figures he’s had enough of bailing her out and ignores her the rest of the night. When Nic doesn’t show up to school the next day or home that next night, Jay realizes that Nic may be in trouble. From here, Jay, trying to protect MiMi, does his own sleuthing but even when he does decide to go to the police, he’s met with resistance because Nic isn’t the kind of girl that the cops put out an APB out on.

As much as this is a plot driven story, it is a strongly character driven, too. Jayson is a such a good kid, he works hard at school, he does other kids’ homework to earn some extra cash to help his MiMi retire somewhere amazing, you just can’t help but love him and root for him. Nic, too, is as much of a victim of her environment and those that would take advantage of that. The obstacles that Jay runs in to are heartbreaking, this kid is literally walking a line. Those in his neighborhood look at him with suspicion and the cops, those that are supposed to protect and serve, do the same. The media, too, who should’ve focused on helping to find a missing teen turned it into a side-show circus by placing blame on the victim. There’s a lot to absorb and process in When You Look Like Us and this is a book I’ll be recommending to a lot of people.

I want to thank @epicreads for gifting me this book and the author for writing it. This is a powerful book with deep insight and a message we all need to hear.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley is such a powerful and impactful book. It’s centered on Daunis Fontaine, an 18-year-old biracial girl living in two worlds. On one side, she is Ojibwe, although unenrolled and revels in the traditions of her native culture and on the other she is French Canadian, a white girl with privileges that many within her Anishinaabe family and tribe don’t have.

When a murder fueled by a new type of methamphetamine happens within Daunis’s inner circle, she realizes that the drug problem within her community runs deeper than she could’ve imagined and much closer to home. Agreeing to assist the FBI, Daunis ventures into the dark nature of the drug trade.

There’s a lot to love about this book; first, the depth of cultural history within the Anishinaabe tribe. It was a joy to listen to and learn so much about the Ojibwe community. Second, the strength of women supporting women; the author writes about the beauty of female friendship and relationships, mother to daughter, aunt to niece, friend to friend. There’s also the heart wrenching issue of racism and violence against the indigenous community, past and present.

The story is well-plotted and beautifully scripted, there is a mystery at heart and the author skillfully takes you through Daunis’s inner struggles with her need to protect her community and just what she’s willing to sacrifice. The narrator Isabella Star LaBlanc was phenomenal and I enjoyed her smooth narrative, her ability to seamlessly switch characters and her lilting tone when speaking the indigenous language.

Firekeeper’s Daughter takes place in my state of Michigan and it made this already fantastic story that much better when the author took me to some beloved places in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Five stars for this cross-genre gem and my thanks to Libro FM, Macmillan Audio and Henry Holt & Co. for gifting me an ALC.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Witch's Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

All the Stars for The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec @gengornichec pub date 2/9 

  “They say an old witch lived in the east, in Ironwood, and there she bore the wolves who chase the sun and Moon. They say she went to Asgard and was burned three times upon a pyre, and three times was she reborn before she fled.” 

 Ah, where to start with this gorgeously penned story centered around Angrboda, a giantess in Norse Mythology. Angrboda (Boda) is the most skilled at Seid, a magic that allows her to travel out of her body & divine the future. Odin, the greatest of the Gods had great interest in this knowledge & offered to teach Boda Rune magic in exchange for her knowledge of Seid. Against her better judgement, she agrees, skimming the surface of all the worlds & delving in to the darkest parts where there are things that should never be known. When she refuses to go to this place where the secrets are dark and terrifying, Odin burns her at the pyre, not just once but three times but she survives & seeks shelter in the forest of Ironwood. 

 It’s in Ironwood where she falls in love with the God, Loki, the handsome trickster with a flair for the foolish & together they bear three children that will play a huge role in Bodas prophecy to end all others, that of Ragnarรถk, the end of the world. Hel the keeper of the dead, Fenrir, the giant wolf & Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent. 

Boda’s story captured my heart & I followed her quest with great anticipation; sometimes I wept with her while other times I shared her joy. Every character brought richness & depth to the story that added to the complex nature of this Nordic tale. The author captures the complicated nature of Boda’s personality beautifully; her resilience & her quiet strength despite her hardships is both inspiring & heartbreaking. The exploration in to the other Gods & their relationships are equally fascinating as is the world she creates. I found reading about Boda’s life & experiences, especially the day to day to be intriguing & the exploration of her relationships/friendships that led her to each choice equally compelling. 

This is a story of a mother’s love, of betrayal, of heartbreak, of friendship and hardship. It’s also a story that sometimes wrenched my heart right out of my chest. There were times during this story that I cried for Boda but in the end, the skillful narrative had me feeling satisfied with the way things ended. 

My thanks to @berkleypub and @netgalley for and Advanced DRC.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Review: Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf

Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf by Hayley Krischer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished Something Happened to Ali Greenleaf by Hayley Krischer, and it left me thinking about all the girls who’ve been victims of rape and all the misery that comes after; the misplaced anger, the shame, guilt, self-doubt … all from someone else’s vicious actions. Every painful emotion on the painful emotion spectrum is laid open and raw and why? Because that girl dared to have a drink at a party, wore her skirt too short or maybe she thought that a kiss should stop at a kiss? The victim is often shamed into silence before they even have a chance to speak.

Hayley brought Ali’s story to life in a way that felt real, like it could have been any one of our stories. She explores the complexities of relationships but hones in on female relationships and just how misdirected loyalties can become in the mass confusion of gossip and rumor, the quest for acceptance when you haven’t quite figured out just who you are yet. She also shows the positive supportive side of female friendships and the strength that can be found there. The sharing of experiences that can bond and help heal.
While the story itself is one of inspiration, strength and redemption, the main focus is on the rape culture and the stigma attached to the brutality of rape – remarkably still present in this century. I think this is a powerful novel that should be read by everyone.

The quote below is of Ali’s inner dialogue while her best friend pushes her to report her rapist, her thoughts and the fear of having her life destroyed despite the prominence of the #metoo and #girlstoo movement:

“But I’ve seen to many news stories, too many articles, to know that in real-life situations, girls don’t get the chance to defend themselves. Especially not when it comes to the captain of the soccer team.” “My whole life is on the line here, that she can’t tell anyone because if she tells even one person, my whole life is going to explode. That Sean Nessel will ruin my life.”

I would like to point out to readers to please read Hayley’s epilogue! It is moving, insightful, and courageous.
5 stars for this insightful and meaningful novel. Thank you to Penguin Teen and Hayley Krischer for gifting me a DRC in exchange for my review.

CW: Rape, drug/alcohol use

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Friday, September 25, 2020

Review: Sanctuary

Sanctuary Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“His pain hit me harder and deeper than anything I had felt in my life. And yet I kept nodding. We were all doing the best we could. Trying to survive.”

Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher is absolutely soul-crushing, primarily because although it’s a dystopian fiction, I can see the utter reality in this story. There are frightening realities that hit way too close to home and what’s been happening in the world today.

Vali, her 8-year-old brother, Ernie and her mother live in Vermont in the not too distant future of 2032. The US has cracked down hard on undocumented immigration and has installed microchips in to all documented citizen. Vali and her family have counterfeit chips and when Vali’s moms chip starts to malfunction, she and Ernie have to make the frightening trip across the country – on foot - to her Tia Luna’s home in California, currently a safe state and ‘walled’ off.

Mendoza writes about the power and brutality of the Deportation Force and the struggle of undocumented immigrants, she focuses on real people, not statistics that are easily sweep under the rug. The presence of labor camps where the ‘illegals pay off their debt to America’ is absolutely horrifying and reminiscent of the forced labor camps across Europe during WWII. Microchipping citizens seems like a far away concept but is it really? Sanctuary gave me a lot to think about, not only the strength of one young girl fighting to save herself and her brother but of just how realistic this dystopian fiction felt to me. It also shows the deception of the media, showing citizens (or not showing) what the government wants us to see. I must admit, this had a terrifying lifelike reality to me, especially in light of recent world events.

Sanctuary is a page-turner, and as I said earlier, it is all the more chilling for the fact that if feels all too possible. I’m hopeful for the prospect of a sequel because I don’t think Vali’s story is quite finished yet.

My thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, Penguin Teen, and authors Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher for providing me this DRC in exchange for my honest review.

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Review: The Inheritance Games

The Inheritance Games The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Was wanting to feel something other than awful really so wrong? ‘Everyone’s a little wrong sometimes, Heiress”

Avery Grambs has had it pretty rough but when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves her his fortune, she can’t believe her good luck but what’s the catch? Besides not having a clue who Tobias is or why he’d even consider leaving his fortune to her, Avery finds out that she must move into the Hawthorne House. Ah, and herein lies the rub! Every room a puzzle and a riddle but there’s another catch, Tobias left behind four very smart and very unhappy grandsons, each with their own issue with Avery inheriting what they thought was their fortune. It’s not long before someone is trying to murder her but who?

This is the most fun I’ve had reading a mystery/thriller! I loved Avery, she’s the perfect character to take on the challenge of Hawthorne House and its inhabitants. The supporting characters are just as interesting and engaging and the plot is non-stop thrills spiced with secrets, puzzles (and I love puzzles), romance and riddles! I’m so happy this is a series, I'm already excited for the next book! Bring on the shenanigans!

Thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Jennifer Lynn Barnes for providing me this book in exchange for my review!

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Review: Dear Child

Dear Child Dear Child by Romy Hausmann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“I can fetch the stars from the sky. And one day I know my children won’t just see all of this through my eyes and my stories. That is hope and it’s in my power to ensure it never dies.”

Dear Child is one of the most chilling thrillers I’ve read in a while. The reality of this happening was forefront in my mind the entire time I was reading; it’s been on the news, after all and Lord knows, there’s enough nutjobs in the world to do something like this! The actuality of stories I know combined with the nightmarish fiction from Ms. Hausmann had me on edge throughout the whole book and I loved every second!

When Lena goes missing, her father Matthias never stops looking for her. He counts the days she’s been gone; he follows up non-stop with the police, the newspapers, anything to keep her story relevant and unforgotten. Fourteen years later, he gets a phone call, Lena’s been found and is in the hospital. What follows is a compelling and truly horrifying tale of psychological terror.
Dear Child is strong in both character and plot; the captor, known only as papa, is as chilling as they come, abusive and controlling, and clearly, insane. ‘Lena’ is a victim but she is stronger than she thinks and manages to escape but does she really? Will she escape one tormenter only to torment herself? Is her captor really gone? The children, 13-year-old Hannah especially, have personalities born of such abuse and terror and there’s points in the book when I truly don’t know who to trust anymore. The details are skillfully put together and beautifully well written, everything connects and flows seamlessly between narrators. The plot has some fantastic red-herrings and twists that took me by surprise and the ending? Oh. My.!

This is all I’m going to say besides READ THIS if you enjoy psychological thrillers and suspense! My thanks to Flatiron Books, Romy Hausmann, and NetGalley for providing a DRC of Dear Child in exchange for my review.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Review: Skyhunter

Skyhunter (Skyhunter, #1)Skyhunter by Marie Lu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Skyhunter by Marie Lu is such a solid start to an exciting new series! Everything I love about dystopian fiction is depicted in this strongly character driven & compelling story.

First, the world-building is spectacular! In a post-apocalyptic setting, the Federation is dominating all Nations, winning by sending in mutant human hybrids called Ghosts. They are fierce killing machines that have the ability to turn their victims in to a Ghost with a bite. Mara is the last Nation that the Federation hasn’t been able to invade. It has a unique class setting; Strikers, the elite force that are trained to kill Ghosts and are intensely loyal. Then there are the refugees who are not allowed inside of Mara’s walls yet able to set up stands in the market outside and live in ramshackle homes. Then we have the insanely wealthy that look down on the refugee’s even as they adopt their lifestyle and food choices.

Then there’s the compelling cast of characters! Talin, our main character is a mute refugee who gained a place as a Striker thanks to her Shield (each striker has a shield, sort of a protector when they’re fighting). She is quietly badass and loyal to Mara despite the fact that her mother isn’t allowed in to Mara proper. Her fellow Strikers, Adena and Jeran play a huge supporting role in Skyhunter and I quickly became invested in their stories, too, each of them is loyal, smart, and quite possibly the best type of friend to have in a world fighting an intense evil. Red is the mysterious prisoner that Talin saves and he is a conundrum for the Striker group, he’s from the Federation but what is his motivation to cross in to Mara? Talin risks her position, not only as a Striker but as a Maran, to save him. Will he be worth it?

The plot is tight, there’s action and suspense and a fair amount of atmospheric creepiness. The narration is done by Natalie Naudus, she has such a pleasant and harmonious voice that captured the essence of Talin beautifully.

I think this is a solid start to what will be a fantastic series. Now, to wait for book 2!

Thank you Macmillan Audio for the gifted ALC.

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Monday, September 21, 2020

Review: The Nesting

The Nesting The Nesting by C.J. Cooke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Once upon a time I thought that I’d be better off dead.”

The Nesting by C.J. Cooke is incredibly atmospheric and deeply rooted in Nordic folklore and culture. It is at times a thriller and at times a horror with supernatural elements and a deeply gothic setting. Set in the forests of Norway in the deepest part of winter, it follows Lexi who in a moment of desperation, steals Sophies identity and resume in order to obtain a position as a nanny in order to explore her imaginary roots there. Lexi isn’t in the best mental health; she recently attempted suicide, is suffering from depression and is just off from a long-term relationship. She is fragile, heartbroken and her decision making isn’t at its strongest (clearly) but when she arrives to assist widower Tom with his two daughters, she makes the best of it until the supernatural element starts to rear its supernatural head. Tom’s wife, Aurelia has just recently passed, the assumption is suicide but is it? There’s an interesting cast of characters aside from Tom, Lexi, and Aurelia; all who play excellent supportive roles, the most interesting is nature itself within Norway, the Fjords and the forests, and what may be hidden there pushing back against industry.

I really enjoyed The Nesting for all its chilling haunting ambiance but also because Cooke’s writing is vivid and imaginative; she builds up a sense of dread as the pages turn and the addition of Nordic folklore and superstitions was the cherry on the top. The past and present retelling from both Lexi and Aurelia gives unique insight and tied together similarities between the two women. There are some amazing plot twists and the pacing is perfect for the creepiness of the story.

Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my review.

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Sunday, September 20, 2020

Review: What She Found in the Woods

What She Found in the Woods What She Found in the Woods by Josephine Angelini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a lover of thrillers; it doesn’t matter if they are YA or adult or if I’ve seen the trope before. I’ve read all of Josephine Angelini’s YA fantasy books and loved them so when I saw that she was writing a YA thriller? Yes. Please.!

What She Found in the Woods has everything I look for in a thriller. Suspense, mystery, red herrings, unreliable narrator, lies and manipulation. Magdalena is a girl with a dark shameful past but this is all revealed slowly and cleverly through Magda’s journal entries and her real-life revelations. After spending the last 9 months in a mental hospital, Magda is released to her shallow grandparents in the Pacific Northwest. She spends the majority of her free time in the surrounding forest at a spot that is calming to her. This is where she meets Bo, a wild and beautiful boy that she feels an immediate attraction to. But Bo has secrets, too.

The pacing was perfect, moving along with clever plot twists and reveals, never really giving anything away until the end. The guessing throughout of other characters agenda’s or motivations is one of my favorite things about thrillers. I was never quite sure who Magda should trust or if she was trustworthy herself, even though I was really drawn to her as a character.

There are some delicate social issues within the book; drugs and drug dependency, mental illness and the stigma that goes with it. The lack of support from friends and loved ones in these settings or the manipulation of someone who is in just such a situation, is soul-crushing.

This is a four-star read for me and I think that anyone who enjoys the genre will definitely enjoy What She Found in the Woods.

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Thursday, August 6, 2020

Review: Harrow Lake

Harrow Lake Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis is a unique thriller with serious horror story vibes but also addresses some delicate social issues.

Lola, the daughter of famous horror film director, Nolan Nox, is sent to Harrow Lake, the town where his most famous movie was filmed after Nolan is brutally attacked. Harrow Lake just happens to be the place where the mother who abandoned her, Lorelei, grew up and was cast as the movies lead. Sent to stay with a cold and unfriendly grandmother that she doesn’t know, Lola discovers that Harrow Lake is a town full of secrets and superstitions that are eerily similar and strangely related to the movie, Night Jar that was filmed there.

The movie and book monster, Mr. Jitters reminded me of every scary thing that hides in the dark or under my bed, never quite sure what it is only that it’s the scariest thing you’ll ever see and sure to drag you off and eat you! Yikes! The plot is really fast moving and the last 30% of the book flew by as an anxiety provoking, edge of you seat, what in tarnation’s going to happen situation. The atmosphere is creepy and almost surreal, the characters interesting with some surprising developments along the way.

If you’re looking for an entertaining YA thriller that skillfully blends in bone-chilling horror and suspense, Harrow Lake is a great choice!
Thank you to Penguin Teen and Kat Eliis for gifting me a DRC of Harrow Lake in exchange for my honest review!
CW: References to suicide, violence, and incest.

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Review: They Wish They Were Us

Gossip Girl meets One of Us Is Lying with a dash of The Secret History in this slick, taut murder mystery set against the backdrop of an exclusive prep school on Long Island.

In Gold Coast, Long Island, everything from the expensive downtown shops to the manicured beaches, to the pressed uniforms of Jill Newman and her friends, looks perfect. But as Jill found out three years ago, nothing is as it seems.

Freshman year Jill's best friend, the brilliant, dazzling Shaila Arnold, was killed by her boyfriend. After that dark night on the beach, Graham confessed, the case was closed, and Jill tried to move on.

Now, it's Jill's senior year and she's determined to make it her best yet. After all, she's a senior and a Player--a member of Gold Coast Prep's exclusive, not-so-secret secret society. Senior Players have the best parties, highest grades and the admiration of the entire school. This is going to be Jill's year. She's sure of it.

But when Jill starts getting texts proclaiming Graham's innocence, her dreams of the perfect senior year start to crumble. If Graham didn't kill Shaila, who did? Jill vows to find out, but digging deeper could mean putting her friendships, and her future, in jeopardy.

TITLE: They Wish They Were Us
AUTHOR: Jessica Goodman
PUBLISHER: Penguin Teen
PUBLISH DATE: August 4, 2020
GENRE: YA Thriller 
PAGES: 336

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“They say only the good die young, but that’s just a stupid line in a song we used to sing. It isn’t real. It isn’t true. I know this because Shaila Arnold was so many things – brilliant and funny, confident and wild. But honestly? She wasn’t all that good."

THEY WISH THEY WERE US by Jessica Goodman is a well-crafted mystery/thriller about 8 freshman students at Gold Coast Prep, each looking forward to their senior year where they’ll rule as Players. The Players are the most elite students and an exclusive group, which comes with the privilege of a handy app that provides access to everything they need to guarantee college admission, along with a whole slew of other benefits. When Graham kills his girlfriend Shaila at the end of freshman year, they’re down to six Players. The Players all believe that Graham killed Shaila but when Jill, a Player and Shaila’s bestie receives a strange text from Grahams sister, stating he’s innocent and she needs Jill’s help in proving it, the mystery and thrills kick in high gear!

Jill is the narrator and is the best protagonist, she showed so much growth throughout the book, going from a fairly shallow mean girl to having actual depth; questioning herself and others around her. Nikki, another character shows growth, too, and that’s always a great thing in a book that I hope they’re will be a sequel to.

The plot takes off right from the start, it had me guessing and then guessing again. There are some great twists and red herrings, making me suspicious of more than one of the characters. Jill reflects back on freshman year quite a bit so we get to know Shaila through Jill’s eyes and the rest of the supporting characters, who aren’t always very likeable but Ms. Goodman does this seamlessly and its information that is relevant to the story.

They Wish They Were Us is an engaging mystery/thriller and I’ll be looking forward to the next in the series.

Thank you to Penguin Teen and Jessica Goodman for providing me with a DRC of They Wish They Were Us in exchange for my honest review.

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Monday, July 20, 2020

Review: The Heatwave by Kate Riordan

"A sultry, gorgeously written and hugely atmospheric thriller with a dark, compelling mystery at its heart."-Lucy Foley, New York Times bestselling author of The Hunting Party and The Guest List

Under the scorching French sun, a tense homecoming unearths a long-buried family secret in this deliciously propulsive beach read of a mother's greatest fear brought to life.

Elodie was beautiful. Elodie was smart. Elodie was manipulative. Elodie is dead.

When Sylvie Durand receives a letter calling her back to her crumbling family home in the South of France, she knows she has to go. In the middle of a sweltering 1990's summer marked by unusual fires across the countryside, she returns to La Reverie with her youngest daughter Emma in tow, ignoring the deep sense of dread she feels for this place she's long tried to forget.

As memories of the events that shattered their family a decade earlier threaten to come to the surface, Sylvie struggles to shield Emma from the truth of what really happened all those years ago. In every corner of the house, Sylvie can't escape the specter of Elodie, her first child. Elodie, born amid the '68 Paris riots with one blue eye and one brown, and mysteriously dead by fourteen. Elodie, who reminded the small village of one those Manson girls. Elodie who knew exactly how to get what she wanted. As the fires creep towards the villa, it's clear to Sylvie that something isn't quite right at La Reverie . . . And there is a much greater threat closer to home.

Rich in unforgettable characters, The Heatwave alternates between the past and present, grappling with what it means to love and fear a child in equal measure. With the lush landscape and nostalgia of a heady vacation read, Kate Riordan has woven a gripping page-turner with gorgeous prose that turns the idea of a summer novel on its head.

TITLE: The Heatwave
AUTHOR: Kate Riordan
PUBLISHER: Grand Central Publishing
PUBLISH DATE: August 18, 2020
GENRE: Thriller, Mystery
PAGES: 352

The Heatwave by Kate Riordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Heatwave by Kate Riordan is a haunting mystery that is slow to reveal itself but so worth the wait. I loved the tense family drama that takes place in the dilapidated old home of La Reverie – “To Dream” - in the South of France. When Sylvie and her teen daughter, Emma are summoned back to La Reverie, we find out that Sylvie had an older daughter, Elodie, and from the moment they arrive, Elodie’s presence is known in a haunting and elusive way.

The atmosphere is tangible, a beautiful setting, a decaying old home that is seeped in memories with a landscape that is spectacular in its beauty and glory. It was easy to transport myself there and immerse myself in to the story. The characters are fascinating but Elodie herself the most fascinating of all; smart and beautiful but so very troubled. Her relationship with Sylvie is difficult at best and there are secrets to be revealed in the book that I’ll leave the reader to discover.

I’m keeping this short because I think this is a book that the reader should go into blind. Know this, though, do not be misled by the gorgeous breezy summer cover. The Heatwave has depth and complexity along with being a twisty slow burn thriller.

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for gifting me a copy of The Heatwave in exchange for my review.

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Thursday, July 16, 2020

His & Hers by Alice Feeney

There are two sides to every story: yours and mine, ours and theirs, His & Hers. Which means someone is always lying.

Anna Andrews finally has what she wants. Almost. She's worked hard to become the main TV presenter of the BBC's lunchtime news, putting work before friends, family, and her now ex-husband. So, when someone threatens to take her dream job away, she'll do almost anything to keep it.

When asked to cover a murder in Blackdown--the sleepy countryside village where she grew up--Anna is reluctant to go. But when the victim turns out to be one of her childhood friends, she can't leave. It soon becomes clear that Anna isn't just covering the story, she's at the heart of it.

DCI Jack Harper left London for a reason, but never thought he'd end up working in a place like Blackdown. When the body of a young woman is discovered, Jack decides not to tell anyone that he knew the victim, until he begins to realise he is a suspect in his own murder investigation.

One of them knows more than they are letting on. Someone isn't telling the truth. Alternating between Anna's and Jack's points of view, His & Hers is a fast-paced, complex, and dark puzzle that will keep listeners guessing until the very end.

TITLE:  His & Hers
AUTHOR: Alice Feeney
GENRE: Thriller, Suspense, Mystery
PUBLISHER: Flatiron Books
PUBLISH DATE: July 28, 2020
PAGES: 384
FORMAT: Audiobook (Narrators Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine), DRC


His & Hers by Alice Feeney

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I was able to both listen and read His & Hers by Alice Feeney thanks to the generosity of Macmillan Audio,, and Flatiron Books. I’m really grateful for this because I only listen during the day and I read at night. I had a hard time turning His & Hers off so being able to transition over to a DRC and continue my fascination with this thriller was much appreciated!

There are three narrators in this story; Anna Andrews, her ex-husband, DCI Jack Harper and the killer themselves who uses a voice modulator so we are unable to ascertain their gender or anything else about them. Anna is a BBC reporter investigating a murder of a woman in the countryside village of Blackdown where she and Jack grew up, also where Jack now resides and works as a DCI. Things get a bit hairy when it turns out they both knew the victim and each had a fairly dodgy history with her. The story alternates timelines but does so in a way that gives insight in to the personal history of the characters involved. As more murders occur with Anna and Jack tied to the victims, it’s a race to find the killer before they strike again. One thing is certain, nobody can be trusted.

Fast paced with strong affecting characters and a twisty plot, His & Hers is a compelling read from start to finish. The complexity of the story adds to its allure and had me suspicious of everyone.Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine are perfect as narrators of Jack and Anna, the pacing is perfect and their voices a delight to listen to. The voice modulation of the killer is perfectly creepy and sent chills down my spine! Another fabulous story by Alice Feeney!

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Every Bone a Prayer by Ashley Blooms

TITLE: Every Bone a Prayer
AUTHOR: Ashley Blooms
PUBLISHER: Sourcebooks Landmark
PUBLISH DATE: August 4, 2020
GENRE: Magical Realism, Adult Fiction
PAGES: 368

The Lovely Bones meets Where the Crawdads Sing in this remarkable debut set in Appalachia

In her rural Appalachian holler, ten-year-old Misty's closest friends are the crawdads. Misty can speak to them, to the birds, to the creek, to everything outside, and she understands how they think. She knows that if she could just speak to her parents in the same way, she could stop all the fighting. But it's too hard.

Strange things start to happen in the holler. When her friend William takes their friendship too far, Misty's need to connect is greater than ever, but it's hard to talk about what you don't understand. This is the story of one tough-as-nails girl whose choices are few but whose imagination is boundless, as her coping becomes a battle cry for everyone around her -- a beautifully honest exploration of healing and hope.

Every Bone a Prayer by Ashley Blooms
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“She learned that everything had a name. Not the name that most people knew them by, but something different, an underneath name made of sounds and memories and feelings, a name that shifted and grew and evolved.”

Lyrical and mystical, Every Bone a Prayer is a brutal and honest look at 10-year-old Misty’s struggle against a soul-crushing trauma in the rural Appalachian holler where she lives with her mother and older sister. This book is unlike any book I’ve ever read; it is a disturbing story but the author has steeped it with magical realism and old mountain folklore that is written so eloquently that every sentence resonated with me on a deeply emotional level. Misty is a character that I won’t soon forget, wise beyond her years, she is both wounded and strong and forever embedded in my heart.

“She’ll wish for those years of forgetting, wish for a time when she didn’t remember her body like this. But the memories will keep surfacing in dreams and in shudders.”

While the story has heartache within its pages, I also found an equal amount of joy. Ms. Blooms seemed able to capture me at every moment, whispering to my soul like Misty’s crawdads in the creek or the tree’s that told stories in their deep gentle voices. This is not an easy story to read, there is abuse and violence but there is also love and light to be found, too.

Thank you Sourcebooks Landmark and author Ashley Blooms for providing a copy in exchange for my review. 

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