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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Monday, June 29, 2020

It’s fall 2007. A well-timed leak has revealed that the US government might have engaged in first contact. Cora Sabino is doing everything she can to avoid the whole mess, since the force driving the controversy is her whistleblower father. Even though Cora hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government—and with him in hiding, that attention is on her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him—until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades.

Realizing the extent to which both she and the public have been lied to, she sets out to gather as much information as she can, and finds that the best way for her to uncover the truth is not as a whistleblower, but as an intermediary. The alien presence has been completely uncommunicative until she convinces one of them that she can act as their interpreter, becoming the first and only human vessel of communication. Their otherworldly connection will change everything she thought she knew about being human—and could unleash a force more sinister than she ever imagined.

TITLE: Axiom's End
AUTHOR: Lindsay Ellis
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Press
PUBLISH DATE: July 21, 2020
GENRE: Science Fiction
PAGES: 384

“Truth is a human right.”

I am so glad I stuck with this one! Axiom’s End was just a little hard for me to get in to at the beginning but once I got past the initial set-up and frenetic pace, it was harder to put down!

The world-building is remarkable; the Alien politics and societal structure is pretty fascinating and for a speculative fiction exploring a first contact scenario, I was intrigued by Lindsay’s view on an alternate 2007! What left the biggest impact on me is the relationship between the two main characters, Cora, a not always likeable human and Ampersand, an alien being that I freaking adored! Watching this odd couple friendship develop was unexpected and so satisfying, despite the fact that Cora didn’t have many redeemable qualities. On the flip side, it was kind of refreshing to have a main character that wasn’t drop dead gorgeous or the best at everything she did. Cora is flawed & floundering, she has her own trauma but, in the end, Cora’s relationship with Ampersand had a sense of realism that I enjoyed.

Stellar debut to a promising series! Looking forward to what’s next from Lindsay!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Review: Three Single Wives by Gina LaManna

Three Single Wives An addictive second novel from the author of Pretty Guilty Women

A trio of women break bad after after too much wine, too many secrets, and too perfect inspiration from the bestseller they discussed at book club. No one is exactly sure what happened when night fell, but in the morning there's one dead body and three women with a lot to lose.

During their book club meeting the previous evening, these women somehow began discussing the ways they might bury the body of an unfaithful husband. Of course, it was nothing more than a joke. None of them would ever mistake these plans as reality...

However, at brunch the next morning, the women are alarmed by a visit from the police announcing that a man is dead…in a way eerily similar to the previous night's best laid plans. Did one woman take everything a step too far, or is the truth really more twisted than fiction?

TITLE: Three Single Wives
AUTHOR: Gina LaManna
PUBLISHER: Sourcebooks Landmark
PUBLISH DATE: September 1, 2020
GENRE: Thriller
PAGES: 368

Three Single Wives by Gina LaManna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Three women, two of them married and one deceased tool of a husband with literally every character having a motive to murder! This is the plot of Three Single Wives by Gina LaManna and I loved every second of it! I’d spend one chapter of the book thinking one of the characters was most certainly the murderer only to change my mind in the next chapter. Guessing, guessing, and more guessing as I turned the pages! As I’ve said before, if you can keep me guessing, you’ll keep me reading and more than likely make me a fan for life!

Each chapter starts with a court transcript of the Prosecution questioning the woman the chapter is narrated by, which is one of three women the story follows. I’ll forgo rehashing the summary, you can read this on your own. The characters are finely tuned and emotive, each with their own back history making them vulnerable to the murder victim. The plot is tight, it is twisty and it wraps up beautifully! The ending left me with a deeply satisfied sigh that I don’t always get in some of the more open-ended books and I’m left to my own conclusions. Three Single Wives is a clever thriller with a mystery at heart and I look forward to reading more from Ms. LaManna.

Thank you to Sourcebooks Landmark, Gina LaManna, and NetGalley for providing me with a DRC of Three Single Wives in exchange for my honest review.

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Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

Westworld meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this stunning fantasy adventure from debut author Charlotte Nicole Davis.

Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst


The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls―they know their luck is anything but.

Sold to a “welcome house” as children and branded with cursed markings.

Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

When Clementine accidentally kills a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta’s most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.

TITLE: The Good Luck Girls
AUTHOR: Charlotte Nicole Davis
PUBLICATION DATE: October 1, 2019
GENRE: Young Adult Dystopian
PAGES: 352


The Good Luck Girls (TGLG) is a distinctive story set in a uniquely built world (think dystopian wild west) that I literally devoured in a day! The story centers around five girls, Good Luck Girls, who have been sold by their families to a Welcome House which is anything but welcoming to the girls that come there. As children they arrive as Daybreak girls, they are given a Favor – a magical type tattoo that grows as they age and then forced into manual labor until the age of 16. Once they reach their 16th birthday and their favor has fully bloomed, they will have their Lucky Night and are sold at auction to the highest bidder for the night. Then they are officially a Sundown girl, entertaining the Brags (insert Johns here) every night until they age out and then are usually cast out in to the street to starve. This brings us to our five girls:

“Sisters by chance. Outlaws by choice. Aster: The Protector, Violet: The Favorite, Tansy: The Medic, Mallow: The Fighter, & Clementine: The Catalyst.”

Clementine and Aster are sisters by blood. Aster has been a Sundown girl for over a year and when Clementine’s Lucky Night arrives something happens that sets all five girls on a harrowing trip across the Scab, the harsh wilderness of fictional Arketta where the story is set. With the Welcome House’s henchman, the Reckoners on their trail, they have to keep one step ahead and when they meet Ezekiel, Zee, a Rangeman with his own secrets they form a group of unlikely allies. It’s not just the Reckoners they have to worry about, although these soulless men are paid to keep each girl in line by invading their mind with their deepest terrors, there are also Vengeants, ruthless spirits drawn to suffering that will rip a person apart with their claws. It’s a dangerous place and they’ll need their wits about them to survive the trip to find the mysterious Lady Ghost, rumored to be able to remove the magical favors that mark the girls.

The world building in TGLG is phenomenal, truly a different world yet similar to ours in many ways. There is oppression and poverty, and times when I felt a sense of overwhelming despair & hopelessness for their situation and yet, the powerful force of sisterhood and courage between the group prevailed in these times, giving me a sense of hope. The characters are beautifully developed and I became emotionally invested in them. The majority of the story is told by Aster and she is a powerful character but flawed with anger by her harsh life.

“But anger … anger gets things done. Sometimes, at least. You just have to make sure you’re using it, and never the other way around.”

I cannot wait for the next book!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

We Came Here to Shine by Susie Orman Schnall

At the iconic 1939 New York World’s Fair, two ambitious young women—a down-on-her-luck actress and an aspiring journalist—form an unlikely friendship as they navigate a world of possibility and find out what they are truly made of during a glorious summer of spectacle and potential…

Gorgeous Vivi is about to begin filming her first starring role in a Hollywood picture when the studio head ships her off to New York as a favor to a friend. She’s assigned the leading role in the heralded Aquacade synchronized swimming spectacular at the World’s Fair, a fate she believes will destroy her film career. If she performs well, she’ll have another chance at stardom, but with everything working against her, will her summer lead to opportunity or failure?

Plucky Max dreams of becoming a serious journalist, but when her job at the New York Times doesn’t pan out, she finds herself begrudgingly working for the daily paper of the World’s Fair. As her ideas are continually overlooked by her male counterparts and her career prospects are put in jeopardy, Max must risk everything to change the course of her life.

When Max and Vivi’s worlds collide, they forge an enduring friendship. One that teaches them to go after what matters most during the most meaningful summer of their lives.

TITLE: We Came Here to Shine
AUTHOR: Susie Orman Schnall
PUBLISHER: St. Martins Press
GENRE: Historical Fiction
PAGES: 384


We Came Here to Shine by Susie Orman Schnall is an exceptional story about two young women discovering a powerful friendship and the obstacles they both overcome to succeed.

It’s 1939 New York and Max, a journalist down-graded to writing fair ads because she’s a woman and Vivi, a hapless actress sent to perform in the World’s Fair aquacade show meet and develop a friendship that is empowering and supportive. The story is one that resonates; a series of unfortunate events and the misogynism of the time leads both young women to improve their circumstances while working around the hindrances put in their way. Each girl’s personality compliments the others and they balance each other out in the best of ways. This is a friendship I thoroughly enjoyed and the historical element is one that I find fascinating. It is refreshing to read about strong woman based in this era.

A big thank you to NetGalley, St. Martins Press, and Susie Orman Schnall for providing me with a copy of We Came Here to Shine in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.

Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended.

TITLE: Chosen Ones (The Chosen Ones, #1)
AUTHOR: Veronica Roth
PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
GENRE: Fantasy
FORMAT: Print/Hard Copy
PAGES: 432

“Nobody ever prepared me for what came after. They just assumed I would never find out.”

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth is set 10 years in the future after the big bad is conquered and the first part, Part One, focuses primarily on what happens to the Chosen Ones after. The lasting effects of being part of a group that saved the lives of millions from evil; handpicked by the government, trained and ultimately defeating the Dark One has left its mark on those that were ‘Chosen’. In Part One, we meet the Chosen Ones, Sloane, Albie, Esther, Matt, and Ines, all who suffer from various forms of PTSD, paparazzi stalking, drug & alcohol issues and a general lack of purpose. They all cope with the trauma that battling the Dark One induced in different ways. When the unthinkable happens, it brings us to Part two where they find they are still the Chosen Ones and must again defeat a big bad.

The story, told in three parts and intersected with various newspaper articles, top secret memos and logs is a bit of a slow start as we get to know the characters while Ms. Roth sets the stage and builds a fascinating world of parallel universes, really bad dudes and their evil minions. It really picks up momentum in part two and became a page turner as the new Dark One made an appearance and the action kicked in full speed ahead. As a big fan of all Veronica Roth’s work, I expected nothing less from her and although this is on a different level completely from her other books, I recognized her writing in the ‘kick in the gut’ plot twists and it was a bit like coming home! I thoroughly enjoyed this and I’m looking forward to what’s next in the series!

A big thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Veronica Roth for the print copy of Chosen Ones and NetGalley for the DRC

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Lion's Den by Katherine St. John

Belle likes to think herself immune to the dizzying effects of fabulous wealth. But when her best friend, Summer, invites her on a glamorous getaway to the Mediterranean aboard her billionaire boyfriend's yacht, the only sensible answer is yes. Belle hopes the trip will be a much-needed break from her stalled acting career and uniquely humiliating waitressing job, but once she's aboard the luxurious Lion's Den, it soon becomes clear this jet-setting holiday is not as advertised.

Belle's dream vacation quickly devolves into a nightmare as she and the handful of other girls Summer invited are treated more like prisoners than guests by their controlling host-and in one terrifying moment, Belle comes to see Summer for who she truly is: a vicious gold digger who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

Belle realizes she's going to have to keep her wits about her -- and her own big secret closely hidden -- if she wants to make it off the yacht alive.

TITLE: The Lion's Den
AUTHOR: Katherine St. John
PUBLISHER: Grand Central Publishing
GENRE: Thriller/Suspense
PAGES: 368

Do you annotate when you read? I love being able to highlight important facts and quotes on my Kindle but when I’m reading a print copy, I use colored tabs to help me keep track!

Big thanks to @grandcentralpublishing and Katherine St. John for gifting me a copy of The Lion’s Den in exchange for my review!

Welcome to The Lion’s Den, an extravagant & luxurious yacht you’ll die to get on or die getting off! Ha! What an absolutely perfect summer read this is! Aspiring actress Belle is not the sort to compromise her moral compass just to catch a rich husband but not so for her bestie of many years, Summer. When she snags the wealthy John and invites her besties along on a leisurely cruise through the French Riviera for her birthday, who could refuse and what could go wrong?

This is one of those books that took me by surprise! At first, I thought it was going to be a light romp through romcom land but it is anything but! There is murder, sex, betrayal, and deceit and most important, a lesson to be learned, how well do we really know anyone? The characters are phenomenal, ranging from gold-digging wasps to family members with no fetching, making for an interesting cast of characters. The plot is tight and compelling, completely binge-worthy and the ending left me so satisfied except for one thing … I need closure on a few of the characters! Girl, don’t leave me hanging on Wendy, Claire, Rhonda, and Brittani! Perhaps we’ll hear more on them?

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Secrets of a Serial Killer by Rosie Walker

Secrets of a Serial Killer Secrets of a Serial Killer by Rosie Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“I know that fear has always been your favorite, especially when you are the cause.”

Chilling, right? Secrets of a Serial Killer by Rosie Walker IS quite chilling. It starts with a creepy letter from a known serial killer, on his deathbed, passing the torch to his unknown protégé’. There are a lot of great things about this book, primarily the main setting of the Lune Mental Hospital in Lancaster, it is closed and dilapidated but a team of developers are looking to utilize the building. This brings us to Helen Summerton, divorced with a teen daughter, Zoe. When Zoe goes missing, Helen does everything in her power to find her. Is she a victim of Mr. X, the serial killer that’s been stalking young women in the Lancaster area? I felt the heart pounding terror & frustration for Helen as she tries to convince everyone that Zoe isn’t a teen to just take off.

The story is told from multiple POV and this was a bit of a distraction for me in the beginning. What I found extremely interesting were the dark web articles/blog posts that were geared towards the serial killer type. Giving instructions on how to be your most effective killer and get away with it is insane but having an audience that is actually interested in the content …. Yikes! The serial killer, Mr. X is also spine-tinglingly scary! I confess, I’m a bit fascinated with the psychology of sociopathic personalities and their view on the world.

“Don’t forget, in the words of the Zodiac Killer: ‘Man is the most dangerous animal of all.”

The atmosphere of the book is dark and eerie, the description of the Lune is incredibly creepy and vivid, making it easy to imagine the horrors that went on there. The plot moves quickly and although there’s quite a cast of characters and narrators, it pulls together quite nicely until the end! Talk about cliff-hanger! I don’t do well with this type of ending! My mind is hugely overactive and goes all over the place, so, needless to say, I’m still thinking about what could be today!

My thanks to One More Chapter, Rosie Walker, and NetGalley for providing me a DRC in exchange for my honest review.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Those Who Hunger: An Amish Vampire Thriller by Owen Banner

A literary thriller that culls the lurking dread and primal hunger of the vampire myth, but leaves the cliches at the door. 
Stephen King's Needful Things meets The Poisonwood Bible in an evocative vampire tale as fresh and inventive as The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires.

In rural Pennsylvania, a teenage boy is mauled to death. 
Hadassah Zook knows what happened, but she isn’t telling. There’s a dreadful secret buried between the furrows of her upright, simple Amish valley.

Another murder lights a fire of suspicion and prejudice in the community. It threatens to destroy everything. The killings draw in two FBI detectives: Jacobo Barrabas and Keith Linguard. But they aren’t the only ones on the hunt in Big Valley.

Those Who Hunger is a suspenseful, paranormal family saga and coming-of-age tale. It explores the consequences of secrecy, suspicion, and loss on a family in the midst of a young girl’s passage into womanhood.  

TITLE: Those Who Hunger
AUTHOR: Owen Banner
PUBLISHER: Owen Banner
PUBLISH DATE: June 13, 2020
GENRE: Horror, Suspense, Thriller
PAGES: 508

Those Who Hunger: An Amish Vampire Thriller by Owen Banner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“This is the story of our forefather, Cain, the progenitor. His curse is our curse and all of our like. ‘He had shed blood, and blood would forever call to him. He couldn’t escape the hunger he had for it …”

Those Who Hunger by Owen Banner was an absolutely marvelous surprise! Although I live in an area with a strong Amish presence, I’ve never read any Amish fiction, glad I made the leap on this one. This book had all the elements I look for in a thriller, horror, suspense story. It’s carried along in superb fashion with a strong character driven plot and strong emotive characters that had such an amazing sense of reality to them. It was easy to become emotionally invested in not only the outcome of the story but the characters themselves.

Centered around the Zooks, an Amish family in a quiet Amish community, the author gives a detailed look in to the simple life that I found fascinating. When a series of heinous and grisly murders occur, this quiet community reveals a secret to the reader and thus the suspense and horror begins! Brilliantly combining the Amish community with vampire horror made this a compelling read and difficult to put down.

I thoroughly enjoyed Those Who Hunger and if Mr. Banner should write another in this series, I’ll be the first in line to read it. Big thanks to Owen Banner and NetGalley for providing me a DRC in exchange for my honest review.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea

A chilling murder in a prestigious prep school is at the heart of this riveting new novel from acclaimed author Charlie Donlea, featuring forensic reconstructionist Rory Moore and her psychologist partner, Lane Phillips.

Inside the walls of Indiana's elite Westmont Preparatory High School, expectations run high and rules are strictly enforced. But in the woods beyond the manicured campus and playing fields sits an abandoned boarding house that is infamous among Westmont's students as a late-night hangout. Here, only one rule applies: don't let your candle go out--unless you want the Man in the Mirror to find you. . . .

One year ago, two students were killed there in a grisly slaughter. The case has since become the focus of a hit podcast, The Suicide House. Though a teacher was convicted of the murders, mysteries and questions remain. The most urgent among them is why so many students who survived that horrific night have returned to the boarding house--to kill themselves.

Rory, an expert in reconstructing cold cases, is working on The Suicide House podcast with Lane, recreating the night of the killings in order to find answers that have eluded the school, the town, and the police. But the more they learn about the troubled students, the chillingly stoic culprit, and a dangerous game gone tragically wrong, the more convinced they become that something sinister is still happening. Inside Westmont Prep, the game hasn't ended. It thrives on secrecy and silence. And for its players, there may be no way to win--or to survive. . . .

TITLE: The Suicide House
AUTHOR: Charlie Donlea
PUBLISHER: Kensington Books
PUBLISH DATE: July 28, 2020
GENRE: Thriller, Suspense, Mystery
PAGES: 304

The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


“Veniam solum, relinquatis et” ‘Detective Ott said, his head craned back as he looked up at the building ‘Arrive alone, leave together.”

First off, how have I never read this author before! The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea introduced me to a whole cast of characters that are so richly portrayed and so intriguing, imagine my joy when I found out I could read more about their stories!

The Suicide House is a multifaceted story with a fairly large cast of characters yet I never felt confused or had to jump back to see who was who, for me, this is a wonderous thing! I love a story that plays out like a movie in my head, when each character is real and emotive with a story so vividly described that I become emotionally invested in both the characters and the story.

The plot is so tight and the twists so very twisty with red herrings that kept the story moving forward at a rapid pace. There was a grisly murder scene at Westmont Prep a year ago, supposedly an open shut case when the main suspect, a teacher, tried to commit suicide but the detective on the case, Detective Ott has never been quite satisfied with the case’s conclusion and when a popular podcaster decides to look into a rash of student suicides that occur at the prep school over the following year, Lane Phillips a famous forensic psychologist and criminal profiler along with his girlfriend Rory are invited to have a look. While I enjoyed all the characters, I absolutely loved Rory, a Forensic Reconstructionist with a slew of quirks that make her perfect for cold cases.

“Most people avoided confusion and chaos. Rory was drawn to it. The mysterious and unexplained intrigued her, and she could no more ignore them than a moth could resist a light source.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and will be reading more by Charlie Donlea in the future. A great big thank you to Kensington Books, Charlie Donlea & NetGalley for providing me with this DRC in exchange for my honest review.

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