Top 5 Books I Anticipate Reading in 2020

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I love reading, and it’s the one thing I do at work during my breaks and lunchtime. This past year I’ve been reading a lot more, especially new releases since NetGalley has been hooking me up with ARCs. Spring-Summer 2020 has some very amazing releases. Below are my Top 5 New Releases that I can’t wait to read!

001. Darling Rose Gold – Stephanie Wrobel

For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold.

Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar.

After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. The entire community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes.

Patty insists all she wants is to reconcile their differences. She says she’s forgiven Rose Gold for turning her in and testifying against her. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty Watts always settles a score.

Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling…

And she’s waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

*This book reminds me so much of The Act and Gypsy Rose and since that story is so intriguing to me I can’t wait to read this novel.

002. My Dark Vanessa – Kate Elizabeth Russell

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

*As a teenager I loved the book Lolita, so I’m down with forbidden loves and the moral complications those spur.

003. Burn Our Bodies Down – Rory Power

Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.

But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.

Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?

The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape.

*I had the pleasure to read Rory’s debut novel and really loved it, and she was also a pleasure to interview, so I can’t wait to see what sort of craziness she has brewed up this time.

004. Home Before Dark – Riley Sager

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

*Riley Sager has become the sort of author that I automatically read anything he writes. I’ve enjoyed all of his novels so far and am really intrigued to read this one!

005. The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires – Grady Hendrix

Patricia Campbell’s life has never felt smaller. Her ambitious husband is too busy to kiss her good-bye in the morning, her kids are wrapped up in their own lives, and she’s always a step behind on thank-you notes and endless chores. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime and suspenseful fiction.

This predictable pattern is upended when Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor, bringing the neighbor’s handsome relative, James Harris, into her life. Sensitive and well-read, James makes Patricia feel things she hasn’t felt in twenty years. But there’s something…off…and then Patricia’s senile mother-in-law insists she knew him back when she was a girl.

When local children go missing, Patricia has reason to believe that James may be more Bundy than Beatnik. But once she and the book club members investigate further, the true monster emerges—and he’s far more terrifying than any serial killer they’ve ever read about.

*I read Grady’s book We Sold Our Souls last year and it was one of my fave reads of the year, and seeing that this new book also has vampires, I’m totally jumping on this bloodsucking bandwagon!

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What are some of the books you’re looking forward to in 2020?

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Book Review: The Twin by Natasha Preston

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Ivy finds out that her twin sister, Iris, is trying to push her out of her own life–and might be responsible for their mother’s death.

Release Date: March 3, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Plot Summary:

After their parents divorced, 10-year-old twins Ivy and Iris were split up–Ivy lived with Dad, Iris with Mom. Now, after a tragic accident takes their mom’s life, the twins are reunited and Iris moves in with Ivy and their dad. Devastated over Mom’s death, Iris spends the first few weeks in almost total silence–the only person she will speak to is Ivy. Iris feels her life is over and she doesn’t know what to do. Emmy promises her twin that she can share her life now. After all, they’re sisters. Twins.

It’s a promise that Iris takes seriously. And before long, Ivy’s friends, her life at school, and her boyfriend, Tyler, fall under Iris’s spell. Slowly, Ivy realizes she’s being pushed out of her own life. But she’s just being paranoid, right? And Mom’s accident was . . . just an accident. Right? It’s not like she–or Dad–or Tyler–are in any danger. . . .

Grade: C

Review:

The blurb for The Twin sounded utterly fascinating as I’m always on board when it comes to creepy, evil twins. Plus I know this author for the bestselling series The Cellar (admittedly I haven’t read said series but I figure if you reach the NYT bestselling list then you can’t possibly be a bad writer). So what could possibly go wrong? Apparently, a lot.

I’m not here to bash a book or an author, but this book truly moves at a snail’s pace. Sure, there’s some gaslighting by Iris (the supposedly evil twin) but it doesn’t really escalate till you’re 75% in the book. I was tempted many times to simply give up on this book, but I only prevailed cause reviewers who made it through claimed it was worth the wait.

Sure, Iris acts strange and like Ivy, we’re left questioning her strange bi-polar personality, but other than that, we can’t see her as being purely evil. And for being a YA, it is very tame compared to other edgier books I’ve read in the genre. I’m also baffled by all the reviews that claimed this was a fast-paced thriller. Using short sentences and barely any description doesn’t easily equate to fast-paced. And there’s some suspense but then again since not much happens that I found to be too alarming, it doesn’t really elevate the stakes at hand.

Is Iris really trying to take Ivy’s place? And if so, why? That’s the central question and it would be an interesting one if it had merely moved at a faster pace or had some truly terrible things happen to Ivy. Now I know that this author used to post their writing on Wattpad (I’m not judging since I do enjoy A.V. Geiger’s books a lot and she used to be on there as well) but I can’t help but feel as though Preston’s writing is too simplistic and that her thrillers aren’t even on par with middle-grade thriller books (I mean a lot more happens in a Goosebumps book than what occurred throughout this one).

The dialogue was a bit stilted in this book, especially anytime Iris spoke. I get that she’s weird but the way she speaks doesn’t even sound like a normal teen or one that is popular anyway.

I really wanted to love this book or at least enjoy the ride, but instead, I was bored witless and wish I could’ve been Ivy binge-watching Riverdale instead.

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*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Excerpts from: Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology

Strange Girls - High Resolution

In five weeks, Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology will drop just in time to celebrate Women in Horror Month. The stories found within this anthology are very diverse. They range from slasher, psychological horror, sci-fi horror, Gothic, mythological, thriller, and speculative. But the common ground is that the girls presented in the anthology are all uniquely strange in their own ways with elements of horror.

If you’re a reviewer on NetGalley, the book is currently there for you to pick up in exchange for a review. For the rest of you, here’s a small sample of what sort of stories you’re bound to come across in the book:

Excerpt from “Tribal Influence” by Erica Ruhe

“Por favor! You don’t understand,” the terrified mother pleaded in Spanish. “My daughter needs special care. Only I can look after her.”
A guard stood stone-faced on the other side of the open chain link gate.
“Ma’am, the child needs to come with me.” He gestured the girl forward. “Vamos, chica.”
“Mama?” The little girl’s dark brown eyes grew wide. Her father stepped in front of his wife and child.
“No!” he demanded. “My daughter is staying with us.”
The overflowing detainment center hummed with apprehension. Confused conversation and the shuffling of feet hung heavy under the musty weight of acrid sweat and fear.
“Por favor, she is a very special girl,” the mother continued. “You must let me stay with her.”
The guard pulled out his baton.
“Sir, step aside. Ma’am—”
“My daughter needs me.” Tears rolled down the mother’s cheeks. “Por favor, let us stay together!”
“Hey!” An impatient supervisor called across the imprisoned throng of immigrants. “What’s the hold up, Sam? We gotta keep these cattle moving!”
“My daughter is not going anywhere,” the father insisted.
“Listen to me!” The guard pointed his baton at the young Guatemalan family. “Escúchame! Tu hija viene conmigo.”
“No, Mama!” the little girl clutched her mother’s neck. “No, Mama! No, no, no!”
The mother began to shake.
“Shh, shh, my love,” she cooed, suddenly sinking to her knees. A strange vacancy filled her face as the blood drained out of her cheeks.
“Mama!” the girl wept.
“Last warning.” The guard pushed the father aside with his baton. “Mueve tu culo.”
“Mama!”
But the father stepped in again, this time turning to his girls.
“Joaquina?” the father asked, tension in his voice. “Joaquina?”
“Enough dicking around!” the guard shoved the father aside. “C’mon!”
He grabbed the mother’s arm but he faltered and gasped.
“Let her go!” the father cried out. “Let her go!”
“What the hell?” the guard yelled, holding up a shaking hand to his face. “What the fuck is happening?”
The mother looked up from her crying child, tears trembling on the rims of her eyelids. She gazed in to the guard’s eyes with an eerie stillness.
“I can’t stop it,” she whispered.
“Sam?” the supervisor called, concerned.
The guard suddenly spasmed, as if stung. He grabbed his heart. Eyes rolled back. Jaw snapped wide. And in the next instant, his terrified scream consumed him.

Excerpt from “Sideshow” by Jude Reid

His tongue is in her mouth again.

Against her back, she can feel the fabric of the tent, the wet canvas smell mixing with the taste of ketchup and soda and Juicy Fruit gum. Her right hand is closed around a guy-rope; her left, for want of anywhere else to put it, is on Richie’s belt. He has taken hold of her right breast and is squeezing it rhythmically and not especially gently. This is your fault, she thinks to herself, eyes closed and mouth open. You didn’t say no.

The tongue retracts back into his mouth, slick, fat and slug-like. She imagines it leaving a trail of thick mucus behind itself, and her stomach lurches at the thought, sending a tide of acid rushing into her mouth. Her own tongue flicks out and runs across her lower lip, as if it were possible to lick away every trace he had left behind.

Excerpt from “The Girl Who Never Stopped Bleeding” by Sam Lauren

Barb washed her panties in the bathroom sink between classes and the water ran pink. It stained her nails. She scrubbed them with hand soap and course paper towels but they never came clean. Neither did the panties.

It was her first time. Some of us knew how she felt. We didn’t give her advice; we teased her as if we didn’t have folded bits of toilet paper stuffed between our linens and our aching, leaking bodies.

By the fifth day everyone knew. Boys wouldn’t touch her. Girls claimed to smell her from lockers away.

The Bible says a bleeding woman is unclean. We thought it was funny, a myth, a lie told by parents to make kids remain chaste. It didn’t prepare us for Barb.

Two weeks in she killed a plant. We can’t prove it but they both sat by the window, wilting in their own filth. The plant hadn’t changed its dirt. She hadn’t changed her panties. Some say she touched the stem of the flower, turned it toward the light, but others say it died just from being near her.

A month later she was still scrubbing her panties after every bell.

Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology drops February 18, 2020 but is available for pre-order!

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Book Review: What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin

unbreakable

She’s nobody’s flower anymore.

Release Date: June 23, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (Wednesday Books)

Price: $17.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Lex was taken–trafficked–and now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again.

After she moves in with her aunt and uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things.
But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, and a new love.

Kate McLaughlin’s What Unbreakable Looks Like is a gritty, ultimately hopeful novel about human trafficking through the lens of a girl who has escaped the life and learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.

Grade: A-

Review:

Wow….what a ride! This book covers very serious topics like sex trafficking, rape, prostitution, and drug abuse. But despite the heavy topics, this book is very enjoyable to read. I really like how the author didn’t try to sugar coat what had happened to Lex, but at the same time had her be hopeful of her future.

Lex used to be your typical teen till she got sucked into sex trafficking by her much older boyfriend who then placed her in a motel for prostitution purposes. When the police find her, she’s unable to think that her life could possibly get much better as she feels she’s damaged goods. And just when she starts to feel better about her new life with her aunt and uncle, something equally harrowing as her past occurs once more, she’s sexually assaulted by five of her peers at school.

But this time Lex doesn’t back down. She stands up for herself and wishes to take down those who did her wrong. I think this book explores very dark topics but does it with so much poise and dignity that you can’t help but root for Lex and her journey.

This is a very timely novel and I recommend this for both adults and teens to read. Lex is a beacon of hope and light in a world that can too often be the darkest shades of black.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson

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How do you put yourself back together when it seems like you’ve lost it all?

Release Date: April 7, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

May is a survivor. But she doesn’t feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through–no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her.

Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister…and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won’t let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night. The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band.

Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving could be an option after all.

Grade: A

Review:

This isn’t for the faint-hearted. The way the author depicts grieving in this novel is a true punch to the gut. May simply cannot get over the way her brother Jordan was shot and killed during a school shooting while she hid in the closet and did nothing. Feelings of guilt plague her, but she’s also consumed with anger and vengeance. She thinks that nobody can understand her pain until she meets Zach.

Zach has become a social pariah at his school the moment his lawyer mother took a case that left everyone speechless.

Zach and May become kindred spirits until they each realize who they really are. Zach’s mother is defending the shooter that killed May’s brother. And for months May has been rendering Zach’s family life hell by secretly vandalizing their property and leaving threatening letters in their mailbox.

If you’re hoping for a light YA read with romance speckled throughout, then this isn’t the book for you. Sure, this book has the hopes of a blossoming romance, but it isn’t the heart of the novel. The real purpose of this book is to show the reality of surviving a school shooting and how even when you’re the “lucky ones” to survive your new normal is just as terrible as being dead. A must-read for anyone at any age to see just how prominent and damaging active shooters have become in both schools and other locations.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review & Author Interview: The Sister Pact by Stacie Ramey

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Who holds your secrets?

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Plot Summary:

Allie is devastated when her sister commits suicide-and it’s not just because she misses her. Allie feels betrayed. The two made a pact that they’d always be together, in life and in death, but Leah broke her promise and Allie needs to know why.
Her parents hover. Her friends try to support her. And Nick, sweet Nick, keeps calling and flirting. Their sympathy only intensifies her grief.
But the more she clings to Leah, the more secrets surface. Allie’s not sure which is more distressing: discovering the truth behind her sister’s death or facing her new reality without her.

Grade: A

Review:

Full disclosure: I was attracted to this book for all the wrong triggering reasons. A little backstory: Much like the protagonists Allie and Leah, as teenagers, my cousin Melody and I also had made a “pact” to bail out if life took a turn that we couldn’t handle. Flash forward to 2013, and Melody bails out in the worst way possible but also breaking the pact that had made where we would’ve made the decision together. Now, six years later, I am still trying to figure out what I could’ve done or said to make her not wish to want to go. In a way, in these six years, I’ve tried to experience all the things that I knew Melody wished to experience or travel to places she would’ve wanted to. In other words, I’ve tried to live for both of us.

My first book from Stacie Ramey was It’s My Life, and despite the protagonist having cerebral palsy, it wasn’t as dark or heavy as The Sister Pact. There was a stark contrast between the two novels. In It’s My Life, Jenna had to deal with a chronic illness, however, she had a loving family and friends. But in The Sister Pact, the protagonist Allie has to deal with a highly dysfunctional family and awful friends that betray her. What I’m trying to say is, this book was very, very dark.

Ramey doesn’t sugarcoat anything and instead depicts grief and depression in a very realistic way. At times, Allie’s pain is so palpable and visceral that you can almost feel it as your own. I found it to be a very powerful and moving novel. Which seeing that it was this author’s debut novel to boot, she really came into the writing scene with a serious bang.

And although the subject matter of the novel is extremely dark (suicide, depression, drug abuse) it isn’t dreary for the sake of being so. You understand why Allie makes the bad choices that she does. But ultimately, she finds the strength to want to live, even if her older sister Leah, whom she looked up to, isn’t there with her anymore. The end was uplifting and hopeful. And in a way, it made me feel a little hopeful about my own grief over my cousin’s death.

I recommend this for anyone who wants to read a novel that discusses serious topics and has some real feelings.

Short Q & A With the Author:

Jenna and Allie have dramatically different families. One is very loving and supportive while the other is highly dysfunctional. How do you think their families contributed to your protagonists’ personalities?

I think that’s the point, isn’t it? I mean, Allie has to overcome a lot of things. Her sister’s suicide. Her parents’ divorce. Her feeling that her world is unraveling. We understand that her family’s struggle has contributed to her issues, but we also see that she’s undergoing complicated grief which is a type of grief where Allie feels slightly complicit in her sister’s death in addition to everything else and she’s not coping well. But we don’t really blame her because it’s really too much for her and that’s what makes it so empowering to see her crawl out of it and find some hope.

As for Jenna, she has tons of support, but she’s stopped believing in herself. She’s given up on herself and haven’t we all done that at some point in our lives? Her family’s support is constant and wonderful, but it’s also something she’s trying to break away from in order to take the next steps in her life. All teens go through this. Jenna struggles with how to accomplish this in the wake of her disability. Some people have described her as self-pitying, but I don’t buy that. I believe that wish-fulfillment fantasy that she has of being a better version of herself is very typical and her response to the limitations of her body is very believable and deserves our witness, not our judgment. Just my opinion.

In both novels, the protagonists are academically smarter than the classes they decide to be in for themselves. Jenna decides to take easier classes because she is absent from school a lot due to her condition, while Allie decides to take lighter courses because she’s distraught over her sister’s suicide. Do you think this was a subconscious effort for both of them to control one aspect of their lives since they had no control any other way?

Yes. They each try to control their lives in any way possible. Teens have a ton of pressure on them these days (I mean they always have but now we expect them to be little adults from the time they can talk and make decisions).

For Allie, some of the adults in her life are trying to ease her burden, although interestingly enough, her parents do not share this viewpoint. They keep looking for reasons to believe Allie is ok and they look to her progression through typical milestones such as graduating on time and staying focused on getting into a high-pressure college as a means for evaluating her condition. I believe they should, instead, as her guidance counselor suggests, take time to heal, but when bad things happen, we tend to want to get back to business as soon as possible. It’s the wrong way, in my opinion.

As for Jenna, she is definitely trying to flex her decision-making muscles here. It’s not a good decision to go into lower classes, and she regrets it, but sometimes we have to allow ourselves to make bad choices in order to figure out what works and what doesn’t. She’s always fought as Daddy’s little warrior, but now she’s trying to work out who she is now and, more importantly, who she wants to be.

What was your inspiration behind both novels?

It’s My Life was actually the first book I ever wrote even though it was the fourth book I sold. I really wanted to tell the story of a girl who has a disability who gives up on herself and then has to work to find herself again. It was important to me that she has a fully supportive family, because I wanted her struggles to be with herself and how she sees herself. While I do not have cerebral palsy or a mobility disorder, I have struggled with invisible disabilities my entire life. I am the youngest of very capable older siblings and have many times felt lost in my life’s course, even while having my family’s support and love and, like Jenna, I’m still trying to figure out who I am supposed to be.

The Sister Pact was based on a few different things, some easy to discuss in this space, some harder. Mostly, I wanted to write the story of two groups of people who both had the same intent-save Allie-but were in complete opposition on how to do that. In this case, it’s kind of Allie vs her parents and even though both sets of people want Allie to heal, initially they don’t understand the other person’s intentions and methods so they work in conflict with each other. It was really an experiment and I’m glad it worked out that both groups could work together. I also wanted to show how mental health issues can look completely different from what we might expect in this case, Allie’s sister is super successful, all the while she’s battling consuming depression, as is Allie’s mother. I wanted to show how we try to act like everything’s ok when it’s all falling apart. Also, I wanted to show sisters who are so close they tell each other everything, except any of the important things.

Are you currently working on a new project?

I am currently writing a retelling of a Yiddush Fairy Tale. It’s a lot of fun.

*Thank you so much to the author for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

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They picked the wrong girl.

Release Date: February 18, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Jade and her friends Jenny, Mads, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Jade’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Jade as their next target.
Sworn to vengeance, Jade transfers to St. Andrew’s Prep. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.

Grade: A+

Review:

I’m not a fan of the book’s cover (something about the colours just throws me off). But that’s the only downside.

If you ever wondered what a crossover between Heathers and Kill Bill with a Macbeth edge to it would look like, then you’ll understand what sort of book Foul is Fair aims to be. It’s the ultimate revenge fantasy. It’s bloody and violent in the best ways possible. It’s a feminist manifesto of a girl who wants to show the golden boys who raped her that they simply fucked with the wrong girl.

Just like I Spit on Your Grave, you can’t help but cheer Jade on her mission to destroy the boys of St. Andrews. You’ll want their blood just as much as Jade does. But beneath all the blood and gore stands a book that displays the horror of rape and exalts the strong bonds of female friendships. You don’t need a boyfriend when your friends will help you devise a plan to destroy the boys who did you wrong.

The prose is violent, aggressive, and unapologetic, as it should be. I loved every second of this bloody thrilling ride. There aren’t enough heart emojis in the world for me to properly explain how much I loved this book. It really spoke to my black vindictive heart. I’m sure Jade and I would be buds.

I know they see it –
for just a second –
–our fangs and our claws.

If you’re going to read just one book in 2020, then make sure to make this be the one. It’s raw and cuts you the bone, but you’ll be better off afterwards.

 

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Throwback Thursday: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

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I was 9 years old when I first came across Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Being a fan of horror, I was incredibly excited about this anthology as it documented various stories that derived from urban legends, folklore, or myths. I was completely hooked. I used the book as a means to inspire my own “scary stories sharing” escapades (which happened often during sleepovers or late summer nights hanging out with friends).

Apart from the stories themselves, what really set this book apart was the illustrations by Stephen Gammell. Often times, for a seasoned horror connoisseur as myself, the stories alone weren’t terrifying enough. But those illustrations! Boy were they ever the nightmare-inducing high that I was searching for.

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I have yet to see the movie from Guillermo Del Toro inspired by the anthology, but being a fan of his past work, I’m certain that he remained faithful to the vision of the illustrations (at least that’s what I could tell from the trailers).

Recently, I decided to reread the stories (my original copies are stashed away in boxes somewhere in my garage in Sicily) so I had to repurchase the books. Luckily, these new editions haven’t strayed from the original, as I heard that for awhile they had done away with Gammell’s illustrations and replaced them with a more kid-friendly version. (Bah!)

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Upon rereading the stories, I realized that I still enjoy them and that I have a damn good memory as decades later I’m still capable of remembering how each of the stories would end. As far as the illustrations go, they’re just as deliciously terrifying today as I thought they were when I was a mere nugget of 9.

But if you’re never read this horror classic, I highly suggest that you do. It’s equal parts campy and horrifying. I still can’t get over the story of the girl that has spiders protruding from her cheek (which I’m sure the movie The Believers capitalized on for a certain scene). Body horror has always been more frightening to me than a million clowns ever could be.

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Book Review: It’s My Life by Stacie Ramey

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If she wants a future with him, she’ll have to make peace with her past.

Release Date: January 7, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Price: $10.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Jenna’s never let her cerebral palsy get her down. But when she discovers that her condition was actually caused by an injury at birth, she’s furious with her parents, who withheld the truth. And as they push her to get yet another difficult procedure, Jenna feels her control over her life starting to slip.
Enter Julian, Jenna’s childhood crush. He’s just moved back to town, and he’s struggling in school, so Jenna reaches out to him―anonymously―to help. Soon, their conversations are about so much more than class. She’s falling for him all over again, hard and fast. But would Julian still be interested in her if he knew who she really was? And can she find a way to take back her own narrative before she pushes away everyone she loves?

Grade: B

Review:

I really appreciated this book in regard of enlightening teens on what it means to live with a chronic illness. The tone of the book, although it illustrates how it feels to live with cerebral palsy, is still a light one in the way any rom-com would be. In a way, this book is still a rom-com since the main focus of the book is how Jenna loves Julian (a childhood friend who moved away but has returned to town and is now in her English class). She’s trying to be a normal teen by getting to know him on a more intimate level through texting, but at the same time keeps her identity concealed because she feels that no boy could possibly fall in love with her damaged body.

I really liked Jenna, so reading the story from her perspective was fun, plus there were a lot of likable side characters as well, such as her best friend Ben and sister Rena. The flirting between Jenna and Julian was totally adorable and appropriate for their age.

I know that some of the premises in the book may seem unreasonable (such as Jenna wanting to legally emancipate herself from her family so that she could make her own decisions in regards to her health when it comes to surgeries and tests). But since the rest of the book was good I could overlook that minor lapse of judgment.

I recommend this book for anyone who’s wanting to learn more about living with a chronic illness and if you’re in the mood for a quick light romantic read.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Cover Reveal & Pre-Order for Strange Girls – Women in Horror Anthology

If you follow this blog or follow me on Twitter, then you may know that I’ve been busy putting together another Women in Horror Anthology. The good news is, I’ve finally sen up a pub date! Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology will be coming out February 18 (I thought a February date would make the most sense since it is Women in Horror Month!). But if you wish to be uber cool and support some amazing talent, then the book is set for pre-order here (a print copy will be available to order upon publication date).

Curious about what kind of stories you may find? Below is a quick synopsis for each short story found in the anthology:

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Her Garden Grows by Maxine Kollar

I belong to Rosamund now. You can’t save her.

Revival by Madison Estes

While grieving the loss of his sister, a medical student begins to suspect his laboratory cadaver is still alive. She shows signs of life, leading him to question his reality. He must decide how far he is willing to go to save her—if she can be saved at all.

Sideshow by Jude Reid

Everyone knows Ritchie and Sylvia are the perfect couple—everyone, that is, except for Sylvia, who’s walking the narrow line between the “yes” she doesn’t feel and the “no” she can’t bring herself to say. It takes a trip to the travelling Carnival, a tin duck, a strip show and a snake with amber eyes to teach her—and Ritchie—a lesson they won’t forget.

Jenny’s Bobo by Hillary Lyon

He’s her best friend; more stealthy than a cat, more loyal than a dog. But what happens when a clever teenage girl hijacks her parents’ most demonic asset for her own ends?

24 Hour Diner by Charlotte Platt

A young server in a 24-hour diner wiles his life away, watching the clock and waiting for something interesting to happen. When a beautiful homeless woman brings a colourful arc of intrigue in with her, he has no intention of letting that slip through his fingers.

Campfire Tales: The Bloody Rings by Emma Johnson-Rivard

A small-town legend is remembered in brutal and sometimes extremely dry detail. It concerns a man, a woman, and a strange town up in the North Woods.

Personal Demons by Angelique Fawns

It’s not easy being a teenager who identifies as non-binary. Especially when your new crush turns out to have some very dark appetites….

My Mirror Wife by Ash Tudor

Amelia’s beauty is formidable, but Ethan is a professional and introduces himself with the deadly charm of a true hunter. As their encounter changes into something intimate it becomes unclear who is hunting who, and beneath her mask of loveliness Amelia hides a simple yet lethal truth; she loves her husband.

Tribal Influence by Erica Ruhe

A skirmish in a detention center on the Texas-Mexico border uncovers an opportunity for a unique weapon of mass destruction — an innocent asylum seeker with the power to influence the emotions of others. And the U.S. military wants dibs. For Colonel Carl Holden, harnessing Joaquina’s supernatural abilities have proven challenging and he is forced to bring in his old colleague and bitter rival, Dr. Hector Espinoza, for help. Working through his own moral reservations, Hector’s efforts will reveal Joaquina’s terrifying potential and Carl’s hidden agenda but the breakthrough will come at a heavy cost to them all…

Night Terrors by Angela Sylvaine

In an isolated mountain town centered around a secretive research facility, a teen girl struggles to distinguish nightmares from reality after a near-fatal accident leaves her with terrifying nightly visits by masked tormentors.

Extinguishing Fireflies by Rebecca Rowland

Lea wanted nothing more than to have a child. When her daughter Arielle was born, Lea believed, as every new parent does, that her child would be special. At nine-years-old, Arielle is athletic and precocious and curious, and sure enough, has a very special—and terrifying—gift.

The Eyes of the Dead by Danielle R. Bailey

The Eyes of The Dead is a shocking perspective of what lies ahead for us all. Fighting for survival, a young woman discovers the realm of true horror.

The Girl Who Never Stopped Bleeding by Sam Lauren

The Girl Who Never Stopped Bleeding is a literary charcuterie of menstruation mythology. Everyone has heard of at least one, but is there any truth to them?

Blood by Red Claire

In a racist and repressive theocracy, a princess ponders the nature of power and symbols.

Friends with Benefits by E.F. Schraeder

Linked to a powerful mother, one girl doesn’t know if memory or magic holds her family together; can she trust anyone but herself to find out?

The Doll’s House by Alyson Faye

After Sophie’s mother is imprisoned for murder, Sophie inherits the doll’s house; whose inhabitants she believes are alive. As family secrets are revealed, is it Sophie or a supernatural force committing the crimes? Is anyone safe in Sophie’s family?

Leda and the Fly by Marnie Azzarelli

Leda has a problem and stares at a white wall to cope. That is until a fly decides that her precious space is its new home.

Self-Portrait with Pears by Rachel Bolton

A young man’s crush on a classmate slips into obsession when things don’t go as he expects.

A Song Only She Can Hear by Wondra Vanian

High school is hard enough when you don’t have to hide scales from your classmates. Unfortunately for Jewel, she’s about to learn that there are worse things than high school – and she might be one of them.

Angel of Death by Phoebe Jane Johnson

The mass murderess known as La Angel Muerta has been sentenced to death, the first woman to be executed under the newly restored death penalty. Although many scream for justice, a political power play proves justice is not blind. Simultaneously, a nation realms away follow the case as two worlds are destined to collide.

Cracked by Regan Moore

Gabby is about to find out that sometimes someone else’s treasure could become someone else’s curse.

Patterns of Faerytales by Azzurra Nox

The night before his wedding day, Cillian learns a dark secret about his wife that not even she is aware of. Her ignorance could be their bliss, but if she finds out what it is, then life as they know it might very well no longer exist.

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