Book Review: Little Creeping Things by Chelsea Ichaso

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What happens when your mortal enemy disappears and you’re to blame?

Release Date: June 2, 2020

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Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Price: $10.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

As a child, Cassidy Pratt accidentally started a fire that killed her neighbor. At least, that’s what she’s been told. She can’t remember anything from that day. She’s pretty sure she didn’t mean to do it. She’s a victim too. But her town’s bullies, particularly the cruel and beautiful Melody Davenport, have never let her live it down. In Melody’s eyes, Cassidy is a murderer and always will be.

When Cassidy overhears what sounded like an abduction and Melody goes missing, Cassidy knows she should go to the cops, but… She recently joked about how much she’d like to get rid of Melody. She even planned out the perfect way to do it. It’s up to Cassidy to figure out what really happened because if she comes forward without a suspect, she knows people will point fingers at her. Again. And she can’t let that happen.
But the truth behind Melody’s disappearance will set the whole town ablaze.

Grade: B-

Review:

This book started out strong. But somewhere along the halfway mark it started to sizzle. Somehow, the book went from being about a murder mystery to dwelling in teenage angst. I could forgive the angst if it were crucial to the plot, however, it felt more like filler. Cassidy is the sole survivor of a fire she started when she was little, ever since that day she has been tormented and bullied and dubbed Fire Girl by her peers. One of her biggest tormentors is Melody Davenport, a girl she’d love to see drop dead. And drop-dead she does right after Cass executes the most brilliant murder and shares her step by step guide with her brother’s best friend, Brandon. Now, the murderer knows of her desire to kill Melody and has proof (her notebook). The murderer threatens to spill everything if she doesn’t comply with his needs, mostly to not disclose this info with anyone else or grave consequences will follow.

My only issue is that there was minimal sleuthing being done for this being a murder mystery and even when Cass disclosed the whole truth to her best friend, there were no repercussions! So why was there even a threat made if nothing was going to come of it?

Now, none of the teenage angst would’ve annoyed me if I actually LIKED the protagonist. But Cassidy isn’t your usual unlikeable unreliable narrator, meaning that she’s not mean and charming, but rather just a big whiner and being bullied but then goes and spreads rumors about SOMEONE else and she pretty much treats anyone close to her like shit too. She really had no redeeming qualities nor was she witty or clever that I could overlook her not having any redeeming qualities. There’s a fine line between being Patrick Bateman charming and just falling into the terrible person with a blah personality box, and Cassidy falls into that.

So why did I continue to read despite all the negatives? Well, the author DID manage to keep me hooked on the premise of Who Killed Melody Davenport? I was curious to see if my hunch was right about a certain character or not (I was right).

I know this is a debut novel and there’s room for the author to grow, and I do think that the author has promise, so I won’t write this book off entirely. This book is for you if you like slow burn thrillers with a protagonist with a traumatic past.

*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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Book Review: Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

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Keep a fire burning. A fire is what saves you – that’s what she always said. She tried and tried to tell me. This time I’m finally listening.

Release Date: July 7, 2020

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Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

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.

Grade: B+

Review:

This is Powers’ sophomore novel and although I enjoyed her debut very much, and there were elements I loved about this book, as a whole, I didn’t think it was as strong as Wilder Girls. The book is being marketed as Children of the Corn meets Sharp Objects. And maaaaybe there’s a slight similarity, but apart from the book being mostly set in cornfields, there’s not much to suggest that it has the creepy religious vibes that Children of the Corn had. And that’s okay, however, sometimes the way publishing houses promote novels leave you wondering if they have actually even read the book.

First of all, let me just state that Powers is a master class in prose. Her writing is beautiful and she does an awesome job at creating a feeling of disquiet terror in the reader. There’s something unsettling and you know that there’s something not quite right about Fairheaven when Margot reaches her destination, however, we don’t what it is. I know of figured out what was happening, and I did enjoy all the body horror elements of the story.

Where the novel fell short for me is the fact that it would’ve benefited if there has been more of a backstory and history of Phalene (the town where the story is set). Because I feel that the story would’ve been richer with more info about the town in the past (there were some details provided but they felt very scarce). Another place where the story fell short for me was that the side characters were barely there and we hardly got to know much about them. I would’ve liked a bit more scenes between Tess and Margot, or at least to see a deepening of their friendship/relationship.

The novel is paced much like a horror film, where events take place in a span of a week. I wish the pacing hadn’t been so rushed, because I wanted Margot to feel more conflicted about her relationship with her grandmother had she gotten to know her better over a period of time. Maybe the story should’ve spanned a month or so. I just feel like we spent so little time with the characters and I was enjoying the book and would’ve have minded a longer novel (maybe another 50-60 pages more, nothing crazy).

Margot’s mother also stresses the importance of burning a candle at ALL TIMES. And although fire comes into the picture once again in the novel during a pivotal scene, I feel like the meaning fo the candles and fire wasn’t fully explained as it could’ve been. There should’ve been an entire mythology built around why a candle should always be burning at all times.

Overall, I did enjoy the book very much and it did a good job at creating a creepy atmosphere as well as explore a highly dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship.

I recommend this book if you love rural horror combined with lush descriptions.

*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: I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

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What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried….

Release Date: June 30, 2020

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Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected—and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

Grade: A

Review:

This novel has been receiving a lot of buzz in the past few months, and with good reason. Thrillers for me are always a hit or miss since some thrillers latch onto the systematic formula and then I’m capable of figuring out the killer 30% into the book. This book is different though. We know the narrator is unreliable, but at the same time, we also know that everyone else we meet is just as unreliable. Plus, we’re given memories that we’re unsure whether they’re true memories or merely false memories. Thing is, I could never truly tell what was going on in this novel and that’s a good thing! I like being puzzled and pretty much suspecting EVERYONE for murder rather than it being easy and having the one creepy person in the book be the killer.

I rather enjoyed the varied story-telling that was provided in the book. The past was told in the first person present tense by Anna, a girl who bears a striking resemblance to the dead girl in question, Zoe Spanos. While the present is told in the third person and we also get a podcast transcript. So the book has a lot of variety in story-telling.

The book is marketed as being a cross between Courtney Summer’s Sadie and the gothic novel Rebecca. This is what this book has in common with those two novels: Sadie: There’s a missing girl and the book is told in podcast transcript 50% of it. But that’s where the comparison ends. Rebecca: The protagonist loves to sketch, so does Anna. The protagonist is also a middle-class girl who marries a rich widower. Anna is a middle-class girl who is hired to be a nanny during the summer for a wealthy family in the Hamptons. The novel Rebecca is plagued by the memory of Rebecca and the maid who is obsessive about her. This novel is plagued by the memory of Zoe Spanos and her ex-boyfriend’s mother who is obsessed with her. Again, this is where the comparisons end.

I Killed Zoe Spanos is a taut thriller and has you second-guessing every character in the novel and for that I LOVE IT. This thriller is twisty and will leave you guessing, and like I said, NO ONE IS SAFE. Anyone could be the killer and trying to figure out what exactly happened to Zoe Spanos that fateful New Year’s Eve night will have you reading way past your bedtime.

Read this if you love twisty thrillers with unreliable characters.

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

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Book Review: Livingston Girls by Briana Morgan

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“I see something in you, Miss Abbott, something I recognize. The potential for greatness, for channeling magic. For bending the world to your will.”

Release Date: March 24, 2020

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Price: $12.84

Plot Summary:

After an affair with her teacher, Rose’s parents ship her off to Livingston Academy, a stuffy all-girls’ boarding school. Ashamed of her past and herself, sixteen-year-old Rose just wants to chill, pass her classes, and make friends. The last thing on her mind is becoming a witch…

Until the enigmatic headmistress gives her the chance to join a coven secret from the rest of the school. Desperate to prove herself and looking for a purpose, the headmistress’s offer seems too perfect to pass up.

Rose puts on her metaphorical pointy hat and becomes a Livingston witch. She quickly discovers that the other witches don’t want her in their group—especially because she’s filling their dead friend’s space—but if they can’t band together, the witch-hunting headmaster of the boys’ school will kill them.

Meanwhile, Rose struggles to understand her growing feelings for her roommate, who may or may not hate her guts.

You know, typical boarding school stuff.

Grade: B+

Review:

Confession: I love witches, especially when they’re more along the lines of the movie The Craft. This book ha everything I enjoy about witch novels: a boarding school, a terrible reason why the protagonist was sent to the boarding school in question, and witches! Oh yeah, and there is a lot of queer rep too, so that’s awesome.

Rose Abbott ends up going to boarding school because she had a relationship with her teacher. Now, she’s ready to start anew and willing to make new friends, even if her new friends happen to be part of a secret coven.

I wished the author would’ve delved more into the history of the coven, although seeing that this book is going to be part of a series, perhaps more will be revealed in book two and book one was more of a stepping stone.

I do appreciate that the author didn’t try to sell Rose’s relationship with her teacher as love, but rather, Rose’s friends helped her see that she actually had been taken advantage of and that helped her grow and move on. It’s important for teens reading books like these to realize what is happening if they’re ever in a similar situation, rather than to misguidedly sell the unbalanced relationship as impossible love, as often is the case in my experience reading other books in the past.

Pros: I loved the queer/bisexual rep, I loved the diverse characters, I loved how poetry was used as a means to cast spells, and I loved the strong female friendships in this novel.

Cons: More fantasy-based than horror (meaning this is more like Harry Potter than The Craft).

This book will be your cup of tea if you ever wondered what a Dead Poet’s Society/Harry Potter mashup would ever look like.

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

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Book Review: The Vinyl Underground by Rob Rufus

vinyl

“Be whatever you have to be to get to the edge of the cliff. It doesn’t matter how you get there, what matters is you jump.”

Release Date: March 10, 2020

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Publisher: North Star Editions

Price: $11.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

During the tumultuous year of 1968, four teens are drawn together: Ronnie Bingham, who is grieving his brother’s death in Vietnam; Milo, Ronnie’s bookish best friend; Ramrod, a star athlete who is secretly avoiding the draft; and Hana, the new girl, a half-Japanese badass rock-n-roller whose presence doesn’t sit well with their segregated high school. The four outcasts find sanctuary in The Vinyl Underground, a record club where they spin music, joke, debate, and escape the stifling norms of their small Southern town. But Ronnie’s 18th birthday is looming. Together, they hatch a plan to keep Ronnie from being drafted. But when a horrific act of racially charged violence rocks the gang to their core, they decide it’s time for an epic act of rebellion.

Grade: A

Review:

I can’t even begin to explain how much I LOVED this book to pieces! The protagonist, Ronnie is still reeling from the death of his older, charismatic brother Bruce, who passed away while fighting in Vietnam. Not only is he dealing with that tremendous loss, he’s also having to deal with the very real possibility that he too will be drafted for the same war. Truth is, Ronnie doesn’t believe in this war and wants nothing more than to be able to finish senior year and figure himself out. Because ever since his brother passed away, Ronnie doesn’t have a clear idea of what he should do with his life. Before he envisioned himself in California with Bruce who dreamed about becoming a radio DJ and Ronnie would be the sidekick. But how much is a dream worth without the original dreamer? Ronnie tries to answer that question throughout the whole novel. He wants to honor his brother’s memory, although he also is trying to figure out what he wants from life and his future.

In the midst of all this, he begins a club with three of his friends called The Vinyl Underground, where they share music. For Ronnie, it’s a way to also share parts of Bruce with his friends since all the vinyls he owns used to belong to his late brother.

What I LOVED about this book were the strong bonds of friendship and how loyal the group was to one another. And although the book did use the trope started by Stephen King in Carrie (where something MAJOR happens during prom or school dance), I really, really loved how devoted the characters were to their cause. And yes, a lot of their actions would make several parents flip out, but I think the novel beautifully depicted teenagers and their will to rebel against injustice.

It takes a lot for a book or movie to move me to tears, and this book did the trick! So if you’re someone who easily tears up, keep tissues on hand! There’s much to love in this book, from the era, the music, the friendships, and one kick-ass female protagonist that will make you wish that someone would turn this book into a movie stat!

Read this book if you’re a fan of coming of age, strong friendships, and rock music.

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

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Book Review: Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald

lie

If you can’t remember it, how do you prove you didn’t do it?

Release Date: February 4, 2020

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Publisher: Gallery Books

Price: $10.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Eva Hansen wakes in the hospital after being struck by lightning and discovers her mother, Kat, has been murdered. Eva was found unconscious down the street. She can’t remember what happened but the police are highly suspicious of her.

Determined to clear her name, Eva heads from Seattle to London—Kat’s former home—for answers. But as she unravels her mother’s carefully held secrets, Eva soon realizes that someone doesn’t want her to know the truth. And with violent memories beginning to emerge, Eva doesn’t know who to trust. Least of all herself.

Told in alternating perspectives from Eva’s search for answers and Kat’s mysterious past, Christina McDonald has crafted another “complex, emotionally intense” (Publishers Weekly) domestic thriller. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell’s I Found You and Karin Slaughter’s Pieces of Her, Behind Every Lie explores the complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships, family trauma, and the danger behind long-held secrets.

Grade: C-

Review:

I read this author’s debut novel last year, The Night Olivia Fell and I really enjoyed that novel. This novel, although it had a very strong premise of having an unreliable narrator (which I’m a sucker for) really didn’t hit its mark for me. My biggest issue with the novel was that for being a thriller, it seemed to fall under the formula of Lifetime movie thrillers. The so-called “bad guy” is clear from the get-go and any twist reveals aren’t very surprising either as I had figured out the whole novel by the 35% mark.

I don’t fault authors for writing about the same location as a previous novel (hell King has made a career out of setting the majority of his works in Maine), but this novel is also set in Washington state, just as her debut. Again, this novel has the same premise as the author’s debut where a low-middle class character has a relationship with an extremely wealthy man. Apart from the novel being highly predictable (for me), the thing that really irked me the most was the fact that the British characters were so stereotypical of how an American believes a British person acts or speaks. I’ve been to England multiple times and have a lot of British friends and have never heard anyone use “Blimey!” as an expression every two seconds as one of the British characters continuously does in this novel.

Not to mention that the protagonist so conveniently discovered things without any hard work. And honestly, how credible is it for someone to be able to travel TO LONDON from SEATTLE right after being struck by LIGHTENING. I am more likely to believe impossible things in a supernatural novel than a novel set in a fictitious reality of the real world.

Unfortunately, this book didn’t quite work out for me, nor did it offer that much entertainment. I honestly couldn’t wait for it to be done. However, if you’re the type of reader who loves cozy mysteries and Lifetime inspired thrillers, then you may enjoy this book very much. It’s not a terrible book and the writing flows easily. The author excels in descriptions about setting but still is incapable of writing compelling dialogue.

If you’re in the mood for a light read, you can give this book a go.

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

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My Dark Vanessa: What happens when Lolita doesn’t die?

vanessa

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“I think we’re very similar, Nessa,” he whispers. “From the way you write, I can tell you’re a dark romantic like me. You like dark things.”

This book has been on the most-anticipated lists since 2018 and ever since it was known that the author received a seven-figure advance, there have been some controversies that have arisen. Sometime around January, the author Wendy C. Ortiz of the memoir, Excavation, accused Kate Elizabeth Russell of plagiarism solely on the account of their books sharing a similar theme of a teacher and student embarking on a clandestine relationship together. I can understand Ortiz’s rage against the publishing world who didn’t seem keen on her manuscript when she was shopping it around, and that she had to settle for an indie publisher with no seven-figure advance.

However, to purposely call out a debut author’s work as plagiarizing your own when you haven’t even read the book in question? That seems mean-spirited. After all the backlash that Oprah’s Book Club received with their choice of American Dirt, Oprah was done with controversies and hence, decided to part ways with Russell’s book because of the issue with Ortiz, and it no longer was a choice for her bookclub in March. Despite all of this, the book still became a national bestseller.

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Now, is Russell’s book the same Ortiz’s? For someone who has read both, I can state, simply put, no. Sure, they both share the theme of a student falling in love with her English teacher and the teacher taking advantage of the crush for his personal gain and pleasure. But the differences between Vanessa Wye and Wendy Ortiz are many and so ultimately do not tell the same story no matter how similar the themes may be.

Was My Dark Vanessa worthy of all the hype? Yes and no. The first half of the book is compelling and there are moments when you wish the book were a love story, but ultimately it’s very glaring that Jacob Strane was grooming Vanessa and that he took advantage of her (their first sexual encounter is downright cringey and screams rape, not simply because of the age difference but because of the actions from Strane).

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The second half of the novel, particularly the portion that takes place during Vanessa’s college years really dragged. Especially since it doesn’t offer much in terms of progressing the plot. Rather, we see Vanessa falling in love with yet another English teacher who is married to a woman that is the school counselor where Strane still works. These chapters were far more laborious to get through and honestly, could have even been cut from the book entirely as they didn’t provide newer insight into Vanessa or Strane.

The ending was as expected, especially since it was obvious that Vanessa was never going to view herself as a victim and for the longest time denied the fact that Strane was a pedo, mostly because it would mean that his interest in her wasn’t because she was special, but more because she fit the nymphet package.

My Dark Vanessa could’ve been a love story if Strane wasn’t so glaringly predatory. His interest in her was most intense when she was underage. He never treated her with the same fascination once she was an adult, and instead seemed to only call her when he needed her to back up his lies. The most heartbreaking lesson you’ll learn from this novel is that trauma can truly define your life, and in this case it defined Vanessa’s relationships, career, and sexuality.

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At only 32, Vanessa felt old and could only pain sexual gratification through imagining herself as 15 and reliving sex scenes with Strange over the phone. Vanessa glamorizes the novel, Lolita so much that she doesn’t see Lolita for what it truly is. A novel about a predatory man who only remains obsessed with Lolita because she dies. Vanessa didn’t die so by that logic Strane was no longer obsessed with her. My Dark Vanessa capitalizes on what would’ve been Lolita’s destiny had she survived. I can bet that her adult life would’ve mimicked Vanessa’s very much.

When Lolita doesn’t die, she can only become a survivor.

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Book Review: Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

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“If it weren’t for us, Ana wouldn’t have died and her sisters wouldn’t have been forced to suffer at the hands of her angry ghost.”

Release Date: March 24, 2020

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Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Price: $17.02 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.

In a stunning follow-up to her National Book Award–longlisted novel All the Wind in the World, Samantha Mabry weaves an aching, magical novel that is one part family drama, one part ghost story, and one part love story.

Grade: A+

Review:

Despite the fact that this novel is being marketed as a modern version of Little Women (there are four sisters after all), that’s the only resemblance the novel had with the literary classic we all know and love. Instead, this novel reminded me more of The Virgin Suicides with the ongoing ennui that the Torres sisters have to deal with after the death of their beloved older sister, Ana. The fact that a group of neighborhood boys are always watching and obsessing over the sisters, adds on to the resemblance between the two novels. Some reviewers have considered this novel as a retelling of King Lear, since the father figure in this book is quite questionable, unreliable, and just lacks any real parenting skills.

However, with all these comparisons being made, Tigers, Not Daughters is a unique ghost story. Because ultimately, this is what the book is about, the ghost of Ana Torres haunting the lives and house of the remaining Torres sisters, Iridian, Jessica, and Rosa. The book is told in four points of views, from Peter’s (one of the boys that’s always hanging out at Hector’s house who lives fairly close to the Torres family as they have a good view of all the happenings that go on in the household), Rosa, Iridian, and Jessica.

I’ll admit that I enjoyed Iridian’s and Jessica’s points of view much more than the other two. Iridian was obsessed with Anne Rice’s novel The Witching Hour, and spent most of the novel re-reading that book and trying to write her own supernatural romance, while Jessica was the so-called mean sister filled with anger, but that after Ana’s death tried to fit into the void that Ana left behind to the point of wearing her sister’s makeup, taking up residence in her former room, and even going as far as dating Ana’s boyfriend.

The haunting is slow like a Southern Gothic novel (although it takes place in San Antonio in a predominantly Latino community). There are a lot of creepy moments and an underlying feeling of dread that coats this novel in a claustrophobic clutch and doesn’t let you go till the very end.

You don’t read this novel merely for the plot alone, but rather to live through the dark chilling ride that it provides.

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

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Book Review: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner

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“I lie back on his pillow, my head spinning, and for one split second, I think how crazy it will be when I get home and tell Aubrey everything. But that’s wrong: that won’t happen. She and I are barely friends anymore.”

Release Date: April 7, 2020

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Publisher: Wednesday Books

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Fifteen-year-old JL Markham’s life used to be filled with carnival nights and hot summer days spent giggling with her forever best friend Aubrey about their families and boys. Together, they were unstoppable. But they aren’t the friends they once were.
With JL’s father gone on long term business, and her mother struggling with her mental illness, JL takes solace in the tropical butterflies she raises, and in her new, older boyfriend, Max Gordon. Max may be rough on the outside, but he has the soul of a poet (something Aubrey will never understand). Only, Max is about to graduate, and he’s going to hit the road – with or without JL.

JL can’t bear being left behind again. But what if devoting herself to Max not only means betraying her parents, but permanently losing the love of her best friend? What becomes of loyalty, when no one is loyal to you?

Gae Polisner’s Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is a story about the fragility of female friendship, of falling in love and wondering if you are ready for more, and of the glimmers of hope we find by taking stock in ourselves.

Grade: B+

Review:

This novel was a well-written contemporary YA that is full of heart and emotions by the bucket loads. The entire book is written in epistolary mode, as JL writing a letter to her childhood friend Aubrey that she’s no longer close to anymore (and that’s killing her inside).

JL is dealing with a lot of issues for just being a teen: her dad has left for an undetermined amount of time for California, which means that she has to deal with her mother’s depression/dissociative disorder on her own. Although she does have her grandmother check in on her and her mom (but her grandmother prefers to remain in denial about her mother’s true condition rather than face the bleak truth). JL spends her days taking care of her mother, raising butterflies, and hanging out with her 19-years old boyfriend.

This book doesn’t hold back any punches. It’s easy for the reader to become easily invested in JL’s struggles and wanting to root for this girl. This novel is raw and gritty and maybe a bit too realistic if you’re looking for any escapism, but it’s emotionally gripping from the very beginning till the very end. You won’t regret delving into this book if you’re looking for something with more heart and less fluff with a dash of darkness.

*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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Book Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

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The world is not tame.

Release Date: March 3, 2020

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Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Price: $13.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

The world is not tame. Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof.

So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine.

Morning brings the realization that she’s alone—and far off-trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive with the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

Review:

You can always expect Mindy McGinnis to deliver gritty, wild narratives. Although with her new novel she literally places her protagonist Ashley, in the wild. After she drunkenly discovers her boyfriend cheating on her, she runs away from the scene of the crime, stumbles and somehow really damages one of her feet and consequently manages to get lost in the woods.

Now, Ashley isn’t your typical girl. She loves the outdoors, hiking, and camping and knows how to survive in the woods better than anyone else. However, nature and the elements play against her, not to mention having to deal with an infected foot. All these things make for her journey to freedom to be quite laborious.

This is a survival story that doesn’t hold back. You get everything from trying to deal with finding food and shelter, to stumbling upon a meth camper (I know, it’s crazy, but it wouldn’t be a McGinnis novel if crazy shit didn’t happen). And because it is a McGinnis novel, you know that the protagonist’s life can always be at stake or that she’ll come close to death. Basically, anything terrible that you can imagine happening? It’s going to happen but twentyfold.

McGinnis’ usual sharp, sparse prose helps create tension in the novel and creating anxiety that will have you rooting for Ashley but at the same time, you know how difficult her chances of survival truly are, especially when several days pass by with no signs of being found.

I recommend this book if you love survival stories with a side of sarcasm, grit, and gore.

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