Book Review: Suburban Hell by Maureen Kilmer

A Chicago cul-de-sac is about to get a new neighbor…of the demonic kind.

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Release Date: August 30, 2022

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Price: $17 (paperback)

PLOT SUMMARY

   Amy Foster considers herself lucky. After she left the city and moved to the suburbs, she found her place quickly with neighbors Liz, Jess, and Melissa, snarking together from the outskirts of the PTA crowd. One night during their monthly wine get-together, the crew concoct a plan for a clubhouse She Shed in Liz’s backyard—a space for just them, no spouses or kids allowed.
 
    But the night after they christen the She Shed, things start to feel . . . off. They didn’t expect Liz’s little home-improvement project to release a demonic force that turns their quiet enclave into something out of a nightmare. And that’s before the homeowners’ association gets wind of it.
 
    Even the calmest moms can’t justify the strange burn marks, self-moving dolls, and horrible smells surrounding their possessed friend, Liz. Together, Amy, Jess, and Melissa must fight the evil spirit to save Liz and the neighborhood . . . before the suburbs go completely to hell.

GRADE: A

REVIEW

If you love your horror with a pinch of comedy, then Suburban Hell is the book for you. Written in a manner that’s evocative of Grady Hendrix, the pace is fast and hella funny. Amy is convinced her good friend Liz is possessed after a hole in the other woman’s yard unleashes a foul odor and brings about unexplained incidents. The possession is slow, and at times one can’t tell whether it’s true or if Amy is overreacting, as she herself questions if she’s jumping the ship like in the 80’s Satanic Panic. But after a pivotal incident, Amy now knows that something sinister and supernatural has overtaken their suburban lives and she is dead set on proving her suspicions to her friends Melissa and Jess. Often while reading the book I wasn’t sure what was more hellish, having a possessed friend living next door to you or dealing with the ridiculous suburban wives that Amy had to deal with on a daily basis. The writing flows well and is pressed on a fast tempo, only slightly slowing down for a few moments to only pick up right away. The winning point of this novel is that sure, it’s a fun read, but when the horror sets in, it doesn’t disappoint, as it is dark and extremely creepy!

I recommend this book if you love your horror to have a dash of comedy to it. This book is a mashup of The Exorcist and Desperate Housewives.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Review: Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner

What It Is: Toner for Dry and Combination Skin

Verdict: Skincare is my jam and nothing gets me more excited than to try out new skincare products. This toner is a staple in K-Beauty. I’m really picky when it comes to toners because I want them to be both gentle and yet feel like they’re cleansing and leaving my skin feeling thoroughly free of any leftover gunk or oil. I’m happy to state that this toner does precisely that. Plus, it smells softly flowery (I despise toners that have a rubbing alcohol scent that makes one feel like your face would be highly flammable if you got too close to a match). I really recommend this toner if you have dry, combination skin, or acne prone skin.

Price: $19 (for 200-ml)

Where To Buy It: https://pyunkangyul.us/

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Book Review: We Can Never Leave This Place by Eric LaRocca

When you’re given a gift, something else gets taken away.

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Release Date: June 24, 2022

Publisher: Trepidatio Publishing

Price: $12.95 (paperback)

PLOT SUMMARY:

A precocious young girl with an unusual imagination is sent on an odyssey into the depths of depravity. After her father dies violently, young Mara is surprised to find her mother welcoming a new guest into their home, claiming that he will protect them from the world of devastation and destruction outside their door.

A grotesque and thrilling dark fantasy, We Can Never Leave This Place is a harrowing portrait of inherited grief and familial trauma.

GRADE: A-

REVIEW:

I’m still trying to make sense of this fever dream that reads like a horror induced Alice in Wonderland tale. Mara has just lost her father, and she lives with her abusive mother who’s expecting a baby, while an unexpected visitor shows up and wreaks havoc in their lives. We’re frequently told that Mara is an expert storyteller throughout the novella (or liar as her mother likes to chide), so take what happens within the pages of this novella with a grain of salt. What is real and what is fantasy? And ultimately, does it really matter to know the difference? LaRocca weaves a dreadful tale soaked in trauma and grief that is easily gulped in one sitting, but that leaves the reader feeling a bit disorientated. If you’re a fan of Kafka, I think you might enjoy this horror novella very much.

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

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Book Review: The Reyes Incident by Briana Morgan

What really happened in that bunker?

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Publisher: Self-published

Price: $11.99 (paperback)

PLOT SUMMARY:

A local legend gone haywire.

A small-town cop.

An impossible eyewitness testimony.

Which is easier to believe—that killer mermaids exist, or that one person is worth risking everything for?

For fans of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Into the Drowning Deep comes a chilling horror story steeped in urban rumor.

GRADE: B+

REVIEW:

Killer mermaids is one of my favourite tropes, or in general, any story or film that has a mermaid already feels instantly cool so once I found out that this book had killer mermaids I knew I had to read it asap. In film form, I’m usually not a fan of found footage, but I do like the format in book form better (or at least ones I’ve read like World War Z or The Living Dead were awesome).

Having read the play Unboxed, I enjoyed the little Easter egg that the author placed in this book. The premise is pretty simple, a group of friends who have a YouTube channel decide to investigate an old military bunker in Georgia. What the group finds when going into the bunker is killer mermaids – and only one girl (Liv) survives to tell the tale. The police officer whom Liv is telling her story to Andie begins to catch feelings for her and readily believes her story. Although I don’t know if she believes Liv’s story because she’s blinded by her feelings rather than actually believing in the existence of mermaids. I don’t know why, but it seemed kind of unlikely that someone would readily believe such a far-fetched story, let alone someone in law enforcement.

We find out that the mermaids were being experimented on by the military, but I would’ve preferred the journal that they found to reveal a bit more as in a how they acquired the mermaids and how the military knew of their existence in the first place. I would really love a prequel to this novella to know the history of what actually went on in the bunker prior.

The story is very fast-paced and delivers all the slasher/gore needs a horror book should. I did like that the ending is ambiguous, but wasn’t a fan of everyone spilling their feelings for one another while they’re being killed (I can understand one person doing this, but then another does, and then the same person a couple of days later suddenly has feelings for another person, for a book so short, it just feels like they’re catching feelings way too fast). But other than that, the book is a fun, wild read and I recommend it for fans of horror who like gore.

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

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Book Review: The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow & Liz Lawson

Who killed Brooke Donovan?

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Release Date: May 3, 2022

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $17.99 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

Last summer, Alice Ogilvie’s basketball-star boyfriend Steve dumped her. Then she disappeared for five days. She’s not talking, so where she went and what happened to her is the biggest mystery in Castle Cove. Or it was, at least. But now, another one of Steve’s girlfriends has vanished: Brooke Donovan, Alice’s ex–best friend. And it doesn’t look like Brooke will be coming back. . .
 
Enter Iris Adams, Alice’s tutor. Iris has her own reasons for wanting to disappear, though unlike Alice, she doesn’t have the money or the means. That could be changed by the hefty reward Brooke’s grandmother is offering to anyone who can share information about her granddaughter’s whereabouts. The police are convinced Steve is the culprit, but Alice isn’t so sure, and with Iris on her side, she just might be able to prove her theory.
 
In order to get the reward and prove Steve’s innocence, they need to figure out who killed Brooke Donovan. And luckily Alice has exactly what they need—the complete works of Agatha Christie. If there’s anyone that can teach the girls how to solve a mystery it’s the master herself. But the town of Castle Cove holds many secrets, and Alice and Iris have no idea how much danger they’re about to walk into. 

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

Fans of Agatha Christie will rejoice at rookie detectives Alice and Iris. Last summer Alice went missing for five days much like her favourite author – after she finds out that her ex-boyfriend and ex-bestfriend become a couple. Halloween night – Alice’s former bestfriend Brookes goes missing. Alice with a penchant for mystery decides to join forces with her tutor Iris and convinces her that they can solve this mystery. Much like an Agatha Christie novel, the twists and turns this novel takes are outrageous – almost too preposterous – however it’s a fun wild ride and I loved the unlikely duo, Alice and Iris are perfect teen protagonists.

I don’t know if this will be a series, but the ending pretty much alludes that there might be a sequel and I am here for it.

Check this one out if you love Agatha Christie and her oddball characters Miss Marple and Poirot.

*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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Review: Shani Darden Retinol Reform

What It Is: Retinol Serum

Active Ingredients:

  • Encapsulated Retinol contains a more gentle slow-release retinol that helps reduce visible signs of aging.
  • Lactic Acid exfoliates to smooth and brighten for immediate results.
  • Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract provides antioxidant defense against visible sun damage and pollution.

Verdict: For many this is dubbed the holy grail of retinols. I’ve tried various ones in the past and for me, the majority of them have been far too harsh. This one performs well especially under a moisturizer. It zaps away fine lines like you wouldn’t believe and hyperpigmentation is a thing of the past. You can start seeing results by the third week, one of the fastest working retinols there are! I highly recommend this if you’re looking to invest in a retinol that will give you results and dramatically change your skin’s look and texture.

Price: $88

Where To Buy It: https://www.shanidarden.com/

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Book Review: Jagged Little Pill by Eric Smith, Diablo Cody, and Glen Ballard

Swallow it down, what a jagged little pill….

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Release Date: April 26, 2022

Publisher: Amulet Books

Price: $19.99 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

Adopted Frankie struggles to see eye-to-eye with her mother—who would rather ignore a problem and preserve their “perfect” life than stand up for what’s right. Jo just wants her mom to accept her queer identity—and is totally crushed when Frankie, the only person who really gets her, finds herself infatuated with someone new. Phoenix tries to find his place at the new school and balance wanting to spend time with Frankie but knowing he also has to help out with his sick sister at home. Bella wants to enjoy the end of high school and just head off to college without a hitch. Everyone expects Frankie’s brother Nick to be the golden boy, but even though he just got into his dream school, he’s not even sure he’s a good person. Each of their stories intersects when Bella is sexually assaulted at a party, and it looks like the perpetrator might get away with it.

Moving, heartfelt, and raw, Jagged Little Pill: The Novel draws on the musical’s story and gives readers deeper glimpses of the characters. It’s a story about the power of voicing your pain, standing up for what’s right, and finding healing and connection.

GRADE: B

REVIEW:

If you grew up in the 90’s then you can’t help but have listened to Alanis Morrissette’s breakthrough album Jagged Little Pill. It recently became a musical too, and now there’s a book based on the musical. I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to a book based off of a musical written around a 90’s album. Let’s just say that the story takes place in contemporary times and NOT the 90’s and it’s very woke riding high on the #METOO movement.

I enjoyed the various POV’s in the novel, as it gave a better sense of what happened when Bella, gets raped during a party. The book focuses on the downfall of trying to keep up appearances and how that often leads one to bury secrets about themselves that should’ve been dealt with instead.

As much as I enjoyed the overall story, I was also expecting a little bit more. I can’t quite explain. I liked the characters but they kinda felt forced at times.

I recommend this novel if you’re a fan of the musical or just want to check out what a novel based on such an iconic album could be like.

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

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Review: Tula Signature Glow Refreshing & Brightening Face Mist

What It Is: Refreshing & Brightening Face Mist

Active Ingredients:

Probiotics: Help lock in the moisture & calm the look of irritation

Prebiotics (beet root): Helps balance skin

Hyaluronic Acid & Kiwi Fruit Water: Help hydrate & brighten the appearance of skin

Ligonberry: Helps protect from the damaging effects of pollution and blue light.

Verdict: When it comes to face mists, there are only a few that I truly enjoy and think are actually doing something for my skin. This one from Tula is absolutely amazing. First of all, it smells delicious and instantly relaxes you, secondly the fine spray delicately distributes the mist on your face without it feeling like it’s hosing you down or not splattering water on you unevenly (this has happened with various face mists). This face mist can be used before and after makeup. Personally, I love using this after my nightly skincare routine because the scent is so relaxing that it helps me wind down after a very busy day. But I also find that the ingredients in this face mist also help nourish my skin and that’s a win/win.

Price: $34

Where To Buy It: https://www.tula.com/

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Review: Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion Age Defying Exfoliator

What It Is: An age-defying exfoliator that gently polishes, smooths the look of skin, and buffs away dead surface skin cells for a smoother, brighter complexion in minutes.

Active Ingredients: Lactic Acid

Skin Types: Normal, Dry, Combination, and Oily

Skincare Concerns: Dullness and Uneven Texture, Fine Lines and Wrinkles, and Acne and Blemishes

Verdict: This very well might be the holy grail of exfoliators. I’m usually not a huge fan of exfoliating creams/cleansers because many tend to be harsh and create actual lesions/cuts on the skin (I’m looking at you St. Ives), however, these exfoliating beads are so minuscule and so delicate that it manages to rid your skin of dead skin cells AND be gentle enough for sensitive skin. I was pleasantly surprised by this exfoliator because I’m usually not a fan of exfoliators, but this one really does what it promises to do. It leaves your skin feeling smooth like silk and incredibly soft. I recommend this if you’re looking to amp up your skincare routine.

Price: $79

Where To Buy It: Ulta or Sephora

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Book Review: Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel

A girl would be such a blessing….

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Publisher: Tor Nightfire

Price: $26.99 (hardcover)

Release Date: May 22, 2022

PLOT SUMMARY:

The last time Maeve saw her cousin was the night she escaped the cult they were raised in. For the past two decades, Maeve has worked hard to build a normal life in New York City, where she keeps everything—and everyone—at a safe distance.

When Andrea suddenly reappears, Maeve regains the only true friend she’s ever had. Soon she’s spending more time at Andrea’s remote Catskills estate than in her own cramped apartment. Maeve doesn’t even mind that her cousin’s wealthy work friends clearly disapprove of her single lifestyle. After all, Andrea has made her fortune in the fertility industry—baby fever comes with the territory.

The more Maeve immerses herself in Andrea’s world, the more disconnected she feels from her life back in the city; and the cousins’ increasing attachment triggers memories Maeve has fought hard to bury. But confronting the terrors of her childhood may be the only way for Maeve to transcend the nightmare still to come…

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

I knew that I had to read this book the moment I saw the creepy doll on the cover. This book definitely delivers on all things creepy. Crazy cult. Check. Creepy dolls. Check. Psychobitches. Check.

Maeve hasn’t seen her cousin Andrea since the night she escaped the all-female cult The Mother Collective. Whilst Maeve is still dealing with the aftermath of the cult, Andrea seems to be doing amazing and has a multi-million dollar home and enterprise.

Throughout the book, you can’t help but feel this increasing sense of dread and you begin to notice that the book is a cross between Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives. Personally, this book is one wild ride and I enjoyed every crazy second of it.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves twisty cult stories that don’t focus on a cult led by a man and if motherhood has ever terrified you. You will find this read absolutely unsettling!

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

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