5 Paperbacks to Check Out This Summer

Summertime for many is when they love reading by a pool or at the beach. And since Kindles are basically useless under the sun, a paperback is the next best thing. Here are my top five paperbacks that I’ll be checking out this summer!

sixmonths

Six Months by Natalie D. Richards

When Chloe fell asleep in study hall, it was the middle of May. But when she wakes up, snow is on the ground, and she can’t remember the last six months of her life.
Before, she’d been a mediocre student.
Now, she’s on track for valedictorian and being recruited by Ivy League schools.
Before, she never had a chance with sports star Blake.
Now he’s her boyfriend.
Before, she and Maggie were inseparable.
Now her best friend won’t speak to her.
What happened to her? Remembering the truth could be more dangerous than she’d ever imagined.

she

Where She Fell by Kaitlin Ward

Watch your step.

Eliza knows the legends about the swamp near her house — that people have fallen into sinkholes, never to be seen again, maybe even falling to the center of the earth. As an aspiring geologist, she knows the last part is impossible. But when her best friends drag her onto the uneven ground anyway, Eliza knows to be worried.

And when the earth opens under her feet, there isn’t even time to say I told you so.
As she scrambles through one cave, which leads to another, and another, Eliza finds herself in an impossible world — where a small group of people survive underground, running from vicious creatures, eating giant bugs, and creating their own subterranean society. Eliza is grateful to be alive, but this isn’t home. Is she willing to risk everything to get back to the surface?

campfire

Campfire by Shawn Sarles

While camping in a remote location, Maddie Davenport gathers around the fire with her friends and family to tell scary stories. Caleb, the handsome young guide, shares the local legend of the ferocious Mountain Men who hunt unsuspecting campers and leave their mark by carving grisly antlers into their victims’ foreheads.

The next day, the story comes true. Now Maddie and her family are lost in the deep woods — with no way out — being stalked by their worst nightmares. Because there were other, more horrifying stories told that night — and Maddie’s about to find out just how they end . . .

afterlife

The Afterlife of the Party by Marlene Perez

I didn’t even want to go to the party.

Seriously, I’d rather have stayed home with my librarian-witch grandmother and her mystical book club than go. But my best friend Skyler begged me. So I went.

And it was the worst party of my life. The last party of my life.

Not only was the band downright horrible, but the lead singer bit me afterward. And then stole Skyler.

Now I’m chasing down a band of angry vamps with my other best friend Vaughn in tow—and a buttload of feelings between us we can’t even begin to address. And worse, I’m changing into something else…

Let the afterlife begin.

heartwood

Heartwood Box by Ann Aguirre

When Araceli Flores Harper is sent to stay with her great-aunt Ottilie in her ramshackle Victorian home, the plan is simple. She’ll buckle down and get ready for college. Life won’t be exciting, but she’ll cope, right?

Wrong. From the start, things are very, very wrong. Her great-aunt still leaves food for the husband who went missing twenty years ago, and local businesses are plastered with MISSING posters. There are unexplained lights in the woods and a mysterious lab just beyond the city limits that the locals don’t talk about. Ever. When she starts receiving mysterious letters that seem to be coming from the past, she suspects someone of pranking her or trying to drive her out of her mind.

To solve these riddles and bring the lost home again, Araceli must delve into a truly diabolical conspiracy, but some secrets fight to stay buried…

What paperbacks are you looking forward to check out this summer?

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Book Review: Little Creeping Things by Chelsea Ichaso

creeping

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

burn

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

zoe

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: 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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Book Review: Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

tigers

“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!

torressis

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

jack

“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: Dear Laura by Gemma Amor

laura

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Price: $6.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Every year, on her birthday, Laura gets a letter from a stranger. That stranger claims to know the whereabouts of her missing friend Bobby, but there’s a catch: he’ll only tell her what he knows in exchange for something…personal.So begins Laura’s sordid relationship with her new penpal, built on a foundation of quid pro quo. Her quest for closure will push her to bizarre acts of humiliation and harm, yet no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape her correspondent’s demands. The letters keep coming, and as time passes, they have a profound effect on Laura. From the author of Cruel Works of Nature comes a dark and twisted tale about obsession, guilt, and how far a person will go to put her ghosts to bed.

Grade: A-

Review:

When Gemma Amor’s novella appeared as a Bram Stoker nominee, I certainly piqued my interest (because it was self-published). The hype surrounding this book is worth it (unlike the hype surrounding A Head Full of Ghosts). The story follows Laura, a girl who’s boyfriend goes missing when she’s 13, but who’s kidnapper begins a pen-pal-ship with her, teasing details about her missing friend but only if she’s willing to pay the price. The requests start out small till they escalate to the grotesque. It’s a very binge-worthy novella (and seeing as it’s short you can absolutely read it in one sitting). My only gripe is the ending. Maybe my morals are skewed, but I wouldn’t have reacted the way Laura did. But overall, it’s a taut thriller, and one you’ll think about for awhile.

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Book Review: Lullabies for the Suffering: Tales of Addiction Horror

suffering

Release Date: January 14, 2020

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Publisher: Wicked Run Press

Price: $14.95 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Addiction starts like a sweet lullaby sung by a trusted loved one. It washes away the pains of the day and wraps you in the warmness of the womb where nothing hurts and every dream is possible. Yet soon enough, this warm state of bliss becomes a cold shiver, the ecstasy and dreams become nightmares, yet we can’t stop listening to the lullaby. We crave to hear the siren song as it rips us apart.

Six stories: three novellas, three novelettes, written by a powerful list of talent, all featuring the insidious nature of addiction–damaged humans craving for highs and wholeness but finding something more tragic and horrific on the other side.

Grade: B+

Review:

First of all, I’m going to admit that I absolutely LOVE how hauntingly beautiful the cover is. I would’ve noticed this anthology for the cover alone. Secondly, I’m a huge fan of the TV Series YOU, so knowing that Caroline Kepnes contributed to the anthology gave me the extra push I needed to pick it up.

All the stories in this anthology center around addition (something they’re drug-related other times it’s the addiction to something else that’s just as decremental to your health and turns you a slave). Most of the stories written for the anthology aren’t truly short stories but verge on the novella length, which I didn’t mind at all. With any anthology, there were some gems and some misses for me. Unfortunately, the anthology started off truly strong with “Sometimes They See Me,” by Kealan Patrick Burke, which is a tale about two addict and their crazy benders. There’s something truly haunting about it and one that will leave you questioning any painting or wallpaper you ever see again.

“Monsters” by Caroline Krepnes follows the same writing style as YOU (writing in the second person) at least when the story is narrated by a lonely young man who is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. I really enjoyed the story, but despite the narrator having been wronged, I still feel like he had very much Joe-vibes going on.

My absolute favourite story from the whole anthology was “Lizard” by Mark Matthews. It had everything I looked for in a horror addiction story. It showed the horrors of true addiction but it also had supernatural elements to it that I enjoyed very much. Also, it ends in a very ambiguous way ala “The Lady or the Tiger” where you’re left questioning what decision did the protagonist makes after all?

“The Melting Point of Meat” by John FD Taff started off very strong for me, but kind of took a Clive Barker turn towards the end that I wasn’t a fan of. I would’ve enjoyed this story better if it had another ending.

After that story, the anthology started going downhill for me. I didn’t particularly enjoy “Beyond the Reef” Gabino Iglesias nor “Love is a Crematorium” by Mercedes M. Yardley. I know that addiction usually ends with the addict’s death, however, Yardley’s story was more real-life horror than anything else. It was truly gut-wrenching but I suppose I was still waiting for horror (as in psychological, supernatural, or slasher) to happen. And I had a HUGE issue with the male protagonist Kelly, whom we’re supposed to see as some kind of Romeo, but honestly, he seemed perfectly OKAY allowing Joy (the girl he loved) to prostitute herself for food money. I don’t understand why he never tried to resolve their lack of cash problem or actually be of help rather than just be there but not really doing anything for Joy. I wouldn’t have run away with this dude, he really provided no resource at all, not even emotional support.

I recommend this anthology if you’re into tales of addiction with a dash of darkness.

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