Out Now: Running Wild Anthology of Stories Volume 4 Book 2

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I’m proud to announce that Running Wild Anthology of Stories is finally out! What’s exciting is that the story I co-wrote with Erica Ruhe (fellow Inkblotter), “Fragile Fruit,” is one of the many thrilling stories you will find in this anthology.

For a quick recap, Marietta who left Sicily after she refuses to marry her rapist has to return when she receives a phone call from her sister informing her that their mother is on her death bed. Marietta is afraid to return to Maletto, after all, she had left the small Sicilian town being shunned as an immoral woman and whore for refusing to marry the man that raped her. Will Marietta finally make peace with her demons or will they simply overtake her this time around?

Excerpt from, “Fragile Fruit” –

“Where are we?” Jane asked, tugging at her mother’s hand.
Marietta didn’t readily answer her. The suffocating stares of all the women sitting behind their closed glass doors or windows, whispering under their breaths, played in her mind. She knew what they thought of her. But it didn’t make things any easier.
The last time Marietta had walked these cobblestone streets, it had been the summer of 1968. Every radio newscaster only spoke of the revolts in Paris. What had started as a student protest had soon turned into a national protest as millions of people went on strike and the streets were in an uproar. Soon, similar upheaval bled into northern Italy. Newspapers spilled ink on the infamous protests in Sessantotto. While, across the pond in America, women were discovering their independence, stretching feminine expectations and demanding respect. But none of that was happening in Maletto. Sicily was trapped in amber, remaining dreadfully the same. The town and traditions were impervious to change.
“Mommy!” Jane yanked her hand again and, this time, Marietta was forced to acknowledge her daughter.
“This is where I was born,” she said.
“Really? You weren’t born where I was born?” Her big innocent eyes looked up at her with curiosity. She sniffed at the fresh run of mucus from the cold air.
Marietta shook her head. “No, Mommy came from far, far away.”
“Like a princess!” Jane beamed, little teeth on display.
Marietta didn’t reply as she approached her home. Her heart pounded with trepidation, thinking back to the last time she had been here. Of how her mother wailed and shook her head at the tragedy.
No, no, no.
No.
How much had that “no” been worth?
The sound of sweeping had stopped. Marietta clutched the cornicello at her neck and looked behind them. The small poppet was in her coat pocket, giving her a false sense of security. An old woman stood on her stoop and glared at the two. She gripped the broom like a guard with a spear. Marietta shivered. She pushed the noisy door open and hustled Jane inside. Scattered salt crunched under their boots, covering the tile floor of the foyer like a sprinkling of snow.

Purchase the anthology on Amazon!

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Book Review: The Living Dead by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus

the living dead1

We had to devolve to realize we’d never really much evolved.

Release Date: August 4, 2020

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Publisher: Tor Books

Price: $27.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

George A. Romero invented the modern zombie with Night of the Living Dead, creating a monster that has become a key part of pop culture. Romero often felt hemmed in by the constraints of film-making. To tell the story of the rise of the zombies and the fall of humanity the way it should be told, Romero turned to fiction. Unfortunately, when he died, the story was incomplete.

Enter Daniel Kraus, co-author, with Guillermo del Toro, of the New York Times bestseller The Shape of Water (based on the Academy Award-winning movie) and Trollhunters (which became an Emmy Award-winning series), and author of The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch (an Entertainment Weekly Top 10 Book of the Year). A lifelong Romero fan, Kraus was honored to be asked, by Romero’s widow, to complete The Living Dead.

Set in the present day, The Living Dead is an entirely new tale, the story of the zombie plague as George A. Romero wanted to tell it.

It begins with one body.

A pair of medical examiners find themselves battling a dead man who won’t stay dead.

It spreads quickly.

In a Midwestern trailer park, a Black teenage girl and a Muslim immigrant battle newly-risen friends and family. On a US aircraft carrier, living sailors hide from dead ones while a fanatic makes a new religion out of death. At a cable news station, a surviving anchor keeps broadcasting while his undead colleagues try to devour him. In DC, an autistic federal employee charts the outbreak, preserving data for a future that may never come.

Everywhere, people are targeted by both the living and the dead.

We think we know how this story ends.

We. Are. Wrong.

Grade: A+

Review:

It’s no secret that George A. Romero was pretty much the progenitor when it comes to the zombie genre. First in the films and then even in comic books and novels. If you’re a fan of George A. Romero, then you’re well aware that the iconic director’s zombie movies aren’t merely a gore fest. Instead, Romero uses the zombie genre to explore the human condition or reveal the incompetence of government or lack of empathy in humans. Ultimately, the real monsters in Romero’s movies are rarely the zombies, but rather the humans. We’re deadlier than the undead because we’ll turn on our own when the going gets tough. Unfortunately, Romero passed away in 2017 and never was able to complete the novel himself, so his widow asked Daniel Kraus to complete the novel using Romero’s notes. The end result isn’t disjointed nor can the reader tell where Romero begins and Kraus takes over. The writing style is seamless throughout the whole novel and doesn’t change.

Now, I don’t know how much Romero had completed before his death, but this novel is a horror saga (it’s over 600 pages!) but it doesn’t mean that there’s ever a moment of dullness, because there isn’t. There are so many diverse characters in this novel, much like how Max Brooks’ novel World War Z was fashioned. Third person omniscient works superbly as there’s so much ground to cover that we need to know what’s happening to everyone at any given time. Sure, there are some characters that I favoured over others, but the fact that Romero always managed to create characters that we cared about means that even when we know that most of them will face dire endings, in our heart of hearts we can’t help but hope that there’s another way out. But this novel isn’t about comfort, this novel is brutal. I don’t read many zombie books but since I am a huge fan of Romero’s zombies, I knew that I had to read this novel and I’m not disappointed. If you’re going into this book thinking it’s going to be full of zombies, you are correct. But you’re also going to walk away with a feeling that ultimately the book wasn’t about zombies, but it’s about us, and how much humans CAN be both resilient and full of heart.

For a book about the undead, you’ll depart the novel with all the feels. You’ve been warned.

livingn dead

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

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Book Review: Mayhem by Estelle Laure

mayhem

“One thing I never could stomach about Santa Maria, all the goddamn vampires.”

Release: July 14, 2020

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Publisher: Wednesday Books

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

It’s 1987 and unfortunately, it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else.

But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good.

But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.

From the acclaimed author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back, Estelle Laure offers a riveting and complex story with magical elements about a family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough.

Grade: B+

Review:

First things first, anyone who knows me knows that The Lost Boys has been one of my favourite movies since I first watched it at 8 yrs old. In fact, I’ll admit that it’s probably my favourite vampire movie ever. And you know there have been a lot of movies made about those alluring bloodsuckers. Having stated that, it was a total no brainer for me to want to join the book tour for this novel as it had been marketed as a cross between The Lost Boys and The Craft. What I hadn’t expected was to find actual characters from The Lost Boys in the novel! What does that mean? It means that we run into the Frog Brothers (notorious for being vampire slayers) and we even get to witness a sax solo by Sax Man (if you’ve seen the movie then you know exactly who I’m referring to). If seeing characters from the movie wasn’t enough, we’re also treated with the exploration of the infamous cave from the movie.

The book is filled with so much 80’s nostalgia that I don’t know if the author was aiming to win the hearts of 30-yrs olds who lived during the ’80s or to make today’s teens (after all this is a YA novel and supposedly teens are the targeted audience) yearn for a time they never got to live through the experience.

I didn’t mind the movie references too much, because like I said I LOVE The Lost Boys. I also liked the protagonist Mayhem a lot. She managed to talk her mom into leaving her abusive step-dad and return to her hometown of Santa Maria. Now if you think that this novel is about vampires, well you’re only halfway right. The novel offers a different perspective on the supernatural, where, much like in the Anne Rice Werewolf series, the supernatural entity uses its powers for the good of the community rather than for evil. But even when you’re ridding the town of evil people, the question that looms over Mayhem’s head is, is it moral to decide who gets to live or die, even if the person they’re killing has done terrible things? The novel tries to grapple with that along with the question of, can one break free from one’s lineage and familial curse? Or does one embrace the curse and view as a gift?

For the vast majority, I enjoyed the novel although I feel as though it moved a bit too slow at first, to truly escalate towards the end. Overall, I felt as though this novel deserved more in regards to delving into the mythology of the Brayburn family and to perhaps do more into depth about the curse that spanned generations of Brayburn women.

Again, because I love The Lost Boys so much, I adored being part of this universe yet again, albeit in a different form. But if you take all the homages to The Lost Boys away, the overall plot is pretty flimsy. That’s not to say that this book isn’t worth your time. It is enjoyable, but it just lacked in certain areas.

Pick this book up if you wish to take a dive into the 80’s nostalgia, or like me, you’re a huge fan of The Lost Boys.

*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: Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

survivorsong

 “This is not a fairy tale. It is a song.”

Release Date: July 3, 2020

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Publisher: William Murrow

Price: $27.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

In a matter of weeks, Massachusetts has been overrun by an insidious rabies-like virus that is spread by saliva. But unlike rabies, the disease has a terrifyingly short incubation period of an hour or less. Those infected quickly lose their minds and are driven to bite and infect as many others as they can before they inevitably succumb. Hospitals are inundated with the sick and dying, and hysteria has taken hold. To try to limit its spread, the commonwealth is under quarantine and curfew. But society is breaking down and the government’s emergency protocols are faltering.

Dr. Ramola “Rams” Sherman, a soft-spoken pediatrician in her mid-thirties, receives a frantic phone call from Natalie, a friend who is eight months pregnant. Natalie’s husband has been killed—viciously attacked by an infected neighbor—and in a failed attempt to save him, Natalie, too, was bitten. Natalie’s only chance of survival is to get to a hospital as quickly as possible to receive a rabies vaccine. The clock is ticking for her and for her unborn child.

Natalie’s fight for life becomes a desperate odyssey as she and Rams make their way through a hostile landscape filled with dangers beyond their worst nightmares—terrifying, strange, and sometimes deadly challenges that push them to the brink.

Grade: A-

Review:

I’ll begin this with the admission that I wasn’t a big fan of Paul’s most popular novel, A Head Full of Ghosts. However, there were genius moments in that novel that made me want to check this new book out. The publishing world is slow, so when the author actually wrote this book he was merely speculating on a long-distance future. However, months into a global pandemic and the future that Tremblay describes in his book is suddenly our reality.

In the novel, a new form of rabies virus has made the jump from animals to humans and the effect is devastating. Since the onset of rabies plays much like flu-like symptoms, this feels very eerily similar to what we’re dealing with right now with COVID-19.

The reader can automatically assume which President the author had in mind when he wrote the following: “A president unwilling and woefully unequipped to make the rational science-based decisions necessary.” Especially given the fact of how our current President has managed the pandemic we’re living.

The novel is very fast-paced as all the events take place within the same day, much like how horror movies do. If you wish to read a fast-paced horror with strong female bonds, then this book is for you.

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

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Book Review: The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda

girlwidow

Everyone knows the story of “the girl from Widow Hills.”

Release Date: June 23, 2020

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Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Price: $18.89 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

Arden Maynor was just a child when she was swept away while sleepwalking during a terrifying rainstorm and went missing for days. Strangers and friends, neighbors and rescue workers, set up search parties and held vigils, praying for her safe return. Against all odds, she was found, alive, clinging to a storm drain. The girl from Widow Hills was a living miracle. Arden’s mother wrote a book. Fame followed. Fans and fan letters, creeps, and stalkers. And every year, the anniversary. It all became too much. As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and disappeared from the public eye.

Now a young woman living hundreds of miles away, Arden goes by Olivia. She’s managed to stay off the radar for the last few years. But with the twentieth anniversary of her rescue approaching, the media will inevitably renew its interest in Arden. Where is she now? Soon Olivia feels like she’s being watched and begins sleepwalking again, like she did long ago, even waking outside her home. Until late one night she jolts awake in her yard. At her feet is the corpse of a man she knows—from her previous life, as Arden Maynor.

And now, the girl from Widow Hills is about to become the center of the story, once again, in this propulsive page-turner from suspense master Megan Miranda.

Grade: C

Review:

Let me preface this by stating that I really loved All The Missing Girls, but was sorely disappointed in The Last House Guest. But I was willing to give Miranda another chance and was thrilled when I was selected to review her latest novel.

My biggest issue with this book is that for a thriller, it’s very slow-moving. There’s no sense of urgency and there are a lot of repetitive phrases and rehashing of the same story over and over again, and I don’t know if that was to fill a certain page quota or what, but a lot of the flashback, news clippings, or 911-calls chapters didn’t really reveal anything new. There isn’t even a body until 30% in the book!

Another issue that I had with the book is that I just couldn’t get invested in any of the characters. All the side characters felt shady and the protagonist, Olivia was annoying beyond measure.

Now, there are two major twists, one that I saw coming a mile away and another that I didn’t really expect. Did these two major twists save the novel? Yes and no. It’s always nice when a thriller can throw a surprise ending, but for a novel that was at a snail’s pace with no sense of urgency or threat, it was a little too late.

If you’re more of a cozy mystery sort of reader, then you may enjoy this novel very much. But if you’re a reader who loves fast-paced thrillers, then you may want to pass on this one.

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

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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

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: 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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