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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My Top 5 Books By Irish Authors

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! What better way to celebrate the Irish than to celebrate its authors? Ireland has had many talented authors and many times people forget that certain authors are indeed Irish only because they either relocate to London or are lumped in with English literature (as Oscar Wilde often is). But Ireland offers a rich literary slew of authors and picking up a book from one of them as ultimately way better than getting drunk on green beer (at least you won’t have to nurse a terrible hangover the following day).

Here are my Top 5 Books by Irish authors, spanning from various genres and times. Pick which one strikes your fancy and curl up with a nice Irish coffee as you devour literary treats! Enjoy!

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The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

A beautiful young man wishes for his youth to remain eternal as his painting ages for him. Soon, what seems to be a blessing turns out to be a curse.

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Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Colm Tóibín’s New York Times bestselling novel—now an acclaimed film starring Saoirse Ronan and Jim Broadbent nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture—is “a moving, deeply satisfying read” (Entertainment Weekly) about a young Irish immigrant in Brooklyn in the early 1950s.

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The Sea by John Banville

In this luminous new novel about love, loss, and the unpredictable power of memory, John Banville introduces us to Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who has gone back to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child to cope with the recent loss of his wife. It is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the well-heeled family with whom he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time. What Max comes to understand about the past, and about its indelible effects on him, is at the center of this elegiac, gorgeously written novel — among the finest we have had from this masterful writer.

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Room by Emma Donoghue

Held captive for years in a small shed, a woman and her precocious young son finally gain their freedom, and the boy experiences the outside world for the first time.

To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it’s the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack’s curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.

Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating — a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Berlin, 1942: When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

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Book Review: Dear Laura by Gemma Amor

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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 & Author Interview: The Sun Under A Night Sky by Vontress Renae

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Exclusive collab with: VoyageLA(large inverted)

You are the sun and the center of your universe.

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Plot Summary:

In this collection of untitled thoughts, poetry, and affirmations; Vontress plants her powerful feminine energy and wisdom like a seed. Showing growth through struggle, and sharing stories of blooming into a flower. She shines her light like the sun into the darkest parts of her soul.

Grade: A-

Review:

The poems in this collection are often dark, but even in the darkest moments, there is a tiny light that glimmers with hope. And this is what makes this collection stand out from other poems that tackle similar topics like love and heartbreak. The message Renae seems to want to give with these poems is that happiness isn’t something you should search in someone else, or depend on someone else for your own happiness, but rather that happiness lies inside us all if we have self-love and that’s an essential and potent message to give. I recommend this book if you’re into poetry that explores life’s dark moments but that has an uplifting message in the end.

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Short Q & A with the Author:

What has inspired your writing?

The inspiration for my writing comes from day to day life. I wonder what people think and put it on paper, my own stories and sometimes the stories of those around me.

When did you first start writing?

I have always written things for as long as I remember, but it was not until recently that I felt comfortable enough to share it with others.

What tips would you give a novice writer?

My advice would be to remove all distractions. There are times that I sign out of social media and take a bit of a hiatus in order to gather my thoughts and get them down clearly.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve been given?

The best advice I was given would be to do what makes me happy. I feel that my writing can take me all the places I want to go in this world I just have to trust myself and believe in what I’m saying on my pages.

What are you currently reading or looking forward to reading?

I am currently reading ” The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F” by Mark Manson. It has definitely been a page-turner and I plan to take a view of the tips that I have learned while reading.

RENAE ON THE WEB:
Website: https://vontressrortega.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/writtenbyvontress
Twitter: https://twitter.com/byvontress
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/writtenbyvontress/

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Celebrating Black History Month: Top Ten Novels by Black Authors

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I wonder who thought it was a good idea that placing a book cover that displayed black characters on books that RARELY had any characters IN the book, and weren’t written by black authors, was the best way to celebrate Black History Month. How could’ve the CEO of Barnes and Nobles and the head of Penguin sit in meetings and think this was such a grand idea? I guess if you figure that the majority of the publishing world is made up of white men, then you can quickly see how this idea was ever conceived.

Personally, I think that the right way to Black History Month as a bookstore would’ve been to republish amazing classics written by authors because simply having classics written by white authors in blackface covers only shows how ignorant you really about what is being celebrated.

These are my top 10 classics written by black authors. I’m pretty sure someone on Penguin’s team could’ve come up with a similar list along the way (but I digress).

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglas

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is an 1845 memoir and treatise on abolition written by famous orator and former slave Frederick Douglass. It is generally held to be the most famous of a number of narratives written by former slaves during the same period. In factual detail, the text describes the events of his life and is considered to be one of the most influential pieces of literature to fuel the abolitionist movement of the early 19th century in the United States.

Cane by Jean Toomer

First published in 1923, Jean Toomer’s Cane is an innovative literary work―part drama, part poetry, part fiction―powerfully evoking black life in the South. Rich in imagery, Toomer’s impressionistic, sometimes surrealistic sketches of Southern rural and urban life are permeated by visions of smoke, sugarcane, dusk, and fire; the northern world is pictured as a harsher reality of asphalt streets. This iconic work of American literature is published with a new afterword by Rudolph Byrd of Emory University and Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard University, who provide groundbreaking biographical information on Toomer, place his writing within the context of American modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, and examine his shifting claims about his own race and his pioneering critique of race as a scientific or biological concept.

Complete Writings by Phillis Wheatley

In 1761, a young girl arrived in Boston on a slave ship, sold to the Wheatley family, and given the name Phillis Wheatley. Struck by Phillis’ extraordinary precociousness, the Wheatleys provided her with an education that was unusual for a woman of the time and astonishing for a slave. After studying English and classical literature, geography, the Bible, and Latin, Phillis published her first poem in 1767 at the age of 14, winning much public attention and considerable fame. When Boston publishers who doubted its authenticity rejected an initial collection of her poetry, Wheatley sailed to London in 1773 and found a publisher there for Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.

Iola Leroy by Frances Harper

Being very desirous that one of the race, so long distinguished in the cause of freedom for her intellectual worth as Mrs. Harper has had the honor of being, should not at this late date in life make a blunder which might detract from her own good name, I naturally proposed to await developments before deciding too quickly in favor of giving encouragement to her contemplated effort.

The Blacker the Berry by Wallace Thurman

This novel, associated with the Harlem Renaissance, is considered groundbreaking for its exploration of colorism and racial discrimination within the black community, where lighter skin was often favored, especially for women. The novel tells the story of Emma Lou Morgan, a young black woman with dark skin. It begins in Boise, Idaho and follows Emma Lou in her journey to college at USC and a move to Harlem, New York City for work. Set during the Harlem Renaissance, the novel explores Emma Lou’s experiences with colorism, discrimination by lighter-skinned African Americans due to her dark skin. She learns to come to terms with her skin color in order to find satisfaction in her life.

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.D. Du Bois

This classic groundbreaking work of American literature first published in 1903 is a cornerstone of African-American literary history and a seminal work in the field of sociology.

W.E.B. Du Bois, who drew from his own experiences as an African-American living in American society, explores the concept of “double-consciousness”―a term he uses to describe living as an African-American and having a “sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.”

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood”, and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Milkman Dead was born shortly after a neighborhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly. With this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison transfigures the coming-of-age story as audaciously as Saul Bellow or Gabriel García Márquez. As she follows Milkman from his rustbelt city to the place of his family’s origins, Morrison introduces an entire cast of strivers and seeresses, liars and assassins, the inhabitants of a fully realized black world.

The Sport of the Gods by Paul Laurence Dunbar

In this extraordinary novel, Paul Laurence Dunbar tells the story of a displaced Southern family’s struggle to survive and prosper in early Harlem. “The Sport of the Gods” was one of the first novels to depict the harsh realities of ghetto life and the revolutionary truths it uncovered still resonate today.

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Excerpts From: Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology

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It’s officially Women in Horror Month and in less than two weeks, this anthology will be released (February 18!). You can pre-order the book in both ebook and paperback formats! If you’re from the Los Angeles area, then you can find signed copies of the book over at Skylight Books (1818 N. Vermont Ave.!).

Excerpt from Night Terrors by Angela Sylvaine

I wake up unable to move, pinned to my bed by an invisible force. I struggle against it but can’t even wiggle my little finger. Each beat of my pulse pounds through my veins. My eyes are wide open. I try to blink, but even my eyelids are frozen, immovable. With my head locked in place, I can only stare straight up at the ceiling. What’s holding me down? Why can’t I move?

The air is too thin. I can hardly breathe. Every muscle in my body tenses as I twist and strain, but it’s no use.

My vision is hazy as if my face is covered by a gauze veil. Blurred figures are visible in my peripheral. They wear light blue tops, surgical masks, hospital caps, and latex gloves. There are seven in all, three on each side of the bed and one at the foot. I want to open my mouth, to scream for help, but I can’t.

That figure at the foot of the bed speaks, his voice the low baritone of a man.
I strain to hear. Something about administering medication. The person closest to my head on the left responds, “Yes, doctor.” A woman. She has something in her hand. I focus on the object, try to see through the veil.

A syringe.

My breath catches in my throat. No. Leave me alone. Let me go!

Pain pricks the inside of my elbow, and a slow burn spreads through my veins, building into a raging inferno. Tremors shake my body, and a scream swells in my throat. Unable to open my mouth, the shriek stays locked inside, silently ripping through my brain.

Excerpt from Leda and the Fly by Marnie Azzarelli

But that noise, that thing on her wall was neither plain nor right. The thunder was spreading to her chest, walloping her ribcage with each loud boom. She got up achingly, her body accustomed to anything but her bed. She crouched when she got closer to the wall, her knees popping protest, but she knew she needed to be as quiet as possible.

She moved in closer to the ring of light and that terrible sound like a stalking cat ready to spring; her body taut and still, her eyes closed to slits. The thing started to flit in and out of the light, but Leda’s usually dulled senses were sharpening just by the sight of her prey. She could see it almost too clearly.

It was there staining her pristine wall with its filth covered feet, buzzing, buzzing, buzzing through the quiet of her mind.

A fly.
Musca domestica.

Six hair-covered legs, antennae, a small head with two compound eyes, prothorax, mesothorax, a large abdomen, and two transparent wings.

Its front two feet were probing the pure white of Leda’s wall, searching for sustenance only to buzz out its frustrations over the empty surface. Her frustration was built on its existence in her, once sacred, space. Her only solitude after her body had been hollowed out, wiped clean from the toxins and waste that fly thrived on.

She felt the storm rage throughout her and let it out with a low moan, her vocal cords cracking to attention after months of disuse. She groaned softly at first, her knees starting to shake slightly. She took another step towards the fly and her voice came out louder, her legs ready to give out on her in any second.

The fly buzzed louder, startled by the other presence in the room. Its movements became a little more frantic as it bounced to different parts of the lit wall. Leda tried to follow, but she was so focused on that one spot, she couldn’t imagine it going anywhere else. But it decided to move and ruin more and more of her wall.

She started to cry, small tears hot and salty falling down her tingling face. Her nerve endings were all firing at once and she suddenly felt like she was dancing on a thousand pins and needles. Each step was another sharp stab to her that almost broke the skin but didn’t. Her legs finally gave out on her and she fell keening to the carpet.

Patterns of Faerytales by Azzurra Nox

A dreadful chill ran down his spine. It was like having a million spiders crawling down his back. He shivered. The last thing he wanted to do was lose his soul mate.
“So what exactly am I supposed to do with this box?”
“Keep it locked and away from Olivia.”
“Why haven’t you just buried it then?”
The look she gave Cillian was that of disbelief, almost as though he had suggested torching the damn box.
“You must never do such a thing!”
“Why not?”
“Because this is part of her, and you can’t bury it like it’s a box of bones you’re trying to get rid of!”
“What would happen?”
“There could be fatal consequences.” With that, she got up and handed the box to Cillian. “Be careful, and remember….never let her see the contents of this box! Keep it locked.” And with those parting words, Lydia left as swiftly as she had entered.

STRANGE GIRLS: WOMEN IN HORROR ANTHOLOGY DROPS FEBRUARY 18, 2020 BUT IS AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!

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Top 5 Books I Anticipate Reading in 2020

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

001. Darling Rose Gold – Stephanie Wrobel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

002. My Dark Vanessa – Kate Elizabeth Russell

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

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

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

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

003. Burn Our Bodies Down – Rory Power

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

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

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

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

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

004. Home Before Dark – Riley Sager

What was it like? Living in that house.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book Review: The Twin by Natasha Preston

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

Release Date: March 3, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Plot Summary:

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

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

Grade: C

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book Review: What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin

unbreakable

She’s nobody’s flower anymore.

Release Date: June 23, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon!

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

Price: $17.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

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

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

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

Grade: A-

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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Book Review: The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson

luckyone

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

Release Date: April 7, 2020

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Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

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

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

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

Grade: A

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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