3 Terrifyingly Dark Books by AAPI Authors

In honour of APPI month, I wish to showcase three books from APPI authors that I think should totally be on your radar!

THE HALF-LIFE OF RUBY FIELDING BY LYDIA KANG

Brooklyn, 1942. War rages overseas as brother and sister Will and Maggie Scripps contribute to the war effort stateside. Ambitious Will secretly scouts for the Manhattan Project while grief-stricken Maggie works at the Navy Yard, writing letters to her dead mother between shifts.

But the siblings’ quiet lives change when they discover a beautiful woman hiding under their back stairs. This stranger harbors an obsession with poisons, an affection for fine things, and a singular talent for killing small creatures. As she draws Will and Maggie deeper into her mysterious past, they both begin to suspect she’s quite dangerous—all while falling helplessly under her spell.

With whispers of spies in dark corners and the world’s first atomic bomb in the works, the visitor’s sudden presence in Maggie’s and Will’s lives raises questions about who she is and what she wants. Is this mysterious woman someone they can trust—or a threat to everything they hold dear?

THE CHOSEN AND THE BEAUTIFUL BY NGHI VO

Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer and Asian, a Vietnamese adoptee treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.

But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.

Nghi Vo’s debut novel, The Chosen and the Beautiful, reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice.

SIX CRIMSON CRANES BY ELIZABETH LIM

Shiori’anma, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted. But it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

A sorceress in her own right, Raikama banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes. She warns Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and uncovers a dark conspiracy to seize the throne. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in a paper bird, a mercurial dragon, and the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to forswear–no matter what the cost.
 
Weaving together elements of The Wild Swans, Cinderella, the legend of Chang E, and the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, Elizabeth Lim has crafted a fantasy like no other, and one that will stay with readers long after they’ve turned the last page.

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Book Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Something strange is happening on the last house on Needless Street and Dee is going to find out….

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Publisher: Tor Nightfire

Price: $13.99 (hardback)

Release Date: September 28, 2021

PLOT SUMMARY:

In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the wild Washington woods lives a family of three.

A teenage girl who isn’t allowed outside, not after last time.
A man who drinks alone in front of his TV, trying to ignore the gaps in his memory.
And a house cat who loves napping and reading the Bible.

An unspeakable secret binds them together, but when a new neighbor moves in next door, what is buried out among the birch trees may come back to haunt them all.

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

This is one of those rare books that came with a TON OF HYPE and actually LIVED UP to the hype and then some! I really loved that this book started out in one direction and completely reeled you in another by the end!

Right from the very beginning, the reader knows there’s something very wrong the moment we dive into the story. This novel excels in creating this crescendo of dread and unease that by the time you’re hit with the climax, you’re questioning your own sanity.

Ted lives alone in a run-down home with his beautiful kitty Olivia while his daughter Lauren comes to visit him from time to time. When Dee moves next door to him, convinced that he had something to do with her little sister’s disappearance things really start to escalate into chaos for everyone involved. This thriller is a wild ride and one you won’t easily forget once you’re through with the final page.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Believe the hype, it’s worth reading!

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

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Book Review: Road of Bones by Christopher Golden

Some ghosts don’t live only in your head….

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Release Date: January 25, 2022

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Price: $27.99 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

Surrounded by barren trees in a snow-covered wilderness with a dim, dusky sky forever overhead, Siberia’s Kolyma Highway is 1200 miles of gravel packed permafrost within driving distance of the Arctic Circle. A narrow path where drivers face such challenging conditions as icy surfaces, limited visibility, and an average temperature of sixty degrees below zero, fatal car accidents are common.But motorists are not the only victims of the highway. Known as the Road of Bones, it is a massive graveyard for the former Soviet Union’s gulag prisoners. Hundreds of thousands of people worked to death and left where their bodies fell, consumed by the frozen elements and plowed beneath the permafrost road.Fascinated by the history, documentary producer Felix “Teig” Teigland is in Russia to drive the highway, envisioning a new series capturing Life and Death on the Road of Bones with a ride to the town of Akhust, “the coldest place on Earth”, collecting ghost stories and local legends along the way. Only, when Teig and his team reach their destination, they find an abandoned town, save one catatonic nine-year-old girl—and a pack of predatory wolves, faster and smarter than any wild animals should be. Pursued by the otherworldly beasts, Teig’s companions confront even more uncanny and inexplicable phenomena along the Road of Bones, as if the ghosts of Stalin’s victims were haunting them. It is a harrowing journey that will push Teig beyond endurance and force him to confront the sins of his past.

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

From the very first page, the reader is greeted with a bone-chilling cold that doesn’t let up for the entirety of the novel. The Road of Bones is the Kolyma Highway found in Russia where some of the coldest parts of the world outside of Antarctica exist. The road got its ominous name because prisoners forced to build the road under Stalin died during the construction, where an estimated 250,000-1,000,000 people lost their lives and were buried right into the road’s permafrost. If that doesn’t already make for a chilling horror, this novel also finds itself grappling with supernatural entities and the ghosts that haunt us even when they’re merely just a manifestation of our guilt.

The protagonist is Teig, a reality-show star that creates shows much like Ghost Adventures with his best friend Prentiss. The only issue is that his past few projects have bombed and he owes a lot of people money, including his best friend. Then he gets an idea, why not make a show about the Road of Bones? A place haunted by the past as well as the unflinching cold, where car trouble could have one dying within a matter of minutes from the extremely low temperatures.

I’m a total wimp when it comes to cold temperatures, so to have a supernatural thriller set in the cold, already has me both terrified and fascinated.

The mystery amps up when Teig, Prentiss, their Russian translator, and a hitchhiker they picked up on the way, finally arrive at their destination only to find every single home in that town empty. It looks as though the residents left their homes mid-dinner and disappeared. This is when things start getting weird and dangerous for the group.

This novel is very fast-paced and it mostly takes place in one night much like those survival horror movies do. This was a fun, freaky read and I really loved how well fleshed out the characters were. I recommend this novel for anyone who loves supernatural thrillers set in Siberia.

*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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3 Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2022

The Red Palace by June Hur

Joseon (Korea), 1758. There are few options available to illegitimate daughters in the capital city, but through hard work and study, eighteen-year-old Hyeon has earned a position as a palace nurse. All she wants is to keep her head down, do a good job, and perhaps finally win her estranged father’s approval.

But Hyeon is suddenly thrust into the dark and dangerous world of court politics when someone murders four women in a single night, and the prime suspect is Hyeon’s closest friend and mentor. Determined to prove her beloved teacher’s innocence, Hyeon launches her own secret investigation.

In her hunt for the truth, she encounters Eojin, a young police inspector also searching for the killer. When evidence begins to point to the Crown Prince himself as the murderer, Hyeon and Eojin must work together to search the darkest corners of the palace to uncover the deadly secrets behind the bloodshed.

The Drowning Summer by Christine Lynn Herman

Six years ago, three Long Island teenagers were murdered—their drowned bodies discovered with sand dollars placed over their eyes. The mystery of the drowning summer was never solved, but as far as the town’s concerned, Evelyn Mackenzie’s father did it. His charges were dropped only because Evelyn summoned a ghost to clear his name. She swore never to call a spirit again. She lied.

For generations, the family of Mina Zanetti, a former friend of Evelyn, has worked as mediums, using the ocean’s power to guide the dead to their final resting place. But as sea levels rise, the ghosts grow more dangerous and Mina has been shut out of the family business. When Evelyn performs another summoning that goes horribly wrong, the two girls must navigate their growing attraction to each other while solving the mystery of who was really behind the drowning summer…before the line between life and death dissolves for good.

Beautifully written and just the right amount witchy, The Drowning Summer is a deliciously eerie story perfect for reading under a full moon.

Nine Lives by Pete Swanson

Nine strangers receive a list with their names on it in the mail. Nothing else, just a list of names on a single sheet of paper. None of the nine people know or have ever met the others on the list. They dismiss it as junk mail, a fluke–until very, very bad things begin happening to people on the list.

First, a well-liked old man is drowned on a beach in the small town of Kennewick, Maine. Then, a father is shot in the back while running through his quiet neighborhood in suburban Massachusetts. A frightening pattern is emerging, but what do these nine people have in common? Their professions range from oncology nurse to aspiring actor, and they’re located all over the country. So why are they all on the list, and who sent it?

FBI agent Jessica Winslow, who is on the list herself, is determined to find out. Could there be some dark secret that binds them all together? Or is this the work of a murderous madman? As the mysterious sender stalks these nine strangers, they find themselves constantly looking over their shoulders, wondering who will be crossed off next… 

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3 Chilling Books to Dive Into This Spring

If like me you’re fully vaccinated and eyeing the upcoming summer months as a means to finally escape the lockdown inferno we’ve all been living in – then you may have been wondering what books you should throw in your beach bag as you head off to the nearest beach or holiday. For horror fans – these three books are a perfect mixture of creepy and chilling. So slather on some sunscreen and pull out of these novels for a thrilling ride.

REDDER DAYS BY SUE RAINSFORD

Twins Anna and Adam live in an abandoned commune in a volatile landscape where they prepare for the world-ending event they believe is imminent. Adam keeps watch by day, Anna by night. They meet at dawn and dusk.

Their only companion is Koan, the commune’s former leader, who still exerts a malignant control over their daily rituals. But when one of the previous inhabitants returns, everything Anna and Adam thought they knew to be true is thrown into question.

THE UNWELCOME BY JACOB STEVEN MOHR

Kait’s volcanic temper has already scared most of her friends away, and a bad breakup with her college boyfriend Lutz has left her crippled by guilt and painful memories. So, when she learns that her best friend Alice is planning a three-day sabbatical in a secluded mountain cabin, Kait jumps at the chance to tag along, convinced that rekindling their fractured friendship is the key to fixing whatever’s breaking down inside of her. She should have known… Lutz would never let her go so easily. After a chance roadside meeting, Kait’s jealous ex-boyfriend pursues her into the foothills, revealing the monster under his skin for the first time: a body-snatching inhuman entity capable of assimilating and adopting the guise of any human host. Lutz is determined to prove his twisted love to Kait, even if it means carving his monument to his devotion in the pilfered flesh of her closest friends. Now, with miles of snow-hushed Appalachia between them and civilization, Kait must unite her friends against this horrifying threat, and learn to embrace her own inner monster, before the shadows of her past swallow up her life for good.

SUMMER SONS BY LEE MANDELA

Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom that hungers for him.

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble.

And there is something awful lurking, waiting for those walls to fall.

Which of these books are you looking forward to read?

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Top Ten Books I Read in 2020

I should begin this by stating that this isn’t a list of books that were released in 2020, but books that I read in 2020 and enjoyed, which goes to say that some may have been released before this year, during this year, and some will be released next year. Having stated that, WHEW! I’ve survived 2020, thankfully, still healthy and somewhat mentally intact, although I must admit that finding solace in books and my writing has been a saving grace for me. This book list are the Top Ten Books I loved reading this year, and as you can tell the titles span across genres. Many of these titles I reviewed so this post will be filled with lots of links if you’re interested in learning more about them!

ONE. THE LIVING DEAD BY GEORGE A. ROMERO & DANIEL KRAUS

This was my absolute favourite book of the year! And not because it was about zombies or had horrific gore (it had both) but mostly because of the humanity and characters I found in this novel that I haven’t found in other books before. I loved everything about this book, and am saddened that George A. Romero passed away before he could see it in print.

TWO. TIGERS NOT DAUGHTERS BY SAMANTHA MABRY

I love, love, loved the Torres sisters! The book had the vibes of The Virgin Suicides but with a ghostly slant to it. I can’t recommend this book enough. I was lucky enough that I not only read an early ARC of this book, but the publishers then sent me a hardcover copy.

THREE. OPEN BOOK BY JESSICA SIMPSON

I’m not a fan of Jessica’s music, nor was I a fan of her reality show on MTV, The Newly Weds, however, I do enjoy Jessica as a clothes designer, and now after reading the book, even as a person. If you’re going to read a celebrity biography, I totally recommend this one, especially if you were a teen in the late 90’s since she talks about all the celebrities that were en vogue back then. Spoiler alert: John Mayer has always been a jerk.

FOUR. THE VINYL UNDERGROUND BY ROB RUFUS

This is another book that had a TON of soul. The setting is during the Vietnam War and now, in modern times we know how futile that war is so the fact that our protagonist has already lost a brother to the war and he himself may be drafted too, makes the reader feel this sense of unease throughout the whole novel. I loved the friendships in this book, they were credible and filled with so much heart.

FIVE. SURVIVOR SONG BY PAUL TREMBLAY

In a year where we’re still battling with a pandemic, Temblay’s novel about a virus may not seem like the best book to read in 2020. However, what’s amusing is seeing that the way he thought some humans and politicians would react to a pandemic, were a little too spot on at times.

SIX. THE BLACK KIDS BY CHRISTINA HAMMONDS REED

The year is early 90’s during the Rodney King riots. In 2020, it would’ve thought that such things would’ve been past us, however, after George Floyd’s death sparked worldwide protests and invigorated the Black Lives Matter movement, you soon feel like some things haven’t quite become past yet, and are still our present and must be dealt with.

SEVEN. THE PROJECT BY COURTNEY SUMMERS

A survivor of trauma collides paths with an enigmatic and charismatic cult leader, and soon neither of their lives will ever be the same again. This book will tear you apart.

EIGHT. INTO THE FOREST AND ALL THE WAY THROUGH BY CYNTHIA PELAYO

If you’re a fan of true crime, then you might want to pick up this poetry collection where each poem is dedicated to a girl that has gone missing. Some of these girls have been missing for more than forty years while others have recently gone missing. Reader take caution, this book will gut you open.

NINE. DARLING ROSE GOLD BY STEPHANIE WROBEL

If you loved The Act, that chronicled the life of Gypsy Rose, then you’re going to love this novel. A mother and daughter with a conflicted relationship, mirrors the one depicted in The Act, only on steroids. It’s a fun ride.

TEN. UNBOXED BY BRIANA MORGAN

A v-logger gets tempted by the dark web, only to find out that the mystery box he has ordered will bring about sinister things. A fast-paced fun read!

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Book Excerpt: The Wrong Kind of Woman by Sarah McCraw Crow

Chapter One

November 1970 Westfield, New Hampshire
OLIVER DIED THE SUNDAY after Thanksgiving, the air heavy with snow that hadn’t fallen yet. His last words to Virginia were “Tacks, Ginny? Do we have any tacks?”
That morning at breakfast, their daughter, Rebecca, had complained about her eggs—runny and gross, she said. Also, the whole neighborhood already had their Christmas lights up, and why didn’t they ever have outside lights? Virginia tuned her out; at thirteen, Rebecca had reached the age of comparison, noticing where her classmates’ families went on vacation, what kinds of cars they drove. But Oliver agreed about the lights, and after eating his own breakfast and Rebecca’s rejected eggs, he drove off to the hardware store to buy heavy-duty Christmas lights.
Back at home, Oliver called Virginia out onto the front porch, where he and Rebecca had looped strings of colored lights around the handrails on either side of the steps. Virginia waved at their neighbor Gerda across the street— on her own front porch, Gerda knelt next to a pile of balsam branches, arranging them into two planters—as Rebecca and Oliver described their lighting scheme. Rebecca’s cheeks had gone ruddy in the New Hampshire cold, as Oliver’s had; Rebecca had his red-gold hair too.
“Up one side and down the other,” Rebecca said. “Like they do at Molly’s house—”
“Tacks, Ginny? Do we have any tacks?” Oliver interrupted. In no time, he’d lost patience with this project, judging by the familiar set of his jaw, the frown lines corrugating his forehead.
A few minutes later, box of nails and hammer in hand, Virginia saw Oliver’s booted feet splayed out on the walk, those old work boots he’d bought on their honeymoon in Germany a lifetime ago. “Do you have to lie down like that to—” she began, while Rebecca squeezed out from between the porch and the overgrown rhododendron.
“Dad?” Rebecca’s voice pitched upward. “Daddy!”
Virginia slowly took in that Oliver was lying half on the lawn, half on the brick walk, one hand clutching the end of a light string. Had he fallen? It made no sense, him just lying there on the ground like that, and she hurtled down the porch steps. Oliver’s eyes had rolled back so only the whites showed. But he’d just asked for tacks, and she hadn’t had time to ask if nails would work instead. She crouched, put her mouth to his and tried to breathe for him. Something was happening, yes, maybe now he would turn out to be just resting, and in a minute he’d sit up and laugh with disbelief.
Next to her, Rebecca shook Oliver’s shoulder, pounded on it. “Dad! You fainted! Wake up—”
“Go call the operator,” Virginia said. “Tell them we need an ambulance, tell them it’s an emergency, a heart attack, Becca! Run!” Rebecca ran.
Virginia put her ear to Oliver’s chest, listening. A flurry of movement: Gerda was suddenly at her side, kneeling, and Eileen from next door, then Rebecca, gasping or maybe sobbing. Virginia felt herself being pulled out of the way as the ambulance backed into the driveway and the two para- medics bent close. They too breathed for Oliver, pressed on his chest while counting, then lifted him gently onto the backboard and up into the ambulance.
She didn’t notice that she was holding Rebecca’s hand on her one side and Eileen’s hand on the other, and that Gerda had slung a protective arm around Rebecca. She barely noticed when Eileen bundled her and Rebecca into the car without a coat or purse. She didn’t notice the snow that had started to fall, first snow of the season. Later, that absence of snow came back to her, when the image of Oliver lying on the bare ground, uncushioned even by snow, wouldn’t leave her.

Aneurysm. A ruptured aneurysm, a balloon that had burst, sending a wave of blood into Oliver’s brain. A subarachnoid hemorrhage. She said all those new words about a thousand times, along with more familiar words: bleed and blood and brain. Rips and tears. One in a million. Sitting at the kitchen table, Rebecca next to her and the coiled phone cord stretched taut around both of them, Virginia called one disbelieving person after another, repeated all those words to her mother, her sister Marnie, Oliver’s brother, Oliver’s department chair, the people in her address book, the people in his.
At President Weissman’s house five days later, Virginia kept hold of Rebecca. Rebecca had stayed close, sleeping in the middle of Virginia and Oliver’s bed as if she were little and sleepwalking again, her shruggy new adolescent self forgotten. They’d turned into a sudden team of two, each one circling, like moons, around the other.
Oliver’s department chair had talked Virginia into a reception at President Weissman’s house, a campus funeral. In the house’s central hall, Virginia’s mother clutched at her arm, murmuring about the lovely Christmas decorations, those balsam garlands and that enormous twinkling tree, and how they never got the fragrant balsam trees in Norfolk, did they, only the Fraser firs—
“Let’s go look at the Christmas tree, Grandmomma.” Rebecca took her grandmother’s hand as they moved away. What a grown-up thing to do, Virginia thought, glad for the release from Momma and her chatter.
“Wine?” Virginia’s sister Marnie said, folding her hand around a glass. Virginia nodded and took a sip. Marnie stayed next to her as one person and another came close to say something complimentary about Oliver, what a wonderful teacher he’d been and a great young historian, an influential member of the Clarendon community. And his clarinet, what would they do without Oliver’s tremendous clarinet playing? The church service had been lovely, hadn’t it? He sure would have loved that jazz trio.
She heard herself answering normally, as if this one small thing had gone wrong, except now she found herself in a tunnel, everyone else echoing and far away. Out of a clutch of Clarendon boys, identical in their khakis and blue blazers, their too-long hair curling behind their ears, one stepped forward. Sam, a student in her tiny fall seminar, the Italian Baroque.
“I—I just wanted to say…” Sam faltered. “But he was a great teacher, and even more in the band—” The student- faculty jazz band, he meant.
“Thank you, Sam,” she said. “I appreciate that.” She watched him retreat to his group. Someone had arranged for Sam and a couple of other Clarendon boys to play during the reception, and she hadn’t noticed until now.
“How ’bout we sit, hon.” Marnie steered her to a couch. “I’m going to check on Becca and Momma and June—” the oldest of Virginia’s two sisters “—and then I’ll be right back.”
“Right.” Virginia half listened to the conversation around her, people in little clumps with their sherries and whiskeys. Mainframe, new era, she heard. Then well, but Nixon, and a few problems with the vets on campus. She picked up President Weissman’s voice, reminiscing about the vets on campus after the war thirty years ago. “Changed the place for the better, I think,” President Weissman said. “A seriousness of purpose.” And she could hear Louise Walsh arguing with someone about the teach-in that should have happened last spring.
Maybe Oliver would appreciate being treated like a dignitary. Maybe he’d be pleased at the turnout, all the faculty and students who’d shown up at the Congregational Church at lunchtime on a Friday. Probably he wished he could put Louise in her place about the teach-in. Virginia needed to find Rebecca, and she needed to make sure Momma hadn’t collapsed out of holiday party–funeral confusion. But now Louise Walsh loomed over her in a shape- less black suit, and she stood up again to shake Louise’s hand. “I just want to say how sorry I am,” Louise said. “I truly admired his teaching and—everything else. We’re all going to miss him.”
“Thank you, Louise.” Virginia considered returning the compliment, to say that Oliver had admired Louise too. Louise had tenure, the only woman in the history department, the only woman at Clarendon, to be tenured. Lou- ise had been a thorn in Oliver’s side, the person Oliver had complained about the most. Louise was one of the four women on faculty at Clarendon; the Gang of Four, Oliver and the others had called them.
Outside the long windows, a handful of college boys tossed a football on a fraternity lawn across the street, one skidding in the snow as he caught the ball. Someone had spray-painted wobbly blue peace signs on the frat’s white clapboard wall, probably after Kent State. But the Clarendon boys were rarely political; they were athletic: in their baggy wool trousers, they ran, skied, hiked, went gliding off the college’s ski jump, human rockets on long skis. They built a tremendous bonfire on the Clarendon green in the fall, enormous snow sculptures in the winter. They stumbled home drunk, singing. Their limbs seemed loosely attached to their bodies. Oliver had once been one of those boys.
“Come on, pay attention,” Marnie said, and she propelled Virginia toward President Weissman, who took Virginia’s hands.
“I cannot begin to express all my sympathy and sad- ness.” President Weissman’s eyes were magnified behind his glasses. “Our firmament has lost a star.” He kissed her on the cheek, pulling a handkerchief from his jacket pocket, so she could wipe her eyes and nose again.

At the reception, Aunt June kept asking Rebecca if she was doing okay, and did she need anything, and Aunt Marnie kept telling Aunt June to quit bothering Rebecca. Mom looked nothing like her sisters: Aunt Marnie was bulky with short pale hair, Aunt June was petite, her hair almost black, and Mom was in between. Rebecca used to love her aunts’ Tidewater accents, and the way Mom’s old accent would return around her sisters, her vowels stretching out and her voice going up and down the way Aunt June’s and Aunt Marnie’s voices did. Rebecca and Dad liked to tease Mom about her accent, and Mom would say I don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t sound anything like June. Or Marnie. But especially not June.
Nothing Rebecca thought made any sense. She couldn’t think about something that she and Dad liked, or didn’t like, or laughed about, because there was no more Dad. Aunt Marnie had helped her finish the Christmas lights, sort of, not the design she and Dad had shared, but just wrapped around the porch bannisters. It looked a little crazy, actually. Mom hadn’t noticed.
“Here’s some cider, honey,” Aunt June said. “How about some cheese and crackers? You need to eat.”
“I’m okay,” Rebecca said. “Thanks,” she remembered to add.
“Have you ever tried surfing?” Aunt June asked. “The boys—” Rebecca’s cousins “—love to surf. They’ll teach you.” “Okay.” Rebecca wanted to say that it was December and there was snow on the ground, so there was no rea- son to talk about surfing. Instead she said that she’d bodysurfed with her cousins at Virginia Beach plenty of times, but she’d never gotten on a surfboard. As far as she could tell, only boys ever went surfing, and the waves at Virginia Beach were never like the waves on Hawaii Five-0. Mostly the boys just sat on their surfboards gazing out at the hazy- white horizon, and at the coal ships and aircraft carriers chugging toward Norfolk.
“You’ll get your chance this summer—I’ll bet you’ll be a natural,” Aunt June said.
Things would keep happening. Winter would happen. There would be more snow, and skiing at the Ski Bowl. The town pond would open for skating and hockey. The snow would melt and it would be spring and summer again. They’d go to Norfolk for a couple of weeks after school let out and Mom would complain about everything down there, and get into a fight with Aunt June, and they’d all go to the beach, and Dad would get the most sunburned, his ears and the tops of his feet burned pink and peely…
“Let’s just step outside into the fresh air for a minute, sweetheart,” Aunt June said, and Rebecca stood up and followed her aunt to the room with all the coats, one hand over her mouth to hold in the latest sob, even after she and Mom had agreed they were all cried out and others would be crying today, but the two of them were all done with crying. She knew that the fresh air wouldn’t help anything.

Excerpted from The Wrong Kind of Woman by Sarah McCraw Crow © 2020 by Sarah McCraw Crow, used with permission by MIRA Books/HarperCollins.

You can purchase the book here!

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Book Review: Even If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp

Are you ready to play?

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Release Date: September 15, 2020

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Price: $14.99 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

FIVE friends go to a cabin.
FOUR of them are hiding secrets.
THREE years of history bind them.
TWO are doomed from the start.
ONE person wants to end this.
NO ONE IS SAFE.

For five friends, this was supposed to be one last getaway before going their separate ways―a chance to say goodbye to each other, and to the game they’ve been playing for the past three years. But they’re all dealing with their own demons, and they’re all hiding secrets.

Finn doesn’t trust anyone since he was attacked a few months ago. Popular girl Liva saw it happen and did nothing to stop it. Maddy was in an accident that destroyed her sports career. Carter is drowning under the weight of his family’s expectations. Ever wants to keep the game going for as long as they can, at all costs.

When the lines between game and reality start to blend with deadly consequences, it’s a race against time before it’s game over―forever.

Grade: C

Review:

I had written a longer review, but somehow I lost it and now you’re going to receive the condensed version of what I originally wrote.

Pros: Diverse representation. There is a non-binary character, a trans, someone with autism, and two characters that aren’t fully able-bodied. I liked that there was diversity, but it also felt a little forced. A group of misfits play a compelling live-action RPG game.

Cons: This book was touted as a thriller. There are no thrills. Someone is murdered and yet the murderer is so freaking obvious that you have to be kinda slow to NOT catch it. Also, I hated that it took forever to get to an ending after there was an essential ending four chapters prior. I read a previous book from this same author (This Is Where It Ends) and it was full of obsessive thoughts, exaggerated feels, and just drama for the sake of drama.

Overall, this book would be best suited for actual teens, because the overdramatization and overload of angst can only be tolerated by teen readers since they’re going through similar feelings. An adult reader will just roll their eyes and exclaim, “Get over it!” way too often.

The author is a talented writer, but I don’t think I’ll be picking up her next book.

*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: Unboxed by Briana Morgan

unboxed

What would you do for fame?

Release Date: July 25, 2020

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Price: $9.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Greg Zipper is a paranormal vlogger whose livelihood relies on his online popularity. When a fight between him and his girlfriend goes viral for all the wrong reasons, Greg purchases a dark web mystery box in hopes of restoring his audience’s faith in him and hitting one million subscribers. But when Greg opens the box, he gets much more than he bargained for, including a Boxer who’s determined to stop him from taking his loved ones for granted. Now Greg must do all he can to stop the Boxer, or else he’ll lose his livelihood—along with the woman he loves.

Grade: A

Review:

I’ve previously read other works from Briana Morgan, but I strongly believe that she excels as a playwright. Unboxed has everything you’d want a traditional horror movie to have, the anticipation of dread, creepiness, and an overlying lesson meant to be learned the hard way. Although this is a play, I can see it becoming a movie in the vein of many Blumehouse movies (putting this thought out into the universe cause you never know if wishing about it will make it happen!).

First of all, I’m not well-versed in the world of the dark web, but I enjoyed how Zipper explained it in the play to his girlfriend. I enjoyed the fact that the dialogue felt very realistic to how people speak and weren’t clunky or awkward at all.

The premise of the play is that a paranormal vlogger is so obsessed with reaching 1 million subscribers that the decides to film himself unboxing a mystery box bought from the dark web. Everything you can imagine about what could possibly grow wrong does in this play. It was a dark and twisted, but also packed an emotional punch where the protagonist had to learn a very difficult lesson, and would he be willing to lose everything he cared about for fame and fortune?

I enjoyed this very much and I don’t usually reach out to purchase plays, but the premise was intriguing and I wasn’t disappointed in the execution. Pick this up if you want to spend 45 minutes exploring the dark and twisted realms of the supernatural and the underbelly of notoriety.

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Book Review: Blood Victory by Christopher Rice

blood victory

On a cross-country journey to hell, fear is the engine and vengeance is the destination.

Release Date: August 18, 2020

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Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Price: $14.99 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

As the test subject of an experimental drug, Charlotte Rowe was infused with extraordinary powers. As the secret weapon of a mysterious consortium, she baits evil predators and stops them in their tracks. But it takes more than fear to trigger what’s coursing through Charlotte’s blood. She needs to be terrorized. Serial killer Cyrus Mattingly is up to the task.

Cyrus is a long-haul truck driver, and his cargo bay is a gallery of horrors on wheels. To stop his bloodshed, Charlotte will become his next victim, reining in her powers so she can face each of his evils in turn.

As much as they know about Cyrus—his method of selecting victims, his prolonged rituals—there is something they don’t. What happens on the dark and lonely highways is only the journey. It’s the destination that’s truly depraved. Before she can unleash vengeance on a scale this killer has never seen, Charlotte and her team will have to go the distance into hell.

Grade: A-

Review:

Blood Victory is the third book in the Burning Girl series and by far my favourite of the series. We follow the same cast of characters that we’ve been introduced to from the very beginning, Charley the only woman who can withhold a strong drug that enables her to have superhuman strength for 3 hours, in which she uses those powers to take down serial killers, since her own mother had been a victim of a serial killer couple, Luke, Charley’s ex-high school bully turned boyfriend who now helps her on her missions to take down the serial killers, Cole, an uber-rich guy who pays for Charley’s missions, and Noah the mad scientist that discovered the drug that enables Charley to have extraordinary strength.

This third installment in the series is both very compelling and fast-paced. I was intrigued by the serial killers introduced in this book as opposed to the past ones, and I felt like our characters were a bit more fleshed out than in the previous books. I enjoyed being on the mission with Charley and wondering if she’d be able to take down the serial killers since she had so much going against her (I can’t say what, no spoilers!).

Initially, I thought this series was going to be a trilogy, but by the way it ended, I have a feeling there are going to be more Burning Girl series books, and I’m not complaining!

I highly recommend this if you’re into fast-paced action thrillers, this is Mission Impossible meets The Hulk with a dash of Silence of the Lambs. You won’t be disappointed!

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

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