Book Review: Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Some ghosts simply cannot rest….

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Release Date: October 9, 2021

Publisher: Tor Nightfire

Price: $19.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.

It’s the perfect venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends, brought back together to celebrate a wedding.

A night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare as secrets get dragged out and relationships are tested.

But the house has secrets too. Lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.

And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

Effortlessly taking the classic haunted house story and turning it on its head, Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a sharp and devastating exploration of grief, the parasitic nature of relationships, and the consequences of our actions.

Grade: C-

Review:

I was truly anticipating this novella sine it has everything that I simply adore in horror, creepy vengeful ghosts, characters that love the macabre, and it was set in Japan, one of my fave countries. The premise of the novella was also intriguing, a girl Cat, reunites with her friends for a wedding that will take place in a haunted Heian-era mansion. And let’s not forget that with such an incredibly frightening book cover, who wouldn’t be expecting to be scared shitless, right?

Now, my issue with the novella is the excessive purple prose that was interjected throughout the whole novella. Some of the writing was beautiful, but some of it was simply too over the top that a lot of times I had to reread to know exactly what was going on, and therein lies the issue, in a horror novella you want the action to be evident, not up to interpretation!

My second issue with the novella was that all of the characters seemed to have had some past romantic connections to one another, and while that isn’t unusual is a group of young friends, it seemed really odd that every single dude had slept with one girl and so everyone had underlying resentment towards one another.

The ending was very B-rated horror movie and maybe I’d enjoy this novella more if it had been a B-rated horror movie (because I enjoy those as mindless entertainment) but what works as a bad horror movie usually doesn’t work for a book and that’s why I couldn’t enjoy it.

I know many reviewers DID enjoy this book and I’m not discouraging others from checking it out, but I must be honest about how I felt about it and for me it’s a pass.

*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: Don’t Tell A Soul by Kirsten Miller

People say the house is cursed.
It preys on the weakest, and young women are its favorite victims.
In Louth, they’re called the Dead Girls.

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Release Date: January 26, 2021

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $17.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

All Bram wanted was to disappear–from her old life, her family’s past, and from the scandal that continues to haunt her. The only place left to go is Louth, the tiny town on the Hudson River where her uncle, James, has been renovating an old mansion.

But James is haunted by his own ghosts. Months earlier, his beloved wife died in a fire that people say was set by her daughter. The tragedy left James a shell of the man Bram knew–and destroyed half the house he’d so lovingly restored.

The manor is creepy, and so are the locals. The people of Louth don’t want outsiders like Bram in their town, and with each passing day she’s discovering that the rumors they spread are just as disturbing as the secrets they hide. Most frightening of all are the legends they tell about the Dead Girls. Girls whose lives were cut short in the very house Bram now calls home.

The terrifying reality is that the Dead Girls may have never left the manor. And if Bram looks too hard into the town’s haunted past, she might not either.

Grade: A-

Review:

I’ll be honest, I was tempted to DNF this book because it was sort of slow moving and it wasn’t really compelling until 40% in the book and then BAM did the novel really shift its gears and started to become unputdownable! I love the book Rebecca and this book was advertised as a retelling of sorts loaded with snowy creepiness and mystery. I must say that I started to like the protagonist Bram way better once we got a chance to really know her better. I really couldn’t tell where the story was going and that’s good! I like the element of surprise and figuring things out alongside the protagonist.

I love that we as readers, just like the protagonist, are wary of all the characters we encounter, because it gives you this feeling that nothing is sacred and you can’t trust anyone. I must say that I really enjoyed this book a lot and am glad that I went against my initial feelings to put it down, and decided to give it a chance.

This book is ideal for readers who love twisty thriller/mysteries or Gothic influenced thrillers with unrealible side characters.

*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: Tender is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica

Working at the local processing plant, Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans—though no one calls them that anymore.

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Release Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher: Scribner

Price: $14.40 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.

Then one day he’s given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he’s aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost—and what might still be saved.

Grade: A-

Review:

This book had Under the Skin vibes, and that was exactly why I chose to read it. If you can’t handle brutal acts of violence, then this book won’t be for you. But if you love dystopian societies then you may want to check this one out. We’re introduced to Marcos, who’s in the business of slaughtering humans ever since a virus has contaminated all the animals and can no longer provide humans the protein they once did. In fact, in this new world, all animals have been destroyed, and the world is silent. Marcos is still reeling from his son’s death, and only continues to work at the slaughterhouse because it’s what he’s best at, and needs the money to keep his dad who’s afflicted with dementia in a retirement home. But, he’s never consumed the new “special meat” himself. In fact, when he’s gifted a female head (as humans that are raised to be livestock are called), he begins to see her humanity.

This book can be triggering for some people (especially if you hate violence directed towards animals and can’t stomach descriptions of people eating humans). I enjoyed the book (although enjoyed probably isn’t the right term cause that’s going to make me sound like a sociopath), but I did like that the author pushed boundaries and made you question what exactly makes us decide that certain animals are deemed worthy of consuming and which ones are considered worth saving.

This is a brutal book, read it if you can deal with violence and triggering events, or you enjoyed Under the Skin.

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

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Book Review: Those Who Prey by Jennifer Moffett

Be careful of who you befriend….

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Release Date: November 10, 2020

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Price: $16.39 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

College life isn’t what Emily expected. She expected to spend freshman year strolling through the ivy-covered campus with new friends, finally feeling like she belonged. Instead, she walks the campus alone, still not having found her place or her people so far away from home. But then the Kingdom finds her.

The Kingdom, an exclusive on-campus group, offers everything Emily expected out of college and more: acceptance, friends, a potential boyfriend, and a chance to spend the summer on a mission trip to Italy. But the trip is not what she thought it would be. Emily and the others are stripped of their passports and money. They’re cut off from their families back home. The Kingdom’s practices become increasingly manipulative and dangerous…

And someone ends up dead.

Grade: B-

Review:

The first half of the novel had me really captivated and interested in wanting to know exactly how someone gets sucked into a cult without knowing it until it’s too late. Emily is lonely, and it isn’t until she meets members of the Kingdom, does she finally feels like she belongs. I know a lot of people mention the fact that the other half of the book takes place in Italy as being interesting, but honestly, the characters barely come into contact with any Italians and stay cooped up in an old villa the whole time, that they might as well have been anywhere in the world, the location didn’t really matter.

Now, for the cult leader, we only got to meet him once and we don’t know much about him at all. In fact, we don’t even know if he’s the one spinning the lies or if it’s his followers as we never see him again. Secondly, two people end up dead in this novel and we don’t ever get full closure about them as their deaths are classified as accidental (yet the circumstances are so fishy that the reader knows it was murder but we can only suspect who it is but never get a definite answer).

The last portion of the book was the least interesting to me. Without the cult and the cult members with her, Emily was a dull character.

I do appreciate the book for being a cautionary message to teenagers facing living alone for the very first time and trying to fit in and thus should be wary of the people they befriend. I remember seeing a lot of Christian based groups in college trying to recruit more members (and maybe some of these groups are cults) but I never got involved as I try to steer clear of people who seem unhinged when it comes to religion.

I do recommend the book and maybe you may enjoy it more than I did, but I was left with a bitter taste since none of my questions never got answered and I don’t know if that was due to the author trying to keep it a mystery or if was due to lazy writing. Either way, it didn’t bond well with me.

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

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Book Review: The Remaking by Clay Chapman

Inspired by a true story, this supernatural thriller for fans of horror and true crime follows a tale as it evolves every twenty years—with terrifying results.

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Release Date: September 15, 2020

Publisher: Quirk Books

Price: $9.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Ella Louise has lived in the woods surrounding Pilot’s Creek, Virginia, for nearly a decade. Publicly, she and her daughter, Jessica, are shunned by her upper-crust family and the local residents. Privately, desperate characters visit her apothecary for a cure to what ails them—until Ella Louise is blamed for the death of a prominent customer. Accused of witchcraft, Ella Louise and Jessica are burned at the stake in the middle of the night. Ella Louise’s burial site is never found, but the little girl has the most famous grave in the South: a steel-reinforced coffin surrounded by a fence of interconnected white crosses.

Their story will take the shape of an urban legend as it’s told around a campfire by a man forever marked by his childhood encounters with Jessica. Decades later, a boy at that campfire will cast Amber Pendleton as Jessica in a ’70s horror movie inspired by the Witch Girl of Pilot’s Creek. Amber’s experiences on that set and its meta-remake in the ’90s will ripple through pop culture, ruining her life and career after she becomes the target of a witch hunt.

Amber’s best chance to break the cycle of horror comes when a true-crime investigator tracks her down to interview her for his popular podcast. But will this final act of storytelling redeem her—or will it bring the story full circle, ready to be told once again? And again. And again . . .

Grade: B

Review:

The novel starts off with an exciting premise, two witches, a mother and a daughter duo are burned after a herbal remedy gone wrong and endangers the life of one of the villagers. Now, the town of Pilot’s Creek, Virginia is haunted by the ghosts of these two witches. The novel begins to be very repetitive when it introduces us to Amber Pendleton, the young girl that is going to play Jessica Ford’s ghost in the making of the horror movie, Don’t Tread on Jessica’s Grave. Initially, I found the repetition annoying, but once I realized that the author was purposely using repetition as a means to express the spiraled cycle that began with the witches and continues with Amber even as an adult, it made artistically sense and I wasn’t as annoyed by it. The author was trying to create the feeling of an ouroboros with the cycle going on and on, without a break.

I really enjoyed the first few chapters when we get to know Ella Louise Ford and Jessica Ford, the two witches. I love urban legends, so a town that is haunted by this legend (whether it’s true or not) was really fascinating. I also enjoyed the social commentary the author made about child stars and actresses in horror films.

Overall, this was a spirally horrific ride that’s just what anyone needs right now for the Halloween season.

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

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Book Review: Even If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp

Are you ready to play?

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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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Book Review: Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards

fivetotal

She thought being stranded was the worst thing that could happen. She was wrong.

Release Date: October 6, 2020

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Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Price: $10.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Mira needs to get home for the holidays. Badly. But when an incoming blizzard results in a canceled layover, it looks like Mira might get stuck at the Philadelphia airport indefinitely.

And then Harper, Mira’s glamorous seatmate from her initial flight, comes to the rescue. Harper and her three friends are renting a car, and they can drop Mira off on the way home. But as their trip begins, Mira discovers her fellow travelers aren’t friends like she thought—they’re total strangers. And every one of them seems to be hiding something dangerous.

Soon, Mira is in a panic. The roads have gone from slippery to terrifying. People’s belongings are mysteriously disappearing. Someone in the car is clearly lying…and Mira beings to suspect that one of them is sabotaging the trip. If she wants to make it home alive, she’ll need to uncover the truth about these strangers before this nightmare drive turns fatal.

Grade: B-

Review:

Fast-paced is the saving grace for this novel. But let me backtrack a moment. I hate snow. So the idea of being stuck in a car with four other strangers during a snowstorm feels like my idea of hell. And since I find snow to verge more on the creepy than beautiful (after all, notice how bright blood looks in the snow!), I was eager to read this book. The fact that the novel mostly takes place within the confines of the car makes for some masterful claustrophobia. Not to mention the fact that if it weren’t for it being the dead of winter, any of these characters could’ve just taken their changes on walking to the nearest house instead of staying inside a car where they each were becoming suspicious of the other, especially when things start to go missing.

If you love movies along the lines of I Know What You Did Last Summer and the hit TV series YOU, then you will love this fast-paced novel where not only does the protagonist Mira, have to contend with dire weather and a creepy drifter than continually see at all their rest stops, but also one of the four in the car with her has been stalking her for a year. All those things line up to create one hell of a thrill ride.

I didn’t enjoy any of the five characters in the novel and sometimes I was tired of Mira because while yes she was in a car with four strangers, a lot of her assumptions towards one character seemed plain our judgmental. And that she automatically assumes that her stalker is the one person she has been judgmental about during the whole trip is just plain annoying. Sure, the character in question wasn’t the best person out there but he wasn’t the worst either.

I recommend this book if you love YA novels that read like a Blumehouse horror. If they hurry up and turn this book into a movie, Lucy Hale could still pull off playing high school senior, Mira.

*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: 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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