Book Review: Family of Liars by E. Lockhart

Telling this story will be painful…..

PLOT SUMMARY

A windswept private island off the coast of Massachusetts. 
A hungry ocean, churning with secrets and sorrow.
A fiery, addicted heiress. An irresistible, unpredictable boy. 
A summer of unforgivable betrayal and terrible mistakes.
 
Welcome back to the Sinclair family. 
They were always liars.

GRADE: A-

REVIEW

We Were Liars – a book published in 2014 became a TikTok phenomenon in 2020, shooting it up to the bestseller’s lists. Since I received an ARC of the prequel – I ended up reading We Were Liars in a day, after the author warned that the prequel contained a major spoiler for book one. Now, I breathlessly tread through book one – We Were Liars. The mystery, the allure of the Sinclairs – it all aided in me needing to know answers right away. The prequel is set in the 80s and we meet the aunts as teens.

Although this book had more twists and secrets than the first one, I somehow wasn’t as compelled to rush read – but I still enjoyed the journey and spending time with the very wealthy but dysfunctional family Sinclair. I’d love to see another book but from another Sinclair, Yardley, the cousin whose family eventually falls out of touch with the rest of the Sinclairs in the first book.

If you loved We Were Liars, then you’re going to love Family of Liars. It has the same type of writing style and mystery and it’s basically just a very fun, dark time.

*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: This Is Not The Real World by Anna Carey

The nineties have never been so dark…..

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Release Date: May 24, 2022

Publisher: Quirkbooks

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

Months after Jess escaped from the set of Stuck in the ’90s, the nostalgic reality show she believed was her real life, the teen star is getting to know the outside world for the first time. But she can’t outrun her fictional life forever—or the media empire that owns it.

After Like-Life Productions tracks her down and forces her boyfriend to return to the show, Jess teams up with an underground network fighting to uncover Like-Life’s schemes. To expose the truth, Jess must go back to the set and take Like-Life down from the inside . . . but getting revenge might just cost her everything.

GRADE: B

REVIEW:

This is book two of a duology, the first being This Is Not The Jess Show, which was a mix of The Truman Show but with a 90’s spin on it. Our protagonist, Jess Flynn finds out that her whole life was recorded for entertainment purposes and while she was living on a set thinking it was 1998, it was actually 2035 in the real world.

Book two sees Jess return to the set she had escaped from as a means to oust the producers of doing nefarious things for the world to see. While this book was packed with action, and perhaps had more of a thriller slant to it, it somehow lacked in what made book one memorable. I loved book one because it was steeped in 90’s nostalgia, and while this book had some of it, the focus was more on trying to destroy the fictional town of Swinkley and bring down the organization behind it.

It’s still a fun read, and you definitely have to read book one in order to read this book. I recommend this book if you love the 90’s, the concept of The Truman Show and if you like unapologetic badass female protagonist because Jess gets even grittier than she did in the first book and I loved to see her take control of her life and narrative.

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

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Book Review: Hide by Kiersten White

Come out, come out, wherever you are….

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Release Date: May 24, 2022

Publisher: Del Rey

Price: $27 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

The challenge: Spend a week hiding in an abandoned amusement park and don’t get caught.

The prize: enough money to change everything.

Even though everyone is desperate to win—to seize a dream future or escape a haunting past—Mack is sure she can beat her competitors. All she has to do is hide, and she’s an expert at that.

It’s the reason she’s alive and her family isn’t.

But as the people around her begin disappearing one by one, Mack realizes that this competition is even more sinister than she imagined, and that together might be the only way to survive.

Fourteen competitors. Seven days. Everywhere to hide but nowhere to run.

GRADE: C

REVIEW:

I want to premise this with the fact that I have a certain fascination for abandoned amusement parks. I think there’s something really creepy about a place that used to bring so much joy, and now evokes only dread (at least I think it does). This is what made me hit request super fast. Then when I began reading it I realized that I’ve read this author before, she has written The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and although I loved the premise of that novel, I ultimately didn’t enjoy the journey.

The same can be said of this novel. I LOVE the premise of this novel: 14 contestants play hide and seek for a week in an abandoned amusement park and the winner gets $50,000 (now I don’t know why the characters in the novel thought you could change your life with that amount because for some that was the amount of money they owed in student debt, I personally would’ve liked to have seen higher prize money in order to understand why many people stuck it out as long as they did, even after things started to get weird).

What I didn’t love about this novel was how the omniscient POV was handled. I love multiple POVs but not when the POV changes within the same paragraph! It was very jarring at times and I had to go back and try to figure out which POV I was in.

Another downside was that the protagonist Mack had an interesting background, but other than that she wasn’t that interesting as a person, nor did I care much about her surviving or not. I cared more about some of the side characters than Mack. I’ll grant that the big reveal was cool, but up to that point, it was somewhat slow and it somehow got even slower towards the end. I also feel like the end is set up for a possible sequel, however, I don’t know if I’d be interested to read it.

Overall, fun premise, sadly it lacks in the execution, and although it’s been promoted as an adult horror, it read more like a YA (not necessarily a bad thing but most adults could be turned off).

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

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Book Review: My Heart Is A Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

“Some girls just don’t know how to die….”

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Release Date: August 31, 2021

Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press

Price: $17.29 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.

Grade: A+

Review:

The book opens with a very dark and creepy prologue – but I’ll admit that I wasn’t crazy about the two foreign tourists and was happy to meet the actual protagonist, Jade Daniels. Now Jade is everything a horror lover as myself loves, in fact had we been in high school together we would’ve had slasher sleepover parties. Jade is cool in the way that girls that love gore are – meaning her styling choices are questionable, her social skills nonexistent except when she’s spouting slasher speak and slasher trivia – and honestly I ADORE HER FOR IT.

We follow Jade – a recent high school graduate as she slowly begins to believe that a slasher film is unfolding in her very town. This convinces her to see beautiful rich girl Letha Mondragon as a potential final girl – and ultimate savior. For a slasher fan as myself I reveled in the slasher speak and pop culture references. I know many have mentioned this in other reviews, but the only fault this novel has is that it’s a slow burn.

Honestly, if Jade weren’t such a compelling character I don’t know if I would’ve enjoyed the journey so much but Jade is a total badass and I know that Jones’ delivers when it comes to horror and gore – so I patiently waited for the bloodbath. To say that Jones’ doesn’t disappoint is an understatement – if this were a movie, Jones’ budget would’ve blown just on the fake blood expense because there is SO MUCH OF IT & I AM HERE FOR IT. I mean, I directed a short where we used almost ten gallons of corn syrup, because I literally wanted to be drenched in it. And by the time you’re finished reading the gory, batshit crazy final pages you’re going to feel like you just waded in ten gallons of blood too.

Don’t walk but RUN to buy this book if you’re a fan of all 70’s & 80’s slasher flicks, cause you will LOVE this. Also, have I mentioned how awesomely badass Jade is? Go on, you know you want to get to know her! This book is fucking brutal and a wild ride.

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

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Book Review: Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman

Inspired by the McMartin preschool trials and the Satanic Panic of the ‘80s, the critically acclaimed author of The Remaking delivers another pulse pounding, true-crime-based horror novel.

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Release Date: April 6, 2021

Publisher: Quirk Books

Price: $18.30 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Richard doesn’t have a past. For him, there is only the present: a new marriage to Tamara, a first chance at fatherhood to her son Elijah, and a quiet but pleasant life as an art teacher at Elijah’s elementary school in Danvers, Virginia. Then the body of a rabbit, ritualistically murdered, appears on the school grounds with a birthday card for Richard tucked beneath it. Richard doesn’t have a birthday—but Sean does . . .

Sean is a five-year-old boy who has just moved to Greenfield, Virginia, with his mother. Like most mothers of the 1980s, she’s worried about bills, childcare, putting food on the table . . . and an encroaching threat to American life that can take the face of anyone: a politician, a friendly neighbor, or even a teacher. When Sean’s school sends a letter to the parents revealing that Sean’s favorite teacher is under investigation, a white lie from Sean lights a fire that engulfs the entire nation—and Sean and his mother are left holding the match.

Now, thirty years later, someone is here to remind Richard that they remember what Sean did. And though Sean doesn’t exist anymore, someone needs to pay the price for his lies.

Grade: B

Review:

This is my second sampling of Clay’s writing and I must say that I really enjoy how strong his novels begin. This novel is steeped in reality as it’s based off of the 80’s Satanic Panic that made people suspect of anyone in getting caught up with witchcraft. In the 80’s a California preschool was in the news for the teachers were accused of being Satanists. Obviously, it all ended up being one big lie, and this book explores what happens when a little boy delivers a lie that changes not only his life but that of many people. Sean is five years old when he accuses his kindergarten teacher of worshiping the devil. Years later, we see how that lie comes back to haunt him.

Some parts of the book were creepy (I really enjoyed the Gray Boy) and some of them were kinda slow. I liked how it explored the Satanic Panic craze as I was too little to recall any of it when it was happening, not to mention that since my parents weren’t the crazy types, they never thought that Cabbage Patch Kids or The Smurfs were “Satanic.”

I did enjoy the dual narratives between Sean in 1983 and Richard in 2013 as it amped up the mystery of what happened and trying to figure out what exactly what went on. The imagery was dark and creepy and I was compelled to keep on reading as more and more of the mystery began to unravel. I liked how the book ended but it felt like the novel began to drag towards the end, so I would’ve preferred a more tightened end, but I did like how we were left with a question rather than all answers.

*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: 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: 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: Teen Killers Club by Lily Sparks

One goal, get out alive.

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Release Date: November 10, 2020

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Signal Deere has raised eyebrows for years as an unhappy Goth misfit from the trailer park. When she’s convicted of her best friend Rose’s brutal murder, she’s designated a Class A–the most dangerous and manipulative criminal profile.

To avoid prison, Signal signs on for a secret program for 18-and-under Class As and is whisked off to an abandoned sleep-away camp, where she and seven bunkmates will train as assassins. Yet even in the Teen Killers Club, Signal doesn’t fit in. She’s squeamish around blood. She’s kind and empathetic. And her optimistic attitude is threatening to turn a group of ragtag maniacs into a team of close-knit friends.

Maybe that’s because Signal’s not really a killer. She was framed for Rose’s murder and only joined the program to escape, track down Rose’s real killer, and clear her name. But Signal never planned on the sinister technologies that keep the campers confined. She never planned on the mysterious man in the woods determined to pick them off one by one. And she certainly never planned on falling in love.

Signal’s strategy is coming apart at the seams as the true killer prepares to strike again in Teen Killers Club.

Grade: A-

Review:

This YA was unique, as it was about a group of teen killers that are training to become assassins. The only caveat? Our protagonist Signal Deere didn’t kill her best friend, although she was framed for her murder. She’s innocent. The group is taken to a camp where they must train to take out other murderers, and the cast of characters we get are all uniquely different from one another. I really enjoyed the fast neck break pace, there was never a dull moment! Yes, the book is a little campy but once I found out that the author had penned the script for the new Heathers TV show (that sadly never aired) it all made sense. If you can simply sit back and enjoy the ride, then you’ll find this book entertaining, if you happen to nit-pick about how credible it could all be, then you Downer Debbie are gonna be sourly disappointed! The murder mystery was fun and the twist was something I didn’t suspect and it actually worked (I despise twists that just come out of the left-wing with no context). And for being someone that always complains about how books end, this one actually ended with a bang!

I couldn’t recommend this book enough if you love thrillers with a satirical spin.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Crooked Lane 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: 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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