Amy Cole is Zen as F*ck by Elizabeth McGivern

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I was part of a blog tour for Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind a few months ago, and when the author Elizabeth McGivern reached out to me asking if I wanted to review the new, second installment, I jumped at the chance! I absolutely loved the first Amy Cole book, and I couldn't wait to have more of Amy's chaos in my life.

In Amy Cole is Zen as F*ck, Amy has finally gotten herself together. She is wrapping up therapy and ready to tackle her new life head on. Until she hits someone with her car. But in true Amy fashion, things can't be wrapped up neatly after an incident. Now Amy's best friend Elle has decided to marry the same man that Amy hit, who was a complete stranger a few days earlier. Now the calm and stress-free life Amy envisioned seems virtually unreachable, as she has to grapple with the chaos surrounding her.

This book ALMOST lived up to its predecessor. It definitely made me laugh out loud, and was nearly as zany as the first. I loved all the new drama added this time, and seeing Amy grow to realize that life isn't all about her. I also loved that Elle had a bigger role in this story. I'm happy that Amy and Elle have created their own small business, and that they're still tied to Joseph and his coffee shop. This one definitely took a dark turn at the end, as well as added a big surprise, so it will be interesting to see how Amy handles those events in the next book.

It just wasn't quite as good as the first book, which is why I had to take off a star for this one.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to the author, Elizabeth McGivern, for a digital copy of Amy Cole is Zen as F*ck! This second installment of the Amy Cole series is out now!

Severance by Ling Ma

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I recently resubscribed to Book of the Month, and this was my December pick. Severance by Ling Ma promised plagues and zombies, and a post-apocalyptic New York City. While it did deliver on those promises, it did not deliver in the way that I had hoped.

Candace lives in New York City, and works at a company who outsources the publishing of books. When a major pandemic hits, people are left as shells of their former selves, technically alive but forced to repeat the mundane tasks in their lives over and over again in a zombie state. Candace escapes New York after being found by a group of survivors, and embarks on a journey with them to a promised safe-house facility.

I just could not get behind this story. It was told in alternating chapters of before the plague and after, and I thought most of the before parts were unnecessary and didn't add anything to the story. I thought Candace was boring, and I didn't care what happened to her character. So many of the plot elements didn't make sense with what had been established already, and lots of questions were left unanswered. I also hated the way it ended.

When I saw this was a post-apocalyptic novel with zombies caused by a plague, I was excited, but this story just left me bored. The zombies aren't scary. There are no real high-stakes. It had all the bad parts of The Walking Dead with none of the excitement. I did enjoy the pieces about the NY Ghost blog, and the descriptions of desolate New York were good.

I found myself barely skimming towards the end just to get through it. Maybe there was a deeper meaning here that I just missed. All I know is I wanted an exciting zombie story and did not get it.

Overall Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

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Like I said in my last post, my disdain for holiday reads has completely vanished this year, so I had to pick up a few new books to get into the spirit of the season. The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand was one of them. This YA fiction is a modern twist on the classic story of A Christmas Carol. 

Holly Chase is not a nice girl. When she is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve who beg her to change her ways, Holly laughs it off and refuses. Then she dies. At least, she thinks she does.

When she wakes up, trapped somewhere between dead and alive, she is the newest employee of the top-secret company Project Scrooge, the same organization who tried to save her before her death. Now she has to work with them year after year as the Ghost of Christmas Past to help save each year's chosen Scrooge from the same fate that Holly endured.

This book was really cute, and had some unexpected twists as well! I liked how this really didn't end up being centered around romance or a relationship (although parts of it do lend itself to that).  I was very satisfied with the ending. It reminded me a lot of that really obscure movie from ABC, Teen Spirit. It was a little slow in parts, but I really liked all the characters. I mean come on, they all had nicknames based on Dickens' stories! 

This story definitely has the perfect Christmas message, and would be enjoyable for both teens and adults (even if you don't commonly read YA!). I can see this being a read that I revisit each holiday season.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright

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Aside from Halloween, I don't typically buy into holiday books. But at the last minute this year, I decided to participate in the Tistheseasonathon and just so happened to have the perfect book for it. The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright had been sent to me unsolicited by Howard Books and since, like I said, holiday books aren't normally my thing, I had just put it to the side after I received it. Since it fits the readathon theme, I grabbed it on a whim and ended up really enjoying it! In fact, I placed an order for 5 more Christmas books after reading this, so I guess my disdain for holiday reads is gone thanks to this book!

The White Christmas Inn follows a cast of multiple characters who end up getting stranded in a quaint bed and breakfast over Christmas due to a bad snow storm. During their time at the inn, they bond with one another and realize that the problems each of them had in their lives might not be so bad after all.

The chapters were short, and transitioned seamlessly from one character to the next. It was a warm and fuzzy, clean, feel good story appropriate for any age. 

The one thing I didn't like about this book is that I felt that all the characters had the same voice. They all kept calling each other honey, and without being told, it was hard sometimes to determine who exactly was speaking.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Howard Books for sending me a copy of this read! The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright is out now!

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

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YALL THIS BOOK BLEW ME OUT OF THE WATER. That's all there is to it. I saw like 20 amazing reviews of this book in the span of a week or so and knew I had to pick it up. Those reviews were not wrong. Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand is a supernatural YA horror/thriller that actually managed to give me nightmares. 

This story follows three teen girls who live on Sawkill Ridge: Marian, the new girl who has just lost her father; Zoey, the police chief's daughter who is pretty much an outcast; and Val, the disgustingly rich popular girl who tends to run the show. Sawkill has a history of girls going missing, and Marian's sister Charlotte becomes the newest girl to disappear. Zoey is hellbent on figuring out what happened, as her best friend Thora went missing not too long before Charlotte did. And Val might be more involved in the disappearances than she wants anyone to know.

This book was amazingly atmospheric, with a setting that took on a persona of its own. There were monsters and magic, feminism and friendships. The lesbian and asexual representations were amazing, and done in such a way that made them just a normal part of everyday life. This book is full of kick-ass girls taking control of their own destinies and fighting against the way things have always been. 

I almost got really mad at the ending, but it turned itself around just in the nick of time! I will completely lose it if this becomes a movie, because I can just see it being so good!

Definitely read this. Just maybe not late at night before bed.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

This Cruel Design by Emily Suvada

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Last week, I reviewed the fantastic YA sci-fi, This Mortal Coil. This Cruel Design by Emily Suvada is its sequel. Like my other sequel reviews, this may contain a few spoilers for the first book in the series so consider yourself warned.

In This Cruel Design, the Hydra virus has mutated, no longer responding to the vaccine that Cat fought so hard to figure out. And worse, the virus has now infected someone close to her. It's spreading more quickly and differently than before, leaving the clock ticking on finding a patch for the vaccine. On top of all this, Cat is still trying to defeat her evil genius father. This leads the gang to Entropia-a city of genehackers that deals completely in code-in order to solicit help. Will they find the assistance they are looking for and stop the Hydra virus? And what other things might Cat uncover in the process?

There were a few twists in this book that completely blew me away! Also I loved the tie in of the birds from the first book. They were mentioned so much in This Mortal Coil and now you get to see why! The new characters introduced in this installment were great additions to the cast, and I really enjoyed getting to see some plot set in the city of Entropia.

There were a few times this book got to be a little confusing. There was definitely a lot to absorb and you must pay very close attention or you could miss an important detail that may come into play later. But it's this elaborate world building and complex plot that really gives this book that extra something.

There will be another book in this series, and I can't wait to see what Suvada has in store for us!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

A big thanks to Simon Pulse for sending over a finished copy of both This Cruel Design and the first book, This Mortal Coil! Both books are out now!

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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I reviewed Riley Sager's book Final Girls a while back, and absolutely loved it. I knew I had to give this one a shot and really hoped it would deliver as well as Final Girls did. Fortunately, The Last Time I Lied lived up to all my expectations! I do want to place trigger warnings on this book for drowning and mental illness.

This story follows Emma, whose three cabin mates mysteriously disappeared without a trace during her first summer at Camp Nightingale. The camp was shuttered, and the girls were never found. Now, years later, Emma is headed back to Camp Nightingale as an adult, at the request of its wealthy owner. Emma hopes returning will give her closure, and hopefully uncover some answers to what happened to Vivian, Natalie, and Allison all those years ago. But what answers could she possibly find that the police could not? And what are these answers going to cost her?

This had a very similar vibe to Final Girls, with the plot focused heavily on something that happened in the woods, as well as the main character seeking closure after a traumatic incident. It was fast-paced and read extremely quickly. I really enjoyed all the characters, and thought the twists and turns of the plot were all interwoven beautifully. This story was part teen movie, part urban legend, part treasure hunt, and part mystery all wrapped into one.

I loved that it was told through both flashbacks and present day scenes, and I really enjoyed getting to know Emma's cabin mates through those flashbacks. I also appreciated how Emma coped with her trauma, by hiding the missing girls in her now-famous artwork. 

I did think there were a few unnecessary elements, but nothing that distracted from the story in a major way. Overall I really enjoyed this book, and I can't wait for Sager's next book, Lock Every Door, which comes out this coming summer!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I have just been itching for a good sci-fi and This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada sure did deliver! In this dystopian society, a fast-spreading new virus called Hydra has split the world in two: those hiding out in bunkers and those trying to still survive out in the world. Catarina Agatta is one of the latter. 

Having been abandoned when her father, a famous geneticist, was captured by the shady organization Cartaxus, Cat has been doing everything she has to in order to survive, including trying to hack Cartaxus systems and eating human flesh to remain immune to the Hydra virus. But when a Cartaxus agent shows up saying that Cat's father is dead, and he has left a message requesting her help with a Hydra vaccine, Cat has to go against all that she has believed about the evil Cartaxus to try to save the human race.

This world was just incredible. The gene manipulation, the apocalyptic plague that literally makes people explode, and just the technology in general were all amazing. There were some crazy plot twists that I absolutely loved, and in no place did this book get slow or drag whatsoever. The characters were very likable and it was so easy to visualize everything taking place. 

If you liked The Hunger Games, Zombieland, or any book about having to survive in a dystopian world or dealing with a terrifying virus epidemic, this read is definitely for you!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

A big thanks to Simon Pulse for sending over a finished copy of both This Mortal Coil and its sequel, This Cruel Design! Both books are out now!

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

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Hearts Unbroken, an own voices YA contemporary by Cynthia Leitich Smith, follows Louise Wolfe, a Native teen navigating the difficult worlds of high school and racism. When her boyfriend makes some inappropriate remarks about Native people, she dumps him through email and moves on with her life. But when inclusion casting for the upcoming school musical The Wizard of Oz stirs up trouble, Louise realizes that racism and hatred go much further in the community than just her ex-boyfriend.

I really wanted to love this book. I think it brings to light a lot of issues and shows how we can all be more educated and do better regarding stereotypes and cultural appropriation (a specific instance mentioned is people dressing up like Native Americans for Halloween). I just think it could have been done better. 

This book tried to tackle so much: racism, cultural appropriation, slut shaming and sexism, bullying, the list goes on. I think the overall message was lost because the author tried to address so much. There were also an insane amount of side characters and subplots. The story often got confusing when the author would cut off a chapter at an awkward place then start the next chapter with something completely unrelated.

I liked the story fine, and enjoyed the main plot overall. This book read extremely quickly, which was good because I'm not sure how much longer I could have handled the awkward, jerky chapter transitions. Even though there were a lot of errors in execution, this book is an important one in the issues it addresses, which is why I'm still giving it a middle of the road rating.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

A big thanks to Candlewick Press for an ARC of this read! Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith is out now!

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

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I was in desperate need of a short, fluffy read, and I thought The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle would be the perfect answer. This was a Book of the Month pick for me a few months back, and the gorgeous yellow cover drew me right to it. Well, fluffy, this coming of age contemporary was not. But I did really enjoy it!

You know the premise. If you could have dinner with any 5 people, living or dead, who would they be? But Sabrina never expects to actually get to have that dinner. Yet on her thirtieth birthday, she walks into the restaurant and there they all are: Audrey Hepburn, her estranged father, her best friend, her favorite college professor, and her ex. Throughout the course of the evening, Sabrina learns and laughs with this unexpected group, as well as reminisces on times both good and bad, and tries to pinpoint what went wrong with the main relationships in her life.

I was not expecting this book to get to my emotions as much as it did. Whether it was the relationship with her estranged father, drifting apart from her best friend, or trying so hard to make a doomed romantic relationship work, I really felt for Sabrina. I saw her grow and mature a lot throughout the dinner, and enjoying seeing how she interacted with and learned from each guest.

This read super quickly, so it was definitely the short read I was looking for. It was just a little more emotional than I was expecting! I liked how it alternated between the dinner scenes themselves (prefaced by times so you knew how much time was left in the night before the group had to disband) and flashbacks to different parts of Sabrina's life.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

As a side note, I think my 5 people would be Walt Disney, Stevie Nicks, Princess Diana, my late grandfather, and Steve Irwin.

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Lost Soul, Be At Peace by Maggie Thrash

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This is the first graphic novel ARC I've ever received, and the black and white threw me a little bit. I had to keep reminding myself that the final version would be in color, and keep trying to imagine what the color palette would be. Lost Soul, Be At Peace by Maggie Thrash is a graphic novel that acts as a pseudo-memoir and follows Maggie as the main character. When Maggie's cat Tommi goes missing in their own home, Maggie goes in search of her, only to find a ghost boy instead. Who is he, and what does he want? 

This book touched on a lot, and I mean a lot, of hard hitting subjects, including eating disorders, physical abuse, and sexual assault. It also focuses very heavily on Maggie's relationship with her parents. There was some LGBTQ+ representation, which I did enjoy, but overall this story seemed like a hodge-podge of topics thrown together. 

Unfortunately I did not like this story. It made no sense, and aside from maybe 10 panels, I didn't really see the point. I also did not like the art style, because like the story, it seemed rushed and thrown together. There was also a scene that seemed to make fun of a Chinese accent and that really rubbed me the wrong way.

I have not read Maggie's other book, Honor Girl, so I don't know if it's like this one or not. Personally, I don't understand the point of calling a book a memoir then saying at the end that only parts of it were accurate representation. Luckily this was a quick read, so I didn't waste too much time on it.

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Thanks to Candlewick Press for sending me an ARC of this read! Lost Soul, Be At Peace by Maggie Thrash is out now!

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

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This is definitely a read where the beauty of the writing inside is worthy of the beauty of the cover outside. Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan is a gorgeously written fantasy steeped in Malaysian influence. 

This story follows Lei, a member of the Paper caste, the lowest caste in the kingdom. When royal guards come to take her away from her small village to become a Paper Girl, she is completely distraught. Paper Girls are the carefully selected courtesans of the Demon King himself, a man Lei deems responsible for her mother being taken away 10 years ago. The plot is all about Lei refusing to simply accept what has happened to her and her family and rebelling against what is expected of her, and maybe even finding love along the way in the most unexpected of places. 

I absolutely adored this read! I didn't really get into it for a few chapters, but once I did I was completely hooked! Ngan's writing is beautiful and completely envelops you in the culture of Ikhara. I loved all the characters, especially Lei, as they all responded to their fate differently. I loved the LGBTQ+ and Asian representation in this story. I loved the female empowerment and overall theme of girls taking their fate in their own hands. I do want to put a trigger warning on it for sexual abuse and violence, as this can get pretty heavy at times. There is also a pretty disturbing pet death. 

I am so excited that this is going to be a trilogy and am already desperate for more after that ending. This read has action, romance, intrigue, and so much more. I can't go into too much more detail without spoiling things, but I will just say that you definitely need to give this one a read! 

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Little Brown/Jimmy Patterson Books for an advanced copy of this beautiful read. Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan is out TOMORROW, November 6th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

Hocus Pocus and Edison Beaker, Creature Seeker Mashup

So this is definitely not my normal type of post, but I hope you'll find it to be a lot of fun! I was fortunate enough to partner with Penguin Young Readers for their Wicked Reads Middle Grade campaign, where I got to pick a Halloween candy and be sent a corresponding mystery read! I was so happy when I opened my package and found not only some candy and other goodies, but a copy of Edison Beaker, Creature Seeker: The Night Door! I've been living for graphic novels lately, so this was the perfect cutesy/creepy middle grade read to wrap up the Halloween reading season.

Synopsis from Penguin Young Readers: Edison Beaker and his young sister Tesla are staying with their uncle Earl, manager of the family pest control company, when an alarm sounds and he has no choice but to drag them along on a service call.
Cover Art Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers

They should have listened when he warned them, "stay in the van."

Monster-sized mayhem ensues when the kids chase their escaped hamster into a mysterious warehouse--and suddenly they are the ones being chased as all sorts of creepy creatures scurry, slink, and stomp through a secret Night Door.

The Fun Part: I wanted to take some of my favorite Halloween characters, the Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus, and put them in the world of Edison Beaker, just to see how they would handle the story (without giving away too much of the plot, of course)! Here are my predictions:

Winifred: True to form, Winnie would be the leader, so she would replace Edison. When the gang gets lost in the Underwhere, I think Winnie would use her powers to force the monsters to bend to her whim, ultimately turning on their leader, similar to the way she tried to control Billy in Hocus Pocus. This would come back to bite her as soon as the monsters realized that she didn't care about them and their loyalty switched back.

Image Courtesy of IMDB
Sarah: Hyperactive Sara is always getting herself into trouble, so to me she would replace the hamster, Scuttlebutt. Scuttlebutt keeps rolling away, causing the gang to search for him, ultimately leading to chaos. I can definitely see Sarah wandering off and getting herself lost in the Underwhere, and also creating some pretty good diversions by using her...*ahem* assets, to distract everyone.

Mary: Mary is very whiny, so I definitely identified her as Tesla, Edison's little sister. She comes up with ideas that aren't the best and is pretty annoying, and is definitely a big tag along. As incompetent as she may seem, she is always willing to step up for her sisters when needed and she would definitely be a resource for the team during the final battle.

Overall, the sisters would succeed but chaos and hilarity would ensue throughout. Ultimately these three are a team, just as Edison, Tesla, and Scuttlebutt are a team. With a shared goal and trust in each other, there's nothing that can stand in their way!

A huge thanks to Penguin Young Readers for inviting me to be a part of this campaign, and for sending over a copy of Edison Beaker, Creature Seeker: The Night Door by Frank Cammuso! Be sure to pick up this adorable read for that young ghost or ghoul in your life, or even for yourself!

You Are The Everything by Karen Rivers

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
When this book was sent to me, I was excited because I thought it was something I would really enjoy. Unfortunately it just missed the mark for me. You Are The Everything by Karen Rivers is a YA contemporary that follows Elyse Schmidt, a teenage girl with a hopeless crush on a classmate named Josh Harris. But when Elyse and Josh are the only survivors of a terrible plane crash, suddenly everything falls into place. It's almost as if they were destined to end up together, and that alone is what allowed them to live while everyone else perished. 

Then Elyse starts experiencing confusion, memory loss, and other symptoms of PTSD and her life is suddenly not looking as perfect as it initially seemed. Will destiny prevail, or will everything turn out to be different than originally thought?

I just personally couldn't connect with this book. I didn't care about the characters, and nothing that happened really mattered to me. Elyse was just not likable, and even though I wanted to feel for her, I just couldn't make myself care. Everything that happened just seemed too perfect, too serendipitous, even when you factor in the twist (which I also saw coming from a mile away). It was also written in second person point of view, which while it was interesting and a nice change, got really old very quickly. The stream of consciousness was just too much.

I did really appreciate the representation of an interracial relationship here, and thought that was a great thing to address. 

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for sending me a finished copy of this book! You Are The Everything by Karen Rivers is out now!

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

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If you haven't heard about the new Netflix show, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, where actually have you been?? This is a completely different take on the Sabrina the Teenage Witch story line, and if you go into it thinking it will be like the original show, I can tell you right now that you won't like it. But if you take it for what it is, a TV adaptation of a dark witch comic, you'll really enjoy what Netflix has put forth.

The new show is actually based off of the comic of the same name, and it has a much darker, more twisted feel than the bubbly Sabrina of the 90s. We're talking necromancy, satanic rites, cannibalism...the list goes on. Of course I binged this show over the weekend and personally really adored the new dark twist on the old classic.

If you have read The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic, you'll definitely see the similarities, but there are a lot of differences as well. I loved that the show intro took art directly from the comic! In both versions, Sabrina is about to celebrate her 16th birthday, and with it, her Dark Baptism-the act of signing her name in the Devil's book. In the comic, she is all for it, but in the show, she starts to question her freedom and dissent against Church of Night tradition.
Image Courtesy of IMDB

I love the portrayal of Hilda and Zelda in both versions. The TV Sabrina definitely got on my nerves, however, as her attitude of going against literally everything and not caring who it might impact really rubbed me the wrong way. I am OBSESSED with Ambrose as a character, and would love for him to get his own spin off, in either comic or show form! While Salem does talk in the comic, unfortunately he does not in the show. I loved the overall vibes of witch feminism and female power.

Overall, I think Netflix did a great job adapting the comic. There were some differences, most likely to build the plot into the length of a full tv season, but there were a lot of things they remained true to as well. Some of the acting bothered me with the Netflix version, and like I said, I wasn't a fan of their portrayal of Sabrina. While you don't need to read the comic to enjoy the show, you definitely should! The comic art is unique and beautiful, and it's the perfect, fast read if you want to squeeze in one more spooky book before Halloween!

Show Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Comic Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I got this book in an OwlCrate months ago and was just never drawn to it. I decided to try it out this month since I heard it had some spooky vibes, and I'm sure glad I did! The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert follows teenager Alice, who moves all over with her mom Ella trying to stay away from bad luck. Alice's grandmother is the author of the famous Tales from the Hinterland, a fantasy novel with a cult following, and when Alice and her mother receive the news of the grandmother's death, they believe that the bad luck is finally over. 

That is, until Alice's mother is taken by someone who claims to come from The Hinterland. Now Alice must come face to face with her grandmother's stories, stories which she has been shielded from her whole life, and head to her reclusive grandmother's estate, The Hazel Wood, in the hopes of saving her mother.

This story really was unlike anything I've ever read! It had magical realism, fantasy, thriller, mystery, and contemporary elements all wrapped up into one story. It had some of the Hinterland fairy tales themselves interspersed throughout, which I especially enjoyed. While I wasn't a huge fan of the main character, the plot and side characters were more than enough for me to fall in love with this book. It was fast-paced and exciting. It was twisted and creepy with all kinds of dark Alice in Wonderland vibes. And it definitely left me wanting more.

After doing some research, this appears to be the first in a duology, and we might even get a Tales from the Hinterland storybook as well! I need those fairy tales! I will definitely be keeping my eye out for those, as I'm not at all ready to give up this world yet.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've loved everything I've read by Victoria (V.E.) Schwab thus far. So when I saw she was releasing a creepy middle grade novel, I knew I had to pick it up (even though middle grade normally isn't my thing). Unfortunately, City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab didn't quite live up to my (perhaps too high) expectations.

This story follows Cassidy, who travels with her parents to Edinburgh while they film the first episode of their ghost hunting TV show-The Inspectres. Her parents are obsessed with ghosts, but Cassidy can actually see them. In fact, her best friend is a ghost named Jacob who saved her life when she almost drowned. When Cassidy encounters more ghosts in Edinburgh than she knows what to do with, she meets Lara, another girl with the same gift who helps to enlighten Cassidy on her purpose.

While I chose to get the UK paperback edition (because the cover is just so gorgeous), I'm disappointed that both covers lead the reader to believe that the cat (affectionately named Grim) is a major player in the story. Spoiler alert: he isn't. 

The story itself felt very one dimensional to me. I should have been on the edge of my seat during certain parts of the plot, but I just wasn't. As a fan of any creepy read, I'm normally completely enveloped in these types of stories. I liked the characters enough, but overall something just felt missing. I also would have loved to know more about Lara. Granted, this is a middle grade read, so I might be looking for a depth that just doesn't exist in books for a younger age group. It also took me a lot longer to read than I anticipated.

The story was cute and overall I enjoyed the time I spent with it, but I wouldn't pick it up again, it didn't really stick with me, and I was definitely left wanting more. I think this is supposed to be a duology, and I did like it enough to still check out the second book when it comes out. Hopefully that one will have a little more of what I was looking for!

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Step right up, get your perfect Halloween read here! I knew from the minute I saw The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw that I would love it. I actually bought this book the day it was released back in March, but made myself wait until closer to Halloween to read it. And it was definitely worth the wait.

This book takes place in the small town of Sparrow. Every summer, a terrible curse befalls the town and it is forced to pay retribution for something it did two centuries ago: drowned the three Swan sisters for witchcraft. Now, each summer the sisters return from their watery grave, each inhabiting the body of a teenage Sparrow girl and luring boys into the water to their deaths. The town has accepted that this is their fate, and the "Swan season" has even become a tourist attraction of sorts. This story follows Penny Talbott during the Swan season, but this summer is different. Enter Bo, an unsuspecting visitor to Sparrow who seems to not know the danger he has put himself in by visiting during this time. 

Ugh this book, I just adored every minute of it! Both the present day plotline and the flashbacks to the sisters had me so immersed in the town of Sparrow, and I could picture everything so vividly in this atmospheric read. While I did figure out the twist (if you can even call it a twist, because it happens fairly early on), that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story whatsoever. 

My only real dislike (and not even a dislike enough to take off a star) was the unlikely romance, but if you take it with a grain of salt it doesn't distract from story as a whole. The very end threw me a bit, but it's satisfying when you realize that Penny isn't as much the main character as you originally thought.

This would make an amazing movie (which is good, because it looks like it's happening). Fans of Hocus Pocus and anything witchy will absolutely adore this read! And because it has to be said, this gorgeous, holographic cover may be the most beautiful book I've ever seen!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Easy Prey by Catherine Lo

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
This is the second computer/tech read that I've picked up in the last few weeks. Easy Prey by Catherine Lo follows three teenagers: Mouse, Jenna, and Drew. After being thrust into a group project together for law class, these three unlikely friends have to work together. Mouse is a computer nerd set on getting into MIT to prove his father wrong. Jenna, after having some personal photos broadcast over the internet, is a changed girl, rebellious and jaded. And Drew is a jock, known for being a womanizer and a player. Somehow these three had access to a teacher's racy photographs, and when the photos go viral, they have to figure out who leaked them. 

This story was actually really good! It's told from the points of view of each of our three main characters. Its focus on internet privacy and online rights, in addition to victim shaming, was definitely relevant to society today. I liked how all three characters were sort of intertwined before they got put in a group together, but the forced pairing really brought out their relationships with each other. The twist wasn't really predictable, per se, but definitely made sense when you finally learned it.

This was a quick, relevant read with some good characters and a pretty solid, thrilling plot. 

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Amulet Books for an advanced copy of this read! Easy Prey by Catherine Lo releases October 16th!

The Geography of Lost Things by Jessica Brody

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This is a release I have definitely been anticipating, so you can imagine my excitement when a finished copy showed up at my door! The Geography of Lost Things by Jessica Brody is a YA contemporary that follows Ali on a journey, both physical and emotional in nature.

When Ali's estranged father passes away and leaves her his most prized possession, his 1968 Firebird convertible, she wants nothing more than to get rid of it. In fact, Ali plans to sell the car and use the money to help save her house currently under foreclosure. But Ali can't drive a stick-shift, and she has to transport the car about 300 miles to its buyer.

Enter Ali's ex-boyfriend, Nico, who offers to drive the car for a small cut in the sales price. But that means Ali must spend hours trapped in the car with her ex. What happens when the two are forced together? Will Ali learn to forgive not only Nico, but her father as well, in the process? Will she be able to save her home?

This story was just too precious. I loved the characters, even though I thought Ali was a bit standoffish (though I understand why). The whole idea of "trading up" items from something worthless to something worth a lot of money is so fascinating to me, and I've always wanted to try it! I thought the overall message of this book about forgiveness and understanding was incredible, and it really hit home the idea that you shouldn't judge someone without fully knowing their situation. I thought this was fairly long for a YA contemporary, but I flew right through it. And let's be honest, this cover is just stunning.

I've never read any of Jessica Brody's other works, so now I definitely have to check out some of her other books!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Simon Pulse for a finished copy of this read! The Geography of Lost Things is out now, so be sure to pick up a copy!

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

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This book completely blew me out of the water! I've never read anything by Diane Chamberlain before, and honestly didn't know much about her books at all. When I got a chance to read this one, I was cautiously optimistic since I didn't know what to expect. But I ADORED IT. The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain can't even be summed up into one genre, because it had so many different components.

This story follows Carly, a widow living in the 1970s whose husband has been killed in the Vietnam War. Shortly after he was deployed, she discovered that she was pregnant. But now there is something wrong with her baby that could be fatal, and there is no cure. Enter Carly's brother-in-law, Hunter, who tells Carly there might be a way to fix the baby's heart condition, but it will require immense bravery and suspension of disbelief on Carly's part to make it happen. Suddenly Carly is faced with a decision: to put trust in the incredulous information her brother-in-law has told her and attempt to save her unborn daughter, or to not believe it and pray that the doctors were wrong.

I honestly can't say too much about this book without giving critical elements away, but I was gripped from the very beginning. I stayed up WAY past my bedtime to finish this read, and the plot captured me more than any book I've read in a long time. I enjoyed all the characters, with the exception of Carly's sister, and even though there were definitely elements of the plot that were unrealistic, it was an incredibly unique and engrossing read.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to St. Martin's Press for an advanced copy of this read! The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain is out TODAY, so be sure to pick up a copy of this fantastic book!

The Chaos of Now by Erin Jade Lange

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I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did. The Chaos of Now by Erin Jade Lange is a YA contemporary that follows Eli, a high school student obsessed with computers and coding. The book starts one year after one of Eli's classmates, Jordan Bishop, committed suicide by lighting himself on fire in the middle of the cafeteria, with bullying as the cause. There is definitely a trigger warning on this book for bullying and suicide.

Eli himself is a victim of bulling, having most recently been beaten up in the bathroom. But immediately following his beating, Eli is left a code in a computer language very few can understand. The code leads him to some new friends and a slot in a team for a major coding competition. But when the team's competition project turns into a vehicle for revenge on Jordan's death, Eli isn't sure he wants to stay a part of it, especially when his own secrets are at stake.

I really enjoyed this read! I liked all of the characters, and thought the plot was fast paced and engaging. This was definitely focused on the harm that bullying can do, but had a great techie aspect to it as well. I did think that some parts were a little bit unrealistic, both some actions and some repercussions. I absolutely appreciated that the love interest was not at all the center of this story.

Fans of books like Warcross, and those interested in computers, technology, and coding, would definitely enjoy this read!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Bloomsbury for an advanced copy of this read! The Chaos of Now by Erin Jade Lange is out TOMORROW, Oct. 2nd, so be sure to pick up a copy!

Can We All Be Feminists? Edited by June Eric-Udorie

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So for today's post, I'd like to introduce a book that I think everyone needs to read. Can We All Be Feminists? edited by June Eric-Udorie is a book about feminism, but not the traditional feminism that has been gaining popularity.

The feminism described in this book, rather, is intersectional feminism about inclusivity. It isn't about just rights for white women, but for all women, regardless of things like race or natural born sex. In this collection of 17 essays, women tell their stories about their experiences, discuss what drew them to the feminist movement, share important information about feminism in history, and suggest how we can all work towards a more inclusive feminism.

The voices of each of these women came through in their stories, adding to the urgency of the overall message. The essays were interspersed with facts and figures in addition to personal anecdotes. It was hard-hitting, emotional, and motivating to read the words of these women.

One complaint with this read was that it was a little statistics-heavy, making it challenging to get through at points and a longer read. In addition, it came off as a little too preachy in some places, which can be a turn off for readers.

This is the kind of book that everyone should be exposed to, as these issues are facing us today more than ever. 

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Penguin Books for a copy of this important read! Can We All Be Feminists? edited by June Eric-Udorie is out TODAY!

Born Scared by Kevin Brooks

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Take a peek into the mind of a child who is terrified of everything. In Born Scared by Kevin Brooks, we follow thirteen-year-old Elliot, as he must conquer some of his fears in this book focusing highly on the daily life of someone with anxiety and crippling phobias.

As Christmas approaches, Elliot realizes that he is almost out of his fear pills. After a mix up at the pharmacy, Elliot panics that he might not get them in time, and if he runs out, the fear "beast" will emerge. A plan is developed to get him his pills in time, but suddenly that plan starts falling apart. First, his aunt Shirley who was supposed to bring him his pills never shows, and isn't answering her phone. Fearing the worst, Elliot's mother goes out searching for her in the snowstorm, but when she doesn't return from what should be a short walk, Elliot has to take matters into his own hands.

This book was interesting, because it's hard to imagine being scared of literally everything. I personally struggle with anxiety, so I know what it's like to have irrational fears, but virtually everything Elliot encounters terrifies him. Some of the scenes got pretty intense, and while I was tempted to tell Elliot to just snap out of it, this book is all about understanding that for him, this IS reality and he can't just snap out of it.

This was described as a "terrifying thriller," but the only terrified one after reading this was Elliot. It seemed like more of a journey-based story than a thriller most of the time. I know we were meant to feel Elliot's fear, but I just didn't and never really connected with the story. This was told from multiple points of view, and while I understood why that was necessary, I didn't really like it.

Overall I enjoyed this story, but didn't love it and probably wouldn't read it again. It was a quick read, and something that would be great to pick up during the upcoming holiday season.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Candlewick Press for an advanced copy of this read! Born Scared by Kevin Brooks is out now!

Still Water by Amy Stuart

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Coming at you again with another adult psychological thriller review! In Still Water by Amy Stuart, Sally and her son have disappeared, and Clare is tasked with helping find them. She travels to the town of High River and ends up in a home known for taking in women looking to escape their pasts, a home that Sally previously stayed in before her disappearance. 

Unfortunately with this one, I felt that it started really strong and promising, then fell off as the book progressed. It was very gripping at the beginning, but then I had to struggle some to push through and finish. There also didn't appear to be any real effort involved in solving the mystery, Clare just kind of lucked out by happenstance.

I did very much like Clare as a character, however, and appreciate when characters are flawed and potentially unreliable. But I did have some questions.

Turns out, this was the second book in a series, and I didn't know that going in. While it was okay as a stand-alone, I think knowing the back stories of Clare and Malcolm would have really helped me understand their motivations and relationship more. There were multiple times that I just had no idea why things were happening, and I think that would have been alleviated if I read the first book, Still Mine, before this one.

This was just a middle of the road read for me, didn't love it and didn't hate it. I do think I would have rated it higher if I had known more of the backstory, and also if it wasn't so anticlimactic overall.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Touchstone/Simon & Schuster for a digital copy of this read! Still Water by Amy Stuart is out now, so be sure to pick up a copy if you love thrillers or are a fan of Still Mine!

The Good Demon by Jimmy Cajoleas

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If ever a book spoke to me, it was this one. Girl gets possessed by a demon, girl develops close friendship with the demon, girl gets an exorcism against her will and loses the demon, girl tries to get her demon back. That's the gist of The Good Demon by Jimmy Cajoleas, and I enjoyed this read so much!

After Clare's demon, known simply as Her, is exercised against Clare's will, all she wants is to get her demon back. But it appears that her demon has left her three clues. Now Clare has to try to figure out these clues to be reunited with her demon once more. Making some unlikely friends in the process, and learning her town has more dark secrets than she realized, Clare is forced to make some tough decisions and risk it all to be reunited with Her.

I loved Clare's character! From her attitude, to the description of her room, to her musical tastes, I thought she was so unique and I was immediately drawn to her. I also really liked Roy and felt for his inner struggle to both rebel and stay true to his roots, faith, and father. I could picture everything in this story so vividly, and honestly think this would make a fantastic movie! 

At first, I didn't understand the cover at all, but after reading the book I now see why it is incredibly representative of the story. While the ending felt a little rushed, this did not at all deter from my love of this book. I wouldn't quite call this YA read a thriller, and I wouldn't really call it horror either, but whatever it was, it was fantastic!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Amulet for an advanced copy of this demonic read! The Good Demon by Jimmy Cajoleas was released YESTERDAY, Sept. 18th, so be sure to pick up a copy of this fantastic story just in time for Halloween!

Lies by T.M. Logan

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I know I've said this on my blog a million times, but I can usually see the twist coming from a mile away in most thrillers. That being said, the twist in Lies by T.M. Logan REALLY threw me for a loop! 

When Joe and his son are driving home one evening, they see Joe's wife's car pull into a hotel. Thinking nothing of it, they innocently decide to follow her and surprise her. But Joe could have never known how pulling into that parking garage that evening would seal his fate. Now, being framed for a murder he didn't commit and digitally harassed by the supposed dead man, Joe has to fight to find out the real story and prove his innocence before it's too late.

There were so many moments in this book that had my heart beating out of my chest! This story was full of vivid description and detail that put me right in the scene. The suspense was real, and I was so desperately rooting for Joe. He really is the definition of "the average Joe" and I felt terrible that he was mixed up in all of this. I loved the comic relief that the son William provides, and how Joe's relationship with William shows what a good man and father he truly is.

For a pretty long thriller, it read extremely quickly. There were a lot of times that a scene or situation just felt "wrong" to me, but I could never put my finger on why. Like I said, I did not see this twist coming, and I absolutely loved what it turned out to be!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to St. Martin's Press for both an ARC and a finished copy of this suspenseful read! Lies by T.M. Logan is out now, so be sure to pick up a copy! It's the perfect thrilling read for this fall season.