Review | The Darkening by Sunya Mara

In this thrilling and epic YA fantasy debut the only hope for a city trapped in the eye of a cursed storm lies with the daughter of failed revolutionaries and a prince terrified of his throne.

Vesper Vale is the daughter of revolutionaries. Failed revolutionaries. When her mother was caught by the queen’s soldiers, they gave her a choice: death by the hangman’s axe, or death by the Storm that surrounds the city and curses anyone it touches. She chose the Storm. And when the queen’s soldiers—led by a paranoid prince—catch up to Vesper’s father after twelve years on the run, Vesper will do whatever it takes to save him from sharing that fate.

Even arm herself with her father’s book of dangerous experimental magic.

Even infiltrate the prince’s elite squad of soldier-sorcerers.

Even cheat her way into his cold heart.

But when Vesper learns that there’s more to the story of her mother’s death, she’ll have to make a choice if she wants to save her city: trust the devious prince with her family’s secrets, or follow her mother’s footsteps into the Storm.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

First and foremost, I cannot get over how beautiful the cover of this book is. That was definitely one of the first things that intrigued me about this book and I’m really glad I decided to give it a read.

I really liked the world itself and thought the idea of the storm around the city but I did wish there was a little more world building since I’m assuming this is going to be a series. I did find what world building there was to be really intriguing.

I found all of the characters to be developed well and fully fledged, a lot of them were pretty gray morally, but really well developed.

Overall I flew through this one pretty quickly, the writing style was easy to read and for the most part. There were some places where the pacing stumbled a bit, but they weren’t major hindrances to the overall read.

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | Killing Time by Brenna Ehrlich | Review

Killing Time follows a true-crime obsessed teenage girl who sets out to uncover a killer when her favorite teacher is murdered. With a dual POV that sends the reader back twenty years, this engrossing and twisty thriller is perfect for fans of Courtney Summers and Karen McManus.

Summer in Ferry, Connecticut has always meant long, lazy days at the beach and wild nights partying in the abandoned mansions on the edge of town. Until now, that is.

Natalie Temple’s favorite teacher has been murdered, and there’s no way this true-crime obsessed girl is going to sit back and let the rumor mill churn out lie after lie. Not if she has anything to say about it – even if she has to hide her investigation from her disapproving mom and team up with a new boy in town with a mysterious smile and a talent for making fake IDs.

But the more Natalie uncovers, the more she realizes some secrets were never meant to be told.
With two interwoven mysteries, Killing Time is a deathly warning to a generation of murderinos: what happens when the stories we’re chasing finally catch up with us?

Buy Links | Bookshop.org | B&N | Amazon | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Google Play | Kobo |
Apple Books

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I really wanted to love this story as the description sounded right up my alley. A focus on true crime and solving a murder? Yes. While I did enjoy the story overall, there were definitely some things that detracted from my reading experience. I did not really enjoy the voice of the main character, to me she was a bit too harsh.

The overall mystery I felt was solid and fun to unravel as the story went on. While I didn’t love the main character, the way her and her mother’s perspectives wove together. So overall, the story was a positive for me. The writing style was also excellent and the pacing felt solid, so I would definitely read from this author again.

Brenna Ehrlich is a journalist, YA author, and editor who has worked everywhere from MTV News to Rolling Stone. She resides in New Jersey with her husband Morgan and their two cats, Nimbus and Hazel. She enjoys horror movies and romcoms in equal measure.

Social Links | Author website | Twitter | Instagram

Happy reading!

Review | All These Bodies by Kendare Blake

Sixteen bloodless bodies. Two teenagers. One impossible explanation.

Summer 1958—a string of murders plagues the Midwest. The victims are found in their cars and in their homes—even in their beds—their bodies drained, but with no blood anywhere.

September 19- the Carlson family is slaughtered in their Minnesota farmhouse, and the case gets its first lead: 15-year-old Marie Catherine Hale is found at the scene. She is covered in blood from head to toe, and at first she’s mistaken for a survivor. But not a drop of the blood is hers.

Michael Jensen, son of the local sheriff, yearns to become a journalist and escape his small-town. He never imagined that the biggest story in the country would fall into his lap, or that he would be pulled into the investigation, when Marie decides that he is the only one she will confess to.

As Marie recounts her version of the story, it falls to Michael to find the truth: What really happened the night that the Carlsons were killed? And how did one girl wind up in the middle of all these bodies?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book was quite a ride that I was not expecting. I loved the sound of it and as someone who listens to true crime podcasts which include crime cases from the early to mid 1950s I figured it would definitely be in my wheelhouse. Once I got into the book I really enjoyed the interviews between Michael and Marie. As the story moves on you definitely have that aspect of wondering if there is really something supernatural or if it is all the act of humans.

Michael, with his yearning for the truth and love of journalism was a very compelling character, while Marie was at the best of times unreliable but tragic in her own way. Other characters such as Pilson, McBride and Nancy were also well dimensioned and really fleshed out to where their personalities were clear.

There were a few times I had to remind myself this was set in the 1950s as there was perhaps some more modern language or just something that rang modern, but overall I loved the aesthetic of this story and the way it progressed. There was just enough left up in the air to give it an even more unknowing and creepy feeling which was both unsettling and satisfying.

Happy reading!

Review | Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister–at all costs.

Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her–and who won’t make it out of the woods?

It’s been exactly one year since Sara’s sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn’t know whether her former friends no longer like her…or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together. When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to “play the game” and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca–before she’s lost forever. And even though she’s hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends–and their cameras–following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I had heard that this book was dark and twisty as well as being told in a mixed media format – which was a huge draw for me – but I didn’t know just how much I would enjoy it. If you’re looking for a spooky book with tons of touches of mythology, urban legend-esque stories, paranormal creatures and dark situations, then make sure you check this one out. This story is so well crafted in it’s writing and structure so that the elements of the story and the twists slowly reveal themselves piece by piece. There are many points where even the reader is left wondering what is truth and what is not and it made it so some twists were hard to predict. It was a hard book to put down once I got about a third of the way in since there was so much happening.

Happy reading!

Review | It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi

After Kiran Noorani’s mom died, Kiran vowed to keep her dad and sister, Amira, close. Then out of the blue, Amira announces that she’s dating someone and might move cross-country with him. Kiran is thrown.

Deen Malik is thrilled that his older brother, Faisal, has found a great girlfriend, even if it’s getting serious quickly. Maybe now their parents’ focus will shift off Deen, who feels intense pressure to be the perfect son.

When Deen and Kiran come fact to face, they silently agree to keep their past a secret. Four years ago–before Amira and Faisal met–Kiran and Deen dated. But Deen ghosted Kiran with no explanation. Kiran will stop at nothing to find out what happened, and Deen will do anything, even if it means sabotaging his brother’s relationship, to keep her from reaching the truth. Though the chemistry between Kiran and Deen is undeniable, can either of them take down their walls?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

From the premise of this book I thought I would definitely enjoy it, but I didn’t know just how much I would enjoy it. I would definitely label this one as coming of age in a way, as Deen and Kiran grapple with each other in present day while also dealing with their own issues. The flashbacks to their past relationship definitely flesh out the background of their story and lays a foundation for their characters in general. I especially loved the way the ‘I hate you in person but we’re best friends online without knowing’ trope was used. It’s always fun when it’s done the right way and in this story I felt it really was done the right way. Definite trigger warnings in here for drug use, death of a parent and grief. Also, the writing style was so easy to read and made the book just fly by as we follow Deen and Kiran through their hijinks and journey.

It All Comes Back to You comes out tomorrow, September 14th – so make sure to pick up a copy. Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review!

Happy reading!

Review | We Can be Heroes by Kyrie McCauley

“Welcome to Bell, proud home of Bell Firearms for two hundred years, and where five months ago, the teen heir to the Bell fortune took his father’s guns to school and killed his ex-girlfriend, Cassandra Queen.” —WE CAN BE HEROES PODCAST

Beck and Vivian never could stand each other, but they always tried their best for their mutual friend, Cassie. After the town moves on from Cassie’s murder too fast, Beck and Vivian finally find common ground: vengeance. They memorialize Cassie by secretly painting murals of her around town, a message to the world that Cassie won’t be forgotten. But Beck and Vivian are keeping secrets, like the third passenger riding in Beck’s VW bus with them—Cassie’s ghost.

When their murals catch the attention of a podcaster covering Cassie’s case, they become the catalyst for a debate that Bell Firearms can no longer ignore. With law enforcement closing in on them, Beck and Vivian hurry to give Cassie the closure she needs—by delivering justice to those responsible for her death.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book was a very emotionally hard read, but also such an important one. There were so many conversations happening in this book that are happening today, but also still need to happen regarding subjects such as gun violence, domestic abuse, grief, victim blaming and more (trigger warnings for all of these subjects). The story begins in the wake of a school shooting where a jilted abusive ex-boyfriend had entered the school and murdered his ex and then also killed himself. The community at large, which is a community built on guns (the largest employer being the shooter’s family, which manufacturers the very firearms he used), has essentially forgotten the victim and thinks of the shooter as a “good kid who made a bad decision.” Cassie’s friends are trying to pick up the pieces of their own lives (one of them also having been shot by the shooter) when they discover that Cassie herself is haunting them – so they decide that they must have vengeance, or at least hold those who were in some ways just as responsible for Cassie’s death as her ex, accountable.

I really enjoyed the fact that not only do we get Beck and Vivian’s perspectives (Cassie’s friends), but also a perspective from Cassie that slowly reveals some of the things that happened in the past, and the perspective of a podcast that is covering all the events happening surrounding Cassie’s death once things kick into motion. This book goes deep into the subjects I mentioned as well as nuances we often see in the media surrounding these types of events (such as those in positions of authority not wanting to follow protocol because they don’t want to damage the accused’ future). It also really shows the journey of Beck and Vivian as they try to process their grief and find a way to live without Cassie. The way McCauley wove this book and brought all the different threads together was done so well and I believe this books contains an important conversation that needs to keep being had.

We Can Be Heroes is out today! Make sure to pick up a copy and give this amazing book a read.

Happy reading!

Review | 21 Questions by Alexandria Rizik

In Laguna Beach, California, sixteen-year-old Kendra Dimes is preparing for the 2010 USA Surfing Prime West. She’ll be competing this year in honor of her brother, who was a surfer too, but who died from a drug overdose. Kendra has suffered anxiety attacks ever since her brother’s death, and surfing is what’s been helping her heal.

Brock Parker is the new bad boy at school; he deals drugs to the high school clientele for his parents, who work for a Mexican drug lord. Though Brock and Kendra come from two different worlds, sparks fly when they meet at the homecoming dance—their attraction is magnetic. When they start a game of 21 Questions one night, they begin to learn more about each other—and, surprisingly, about themselves too. But some questions aren’t answered with the whole truth; after all, Brock can’t tell Kendra what his parents do for a living.

As Kendra and Brock experience all of life’s most exciting firsts, they prove that even when life throws you the perfect storm, you can make it through and come out stronger than before. 21 Questions is a coming-of-age journey packed with passion and heartbreak, risk and romance.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was not expecting this one to hit me in the feels the way it did, but it did. Don’t let the summery beach cover fool you, this is a book containing some very real and heavy issues, mostly in the realm of drug use and selling. While the romance between Kendra and Brock is very much at the forefront, it is not the only focus. We get to see both of their points of view, which I felt really added to the story and all the different aspects of subjects that were included. Being someone who actually lost their older brother to drugs Kendra’s story hit especially hard – including her coping mechanisms, internal dialogue and specific memories of her brother. So much of the events and actions of people based on past experiences (especially Kendra’s) were so spot on in those situations.

Rizik’s writing flowed really well in both viewpoints and I really enjoyed the characters she crafted. There were a couple characters that I didn’t enjoy, but even they had some redeeming factors (and all teenagers can have moments of cringiness…so realistic). There were also characters who I really felt for and wanted to know more about, which is a sure sign that they are well crafted. Keep in mind that there are definite trigger warnings for death of a loved one, drug use, drug dealing, grief and more.

Alexandria Rizik is an award-winning filmmaker and the author of two books, the poetry collection Words Written in the Dark and the children’s book Chocolate Milk. She was born and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she was brought up by a large Armenian family. She received her bachelor of arts in English literature from Arizona State University. Alexandria’s love for writing began when she was a young child: her aunt bought her a journal and told her to write her a story, and the rest is history. Her favorite part about writing is being able to write the happily ever after that doesn’t always happen in real life. Besides writing, Alexandria loves yoga, wine, and family time. She lives in Scottsdale, AZ. Learn more at https://www.alexandriarizik.com.

A huge thank you to SparkPress for sending me a copy of this book so I could review it! Come back on release day (8/3) for a Q&A that I was able to have with Alexandria!

Happy reading!

Blog Tour | The Right Side of Reckless by Whitney D. Grandison | Review

When a bad boy in need of a second chance meets a good girl who is off limits, sparks fly and forbidden friendship forms in this edgy own-voices romance, perfect for fans of Katie McGarry and Kristina Forest.

They were supposed to ignore each other and respect that fine line between them…

Guillermo Lozano is getting a fresh start. New town, new school, and no more reckless behavior. He’s done his time, and now he needs to right his wrongs. But when his work at the local community center throws him in the path of the one girl who is off limits, friendship sparks…and maybe more.

Regan London needs a fresh perspective. The pressure to stay in her “perfect” relationship and be the good girl all the time has worn her down. But when the walls start to cave in and she finds unexpected understanding from the boy her parents warned about, she can’t ignore her feelings anymore.

The disapproval is instant. Being together might just get Guillermo sent away. But when it comes to the heart, sometimes you have to break the rules and be a little bit reckless…

Buy Links | Bookshop.org | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Google Play | Kobo | Apple Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Having read Whitney D. Grandison’s previous book and enjoying it, I was excited to pick up this one. I did really enjoy it and found it to be a complex read that tackled a lot of very present and modern issues. I really enjoyed Guillermo’s character and felt that out of everyone he was the most three dimensional character. While this book had a little bit of a slow start, once you get invested in the story it really moves along. Not only do the characters pull you in, but the fact that things such as consent, hard past events and more. There were certainly some moments that perhaps were a little frustrating, but they didn’t impact the story in a negative way. All in all I really enjoyed this one and found it to be a great read!

Whitney is dedicated to telling stories about teens of color and teens in difficult but relatable situations. Some of her works can be found on Wattpad, one of the largest online story sharing platforms, where she has acquired over 30,000 followers and an audience of over fifteen million dedicated readers. Outside of writing, she is a lover of Korean dramas, all things John Hughes, and horror films. Whitney currently lives in Akron, Ohio. She is the author of A Love Hate Thing and The Right Side of Reckless. Visit Whitney’s website http://www.whitneydgrandison.com and follow her on Twitter @whitney_dg and Instagram @wheadee.

Social Links | Author website: www.whitneydgrandison.com | Twitter: @whitney_dg |
Instagram: @wheadee

Happy reading!

Review | The Marvelous Mirza Girls by Sheba Karim

To cure her post–senior year slump, made worse by the loss of her aunt Sonia, Noreen is ready to follow her mom on a gap year trip to New Delhi, hoping India can lessen her grief and bring her voice back.

In the world’s most polluted city, Noreen soon meets kind, handsome Kabir, who introduces her to the wonders of this magical, complicated place. With Kabir’s help—plus Bollywood celebrities, fourteenth-century ruins, karaoke parties, and Sufi saints—Noreen begins to rediscover her joyful voice.

But when a family scandal erupts, Noreen and Kabir must face complicated questions in their own relationship: What does it mean to truly stand by someone—and what are the boundaries of love? 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this mother/daughter story that featured locations in New Delhi and a great relationship between them. I loved the travel aspect and the descriptions of different locations as well as the touches of culture that were included. The writing style was easy to read and flowed well, though I did find that there were some things that were maybe left as loose ends or mentioned and then not returned too. The story did involve a lot of current topics and the situations associated to those felt very real and well written, which I appreciated. I could see some people wanting more depth to the story, or wanting some refinement but I found it to be a really enjoyable and fun read.

Happy reading!

Review | Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney

Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by debut author Joya Goffney is the story of an overly enthusiastic list maker who is blackmailed into completing a to-do list of all her worst fears. It’s a heartfelt, tortured, contemporary YA high school romance with epistolary elements. Fans of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Kristina Forest’s debut I Wanna Be Where You Are will love the juicy secrets, leap-off-the-page sexual tension and the enemy-to-lover romantic arc.

Quinn keeps lists of everything—from the days she’s ugly cried, to “Things That I Would Never Admit Out Loud,” to all the boys she’d like to kiss. Her lists keep her sane. By writing her fears on paper, she never has to face them in real life. That is, until her journal goes missing…

An anonymous account posts one of her lists on Instagram for the whole school to see and blackmails her into facing seven of her greatest fears, or else her entire journal will go public. Quinn doesn’t know who to trust. Desperate, she teams up with Carter Bennett—the last known person to have her journal—in a race against time to track down the blackmailer.

Together, they journey through everything Quinn’s been too afraid to face, and along the way, Quinn finds the courage to be honest, to live in the moment, and to fall in love. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As someone who to this day carries notebooks around with them (and would be in a panic if I lost any of them) the premise of this one really intrigued me from the start. Quinn’s notebook comes across more as a journal, so that would make losing it all the worse. It’s apparent pretty quickly that Quinn has lots of areas where she could grow, her notebook contains a lot of things she’s scared about, dreams about and more and without it she has to learn how to gain courage and sometimes take chances to face her fears.

There are definite themes of racism, blackmailing, general high school pressures (including those from parents) and more. With everything that was packed into this book I almost felt like the romance wasn’t needed since there was so much more to unpack, but it was still a nice addition. All in all I really enjoyed this debut and would look forward to reading more from Joya Goffney in the future. The writing style flowed really well and made it a fast paced read for me.

Happy reading!