The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Summary:
Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.
Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.
Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

Book Cover

Review:
This is another audiobook that I read for spooky season. I didn’t get all my reviews written and scheduled in time, so we’re keeping the spooky content into November. The Sun Down Motel was confirmation that I love the ‘are the ghosts real or not’ trope in horror/mystery. Another example of this that I liked this season was Home Before Dark by Riley Sager.
The Sun Down Motel also had another common element with a few other books I read this October. It tells two stories: one in the past and one in the present. In the present, we are following Carly who finds herself in Fell, New York. The same town that her aunt disappeared in 30 years ago, an event that’s haunted her family since. In the past, we follow Carly’s aunt, Viv, and we get to see what really happened to her all those years ago in that same small town. I loved the back and forth between the past and the present. I loved that the events in the present seemed to mirror and reflect those that happened in the past.
I liked Carly and Viv. Both of them made some pretty poor choices, but I liked them anyway. They’re both head strong women that just couldn’t back down from a mystery. Carly’s mystery was her aunt and Viv’s mystery was the serial killer in Fell.
I absolutely adored the Sun Down Motel. It was such a weird setting, but I loved it anyway. I thought the ghosts that were there were completely fascinating and I really loved learning more about them and how they ended up stuck there.
Overall, I loved this book and I’ll be picking up more of St. James’s books in the future. She tells a suspenseful and emotional story that you just cannot put down until you manage to find every last detail and secret. I loved the setting, the characters, the pace of the story. I loved this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Summary:
What was it like? Living in that house.
Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.
Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Book Cover

Review:
Here are five things I liked about Home Before Dark:

  1. I really liked that the story was told in alternating chapters. We follow Maggie, present day, but we also get excerpts from her father’s book (which is heavily talked about by Maggie in the present-day chapters). I thought this was a creative and interesting way to tell the story. I think it worked right up until the big reveal about the book.
  2. Along with how the story is told in both the present and the past, I thought it was really interesting how things that were happening to Maggie and Maggie’s actions were mirroring and reflecting many of the things that had already happened (or were claimed to happen in her dad’s book) in the past.
  3. I was surprised to find that I actually sort of liked that I had no idea what was the truth and what wasn’t. I don’t usually like books where I don’t actually know what’s going on. But Sager did an excellent job keeping up the mystery and the suspense until the big reveal. I spent most of the book flip-flopping between firmly believing that the ghosts were real or that they were definitely all made up.
  4. I listened to the audiobook which has two narrators. I liked both narrators. The male narrator that read Maggie’s father’s book did a great job and I will absolutely be seeking out more book narrated by him. I liked the narrator for Maggie as well. I think she did a great job telling the story and keeping up the emotion and suspense.
  5. The big reveal. I liked it because like I said above, I went back and forth for the entire book between believing and not believing that the ghosts were real. So, to finally have confirmation one way or another was almost a relief. I liked how things all played out to put it vaguely so that I don’t spoil anything.

Overall, I really liked this book. I’m not surprised since I’ve liked all of Sager’s other books I’ve read. I also discovered (partially because of this book) that I really like the ‘but are the ghosts real or not’ trope for horror and mystery books. I would definitely recommend the audiobook for this one to any audiobook fans, but I’m sure the physical or digital book was just as good.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

Summary:
Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town. Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him.
By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to. Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for an advanced copy of The Death of Jane Lawrence in exchange for an honest review. This story follows Jane, a woman that is seeking a platonic marriage of convenience so that she is no longer the responsibility of her foster family. She meets with Augustine Lawrence, a local doctor, who eventually agrees to her proposal. But she’s never allowed to stay overnight at his family home, Lindrige Hall. As things tend to go in stories, the first night they are married, Jane’s carriage is washed off the road on its way to town by a rain storm, so the only alternative is that Jane walks back and stays the night with Augustine at Lindrige Hall. This is when things start to get creepy.
I really liked Jane. I thought her backstory and character development were well done. We didn’t get her life’s story dumped on us, but instead got to know her as the story developed. We learned that she was a level headed, logical woman. But the things happening at Lindrige Hall were anything but logical. It was really interesting to see Jane in a situation where her brain couldn’t use reason and logic to explain what was going on around her. I liked Augustine, too. He had secrets that he never thought he would have to share with Jane. It was a marriage of convenience, after all. But when his secrets start coming out, the reader isn’t left with a clear idea of whether or not Augustine is a good or bad person. He was a complicated man and Jane’s growing romantic feelings for him didn’t make things any easier.
The mystery and weirdness of Lindrige Hall made this story excellently spooky. There are ghosts, we think. But they might not actually be ghosts. There’s magic, but is magic actually real? I guess it’s only real if you believe that it’s real. There was so much that defied the logic that Jane depended upon and this really added some confusion to the story, in a good way.
Overall, The Death of Jane Lawrence is the perfect book for October. It’s creepy and atmospheric. It’s weird and confusing. It leaves the reader wondering ‘what the heck is actually going on?’ But all the things that the reader learns are wrapped up for the most part by the end of the story. I liked the characters, the setting, and the magic. I would definitely recommend this one and I will be seeking out Starling’s backlist very soon.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Day Twenty-Two: Spooky Book Covers

Hello, lovelies! I was running out of blogtober ideas and then I realized I haven’t done a post (outside of a Top Ten Tuesday) about book covers in quite a while. So, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite spooky/creepy covers that I love. I’m a sucker for a good cover and there are definitely some that have drawn me to mystery or horror books when the summary probably wouldn’t have grabbed me.

The Arsonist and Spellbook of the Lost and Found were absolutely books I bought because of their covers. They were also books that I enjoyed very much when I read them.

Please just look at these stunning purple covers. I’d recommend all of these for spooky season based on the cover alone (but the stories inside are also good spooky season stories).

Creepy weather. Creepy teeth. Creepy animals. Seriously, what more could someone ask for from these covers? Nothing, they’re absolute perfection.

The Valley and the Flood cover is the only reason that I read this book. It’s weird and I just had to know more about the story inside. The Inheritance Games is such a good cover because there’s so much going on that you don’t know where to look (which is really telling of the story inside). Mexican Gothic is such a simple cover, but damn does it make a statement.

Who knew that flowers could be horrifying? Well, they only really are for Horrid. Those flower eyes will haunt me. The other flowers are totally pretty, but with the other elements of the covers, there is a mysteriousness about both These Vengeful Hearts and Whichwood.

There are some books that I haven’t read yet that I wanted to share their covers, too. For some of them, the covers are absolutely the reason that these books are on my radar in the first place.

For the Throne has a stunning cover, much like the first book in the series. I’m reading it because I loved the first book, not because of the cover. But it’s cover was just released and it’s so beautiful that I had to include it. The Last Laugh is also a sequel that I’ll be reading either way, but oh jeez that cover. Lakesedge is one that grabbed me from the synopsis and the cover wasn’t released until very recently. There’s just something that screams spooky and atmospheric about it.

I don’t usually like books with faces on the cover, but these are creepy as hell and I’m absolutely living for it.

The Forest of Stolen Girls has what looks like two girls drowning in flowers and that sounds absolutely horrifying. I’m honestly not sure what is going on with The River Has Teeth but I just borrowed a copy from the library and I’m about to find out. Where the Drowned Girls Go is part of the Wayward Children series which I love, but that random door in the ocean is mysterious as hell.

What are some of your favorite creepy and weird covers?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

Summary:
Courtney Gould’s thrilling debut The Dead and the Dark is about the things that lurk in dark corners, the parts of you that can’t remain hidden, and about finding home in places―and people―you didn’t expect.
The Dark has been waiting for far too long, and it won’t stay hidden any longer.
Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers seem to point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just returned to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more secrets buried here than they originally let on.
Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his presence ever since. But now that the Ortiz-Woodleys are in town, his ghost is following her and the only person Ashley can trust is the mysterious Logan. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who—or what—is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. The Dead and the Dark is a creepy story that follows Logan, the daughter of the two stars of ParaSpectors. Her dads star on a ghost hunting kind of show and they claim that their next big shoot is going to be in Snakebite, Oregon where her dads grew up. But when Logan and her Pop arrive, they are anything but welcomed by the towns people. This story was suspenseful and mysterious. It was an excellent read for spooky season. I’m still not writing reviews that I’m super happy with, so, I’m going to change up the format again for this one.

Things I Liked:

I really liked the diversity. Logan is a lesbian. She has two dads. There’s also a character that’s unsure about their sexuality.

I liked the family dynamic. Logan gets along with her Pop way more than she does with her dad. There were reasons behind this, but I think Gould did a great job showing the love that this family has for each other.

The setting. I love books that have small town settings and this one absolutely didn’t disappoint in that regard. The setting of Snakebite really made this story what it was.

The mystery that this story is trying to solve was a fascinating one. We see a bad thing happen at the beginning, but the person’s identity isn’t revealed so I spent the whole book guessing who this ‘big bad’ was. I never did figure it out until the big reveal.

I grew to like the romance. Logan ends up having feelings for a girl that we’re led to believe is straight. She’s also kind of shitty in the sense that she spends all this time with Logan, but she doesn’t defend her to her local friends. But I think she grew enough that I did really end up liking her and Logan together.

I really liked the family history that we learned about. Both of Logan’s fathers grew up in Snakebite, so there’s so much that she doesn’t know about their childhood. We get to learn bits and pieces about what things were like for them as the story goes along.

Things I Didn’t Like:

At times, I didn’t like Logan. She was rude as hell to her dad but so nice to her Pop. There were reasons for the things her dad did and the was that he acted and she never took the time to even ask about it. She just let her negative feelings fester and I really didn’t like that.

I think the story was a bit slow at times. I’m not sure how to explain it other than that. I don’t think that I was expecting creepy things to jump out at me, but there was just something about it that couldn’t hold my focus.

The ending felt like it was a bit rushed compared to the slower pace of the rest of the story. There were so many plotlines that needed to be tied together in order to wrap up the story and I think it all happened really quickly and neatly and I didn’t love that. This story was messy, but the ending wrapped up in a nice neat bow.

Overall, this was a suspenseful and atmospheric story about a family that returns to a small town full of secrets. I really loved the ‘small town full of secrets’ aspect of the story. I would definitely recommend this book for spooky season.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

Summary:
Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.
As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.

Book Cover

Review:
Small Favors is a new release that I was extremely excited about. I got it as a gift for my birthday (Thanks, Antonia!) and I read it during my birthday weekend. This would have been an excellent book to read for spooky season (much like her debut novel, House of Salt and Sorrows). Small Favors follows Ellerie, who lives in a small town. She’s grown-up hearing myths and folklore about the monsters that used to live in the forest around the town. But most within the town never really believed them. When a supply party goes missing, those that believe in the old stories worry that the monsters have returned. The book follows Ellerie for a year, through all four seasons, so, as the seasons pass, strange things continue to happen. Are there really monsters in the woods? Or is there something else going on?
Ellerie was a character that I immediately liked. The only thing that I didn’t like about her was her attraction to Whitaker (a name that she gave him because he wouldn’t tell her his actual name). There was something suspicious about him from the beginning, but Craig managed to tell his part of the story in a way that I felt bad for him and ultimately liked him and how things played out for him and Ellerie. Aside from not liking Whitaker, I really liked Ellerie. She’s the second born child. But her older brother, Samuel, is a bit of a shit. He isn’t following through with his responsibilities to the family and he continues to make selfish choices for most of the book. Ellerie really steps up as the head of her family when something happens to her parents. There were some parts of this story that were slow, following Ellerie just trying to keep herself and family alive. But just because they were slow, doesn’t mean that nothing was happening.  There was something unsettling about this story. All throughout the story, there was an overall creepy feeling. A sense that something more was going on in this town than we were being led to believe.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There was a spooky feel to it, a mystery that was waiting to be unraveled. It’s a story full of questions just waiting to be answered. I really loved the characters. I liked the reveals of what was really happening to this town. I think it’s a fascinating story about how there is darkness in each and every person. I definitely would recommend this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

Summary:
A family returns to their hometown—and to the dark past that haunts them still—in this masterpiece of literary horror by the New York Times bestselling author of Wanderers.
Long ago, Nathan lived in a house in the country with his abusive father—and has never told his family what happened there.
Long ago, Maddie was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn’t have—and is trying to remember that lost trauma by making haunting sculptures.
Long ago, something sinister, something hungry, walked in the tunnels and the mountains and the coal mines of their hometown in rural Pennsylvania.
Now, Nate and Maddie Graves are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their son, Oliver.
And now what happened long ago is happening again . . . and it is happening to Oliver. He meets a strange boy who becomes his best friend, a boy with secrets of his own and a taste for dark magic.
This dark magic puts them at the heart of a battle of good versus evil and a fight for the soul of the family—and perhaps for all of the world. But the Graves family has a secret weapon in this battle: their love for one another.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you, NetGalley for this review copy. Here is my honest review for The Book of Accidents. This story follows Nathan, Maddie, and Oliver, a family. They are moving back to Nathan’s childhood home because it’s a financially smart choice to make. But things are not alright in this town they’ve moved to. There is something dark living in this town.
Now, I have to start off by saying that this book was weird. I wasn’t sure if the ‘why’ behind it all was supposed to be magical or scientific for way too long. I guess the mystery of ‘why’ was done really well because I was left guessing. This was a dark, creepy story. There were definitely some more gruesome moments than I was expecting. This is a slow and wandering story. There are definitely moments of action and twists and suspense, but this is a slow story that takes its time getting to where things need to go. I liked that at times, and I didn’t like it at other times. I think because it took me so long to read this one, I was only sometimes in the mood for a slow story.
I think the characters were all really well developed. We really get to know them, their histories and the why behind who they are. I liked that we got to know the whole family.
Overall, I think I liked this one. It was definitely a bit weirder than what I usually read, but it was a gripping and well written story. I liked all of the characters. I liked the setting of a small town with a dark history. The magic was bizarre and fascinating. I still don’t know that I totally get it. I definitely think this would be a good one for horror fans.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Summary:
Our story begins in 1902, at The Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara, two impressionable students, are obsessed with each other and with a daring young writer named Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls establish their own private club and call it The Plain Bad Heroine Society. They meet in secret in a nearby apple orchard, the setting of their wildest happiness and, ultimately, of their macabre deaths. This is where their bodies are later discovered with a copy of Mary’s book splayed beside them, the victims of a swarm of stinging, angry yellow jackets. Less than five years later, The Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors forever—but not before three more people mysteriously die on the property, each in a most troubling way.
Over a century later, the now abandoned and crumbling Brookhants is back in the news when wunderkind writer, Merritt Emmons, publishes a breakout book celebrating the queer, feminist history surrounding the “haunted and cursed” Gilded-Age institution. Her bestselling book inspires a controversial horror film adaptation starring celebrity actor and lesbian it girl Harper Harper playing the ill-fated heroine Flo, opposite B-list actress and former child star Audrey Wells as Clara. But as Brookhants opens its gates once again, and our three modern heroines arrive on set to begin filming, past and present become grimly entangled—or perhaps just grimly exploited—and soon it’s impossible to tell where the curse leaves off and Hollywood begins.
A story within a story within a story and featuring black-and-white period illustrations.

Book Cover

Summary:
I read Plain Bad Heroines for book club in June. The consensus seemed to be that everyone liked it, but I really loved it. This book was bizarre and convoluted and complex and I loved everything about it.
The story jumps all over the timeline. So, it’s not an easy one to summarize. There are the characters from 1902 which include some students as well as some teachers at The Brookhants School for Girls. But bad things are happening. People are dying. Then there’s the present-day timeline, which includes, Merritt, Harper, and Audrey (there’s more but these are the most important). But we also get smaller stories from the very beginning. Basically, this story is about yellow jackets killing people because the land is angry. Some say it’s cursed and others are fascinated. Regardless, Merritt wrote a book about Brookhants and it’s being turned into a movie with a focus on Clara and Flo (the first two girls to die at Brookhants). Harper and Merritt develop a flirty friendship before filming starts and when Audrey is cast alongside Harper, jealous starts to show. But the three grow close and the story grows creepy and I loved every page.  
I really loved these characters. They are all so beautifully flawed, it was a true joy to get to know them and follow their stories. I loved Libby and Alex (teachers at Brookhants) and their romance. It was lovely and sweet until it was tragic. Tragic actually fits well to describe a few of the storyline endings. This was not a happy story filled with happy characters. This was a creepy and atmospheric story filled with mystery and queer characters. The growth and personal stories we get to follow for Merritt, Audrey, and Harper was so enjoyable. I loved getting to know them better and see them get to know one another. They were all such well-developed characters with fears and hopes and dreams. I loved these three so much.
Overall, I loved this book. I loved all the different storylines. I loved the creep and mystery. I loved the slow pace of the story, revealing the tiniest bits and pieces at a time. I really loved the different time periods. I loved how gay everyone was. I loved the illustrations. I highly recommend this story for anyone that loves a slow, steady story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.  

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

Summary:
Eleanor Zarrin has been estranged from her wild family for years. When she flees boarding school after a horrifying incident, she goes to the only place she thinks is safe: the home she left behind. But when she gets there, she struggles to fit in with her monstrous relatives, who prowl the woods around the family estate and read fortunes in the guts of birds.
Eleanor finds herself desperately trying to hold the family together — in order to save them all, Eleanor must learn to embrace her family of monsters and tame the darkness inside her.
Rose Szabo’s thrilling debut is a dark and thrilling novel about a teen girl who returns home to her strange, wild family after years of estrangement, perfect for fans of Wilder Girls.

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

Review:
Generally, I start my reviews with a bit of a summary of the story in my own words. Well, I can’t do that with this review because I honestly have no idea what just happened. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the narrator. I felt like the story itself wasn’t super fast-paced (until the end anyway) but it still felt like I flew through the story. I think part of this is because I was so confused and filled with questions that I just needed to keep going so I could get some answers.
I gave this book 4 stars, but honestly, I’m still so confused. The story follows Eleanor after she flees her boarding school and returns home to a family she hasn’t seen in almost ten years. Her family is filled with monsters and she is missing quite a few important pieces of her memory. The things that Eleanor couldn’t remember was one of the more frustrating aspects of this book because it clear that her family remembers more than she does, but because she’s been gone so long with no communication from anyone aside from her grandmother, there’s a lot of distrust between all of them. Eleanor’s grandfather, sister, father, and cousin are werewolves (they’re never called that because their origin is a whole other thing. But they’re basically werewolves). Her paternal grandmother (the one that sent her away in the first place) is a witch of some sort and her mother is hinted to be something, but it’s never really addressed. Now, with all of this, it was easy to assume that Eleanor was also something, but we didn’t know what exactly that was. This was one of the big plot lines of the book. What is Eleanor? Well, we learn that what she is played a big part of everything that’s happened to her.
So, the things that I liked about this story were many. Despite being confused as heck for most of this story, I was interested. The setting was atmospheric and vivid. The author did an excellent job with stunning imagery. I liked seeing Eleanor uncomfortable. I think this was because I didn’t really like Eleanor. She doesn’t make good choices (her grandmother gives her advice on her death bed and Eleanor basically never thinks about it again even though following that advice would have saved her from literally everything in this book). But what compelled me to continue on in this story was that I couldn’t help but understand why Eleanor did the things she did. It wasn’t hard to sympathize with her even though I didn’t really like her. There were some things that were so clear to the reader that Eleanor didn’t want to see them, so she didn’t. But with her backstory, it was easy to understand why she was this way. I loved all of the fantasy/horror elements. The monsters and the magic, the stories that we heard the family tell, it was all so creepy in the best way. I also really loved Margaret. She’s Eleanor’s aunt. I liked the slow development of the relationship from actively disliking one another to finding themselves on the same side and working together. Margaret doesn’t speak and doesn’t like to be spoken to, so we get some fun charades scenes.
I would have liked to have gotten a bit more from some of the other characters though. We got a lot of Arthur (a family friend) because he is a love interest. I think the ‘romance’ was absolutely not needed for this story to work. Romance is in quotes because there was a sort of happily ever after that I didn’t really care for. I would have totally been okay with all the other bits of the ‘romance’ if they hadn’t gotten that HEA moment, especially after learning all the details of Arthur’s backstory. We didn’t get much from Eleanor’s cousin and sister other than the fact that they were spoiled adults that acted like children because they’d been given or had taken anything they had ever wanted or needed.
Overall, this was a wild ride that was spooky, creepy, scary, and a whole bunch of other things. I think it was written well. But sometimes there was just a bit too much going on. I loved all the monsters and magic and mayhem. I will definitely be reading more work by Szabo.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Blade Between by Sam J. Miller

Summary:
Ronan Szepessy promised himself he’d never return to Hudson. The sleepy upstate town was no place for a restless gay photographer. But his father is ill and New York City’s distractions have become too much for him. He hopes that a quick visit will help him recharge.
Ronan reconnects with two friends from high school: Dom, his first love, and Dom’s wife, Attalah. The three former misfits mourn what their town has become—overrun by gentrifiers and corporate interests. With friends and neighbors getting evicted en masse and a mayoral election coming up, Ronan and Attalah craft a plan to rattle the newcomers and expose their true motives. But in doing so, they unleash something far more mysterious and uncontainable.
Review:
Hudson has a rich, proud history and, it turns out, the real estate developers aren’t the only forces threatening its well-being: the spirits undergirding this once-thriving industrial town are enraged. Ronan’s hijinks have overlapped with a bubbling up of hate and violence among friends and neighbors, and everything is spiraling out of control. Ronan must summon the very best of himself to shed his own demons and save the city he once loathed.
The Blade BetweenReview:
Thank you, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. I requested The Blade Between because a friend of mine was absolutely raving about it. I’m glad that I requested it because I flew through this book. I don’t know that I would say I enjoyed it, but it was definitely an experience.
So, I want to mention first that the writing was incredible. There were so many great lines and fantastic descriptions in this book. I cannot say enough good things about Miller’s writing. He managed to make it a creepy and atmospheric story, but also convinced us to love these very flawed characters. I think there were some really interesting topics covered in a thoughtful way. This story follows Ronan as he returns to his home town of Hudson, a place he has no fond memories of. But his father is dying and it’s time he finally returns. But things escalate and suddenly he’s fighting against the gentrification of a town he grew up hating. I really liked this aspect of the story. Ronan has so many mixed feelings about his hometown, but he still does his damnedest to save it. I also loved all of the antics that Ronan and his friends participate in to ‘save’ the town. I think there were definitely some moments that were a bit extreme, but the author did a really good job showing character motivations that were almost understandable. It wasn’t hard to sympathize with these characters.
I also think the author did a really great job of creating different and interesting characters. Even though the story sort of jumped around with who it was following, I had no issues distinguishing between any of them. They were all unique and interesting. Now, the plot was fascinating. I loved the fantasy elements that were included in the story. The bits about the whales was absolutely creepy but only got creepier with the inclusion of the ghosts that play a role in the story.
Overall, I think this was a horrifying and excellent story. I will absolutely be reading more books by this author. Miller’s writing was exceptional and memorable. I think the characters were easy to love, even when they were doing shitty things. I just couldn’t put this book down. I highly recommend this one for fans of horror or darker fantasy books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Summary:
Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.
Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.
Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.
Review:Into the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep, #1)
Into the Drowning Deep
is a horror novel about mermaids. I’ve always said that I didn’t like the horror genre, but recently I’ve found myself picking up and really enjoying horror novels. Into the Drowning Deep is a book that solidified my interest in the genre.
This story follows Tori and several other characters as they embark on a second voyage to the Mariana Trench and attempt to uncover what happened seven years ago. For Tori, this is a personal mission. Her sister was on that first voyage and not knowing what happened to her is something Tori has never been able to cope with. She’s a graduate student studying marine biology, more specifically she studies the sound waves underneath the ocean. I think the scientific aspect of this story was one of my favorite parts. This second crew is filled with more than 400 marine scientists, most that don’t believe in the myth of mermaids but are eager for the chance to do research fully funded by someone else. There’s quite a bit of science talk that goes on between Tori’s sound waves and other various things that come up once the mermaids have been ‘discovered.’ I don’t want to give too much away about the story, so, I’ll just say that I liked the science. It was detailed but still understandable. It wasn’t so technical that I didn’t understand what the characters were talking about.
Now, this book follows quite a few characters, which isn’t always successful when telling a story, but Grant did it in a way where eventually all of the characters overlapped and I cared about what would happen to all of them, even the ones I didn’t like. Grant created characters that were all compelling and very different from one another. They each had a unique voice and personality. They all had their own motivations for being on that ship.
Grant’s writing is what really pushed this story over the top for me. The suspense and tense mood of the story was excellent. I listened to the audiobook (which had a narrator that I really liked) and I couldn’t help but react to the story. There were times that I froze in fear, gasped in surprise, or relaxed in relief right alongside the characters. But Grant also let the reader know the whole story, so there were things that some of the characters didn’t know that we did, which added even more anxiety and worry for the characters.
Overall, I absolutely devoured this book. I would highly recommend it for any readers that like horror. I think the characters were compelling and interesting. The story itself was unique and made me think (I’ve always been fascinated by the ocean). I actually ended up looking up information about the Marianas Trench. I also think that Grant did a good job of including diverse characters. There was representation with deaf characters, and while I can’t speak to the accuracy, I liked that they were included as scientists. This was an engaging story that balanced between science and a bit of fantasy. I will definitely be picking up more books by Mira Grant in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Girl and the Ghost by Hannah Alkaf

Summary:
A Malaysian folk tale comes to life in this emotionally layered, chilling middle-grade debut, perfect for fans of The Book of Boy and The Jumbies.
I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.
Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.
But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness.
Fans of Holly Black’s Doll Bones and Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore series will love this ghostly middle-grade debut that explores jealousy, love, and the extraordinary power of friendship.
Review:The Girl and the Ghost
I adored The Girl and The Ghost. This book was creepy but in a way that I just couldn’t stop listening. I have to shower this narrator with compliments because they told this story in such an incredible way, filling it with emotion and suspense at all the right moments. I will definitely be looking to see if this narrator has read other books.
This book alternates chapters between the girl and the ghost. It’s a dark and atmospheric story about a young girl named Suraya who is gifted a pelesit (which is a sort of a ghost). This pelesit is eventually named Pink by Suraya. Her mother cares for her in the sense of making sure Suraya is fed and clothed and goes to school. But she’s not a mother that is affectionate. Suraya is a lonely kid, so when Pink comes to find her after her grandmother dies, Suraya is glad to have a friend. She and Pink do everything together. This story starts when Suraya is very young, so not much happens in the beginning aside from Pink finding Suraya and the two bonding deeply. But once Suraya gets a bit older, and makes a new friend, Pink becomes jealous. This is where the story starts to get suspenseful and kind of scary. Pink reacts out of jealousy and starts to do things that Suraya has specifically told him not to do.
I loved pretty much everything about this book. Suraya and Pink’s relationship was sweet at first, it was something that they both needed, a friend. I really appreciated that as things progressed and Suraya realized that she couldn’t handle things with Pink anymore, she asked her mother for help. I think that this book was wholesome as heck despite being a middle-grade horror novel. It had friendship and adventure, pelesit, ghosts, and a few other spooky things. The Girl and the Ghost is a story with heart and I absolutely loved every minute of it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Project by Courtney Summers

GoodReads Summary:
Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.
When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.
The ProjectReview:
Thank you, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me this eARC in exchange for an honest review. The Project is one of my anticipated release for 2021. Summer’s books have been hit or miss for me, but the premise of this one had me very intrigued.
The way this story was told was very interesting. There are a few different points of view that tell the story. The first is Bea, told in the third person, as her younger sister (Lo) is born. Then it flashes forward twelve years, still in Bea’s perspective, then forward again six more years, where the story changes to a first-person narrative, but now it’s Lo telling the story. This was a little bit confusing at first. The change from this person to first was abrupt and the jumps forward in time left me wondering who the story was following now and what had happened in the last six years. As the story went on, I ended up really enjoying the fact that the story was told this way. It continued to go back and forth between Lo’s present perspective and Bea’s perspective in the past. The way their stories ended up so similar, with one big difference, was absolutely fascinating.
I think both Bea and Lo were such compelling characters. Lo has so much anger in her but still ends up on a similar path as Bea. Bea on the other hand was filled with gratitude that led her to her downfall.
Overall, I don’t know that I would say I liked this book. It was an absolutely riveting story. One that I had to read in one sitting, staying up way past when I should have gone to bed of course. But it was filled with things that made me uncomfortable. There are relationships with large age differences, not that this itself is bad, but the dynamics of the two relationships were gross (as was the intention, I think). I went into this book unsure what to expect and ended up sucked into the story and left with one question: What the fuck?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

GoodReads Summary:
A darkly enchanting reimagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a spirited young woman discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico.
Mexican GothicReview:
Mexican Gothic is a dark and atmospheric story that centers around family. Noemi is sent to the Mexican countryside to make sure her cousin Catalina is okay. Noemi’s father received a distressing letter from Catalina, who moved to the countryside to live with her new husband on his family’s estate. Her father sends Noemi to High Place to see Catalina for herself and make sure her cousin is alright. I really liked Noemi. She definitely doesn’t want to say once she sees High Place, but she does what’s right for her cousin. She seeks answers, but doesn’t even know if she’s asking the right questions. I liked that she was persistent and didn’t let this weird ass family push her around, much.
This story is creepy as soon as Noemi gets to High Place. The property and house are neglected and the family members are also creepy. Catalina’s husband, Virgil is immediately unlikable. He’s brash and scary, at times. I immediately didn’t like Virgil and didn’t understand why Catalina married him. I couldn’t help but be as worried about Catalina as Noemi was. Every time Noemi sat with Catalina, there were more questions than answers. That was a theme with this book. There were so many questions, which was a great way to build suspense and lead up to the big reveal. Moreno-Garcia did an excellent job of leaving the reader wondering what the hell was actually going on.
Overall, this was a creepy as hell story that I absolutely devoured. The writing was stunning and descriptive, painting a vivid and horrifying picture. The setting was atmospheric and perfectly spooky. I loved Noemi and Catalina. I hated Virgil and most of his family. I highly recommend this book and I will absolutely be reading more books by this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

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GoodReads Summary:
Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.
But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.
Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?
The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape.
Burn Our Bodies DownReview:
First, I want to say a huge thank you to my wonderful friend over at Books in the Skye for gifting me the audiobook for Burn Our Bodies Down for my birthday. I found a new narrator that I really enjoy and this story was wonderfully weird. The story follows Margot as she’s searching for answers. She lives with her mother and has never known any other family. She wants to know who her family is and what her mother is hiding. She absolutely gets more than she bargained for.
Margot was a really interesting character. Her drive was just to find her family, to find someone that would show that they loved her. She just wanted her mother to choose her. I don’t think I really understood her though. When she finds and goes to her grandmother, she gets almost the same treatment as she did when she was with her mother. Her mother and grandmother both lied and hid things from her. I understood her desire to ferret out the secrets that she knew were hiding in her grandmother’s home, but I personally would have gotten the hell out of there and written off the whole family.
Overall, this book was spectacularly creepy. I didn’t see the end coming and it was absolutely disturbing. The mystery and suspense kept me going. I loved that Margot was a lesbian, but there wasn’t really any romance in the story. She made a friend, but there wasn’t a romance plotline and I appreciated that. I definitely cannot wait to see what Rory Power comes out with next.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.