The Last Laugh by Mindy McGinnis

Tress Montor murdered Felicity Turnado—but she might not have to live with the guilt for long. With an infected arm held together by duct tape, the panther who clawed her open on the loose, and the whole town on the hunt for the lost homecoming queen, the odds are stacked against Tress. As her mind slides deeper into delirium, Tress is haunted by the growing sound of Felicity’s heartbeat pulsing from the “best friend” charm around her fevered neck.
Ribbit Usher has been a punchline his whole life—from his nickname to his latest turn as the unwitting star of a humiliating viral video. In the past he’s willingly played the fool, but now it’s time to fulfill his destiny. That means saving the girl, so that Felicity can take her place at his side and Ribbit can exact revenge on all who have done him wrong—which includes his cousin, Tress. Ribbit is held by a pact he made with his mother long ago, a pact that must be delivered upon in four days.
With time ticking down and an enemy she considers a friend lurking in the shadows, Tress’s grip on reality is failing. Can she keep both mind and body together long enough to finally find out what happened to her parents? 

The Last Laugh picks up right where The Initial Insult ends, but honestly this book felt like it didn’t need to be a whole book.
Things are not looking good for Tress when this story opens. But this book felt like it was essentially following Tress into madness. Maybe that was the point, but it wasn’t super enjoyable for me.
Overall, I’m going to keep this review short because I don’t have much to say. McGinnis does a great job setting the scene and making this story feel atmospheric. But I was left wondering what the point was if Felicity’s death was the big thing, it happened too soon.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Favorite Retellings

Hey, lovelies! I used to read so many retellings, fairytale, folklore, and mythological retellings were a huge favorite genre of mine for a really long time. But I think I’m growing out of that. I’ve noticed that I don’t gravitate toward picking them up anymore. I will say that I do still read mythological retellings, and pretty often, especially now that we’re branching away from the typical Greek and Roman mythologies. I’ve also been discovering retellings other than fairytale and folklore. You will find some of those on this list. So, today I want to share some retellings that I really enjoyed.

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House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
This is a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses which was one of my favorite fairytales as a kid. I’d never read a retelling of this one before, and I think this one was excellent. I don’t know if it’s actually considered horror, but it definitely has some horror elements. Annaleigh is one of twelve siblings. But four of her siblings have died, one at a time, and Annaleigh doesn’t think that they were accidents. I really loved this book. It stayed true to the heart of the 12 Dancing Princesses fairytale and added some really cool horror elements. The setting was creepy and atmospheric.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
This is a Sherlock Holmes retelling, sort of. This is a four book series that follows Charlotte Homes and Jamie Watson. They are the descendents of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Charlotte and Jamie find themselves at the same boarding school and when a student is found murdered, they obviously must solve the mystery. I loved this whole series. There are a lot of hard hitting topics like mental health and drug use. There’s even a little bit of romance. This is one of the books I was talking about when I said I was finding and enjoying retellings outside of fairytales. This is a retelling of an older book series and I thought it was so interesting and I loved all of the characters.

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The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin
We have here a Henry VIII retelling. I actually didn’t know that this was a Shakespeare retelling until after I finished it. I think I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t read it in the description as I’m not a fan of Shakespeare at all. Despite that, I really enjoyed this modern retelling. I thought the mystery was well done and I really liked the characters. We follow Annie, nicknamed “Cleves”, and Henry. They are best friends, but they also briefly dated. Out of all of Henry’s ex-girlfriends, Cleves is the only one that has remained friends with him. She doesn’t think there’s anything suspicious about that, but after talking to some of his ex’s she might be changing her mind. I liked the mystery in this one because I couldn’t decide whether of not Henry was actually guilty right until the end of the book.

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The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
This one is more inspired by than a true retelling, but I really loved it so I had to add it to this list. Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, this is a dark and gritty story of revenge. In a small town in Ohio lives Tress and Felicity, two girls that used to be best friends. When Tress’s parents went missing, Felicity was with them, but she claims not to remember anything about what happened. Tress doesn’t believe her and she’s determined to get the truth out of Felicity, even if that means sealing her up, brick by brick. This book was weird and dark as hell and I cannot wait for the sequel.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
This series is a pretty popular one, but this first book is my favorite of the series. It’s a historical retelling with a fantasy twist. This one is a bit less retelling than it is fantasy. We follow Lady Jane Grey as she’s about to become queen. But her cousin is determined to see her married. The only problem is that the love interest, G, turns into a horse everyday at dawn. This added some hilarity to the story. I loved this book because it was funny but it also had an interesting historical feel.

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Another popular one, but this is the origin story of the Queen of Hearts. We get to see her childhood and the events that led up to the Queen of Hearts that we know from Alice in Wonderland. There’s lots of baking and love and fun in this book. There’s love and romance, but also betrayal and heartbreak. I thought this was a really great retelling or rather a prequel story.

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
This one is more of an after sort of retelling. In this one, we get to see what happens to Cinderella’s stepsisters after Cinderella meets and marries her Prince Charming. At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this one because the main character that we follow, Isabelle. She’s the stepsister that cut off her toes to try and fit in the glass slipper. Isabelle is a pretty unlikeable character, but the way that this story is told really helped that. Instead of just Isabelle’s perspective, we see a point of view from Fate, who is following the map of Isabelle’s life. They’re watching to see what path Isabelle might take and if she will veer away from the path expected for her. I thought this was a really unique retelling about a character that most people don’t think of in the Cinderella story.

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And I Darken by Kiersten White
We have a historical retelling, which surprisingly end up being some of my favorites. I don’t really love historical fiction, but there’s something about a really good historical retelling that keeps me engaged in the story. We follow Lada and Radu. This is a gender bent retelling of Vlad the Impaler. Lada is a vicious and angry girl. She’s determined to prove that she is worthy to her father, but when she and her brother, Radu, are sent as gifts to be raised in the Ottoman courts, she feels nothing but betrayal. This is a really slow moving story, but it’s so worth it. We see Lada grow from a vicious girl into a lethal young woman. I absolutely loved it.

These are some of my favorite retellings. I’ve had so much fun finding new kinds of retellings from alternate historical retellings to retellings of other fiction works, to some more unique fairytale and folklore stories. Do you have any favorite retellings? Leave a comment and share them with me!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

Welcome to Amontillado, Ohio, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept… for a price.
Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things.
Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.
But she’ll have to.
Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.
In the first book of this duology, award-winning author Mindy McGinnis draws inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe and masterfully delivers a dark, propulsive mystery in alternating points of view that unravels a friendship… forevermore. 

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

McGinnis’ books have been hit or miss for me. I either absolutely love them or I don’t really like them very much at all. The Initial Insult was one I really, really enjoyed. It was dark and gritty. It was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and that absolutely comes through in the story. It follows Tress and Felicity in alternating chapters.
Tress and Felicity were best friends, but then Tress’s parents disappear late one night while they were giving Felicity a ride home. Felicity doesn’t remember what happened. She didn’t see anything, but vaguely remembers being carried away from the car. Since then, she’s become one of the popular girls in high school. She also has seizures that she doesn’t let anyone know about. I thought it was really interesting to see how Felicity deals with this. She uses drugs and drinks to excess. While I didn’t like Felicity for most of the book, especially after we flashback to story after story of her not handling things with Tress well, it was hard not to feel for her. She’s been pushed this way and that by her mother, her friends, even by Tress. The way her story ended was definitely shocking and I am very eager to see what will happen with her in the next book.
Tress was a very unlikable character as well. But in a different way. Her parents went missing and she was sent to live with her grandfather. Her grandfather owns an exotic animal zoo (think Tiger King). It’s certainly an adjustment for her, moving from a stable home with two parents to a trailer on land with incredible dangerous animals that she’s now been enlisted to help take care of. To say that Tress is unhappy doesn’t accurately explain her feelings. She has never gotten over her parent’s disappearance. This is what fuels Tress to trick Felicity into the basement and question her about what Felicity remembers from that night.
I think this story was a wild ride. It had so many different things going on, but it wasn’t too much. None of the plotlines took away from any of the others. I loved how dark this story was. Tress was a really dark character. She did illegal things to make money. She essentially tortures Felicity, who used to be her best friend. But also, I sort of loved her.
The way the story was told was really well done. We start in present day, leading up to the Halloween party where most of this story happens. But while Tress is questioning Felicity, we get flashbacks into the past that show us both Tress and Felicity’s points of view in these moments. I thought McGinnis did an incredible job getting me to like both of these terrible girls. They’re so different from one another, but they’re both terrible.
Overall, I really enjoyed this. I think anyone that likes dark books will like this one. I loved the way the story was told, the characters, the mood and tone of the story. I loved it all. The ending matched the rest of the story by being totally wild. Also, I just have to mention the chapters from the panther’s point of view. They were weird and I completely loved them. I definitely recommend this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

GoodReads Summary:
The world is not tame.
Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she’s alone – and far off-trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.
Be Not Far From MeReview:
What a wild ride this book was for me. I’ve had a hit or miss relationship with McGinnis’ books. But this one has gotten some pretty good praise since its release, so I thought I’d give it a try when I saw my library had the ebook available. I read this in one sitting. It’s a shorter book, but action-packed and so suspenseful.
The things that Ashley goes through was just wild. First of all, she catches her boyfriend literally cheating on her with his ex-girlfriend. I just have to say I was totally here for the way that this situation was resolved. The story starts with a group of friends drinking in the woods. This was relatable as hell for me because that’s pretty much also what I did in high school.
But then she runs and manages to really hurt herself. Her friends are jerks and think she’s just gone home. So, we follow her as she’s trying to (sort of) heal herself and figure her way out of the woods. I will say that the people who I know that have read and enjoyed this, they mentioned that it was pretty graphic and a little gory, but I didn’t feel that way. It was definitely descriptive, but there was only one specific part that really grossed me out (read: possum). I thought the rest of the book while Ashley is trying to survive in the wild while injured was so well written. It was suspenseful and dramatic. But we also got a fair bit of backstory for Ashley and relationship history with various characters.
Overall, I wouldn’t say this was a new favorite book. But I read it very quickly because the writing pulled me in and wouldn’t spit me out until Ashley managed to escape the woods. I’d definitely recommend this book for anyone that thinks it sounds interesting.


“We live in a place where geography can not only kill you, but also dictates your friends.”

“No, I’m not freezing and I’m not starving, and I know both these things are true because I’m in pain. When you can’t feel anything is when you need to worry.”

“I’m discovering me out here, for the good and the bad. There’s things I’m proud of and stuff I’d rather forget, but it all makes up who I am and what I was, and what I’ve got to work with if I want to become something else. And I don’t get to do those things or be that person if I die out here.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

GoodReads Summary:
Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.
Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.
But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….
With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.
Not a Drop to Drink (Not a Drop to Drink, #1)Review:
It seems that McGinnis’s books are hit or miss for me. I’ve absolutely loved some of them and really didn’t like others. This is one that I didn’t love. I didn’t dislike it, but it wasn’t what I wanted.
Lynn was kind of horrible. I understood why, and she definitely grows by the end of the book, but she was still kind of annoying. Honestly, the best part of this book was Lynn’s character growth, but it’s still not saying much.
I just wanted more from this book. I thought it was going to be more like Dry by Neal Shusterman where the characters travel and search for water. But it really wasn’t about the water at all.
Overall, I was disappointed. I’m not sure if I’m going to read the second book, but I might because the synopsis sounds more like they’ll be traveling and I think I might like that.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis


GoodReads Summary:
Grace Mae knows madness.
She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.
When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.
In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.
A Madness So DiscreetReview:
After reading Heroine, McGinnis’ 2019 release, and absolutely loving it, I’ve been trying to make it through the rest of her books. A Madness So Discreet was…different, to say the least. I read in other reviews that it was supposed to be a conversation about madness and also the state of care for those with mental illnesses in the 1800s. But this book was actually pretty fucked up for lack of a better phrase.
I couldn’t help but love the main character, Grace. She as fiery and fierce despite the things she’d had to endure throughout her life. She was smart and clever and made the best of the horrible situation she’d found herself in. She was really the only reason I continued the story.
The doctor, Thornhollow, was odd but in the best ways. I liked that he saved Grace, even if he wasn’t the most personable sort. He was a bizarre character, but I liked him because of that. I especially liked his sister. She just added a bit more to the story that I really liked.
Overall, I’m going to keep this review short because I think I’m still sorting out my thoughts. I finished this book and all I could think to myself was, “What the actual F” I’m still not sure whether I even liked this book or not, so? I read it quickly. McGinnis has a way with words that makes me want more, even if I’m not super invested in the characters. I think my issue with this story was its darkness. I usually love things like that, but this story was all too real in the time period, even though it’s a fictional story, people suffered like this every day. And that’s not something I can enjoy.


“The darkness has long lived inside me, sown if not by my nature then by nurture.”

“I think we’re all quite mad. Some of us are just more discreet about it.”

“It’s a madness so discreet that it can walk the streets and be applauded in some circles, but it is madness nonetheless.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis


GoodReads Summary:
Sasha Stone knows her place—first-chair clarinet, top of her class, and at the side of her Oxford-wearing boyfriend. She’s worked her entire life to ensure her path to Oberlin Conservatory as a star musician is perfectly paved.
But suddenly there’s a fork in the road in the shape of Isaac Harver. Her body shifts toward him when he walks by, and her skin misses his touch even though she’s never known it. Why does he act like he knows her so well—too well—when she doesn’t know him at all?
Sasha discovers that her by-the-book life began by ending the chapter of another: the twin sister she absorbed in the womb. But that doesn’t explain the gaps of missing time in her practice schedule, or the memories she has of things she certainly never did with Isaac.
Armed with the knowledge that her heart might not be hers alone, Sasha must decide what she’s willing to do—and who she’s willing to hurt—to take it back.
This Darkness MineReview:
This Darkness Mine was interesting in the sense that I couldn’t put it down and read it in just a few hours. But…that doesn’t mean that it was good. I have loved every Mindy McGinnis book that I have read so far, until this one.
While the story was compelling, it was also kind of screwed up and I hated everything about it when I finished the final pages. I never really like Sasha at any point in the book. She was cocky and not in a good way. She clearly had issues. I also didn’t like how she was to her family. She was stuck up and I just generally didn’t like her.
The one person I did like was Issac. I liked that he was the ‘bad boy’ but he really wasn’t. There was so much more to him than that. I hated how Sasha treated him, like a piece of meat. I also mostly liked Sasha’s friends. Though I don’t even remember their names so they obviously weren’t memorable enough.
I’m going to keep this short because even though this book was a pretty wild ride, I just didn’t like it. It didn’t sit well with me. Sasha was crazy and not in a good way. I don’t like to use that word to describe people, but she was honestly kind of a sociopath and I ended up hating her. I’m unhauling this book and I’m hopefully never going to think about it again.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

Three screws in her hip.
Two months until spring training.
One answer to all her problems.
Mickey Catalan’s life has been littered with struggles—from the scars that tell of past injuries to her parents’ divorce to the daily complexity of finding the right words to fit in socially. Mickey is no stranger to pain, emotional or physical.
When a car crash sidelines her months before softball season, Mickey has to find a way to hold on to her spot as the catcher for a team expected to make a historic tournament run. Behind the plate is the only place she’s ever felt comfortable, and the painkillers she’s been prescribed can help her get back there.
The pills do more than take away the pain; they make her feel good. With a new circle of friends—fellow injured athletes, others with just time to kill—Mickey finds peaceful acceptance and people with whom words come easily, even if it is just the pills loosening her tongue. But as the pressure to be Mickey Catalan heightens her need increases, and it becomes less about pain and more about want, something that could send her spiraling out of control.
Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis lays bare and honest exploration of the opioid crisis through the eyes of one girl., a visceral and necessary story about addiction, family, friendship, and hope.
What to say about this book? It’s one that everyone needs. Though there is a content warning at the beginning that this book may not be the best choice for those struggling with addiction or a recovering addict. I am a recovering alcoholic and this was hard for me to read.
Mindy McGinnis knows how to write a story that will tear apart your emotions and stomp all over them. Because I have somewhat of an understanding of what Mickey was going through, I think I felt more for her than someone that doesn’t have that same understanding. McGinnis really nailed the portrayal of Mickey falling into the trap of addiction and how it can take down anyone. I think it was really interesting that Mickey and her best friend seemed to be two sides of the same coin. Mickey was the one that fell into addiction and her best friend fought the temptation.
This story was powerful and is one that needs to be read by everyone. The author showed just how easy it is to get tangled up with drugs and even for those that have a wonderful future laid out for them.
There isn’t too much I want to say about this story because there was so much to it, but also it was very character-driven. I just have to say that this book hurt. It was powerful and important and needs to be read by as many people as possible.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all the other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm.
Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.
So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.
Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker side breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever. Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis artfully crafts three alternating perspectives into a dark and riveting exploration or what it means to be the female of the species.
The Female of the SpeciesReview:
The Female of the Species has been on my TBR list for entirely too long. I don’t know what took me so long but I’m really glad I finally read this. I found the audiobook available from my library and I’m so happy that I chose to read this via audio. The story is told in three different perspectives. We follow Alex, Peekay, and Jack. They each get their own chapters and their own narrators. I thought that McGinnis did an incredible job of giving each character their own distinct voice and personality.
Peekay was my favorite, but that’s probably because she reminded me a bit of myself when I was in high school. She can’t outrun the identity of being the preacher’s kid, but she manages to rebel where she can. She doesn’t hesitate to drink with her friends. She makes friends with Alex while they’re working together at the animal shelter. I really liked Peekay.
I also really liked Alex. I liked that she was quirky and didn’t talk like everyone else. Honestly, even though she took justice into her own hands, I found myself really sympathizing with her rather than being disturbed by her actions. I think most women can relate to wanting to take action against those that have done wrong. But most women would never actually take action like she does. I think Alex grew and developed wonderfully in this book right alongside Peekay.
Finally, Jack. He was my least favorite of the three. This is because despite him knowing and acknowledging when he was doing or about to do something wrong, sometimes he still did it. He was frustrating sometimes because I wanted to love him so much, but he wasn’t always a good dude. I liked him well enough. He was also a pretty realistic character if I were to compare him to the guys I went to high school with. I think that’s why I didn’t hate him, because despite his flaws, he was real.
Overall, I think this book brought really interesting conversations to the table in a way that was easy and accessible. This book wasn’t always easy to read but I think that was just a part of the experience. There were some hard parts involving animals that come with the characters working at an animal shelter. This was a heavy book, but I just found that I couldn’t put it down.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.