Review: Campfire by Shawn Sarles

CampfireCampfire by Shawn Sarles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up because I feel this book deserves a higher overall rating**

((How’s that for honesty?))

When Maddie Davenport heads on a friends and family camping trip she has no idea that it is a trip that will change her life. But we all know what happens when teens go camping.

Y’all, this book is a teen slasher flick come to the page. If you enjoy the campy, bloody, sometimes ridiculous movies like Cabin Fever, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Friday the 13th, House of Wax or Wrong Turn, I think you could enjoy this.

It’s all about the mindset you go into a book with. I was looking for a campy, silly slasher that would make me nostalgic for my Junior High years, devouring every Fear Street book I could get my hands on. This did that. It gave me exactly that.

This does definitely read on the younger side of YA so if you aren’t into Tween reads, I would steer clear. I would put this at a target audience of 7th through 10th grade, which is completely fine. People in that age group deserve to have books too and for a fun, Spooktober read, this is great.

The writing is simplistic and the storyline was easy to follow. There are a ton of flawed characters to hate on so when bodies start dropping, you probably won’t shed too many tears.

If you are looking for a quick read, something to remind you of your younger years, when you first started to learn that scaring yourself was fun, you should probably check this one out. I was laughing out loud to the cheesy lines at the end. It was a good time. Glad I picked it up and I feel like you should too!

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Review: The Furies by Katie Lowe

The FuriesThe Furies by Katie Lowe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

A girl found dead on the grounds of a prestigious, all-girls private school. So, the mystery begins.

As a reader, you do not know the identity of the girl. Fun, right? Then begins out protagonist, Violet, telling of her days at the school and the events leading up to the mysterious death.

You grab your popcorn and settle in for what is sure to be an intense murder mystery and then it’s not.

There was so much about this book that should have worked for me. It was described as being set at a private school in a sleepy, coastal town. YES! Give me that.

I love that type of atmosphere and literally seek it out in books. I live on an island out in the middle of the ocean for goodness sake! My life is a sleepy, coastal town. I never really felt that sense of place though while reading this. The atmosphere just wasn’t there for me. It could have been anywhere.

Violet, the new girl at the school, is odd and unsure and desperate to fit in. When Robin befriends her, she is smitten right away. Robin seems dangerous and way more mature than Violet. Two other girls, Alex and Grace, ultimately make up their group of four. This set-up was very reminiscent of The Craft which also should have worked for me as that is one of my favorite movies, EVER.

Again, it just fell flat for me. The relationships were never intriguing or captivating enough. I didn’t believe it. The girls are in sort of a secret group that is headed up by one of their teachers. She teaches them about the classics and the history of the school itself, which was once the setting for witch trials and executions.

Okay, great. That all sounds interesting as well but the school stuff was just so boring to me. Perhaps if I was a bigger fan of the classics in question, of myths and legends, such as ‘the furies’ I would have been more into that aspect. Sadly, I am just not so fear it went heinously over my head.

Then the girls beginning dabbling in occult practices trying to harness magic for themselves. As expected they push it way too far with dire consequences. This was the one aspect of the book that kept me reading but even this, used in their eyes for revenge, I ended up feeling lost amidst all the details.

I’m not sure if it was the format that put me off or the fact that the writing, although using intelligent topics, words, structure, etc., it just felt so technical. It lacked heart. I am not sure if I am expressing this correctly or not, I just felt the entire story lacked emotion. I never, ever connected with it.

I know a lot of people are going to enjoy this as all the basic elements are in place for a solid story. Just personally, it wasn’t for me.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with an opportunity to read and review this book. I know this is a debut for this author and I would be interested in reading whatever she releases next.

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Review: All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle

All the Bad ApplesAll the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Break the stigma, break the curse.

An absolutely enchanting feminist tale!

I was so enthralled by this story, I could not put it down. As Deena begins to unravel the mysteries of her family tree whilst on a search to find her sister, Mandy, assumed dead, I was completely swept up in their family lore. I wanted to know everything about the Rys family.

Fowley-Doyle seamlessly blended past and present together as the narrative unfolds. The reader takes a front seat as history repeats itself again and again. Women and girls are stripped of their power and choice, made to live false lives. It was heart-wrenching and felt extremely genuine.

At the beginning of the novel, Deena, our teenage protagonist comes out to her family with a mixed reaction. She is a student at a Catholic school and has been raised within a conservative household. She is struggling with her identity and being able to live her truth.

I thought this aspect of the story was so well done, as were all aspects really, but the feelings evoked as Deena questions whether or not she is a ‘nice, normal girl’, were just so powerful. That’s how the story kicks off and as far as gut-punching, hard-hitting topic choices, never lets up.

I loved the format the author chose to slowly reveal the truth at the heart of this tale. I am going to be thinking about this one for a long time to come. I am not going to say anything else in regards to the plot because I think it would best serve the story, and your reading experience, to go into this with as little information as possible.

A story of family, identity, secrets, truth and power, I am still reeling by how much this story has impacted me. Truly stunning.

While this is a fully fictional story, the topics explored within were well researched by the author and are based on true events that happened throughout the course of Ireland’s history. As the author lives in Ireland and is Irish herself, that is where the story is focused, however the issues the girls and women faced are universal.

Please read this book. Please read this book. Please read this book and as always, this includes the Author’s Note at the end. Read that too!!

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Review: Contagion (Contagion #1) by Erin Bowman

Contagion (Contagion, #1)Contagion by Erin Bowman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

OHHHH BABY!!!

Zombies in space! Y’all know, everything is better in space.

When an SOS goes out from a mining crew on a distant planet, a quickly assembled team heads out to investigate. Their number one selling point, they are the closest individuals to said planet.

They don’t seem to be prepared with manpower, experience, equipment, you name it, but off they go anyway. Once arriving they discover an abandoned site and a bunch of dead bodies but is there someone else there? Are there any survivors?

The rest of the book is a high-octane race to escape the planet before they too are are turned by the contagion infecting it. Zombie chases and fight scenes. Brutal zombie slayings. Bodies dropping. Dark, cold landscapes and abandoned space ships. All pretty stellar stuff.

This does follow multiple POVs which at times seemed perhaps a little unnecessary but in a way, I do understand the author’s choice. Because of the multiple POVs, jumping back and forth, it did gain some intensity from that. I know that is a personal choice as a reader, whether or not you enjoy that format. I can honestly say, I didn’t mind it at all.

I would definitely say this is more of an action-based story to a character-based story. For me, the action was high pretty much the entirety of the story. The ending was the perfect leave in anticipation of the sequel which I have already purchased and am hoping to get to real soon.

In short, if you like horror or science fiction involving remote planets, zombies, mass infections and / or rescue missions, you should definitely give this book a try!

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Review: The Town That Feared Dusk by Calvin Demmer

The Town That Feared Dusk (Short Sharp Shocks! Book 17)The Town That Feared Dusk by Calvin Demmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Short Sharp Shocks! Book 17

DEMMER!!!

🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤

I don’t know how he does it. The ability to elicit such an ominous atmosphere with so few words, it’s a true talent.

This short-story follows intrepid reporter, Sylvia Bernstein, as she travels to a small town to investigate their abnormally high suicide rate. All the alleged suicides seem to take place at dusk on a certain bridge in the town.

Sylvia decides to visit the bridge on her own, scope it out a bit. Once there, she has a bit of a supernatural experience and comes to some heavy realizations. Now she knows there is way more at play here than just a bunch of suicides.

I just adore Demmer’s style of writing. It’s like every word is carefully selected to pack the most punch. There are always moments in his stories that hit you like an adrenaline jolt. Moments of quick and genuine fear that are so enjoyable!

Thank you to the author, Calvin, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I loved it and cannot wait for more!!

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Review: One By One by D.W. Gillespie

One by OneOne by One by D.W. Gillespie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When the Easton family moves into a decrepit old house they are divided as to whether it is a good thing. Alice, the youngest, and her father, Frank, are excited to learn the secrets of the old house, while older brother, Dean, and mother, Debra, are less enthused.

Frank insists the fixer-upper is exactly what the family needs. A project to draw them closer together. As they start to settle in, Alice, discovers a child’s drawing under some tattered wallpaper. She calls the rest of the family to look and after the entirety of the drawing is revealed it becomes clear it is a drawing of a family. A family exactly like theirs.

When the family pet in the drawing is mysteriously drawn over with a giant black X and their aloof cat, Baxter, disappears, you are hit with the reality that something is very wrong with this house.

As with any horror story, the Easton family doesn’t initially react to this as you would expect them too. They each suspect that someone in the family has done it as a sort of misguided trick. However when the X appears over Dean, they start to take things a little more seriously.

This story has a nice, eerie intensity running throughout, making it a perfect read for Spooktober. There is a found diary element to this that I also really enjoyed. You learn a bit about the mysterious family that lived in the house prior to the Eastons. As that is filled it, the horrific truth is finally revealed to the reader and it was pretty disturbing!

The Epilogue really tied everything together and I loved that the author chose to include that portion of the story. It was a really satisfying conclusion. This was my first Gillespie book and I definitely look forward to reading more from him in the future.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flame Tree Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. If you are looking for a quick spine-chiller to round out your October TBR, you should definitely check this one out!

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Guest Post: Author Chat with Kwame Mbalia

On Tuesday, October 15, 2019, the latest edition to the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, is set to be released. Pitched as a Middle Grade version of American Gods, this fast-paced, fantastical novel is a debut for author, Kwame Mbalia.

I had the opportunity, thanks to, CAKE LITERARY, to ask Kwame a few questions about his work and what this release means to him. Before we get into that however, for those who may not be aware, let’s go over a bit about the Rick Riordan Presents imprint; its purpose and why its so important.

I think we would all agree that being able to see yourself in a story, to be able to relate to characters in some way, can be an important part of the reading experience. Unfortunately, not all readers are able to easily access books that they can relate to in this way. The Rick Riordan Presents imprint was developed with this issue in mind.

Their goal is to publish stories from Middle Grade authors from underrepresented cultures and backgrounds. The stories are heavily inspired by the mythology and folklore of their own heritage. This imprint, a part of the larger Disney-Hyperion Publishing family, provides a huge platform for these much needed, underrepresented stories to find a wide audience of readers.

I have greatly enjoyed the books released from this imprint so far and many of you may have read reviews for these titles on this blog. Tristan Strong has been one of my most anticipated releases, mainly because it is inspired by West African mythology and African-American folk tales, something I rarely have the opportunity to read about.

I can tell you, as I am currently reading it, this is one of the BEST releases yet! Kwame Mbalia has a fluid, organic writing style and is clearly a very gifted storyteller. Without further ado, let’s get into my questions for Kwame and his responses:

Meg: I would love to know what advice you have for young people who may want to grow up to become writers themselves?

Kwame: The best advice I can give to anyone who wants to be a writer is to write. Write write write. You can’t get at something, whether it’s a sport or a skill, unless you practice. Writing is no different. Find something you enjoy and write about it! Essays. Poetry. Fan fiction. Start with different elements of the craft, like dialogue or description, and just write!

Second to that is to read. Read in the genre you want to write, and then read outside of it. Read fiction and nonfiction. Read short stories and novellas as well as novels. There are some brilliant writers out there and whenever I feel the need for inspiration, I look at what others have done and are doing.

Meg: Can you tell me a little bit about why you chose  to write in the Middle Grade genre specifically?

Kwame: There’s a special sense of wonder and exploration that you find in the Middle Grade genre that appeals to me. There’s this idea that you’re just realizing how enormous the world is, and you learn how varied and diverse the different people and creatures that occupy it, and combining that idea and that wonder with a little bit of history and magic brings me joy.

Meg: What does it mean to you to have your debut story out in the world?

Kwame: Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh, don’t remind me!!!! PEOPLE ARE GOING TO READ MY WORDS!!! How dare y’all? No one informed me this would be the case. I would like to crawl back into my bed and pretend the floor is lava.

I can’t do that?

Well then, fine. I guess I’ll just thank everyone who has read or will read or wants to read my book. It’s been an incredible journey so far and hopefully it’s only just beginning.

I want to thank, Kwame, for being so kind as to answer my questions for him. I feel so blessed that CAKE LITERARY provided me with the opportunity to be included on this blog tour. Also, as always, a huge thank you to the publisher, Disney Book Group and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with an early copy of the book to read and review.

I am seriously loving this one, guys, and am anticipating finishing up on Monday, at which time I will post my full review. All I will say thus far is that Mbalia’s writing style is super impressive and I love Tristan so much and the journey he is on. I hope to read more about him in the future!!!

This story can definitely be enjoyed by readers of all ages, so be sure to pick up your copy on release day, Tuesday, October 15th!!!

 

Review: 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

10 Blind Dates10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I have an new favorite YA Contemporary!!

This is the most adorable, sweetest book about family and self-discovery that I have EVER read.

It’s so true, guys! I loved this with my whole heart and soul.
This book is a blessing, Ashley Elston is a blessing.
I am even having a hard time forming legitimate sentences right now.

This precious story follows Sophie, who on the eve of Christmas break, is looking forward to nothing more than spending some quality time with her boyfriend, Griffin. Her parents are traveling to stay with her older sister, Margot, who is pregnant with her first child and having a slightly complicated pregnancy.

The stated plan is that Sophie will be traveling to her Grandparent’s house to stay with them for the entirety of her holiday.

Secretly, she hopes to sneak back home as much as she can to be with Griffin. Unfortunately, when she overhears Griffin tell one of his friends that he wants a break from Sophie, the only thing broken is her heart.

Later that same night, when her Grandmother, Nonna, finds Sophie crying outside her house, she hatches a scheme to get Sophie’s mind of stupid-ole’ Griffin. Her plan: have family members set poor Sophie up on 10 blind dates to keep her busy each night of her Christmas break.

I know this book sounds like the perfect plot for a romantic comedy and it definitely is. At the same time however, my biggest take away from this was the power of a supportive family. At the heart of this, it is about ties that bind that go way deeper than any high school relationship ever could.

Sophie has a LARGE dramatic Sicilian family and I ABSOLUTELY loved the positive family dynamic. There were Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Mom, Dad and her Sister involved. All rooting for Sophie’s happiness and she was such a good sport about everything that was thrown at her.

The dates were all unique and a little wacky. I looked forward to reading each on as they unfolded. It was such a fun and creative format. Elston’s storytelling is just top-notch, there is no denying that.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I loved this so, so much!

Ashley Elston is an auto-buy author for me and obviously that’s not changing any time soon. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!

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Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1)Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in a historical United States, where the country is plagued by the walking dead, Jane McKeene is just trying to get by at Miss Preston’s School for Girls. Life hasn’t always been kind to Jane and she has developed a thick resolve to help push through hardships.

Being trained as an attendant means not just etiquette and other basic schooling, it means weapons training as well. A lot of it. You see, Jane’s job will someday be to protect some rich family she’s not a part of.

But before she knows it, things go a little…astray. She gets caught in the midst of some snooping on some powerful people and is punished by being sent away from Baltimore Country entirely. A prisoner aboard a train with her picture-perfect frenemy, Kate, and her ex-beau, Red Jack, Jane finds her situation pretty helpless.

Their destination, Summerland. A sort of Western outcrop community reminiscent of Deadwood. Once there a whole host of drama ensues, including standoffs with the undead, known throughout the novel as ‘shamblers’.

There were so many compelling things about this story. The historical landscape was wonderfully done, I thought, as well as the frank representation of race relations in this time period and place. In fact, I feel that the level of historical elements woven throughout the story was perfect.

I also really enjoyed the relationship between Jane and Katherine, who Jane always calls Kate, even though she is asked not to do so. They start out not caring for one another but their relationship evolves so much over the course of the story. It was truly moving. I always enjoy that kind of friendship in a story, particularly female/female.

I also thought the zombie element was really tastefully done. It is descriptive enough, and concept-driven enough, to make this a full-fledge tale of a world fighting zombies, without overwhelming and negating some of the other important plot points.

It’s like zombie-light and I do mean that in a good way.

My only, very slight critique, is that it seemed a little long to me. I would have been just as happy with this story if 30 or 40-pages, or so, had been edited out. As I always say, however, that is 100% personal preference and opinion.

I do think this left off at an incredible spot for a continuation. California here we come! I will definitely be continuing on with this series and look forward to watching Jane be her brutal, badass self.

If you are looking for a fun, zombie-inspired tale to pick up this Spooktober, I would definitely recommend this!

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October Reading Plans

IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!!!

That’s right, witches! It’s OCTOBER!!!

Many bookworms will tell you that October is by far the best month of the year to be a reader. There is nothing better than getting cozy in your nice warm house, in your comfy clothes, lighting a bookish inspired candle and reading a creepy story well into the night.

To be frank, it is my absolute favorite activity. I generally read a lot of creepy, scary things but for October, I feel extra inspired to pick up exclusively eerie content. With this being said, it will come as no surprise to anyone that my October theme is: SPOOKTOBER READS!!

As with my previously themed reading months, the goal is to complete 10-books that are spooky, creepy, eerie, scary, all my favorite adjective things. DARK. I want to be afraid to turn my lights out at night.

I also hope to participate in Spookathon, hosted by Kayla over at the YouTube channel, Books and Lala. To view her Spookathon announcement video, click here: Spookathon 2019 Announcement where she will list the dates, challenges, etc. I won’t have a specific TBR for that week but will try to meet all of the challenges.

So, that’s it for now! Are you planning to read a lot of creepy books this month? What is your favorite scary book or movie? I want to know. Leave a comment below or contact me through any of my social media links.

Until my next post, Cheers & Happy Reading~