Review: Cherish Farrah by Bethany C. Morrow

Cherish FarrahCherish Farrah by Bethany C. Morrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Farrah and Cherish are best friends. They’re also the only two Black girls in their country club community. The girls bonded quite deeply around the 4th-grade. Now at 17, they’re closer than ever.

Due to her parent’s recent financial woes, Farrah’s family is in a bit of an upheaval. Thus, she spends the majority of her time at Cherish’s house. They have everything they could possibly want there and Cherish’s adoptive White parents treat Farrah like a second daughter.

Farrah deserves this luxurious life just as much as Cherish and if her parents can’t provide it for her, she’s not afraid to get it elsewhere.

Regardless of all that static though, Farrah really loves Cherish. Doesn’t she?

Told in a stream of consciousness narrative style from Farrah’s perspective, the Reader gets to be a fly on the wall observing this unique and possibly codependent friendship.

Disturbing and tense, I really enjoyed my time reading Cherish Farrah. I’m not quite sure why the rating is so low for this one, but I am happy to be an outlier.

I won’t claim to have understood all the nuance included within these pages, but I don’t think I need too in order to appreciate the care and commitment Morrow poured into this story.

I have previously read A Song Below Water and A Chorus Rises by Morrow and enjoyed both of those as well. I feel like the writing style is quite similar over the three novels, but obviously with this one being Social Horror, the tone is quite different.

This one is definitely more in my lane than the previous two.

I would certainly classify this as a slow burn, but to me, it pays off. I was uneasy the whole way through, which frankly is a vibe I tend to enjoy. I wasn’t sure who to trust. I kept flipping between the girls.

You can tell something is off, but who is causing that feeling? Is it Farrah, or is it Cherish? It was impossible for me to tell. It actually got a little stressful if I’m being honest. That just shows how invested I was. I felt it.

I also enjoyed the way Morrow explored race and privilege in this one. The dynamics of the characters families and relationships provided plenty of room for her to roam in that regard. I don’t think I have ever read anything quite like it.

I would recommend this to people who enjoy Social Horror, or uneasy feeling narratives in general. Stick it out and I think you’ll enjoy it. I certainly did!

Thank you to the publisher, Dutton Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it so much.

I’m such a fan of Bethany C. Morrow and will continue to pick up anything she writes!

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Review: Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel

Just Like MotherJust Like Mother by Anne Heltzel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Twenty years ago, Maeve risked her life and fled the cult she was born and raised in. After that Maeve was swiftly adopted by a loving couple, but the transition to life on the outside was quite difficult.

Maeve feared boys and men. She had never been to a public school, or played amongst her peers of the opposite sex.

Now an adult, Maeve has done her best to build a normal life for herself in NYC. She works in publishing and has a guy she’s kind of sweet on.

One thing she is missing though is a family. She doesn’t want any children of her own, but Maeve misses being a part of a larger family nonetheless. In particular, she misses her cousin and childhood best friend, Andrea, who she hasn’t seen since the night she fled the cult.

In an unexpected turn of events, Maeve is finally reconnected with Andrea via a DNA service. Thank you, 23andMe.

Andrea is wildly successful, an entrepreneur in the fertility industry. She’s married, with a loving husband and big old house she just purchased upstate. A house she pretty much offers up to Maeve on a platter.

Maeve is excited for the opportunity to reunite with her cousin and become a steady part of her life. She travels to the house upstate, along with Andrea, her husband Rob and Andrea’s work partner, Emily.

The more Andrea and Maeve interact, and Emily too, she can’t be discounted in this assessment, the more uneasy the vibe becomes. There’s clearly something off, but Maeve isn’t really open to acknowledging that.

Maeve wants Andrea back in her life. She’s willing to overlook any awkwardness. Even though Andrea and Emily both seem to disapprove of Maeve’s lifestyle, she’s not going to let that ruin everything. She dusts it off.

As things in Maeve’s normal life begin to veer wildly off course, however, she’s pushed even further into Andrea’s orbit. That’s when things start really getting intense.

Just Like Mother is a sort of Rosemary’s Baby for the modern age. It’s definitely channeling those vibes and I’m not mad about it at all.

While I will admit, for me, this started slow, it did leave me with one of my favorite things: an evil smile on my face!

Heltzel’s writing was engaging and I did like how Maeve’s character was built out using both past and present perspectives. Understanding her past in the cult was pivotal to understanding her life path and choices involving Andrea.

I liked Maeve. I definitely connected with her decision not to have children of her own and some of the other characters reactions to that choice actually infuriated me. I feel like my strong reaction to those topics is a clear sign that Heltzel delivered these ideas believably.

This was super intense towards the end. After the initial build-up, once it starts spiraling, it really starts spiraling.

I feel like this would make a great selection for a book club, or a buddy read. There’s a lot of solid discussion topics held within these pages. If someone is looking to deep dive, there’s plenty to keep them occupied. I will remember this one for a long time to come!

Thank you so much to the publishers, Tor Nightfire and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copies to read and review.

This one definitely kept me intrigued and I look forward to picking up future works from Heltzel!

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Review: My Wife is Missing by D.J. Palmer

My Wife Is MissingMy Wife Is Missing by D.J. Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

On the first day of their NYC-vacation, Michael and Natalie Hart split up for what is expected to be a brief period of time.

While Michael runs out to pick up take-out pizza for the family, Natalie stays back at the hotel with their two children, Addie and Bryce, to get settled in.

When he returns, Michael spots Bryce’s teddy bear just outside the door to their room. That’s certainly strange as the young boy is beyond attached to the stuffed toy.

Entering the room, Michael is surprised his family isn’t there. Surprise turns to confusion when he notices the only bag in the room is his own. Where is his family?

Michael raises the alarm to hotel staff and then the police. As he is unable to reach Natalie by phone and has no other explanation, Michael fears they’ve been kidnapped.

After viewing hotel camera footage though, it appears Natalie left quite willing, of her own volition; just her and the kids. Michael is so confused, why would she do this?

These opening scenes set the tone for the entire novel. It’s intense and fast paced. Through alternating perspectives, as well as past and present timelines, the full depth of Michael and Natalie’s relationship is revealed.

It’s clear that the couple were having problems prior to their ill-fated trip to NYC. Natalie doesn’t trust her husband at all and Michael, well, he has his issues.

Due to stress and struggles within their relationship, Natalie has been suffering severe insomnia. Michael uses that fact against her, claiming she is not in her right mind. Frankly, it’s not entirely clear if she is or not.

I love an unreliable narrator and I would say that Natalie falls into that category. In spite of her insomnia though, it’s really through Natalie’s perspective that the truth of this story begins to be revealed.

I really enjoyed my time reading My Wife is Missing. Palmer has a signature over-the-top style. His books are always a wild ride, never failing to keep me engaged.

I loved how quickly this one kicked off and it really never let up. Towards the end I was flying through, I had to know what the conclusion was going to be. It turned into this sort of intense cat and mouse scenario, although at times it was hard to determine who was the cat and who was the mouse.

I have read all of Palmer’s novels, in order, as they’ve been released and in my opinion each one has been stronger than the last. We love to see that sort of upward trajectory with an author’s work.

He always keeps me guessing, that’s for sure. I can’t wait to see what sort of insanity he throws at us next!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I appreciate it so much!!

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Review: Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

Hidden PicturesHidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mallory Quinn is in her early-20s and at a time when many of her peers are charging through the college experience, Mallory is just over a year into her new found sobriety.

After a personal injury, Mallory unfortunately plummeted down a hole many Americans before her have suffered through; opioid addiction.

She’s not proud of the choices she made in the depths of her addiction, some having life-long repercussions. Mallory harbors a lot of guilt from that time.

With the help of her sponsor, and his encouragement to return to the sport she loves, Mallory has made huge strides. Now it is time to secure some independence.

Mallory applies for a position as a summer nanny in the high-end suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey. The Maxwells, Ted and Caroline, have a 5-year old son, Teddy, who will be her only charge. The job seems perfect.

Teddy is such a smart, sweet little boy, who seems to take a shine to Mallory right away, and the property is gorgeous. She can get used to playing poolside all day.

Even though Mr. Maxwell seems to be quite concerned about Mallory’s past drug use, she still ends up securing the position. She’s elated. Now it is time to prove herself. This is her chance to rebuild her life.

Mallory moves into a pool house on the property and begins to develop a healthy schedule with Teddy. Teddy seems to be a budding little artist and spends at least an hour a day quietly drawing.

At first, Mallory is impressed with his skill and imagination, but when Teddy’s drawings begin to take a very dark turn, she becomes concerned.

When Mallory suspects that the scenes in the drawings may tie to a alleged murder that happened on the property in the 1940s, which she initially learns about from a nosy, eccentric neighbor, things escalate quickly.

Along with her new friend, Adrian, Mallory begins to deep dive into the history of the property and the suspected murder of the woman who once lived there.

Additionally, Mallory feels like Teddy’s imaginary friend, Anya, may be the missing woman in question and she clearly is trying to communicate with them.

Seriously though, can Mallory’s opinion even be trusted? Is she using again? She definitely seems to be spiraling. Right? I mean, ghosts aren’t real…

Or are they?

I had so much fun with this story. I could not put it down once I started, finishing the audiobook in a day. I was so captivated with this story.

It’s not complicated. It’s fairly linear and I was happy to just sit with Mallory and hear her tell it. It was just classic, eerie fun. This would make a great movie!!

I really enjoyed Mallory as a character. I feel like she was super likable and relatable. I loved the sinister vibe, even though I wasn’t 100% on what I should be afraid of at first.

The way Rekulak built up the tension and then slowly revealed the truth behind what has happening at the Maxwells was really fun. It flipped what I thought was happening on its head. I wasn’t shocked, but I was pleased that it ended in a unexpected direction.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flatiron Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

This is the first novel I have read from Rekulak and I am definitely excited to pick up more! Hidden Pictures is releasing tomorrow, Tuesday, May 10th.

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Review: The Marlow Murder Club (Marlow Murder Club #1) by Robert Thorogood

The Marlow Murder Club (Marlow Murder Club #1)The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Marlow Murder Club follows 77-year old Judith Potts, a crossword setter, who lives in a slightly fading mansion on the banks of the river Thames.

Judith’s mansion lies on the outskirts of the little town of Marlow and one thing her prestigious property offers is plenty of privacy. Therefore, Judith skinny dipping on a hot summer night generally goes unnoticed.

On one particular evening, as Judith is quietly swimming and enjoying the beauty of nature surrounding her, she hears a gunshot and sounds of distress come from her neighbor’s property across the river.

She’s stunned and has no idea how to react. Did someone just murder Stefan Dunwoody? Judith alerts the police and watches their hasty search of the property. Rolling her eyes, Judith knows they’ll find nothing.

So, she decides she needs to take matters into her own hands. As you do.

Along the way she teams up with the vicar’s wife, Becks Starling, as well as a free-wheeling local dog walker, Suzie Harris. Together the trio digs into not just Stefan’s murder, but others that pop up along the way. Does Marlow have a real life serial killer on their hands?

The Marlow Murder Club gave me all the Cozy Mystery vibes I cherish, with a charming group of main characters to follow. I had so much fun reading this.

This group of characters, Judith, Becks and Suzie, were well fleshed out, relatable and likable as heck. They’re the type of people you can root for no matter how crazy their hijinks get. I am so looking forward to more in this series!!

There’s not much more I can say about this. It’s a ton of fun. It’s a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a breath of fresh air.

Seriously, when can I expect more?

Thank you so much to the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I had an absolute blast. Judith Potts is definitely a new favorite heroine for me. I basically want to be her when I grow up; whiskey, skinny dipping, a mansion to herself and amateur murder investigation…sign me up!!!

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Review: I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

I Kissed Shara WheelerI Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

After being unexpectedly kissed by her only rival for valedictorian, Alabama High School Senior, Chloe Green’s life begins to unravel.

Shara Wheeler, the kissing bandit, then disappears, leaving nothing but a series of cryptic clues in her wake.

Chloe isn’t the only student being dragged along on this unconventional scavenger hunt. She’s also not the only person Shara Wheeler kissed.

Joining Chloe on this misadventure are Shara’s long-time boyfriend, hunky football player, Smith, as well as Shara’s bad boy neighbor, Rory, who has been crushing on the girl next door for years.

After the trio discovers the game includes them all, they put whatever petty grudges they may hold aside and begin to work together.

It’s a wild ride. Shara must have been planning this for months. It’s intricate and over-the-top.

Chloe becomes so obsessed with getting to the truth that she ends up neglecting her other relationships; her best friends that have been there for her all throughout high school. Will Chloe be able to mend those fences by graduation?

This novel is Casey McQuiston’s first foray into the YA space. Obviously, not a challenge for her; absolutely seamless. She kept her signature, lovable, heart-warming, sweet, sentimental, funny style all whilst keeping it relatable and applicable to a younger audience.

As for me, I’m all for snarky, funny, chaotic self-discovery, so I Kissed Shara Wheeler was a great fit for my tastes!!

I loved getting to know all of these characters. They were each well developed and had their own challenges that they were working through. Throughout it all, watching their interactions unfold was a lot of fun.

Chloe grows and learns so much about herself just through the process of trying to figure out Shara’s game. Chloe starts to recognize some blind spots she may have had over the course of her high school tenure.

Overall, this was a delightful read. It’s fun, smart and explores some important topics. It’s clear McQuiston delivers no matter what age group she is writing for.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me copies to read and review. I am already highly anticipating whatever McQuiston comes up with next!!

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Review: Seasonal Fears (Alchemical Journeys #2) by Seanan McGuire

Seasonal Fears (Alchemical Journeys, #2)Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seasonal Fears is the long-awaited follow-up to Seanan McGuire’s tour de force of SFF, Middlegame. When I originally read Middlegame in May of 2019, I had the understanding that it was a standalone novel.

Since that time, to my complete delight, we have been blessed with two books from the companion series, The Up-and-Under, and now THIS!!!

Seanan McGuire has blessed the world with her words. Literally blessed; life-changing, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring goodness. That’s the best way to describe The Alchemical Journeys

In this second installment, we follow two new main characters: Melanie and Harry. They’re a pair, much like Roger and Dodger from the first book, although Mel and Harry are not brother and sister.

Nevertheless, Melanie and Harry are two sides of the same coin. They’re also in love; teenagers completely devoted to one another.

Melanie and Harry are in high school, living somewhat normal lives. Melanie has a chronic illness and is expected to die at any moment, but besides that, somewhat normal.

When Melanie collapses one day at Harry’s football practice and Harry, athletic as heck, suddenly collapses right along with her, they realize their connection may run deeper than they even imagined.

Insight arrives with an unexpected guide who clues the pair in on the truth behind their lives and the greater world around them.

Together the couple, along with their new friend, set out on a journey, one full of dangers and intrigue, in order to meet the destiny they didn’t even know existed for them.

Seasonal Fears is just as enjoyably mind-boggling as Middlegame. I was in no way disappointed by this. I’ll also not pretend that I followed everything going on in this book.

I recently reread Middlegame in preparation for this release and discovered even more to love on that second time through. I have no doubt this will be the same and that’s right, I am already planning to reread this at some point.

This series is the type of epic, complex SFF that you have to be cautious not to get too mired down in the details. Yes, of course it is important to pay attention, but I wouldn’t take notes or anything.

Trust McGuire will deliver you to exactly where you need to be. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Nothing more is required of you.

Just know you may feel a little out of control from time to time, like it’s losing you. Stay the course. You’ll make it, you’ll love it. McGuire doesn’t just create a world in these books, she develops a whole new cosmology. It’s stunning.

I have no idea if there will be more books in this series, I certainly hope so. I definitely need more alchemical journyes in my life. Yes, please!

Thank you to the publisher, Tor and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I absolutely loved this. All the stars!!

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Review: Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz vs. the Evil LibrariansAlcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians is an uproariously funny, action-packed Middle Grade Fantasy story. I had an absolute blast reading this and actually finished it in a day.

This is the first installment of a currently 5-book series, with a 6th-book set to be released this September. While this story originally published in 2007, it is now being rereleased with updated covers.

Prior to receiving a copy of this, I actually had no idea that Brandon Sanderson even had a Middle Grade series. As a big fan of MG-stories, I was super pumped to make this discovery!

This one starts off with a hilarious Author’s Note that definitely set the tone for the entire book. The author talks directly to the Reader and gets them ready for a rollicking, totally true tale.

Alcatraz Smedry, our main character, is an orphan, who on his 13th-birthday receives an inheritance from his parents; a bag of sand.

Just his luck that a bag of sand would be all his parents actually left him. You quickly learn Alcatraz doesn’t have the best luck and has taken the art of breaking things to a whole new level.

The bag of sand, which would seem a harmless possession, actually ends up getting stolen by a cult of evil librarians who are seeking to take over the world by spreading misinformation.

Through a mysterious and unexpected visitor, Alacatraz is filled in on what the bag of sand actually is and schooled on the truth about the world. Like how a cult of evil librarians can even exist without anyone knowing about it.

Alcatraz and his visitor then set out on a quest to retrieve the sands and stop the evil librarians from achieving their goals, pairing up with some allies along the way.

This story was such a delight. The humor never stopped. Everything about it was written with such snark. I really enjoyed Sanderson’s commitment to keeping that tone the entire way through.

It’s wild and chaotic, over-the-top and enchanting. A nonstop thrill ride of good humor. I cannot wait to continue on with this series. I would love to join Alcatraz on as many adventures as I can.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Starscape, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I look forward to picking up the rest of the books!!

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Review: The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

The Younger WifeThe Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Heather is a young interior designer, who upon first meeting her new client, physician, Stephen Aston, is impressed with the man’s patience with his wife struggling with dementia.

He treats his wife with such care, always including her in the meetings regarding the project and seeking her input, in spite of her struggles. Heather can’t help but warm to the gentleman.

Stephen is also quite taken with Heather. She’s young, beautiful and is always kind and open with him.

Stephen’s two adult daughters, Tully and Rachel, are taken aback when their father confirms to them that he is now in a relationship with Heather. What about Mom?!

Heather is younger than the two girls. She must be after Dad’s money, what could they possibly have in common?

Stephen pushes his daughters to get to know Heather and frankly, they’re a little curious about her themselves, so they agree. That’s what I will leave you with. Well, that and the fact that this is a bit of a murder mystery…

I listened to the audiobook for The Younger Wife and definitely recommend that medium. There are different narrators for the various perspectives and it made me feel like I was actually part of the action.

The drama level is a bit reality television, but who doesn’t love that as a bit of a guilty pleasure?

I found the drama to be completely addicting, but more than that, this story turned out to be grander than the petty squabbles I anticipated given the set-up.

From the vague description of the narrative given above, you may think this will go a certain way, but Hepworth actually gave me something unexpected. I was impressed with that.

Also, Hepworth loosely explores some powerful real world issues in this that I think would make it an excellent choice to read with friends, or a book group. There’s definitely plenty of topics to discuss while reading this one.

Thank you to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

This is the second novel I have read from Sally Hepworth and it’s definitely safe to say that I will happily pick up anything else she writes!!

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Review: Skyhunter (Skyhunter #1) by Marie Lu

Skyhunter (Skyhunter, #1)Skyhunter by Marie Lu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Skyhunter is a YA-Dystopian novel set in a world ravaged by war. Mara is the last nation to remain out from under the rule of the Karensa Federation. It’s literally the last outpost of freedom.

The Karensa Federation has conquered each nation one by one, using modified human-monsters, known as Ghosts, as their front-line fighters.

The horrific imagery conjured by the descriptions of these Ghosts within the first few pages had me hooked!

Refugees fleeing the Federation’s rule flock to Mara’s borders in the hopes of finding safety.

Talin Kanami is one such refugee, who fled with her mother from nearby Basea as a brutal Federation attack left her father dead. Talin was injured during the attack, leaving her mute.

Some years later, Talin has joined the legendary fighting force of Mara, known as the Strikers, where her muteness is seen as an asset. Ghosts are attracted to sound, therefore, Strikers use sign language when in the field to communicate with each other.

At a low point in Talin’s life, a prisoner gets brought before the Strikers, said to be a solider for the Federation. There’s something about him that calls to Talin. She doesn’t believe he is guilty of what they say he is.

She puts her life on the line for this mystery man. Strikers are paired together in groups of two and as punishment for Talin speaking up on the man’s behalf, she is paired with him. Talin must then train him in the ways of the Strikers and trust him to have her back in the field when it counts.

The man, Red, turns out to be much more powerful than anyone could have guessed, but whose side will he ultimately come down on?

As Karensa pushes closer to Mara, it looks like the nation may finally fall. Talin and her friends must buckle down for the fight of their lives before all they love is lost.

Marie Lu has proved her talent again and again. Skyhunter was such an intensely-gripping story, with well developed characters. The entire history and functioning of the world was also very well-imagined.

I enjoyed getting to know Talin. She had a fascinating backstory and her refugee status reflected that of refugees living in our world. It was an interesting examination of the difficulties that they face; I felt that aspect was very respectfully portrayed.

Additionally, I loved Talin taking a huge risk and standing up for Red. Then as their relationship developed, I just became so invested in it. Their connection to one another ran deep.

The culminating scene of this book was super intense. Everything was on the line for our characters. It left off in a very key spot, as far as setting up the second book.

I’m super stoked to keep going with this, to see how the duology wraps up!

Overall, this was a great reading experience and I’m very glad that I finally made the time for this one. Lu is so gifted. Her stories never fail to impress me!

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