Review: The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson

The Apocalypse of Elena MendozaThe Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elena Mendoza is a miracle, literally.

The product of parthenogenesis, a virgin birth, Elena’ life has been quirky indeed.

As you can imagine, this anomaly made the headlines, making Elena low-key famous.

She does her best to just live her life, ignoring the chatter around her, but it hasn’t always been easy.

Elena has never really fit in and although she has some close relationships, she’s far from one of the popular kids.

When the girl she has been crushing on, Freddie, comes close to losing her life, right in front of Elena’s eyes, she discovers she has the ability to heal. A power she never realized she had.

However, the power comes at a price.

Every time she heals, a random number of people disappear, sucked up by a bright light; raptured, if you will.

Through Elena’s own musings, as well as her conversations with certain inanimate objects, we begin to slowly understand the reality of her situation.

Somehow, she needs to save the world. The future of humanity rests on her young shoulders, or does it?

This was so good. Wildly creative and although the content may seem over the top, there are some incredibly important topics to be found within these pages.

Examining complex relationships, as well as the power of free will and identity, this will definitely stick with me.

There’s no doubt, if you are looking for a queer story to make you think about life and the choices we make, Shaun David Hutchinson is a good way to go.

This was completely unique and stole my heart in an oddly compelling way!

I’m so happy my random number generator selected this book for me to read off of my enormous TBR list.

Who knows how long it would have actually taken me to get to it otherwise!? I really enjoyed my time reading this.

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Review: Murder, She Wrote: The Murder of Twelve by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land

The Murder of Twelve (Murder She Wrote #51)The Murder of Twelve by Jessica Fletcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Channeling heavy, And Then There Were None vibes, The Murder of Twelve, the 51st book in the beloved Murder, She Wrote series, brings almost everything I love in a Cozy Mystery to the table.

This was ridiculously good fun and kept me glued to the pages well into the night!

In this installment, we find Jessica Fletcher calling the Hill House Hotel in Cabot Cover her home.

Her house is currently under repairs and she has been making due at the ritzy local hotel.

On the eve of the blizzard of a century, guests begin to check in for a destination wedding weekend.

Jessica has her doubts that the wedding will even be able to happen, what with the massive storm front blowing in. Nonetheless, she ends up befriending some of the guests and even gets invited to attend.

The first night includes the rehearsal dinner and even though the bride and groom have yet to show, the dinner will go on.

Jessica dutifully attends and as with many events she has attended before, an attempted murder occurs.

As the storm rages outside, bodies start dropping as fast as snowflakes and Jessica needs to put her crime solving abilities to the test!

This was an absolute blast to read. As you begin to learn about the guests for the wedding, you just know it is going to be a juicy conclusion. It did not disappoint.

While I could still tell that this wasn’t written by the late and great, Donald Bain, I felt that the new author for the series, Jon Land, is starting to get into a groove with these characters and setting.

Land is an experienced author and I know the more he contributes with this series, the more it will continue to grow with him.

I know that long-time fans of this series will absolutely enjoy this installment.

If you have never read a book in this series, just know, you can start anywhere. These books can be read out of order and this is as good a place to start as any!

Also, if you like a good old-fashioned, locked-room mystery, you should absolutely check this one out.

Bonus points, if you love stories where the characters become stranded somewhere due to inclement weather. Oddly specific, but it is a trope I gravitate towards often!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I have been a fan of this series for decades and will continue to read them as long as they are printed. A special thank you as well, to the author, Jon Land, for continuing on the tradition and investigatory prowess of Ms. Jessica Fletcher!

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Review: Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Never Have I EverNever Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Something wicked this way comes…

When Angelica Roux breezes into Amy and Charlotte’s neighborhood Book Club, you would think she belonged there, or at least that she had been invited.

New to the neighborhood, renting a dilapidated house that sees many short-term tenants, Roux is carefree and mysterious.

The other women seem intrigued by Roux’s vivacious personality, but not Amy. She can’t help but wonder what this woman’s angle is. She seems to be intentionally trying to get under her skin.

When Roux proceeds to get the ladies sloshed, minus Charlotte, who is currently pregnant, Amy’s suspicions begin to grow.

Roux gathers them round and suggests they play a drinking game. The game is basically to confess the worst things they’ve ever done. An adult version of ‘never have I ever’. Amy is not playing.

When the party is over, secrets have been spilled that could alter the course of all their lives, but Roux isn’t done.

Turns out, she has dirt on Amy. Real dirt about the worst night of Amy’s life. One she thought was buried forever.

Now Roux has the goods to blackmail Amy for all she’s got.

There’s one problem, Roux has definitely underestimated Amy. The domestic goddess exterior is not the whole of her person and Amy is willing to do anything to protect what is hers.

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

The premise, absolutely is compelling. The writing, however, just didn’t work for me.

I found the dialogue to be wonky and had quite a few eye-roll moments.

Additionally, I felt like the pacing was off. It took a long time for me to get into it and then it would fluctuate between being interesting and being boring for the rest of the book.

The ultimate plot twist was gross. It made me super uncomfortable and yeah, it is just my opinion, but it pretty much ruined the whole book for me.

Basically, I am rounding up because I can admit that for many people this will be a good book. It just wasn’t the book for me.

I want to thank the publisher, William Morrow, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity even though it was a miss for me.

I don’t anticipate picking up further books from the author, but if you think there are other books of hers I would enjoy, let me know!

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Blog Tour: This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf

This is How I LiedThis is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

This is how I lied, and this is my truth.

In 1995, 15-year old, Eve Knox was murdered in a cave walking distance from her house.

When she doesn’t arrive home that night, her Mom panics and sends people out looking for her.

Her best friend, Maggie, teams up with Eve’s little sister, Nola, and they ultimately end up finding her body.

Neither girl will ever forget that night.

Twenty-five years later, Maggie, has followed in her Father’s footsteps and is now a detective in her hometown.

Around eight months pregnant, she is currently working desk duty, when new evidence is found related to Eve’s case.

The boot Eve was wearing on the night of her death has been discovered.

The hope is that with new advancements in forensic science, they will be able to extract some DNA that could finally lead to the killer.

The sudden resurgence of interest in the case begins to take its toll on Maggie.

She becomes slightly obsessed with it all over again and starts doing some digging of her own.

The secrets that come to light, it’s a lot. Secrets involving multiple characters.

I had some serious jaw drop moments while reading this.

This is How I Lied is a quick, compelling read.

If you are looking for something to get your mind off real life for a while, look no further. This is it!

I will be honest, there were definitely some elements in this that made me uncomfortable.

Specifically, Nola, Eve’s sister, is a very disturbing character. There are some aspects of her personality that at times, made me want to close this book and never pick it back up again. But I needed to know the truth!

There were also times when I was uncomfortable with Maggie’s pregnancy and the risks she was taking caused some anxiety for me.

As the story unfolds, however, it becomes clear as to why she feels so compelled.

This is a wild story. It is dynamic and engaging.

Oh, the secrets of a small town. You never know what you are going to dig up!

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

It was a wicked fun read!

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Review: Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown

Morning Star (Red Rising Trilogy, #3)Morning Star by Pierce Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s finally happened.

I just let out a breath I didn’t even realize I was holding!

Morning Star, the third installment of the Red Rising Saga, exceeded all my expectations. My favorite so far!

Pierce Brown is currently battling George R.R. Martin for the title of, ‘Author Trying to Crush My Soul’.

Brown has created a hellishly brutal world. No character is safe. Ever!

Just when you start to let your guard down…

Without giving too much away, as this is the third in the series, the battle against the sovereign continues with The Reaper and his allies trying to disassemble the Color System.

The highlight for me, although there is always a ton of action, is watching the relationship growth among Darrow and his friends.

Particularly Darrow and Sevro, which honestly is one of the best male friendships I have ever read. It gives me life.

At the conclusion to this story, six years has passed since the start of Red Rising, so much has happened. It’s a complicated story and really very impressive.

I am entertained beyond reason and cannot wait to continue, although I will most likely need to take a breather before I start the next book.

Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear that I am low-key obsessed with this series and cannot wait to see what Brown has in store for these characters.

With this story, it could literally be anything!

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Review: Star Wars Queen’s Peril by E.K. Johnston

Queen's Peril (Star Wars)Queen’s Peril by E.K. Johnston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Queen’s Peril, when it releases on June 2, 2020, will be the newest addition to the Disney Star Wars Canon.

The events in this novel take place after the events of Master and Apprentice and just before the film, The Phantom Menace.

In fact, to my surprise, the last quarter of the book runs parallel to The Phantom Menace.

It is not a novelization of the events in the movie, it’s more of an expansion.

With that bit of timeline info out of the way, let’s get into this story, shall we?

At just 14-years old, Padme Naberrie is elected Queen of Naboo. Her parents exposed her early to civic duty and the idea that she could one day be Queen never felt far-fetched to her.

After her election, the Head of Security Forces for Naboo, Quarsh Panaka devises a plan to select special handmaidens for the Queen.

These handmaidens will be a lot more than meets they eye. They will actually serve as body doubles and protection.

Each one, chosen with care by Panaka himself, brings a different skill to the table. Together they make quite a team.

A large portion of the story is learning about the girls and how they contribute to the function of the Queen’s reign.

It was interesting to follow as these girls go from being strangers, to companions and ultimately, to friends.

As Naboo becomes threatened by the Trade Federation, maneuverings take place to secure the Queen and gain help for Naboo.

Once the events begin to align with those of The Phantom Menace, we get more insights into what was going on behind the scenes during Padme’s flight from Naboo.

E.K. Johnston writes with such care and skill within the Star Wars universe.

You can tell that she knows the ins-and-outs of this world, complex as it is, and that she is equally passionate about it as we are as readers.

I loved the subtle feel of the narrative. It’s a character driven story, although the action does pick up towards the end, and I feel like I learned a lot.

Some of the highlights for me were learning about each of the handmaidens, why they were chosen and what their specific skills were.

I also liked the little cameos of beloved characters popping up throughout, including Yoda, Anakin, Qui Gon and Jar Jar Binks.

Senator Palpatine is also explored in greater depth here which I loved.

The duality of his character is so freaking interesting and the way Johnston wrote from his perspective was perfection!

Overall, this book is a joy to read and for Padme fans, an absolute gift!

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

I had already preordered my copy prior to receiving my ARC and was beyond the moon excited to be able to get my hands on it early!

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Review: In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby

In the Role of Brie Hutchens...In the Role of Brie Hutchens… by Nicole Melleby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Brie Hutchens is a dramatic girl, but she sort of has to be!

She wants to be an actress and she’s learned most of her craft from the Soaps she watches with her Mom.

As an 8th grader, she currently has her sights set on the school play, which she will use as a stepping stone for her application to a Performing Arts High School.

Additionally, at her private Catholic School, it is tradition for one of the 8th grade students to ‘crown Mary’ at a May Crowning ceremony. An acting gig of sorts. Perhaps she could do that too?

One afternoon, her mom catches her looking at scandalous photos of her favorite Soap star, Kelly Monaco, and she sort of jumps the gun on the crowning Mary thing. She tells her Mom, in haste, that she has been selected for the honor.

Her Mother, distracted by this tremendous news, seemingly forgets about the dirty photos. Crisis averted.

Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg for poor Brie.

In the Role of Brie Hutchens is an Own-Voices LGBTQ+ Middle Grade story that examines one girl’s discovery of her own sexual identity while trying to navigate the complexities of family, friendship and faith.

It’s a lot to juggle for anyone at any age, but for Brie the complexities quickly begin to feel overwhelming.

My heart absolutely ached for Brie. You can tell, as the reader, how personal this story is. It is written from the heart with passion, and compassion, for any young person dealing with a less than sympathetic world while they try to discover their truth.

For the first few chapters, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about Brie.

The drama is real people, but as the story continues, you learn, that is just who Brie is. She certainly doesn’t mean anything by it. It is absolutely how she deals with the world around her.

With each turn of the page, my heart was more attached to her. I yearned for it all to just be okay. In my opinion, Melleby is absolutely brilliant at eliciting such emotions from her readers.

This was true for Hurricane Season and I believe it will be the same here.

The relationships in this book, particularly between Brie and her Mom, they were so moving. I have no words to describe how poignant those scenes were.

I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a sweet, yet deep, coming out tale. Some scenes were uncomfortable, but I believe the overall take away is worth it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Algonquin Young Readers, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I will continue to read anything Melleby has published. She is a gem!

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Review: Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe (Sal and Gabi #2) by Carlos Hernandez

Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe (Sal and Gabi, #2)Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

My favorite Middle Grade magician, Sal Vidon, returns in this second installment of the Sal and Gabi series.

Pairing with his whirlwind best friend, Gabi Real, and their wild and wacky families, this installment continues to bring the humor and good heart.

There is no other way to describe these stories, but: FUN, FUN, FUN!!

Low-key scifi ideas are explored and allow for a lot of flexibility with reality. Magical and heartwarming, I think so many kids are going to fall in love with these characters.

Even as an adult reader, I was fully engaged the entire way through. You just never know where it is going or what is going to happen next.

There are so many important lessons woven throughout as well; just tidbits on how to be a good human and put your most positive side out to the world.

Sal and Gabi attend a private school in Miami called, Cuelco. My interpretation is that it is a kind of performing arts school. This school is an absolute utopia for kids that are different.

I love reading everything about the school and how it functioned. The kids in this one prepare a performance for their parents based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and it was EVERYTHING!

Although I did enjoy this so, so much, I didn’t love it quite as much as I did the first book. It did have all of the humor, seriously, I laugh all the time reading from Sal’s perspective, and all of the great characters, but I found the plot to be a little choppy.

It didn’t flow as well as the first one did scene-to-scene, in my opinion. Obviously, this is coming from the perspective of an adult, I think for kids reading this, they will likely not feel that same way.

Overall, I am obsessed with this Middle Grade series. I am not sure how many more of these books are in the works, but I do know, I will read any that are released!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban

All Your Twisted SecretsAll Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Arriving at a purported scholarship dinner, Amber Prescott, and her classmates, quickly discover something isn’t right.

The teens seem to be the only people in the building and after the door to the banquet room closes, they’re locked in.

Once the purpose of them being trapped is revealed, they realize they have an important decision to make.

They have to choose one of them to die. If they don’t, they’ll all die.

Alternating between the present timeline and the months leading up to the night of the action, this story pieces together the relationship dynamics of all the characters.

Amber is our narrator. She is a musical prodigy, whose main goal is to go to USC for musical composition. The other characters include Queen Bee, Sasha, Amber’s ex-BFF, Priya, Amber’s boyfriend, Robbie, bad boy, Scott, and childhood entrepreneur, Diego.

The characters were fairly stereotypical, but generally I don’t mind that and I didn’t really mind it here.

While the set-up was compelling, I was hoping for a bit more of a mystery. This seemed like a dramatic YA Contemporary to me, with a teensy-tiny bit of suspense sprinkled over the top.

While some of the interactions between the teens was interesting, it just wasn’t what I was looking for going in.

Overall, it was entertaining, though I wouldn’t say particularly memorable. If you are looking for a quick, dramatic story though, it’s absolutely worth reading, just expect more drama than suspense.

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Review: Fountain Dead by Theresa Braun

Fountain DeadFountain Dead by Theresa Braun
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Mark and his family move to an old Victorian house, he can feel right away that something is off.

There is a fountain in the courtyard that he has seen before in a dream. It wasn’t a good dream.

When odd things begin happening around the house, his suspicions are confirmed. This house is haunted as hell.

Unfortunately he seems to be the only one to notice it.

Like moving away from his old life wasn’t bad enough, now he has evil spirits to content with.

Same house, 1862, Emma is living with her sadistic father and pyscho brother. Things do not go well.

That’s correct. This novel follows two alternating timelines. One in 1988, following Mark and his family. The other in 1862, following Emma and hers.

Eventually, it is exposed how the earlier timeline begins to influence the later.

I wasn’t crazy about this format, if I’m being honest. It just didn’t work for me.

I preferred the 1988 timeline a lot more and found myself rushing through the 1862 sections in order to get back to it. Therefore, the pace for me was off. The more modern portions were much more exciting, in my opinion.

Additionally, I found some of the supernatural portions at the end to be rushed and confusing. It seemed to take a long time to get to a conclusion and then, BAM, it was done.

This is a good book, just uneven for me. I know a lot of people have really enjoyed this, so please do not let my less than stellar reaction sway you from picking it up. There is a reader for every book and book for every reader!

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