Review: The Extraordinaires (The Extraordinaires #1) by T.J. Klune

The Extraordinaries (The Extraordinaries, #1)The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

The Extraordinaries brought an explosion of quick wit and good humor. Oh, and also Queer Superheroes and relatable fandom vibes.

Need I say more?

Set in the fictional landscape of Nova City, superheroes are very real. They’re called Extraordinaries and swoop in to save the city just as you would expect them to do.

Also, as you would expect, there are people who are obsessed with them and their own unique celebrity. Fangirls and fanboys alike swoon over their power and abilities.

Nick Bell is a regular teen in Nova City, who also happens to be the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom.

His biggest crush, Shadow Star, is currently one of the active Extraordinaries in the city. Frequently battling his archnemesis, Pyro Storm, the two sometimes leave destruction in their wakes.

Nick is invested in every minute of it.

The story follows Nick and his absolutely phenomenal friend group, as he sets his sights on a relationship with Shadow Star, even if that means he’ll need to become Extraordinary.

Y’all, the writing of this story is incredibly strong.


It’s so rapid fire and intelligent.

The dialogue amongst characters will definitely keep you on your toes. The main character, Nick, suffers from fairly severe ADHD, and in a way, the narrative seemed to reflect that.

I’m not sure if I am explaining that correctly, but it seemed as if the narrative accurately portrayed how Nick would have been experiencing, or reacting, to what was going on around him.

It felt extremely real, even though a lot of the storyline was actually rooted in unreality.

Overall, I was really, really in awe of how this story unfolded.

I loved all of the characters, the nod to classic superhero story arcs, the serious real world issues that were addressed; it was all quite impressive.

I definitely intend to carry on with this series, if there are more books planned. The characters were very easy relate to; so much so, you’ll want to be part of their friend group.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Teen, for providing me a copy of this to read and review. I was so impressed with T.J. Klune. I cannot wait to pick up more of their work!

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Review: The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson

The LoopThe Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Turner Falls, Oregon, is a small town with a big problem.

A local biotech company’s experiments seem to have gone terribly wrong, but when local misfit teens start to notice, who is going to believe them.

Y’all, The Loop was a bloody, gritty, gruesome, good time!

Our main protagonist, Lucy, was so well-imagined. I loved reading from her perspective. Smart, witty, and slightly jaded, she found a strength within herself she didn’t even realize was there.

Along with her two friends, Brewer and Bucket, Lucy and the boys come face-to-face with the bioengineering gone wrong.

It has gone very wrong indeed. Make no mistake, Johnson does not shy away from gore and general stomach-churning details. We stan.

There is also a conspiracy podcast element which I absolutely adored. It was an exceptional device for tying in biting social commentary.

The podcast host was entirely realistic and I thought he was an excellent addition to the cast of characters. I can’t imagine the story without him.

The comparison to Stranger Things is understandable, although these kids seem much more mature than the original pack from ST. I mean, obviously there is a big age difference.

However, the overall vibe, is there.

If you are looking for a fast-paced, smart, evil corporation horror thriller…wait, is that a thing?

Yes. It is now and I want more of it.

I had a ton of fun with this. I am excited to read more from this author. I think he made really great choices with how this story unfolded. It was humorous and horrifying, which are two things that go so well together.

Like peanut butter and chocolate. Do not disagree with that.

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

I appreciate it so much and urge any horror lover to give it a shot.

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Review: Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet #1) by Roshani Chokshi

Aru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet, #1)Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

12-year old, Aru Shah, doesn’t quite fit in. It’s not just the fact that she lives in an actual Museum, The Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture.

She attends a school where the vast majority of children are very wealthy. Aru is clearly not.

Her Mom frequently travels procuring artifacts for the museum, but even when she is around Aru doesn’t garner much attention from her.

This aspect of the story was fairly frustrating to read about actually. I wanted to grab her Mom and shake her, but I digress.

Aru feels lonely and frequently embellishes stories about her life, in order to gain attention or acceptance from her peers.

Unfortunately, she does it so much, she has a bit of a reputation as a liar.

When three classmates show up at the museum and challenge Aru to prove the validity of one of the stories she has told, that the Lamp of Bharata is cursed, she feels compelled to light it.

A lamp she has been told, numerous times, in no uncertain terms, to never, ever light. Yeah, she lights that.

Even though it is only for a moment, this one act ends up putting the entire fate of the world in jeopardy by freeing the demon trapped inside.

The demon, known as the Sleeper, is tasked with awakening the God of Destruction, who, as the name implies, will destroy everything. Luckily, the rest of the world is frozen in time, providing Aru with a chance to undo what she’s done.

Aru sets out on an epic quest, along with some new friends, to try to stop the Sleeper.

Tying in the legends of the Hindu epic poem, The Mahabharata, Aru Shah and the End of the Time is a fast-paced adventure, full of heart and valuable lessons.

I had a lot of fun with this story and can definitely see why it is so popular.

Parts of it were a bit too chaotic for my tastes, but overall, I felt it was really well done.

Aru, as a character, was interesting. I had so much sympathy for her. I felt bad for her. It hurt my heart how alone she felt in the world.

I am hoping in the next book, her Mother redeems herself a little bit, because after this one, I’m pretty much furious at her. Sure, I understand she had her reasons for what she did, but they’re not good enough for me.

I did love the relationship between Aru and Mini. It was so pure. Pretty much every moment with Mini filled my heart with glee. She’s just so precious.

I definitely plan to continue on with this series. I am hoping to learn so much more about these characters, this world and the myths and legends behind it.

Honestly, I feel the whole Rick Riordan Imprint is a gift.

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Review: The Ritual by Adam Nevill

The RitualThe Ritual by Adam Nevill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Luke, Dom, Phil and Hutch have been friends since college. Over the years, however, they have drifted apart a bit; particularly Luke, who is the only one among them still single and without a stable career.

The men decide to travel from their homes in the UK, to the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle for a backpacking adventure. A reunion of sorts.

Unfortunately, the camaraderie of the group isn’t very strong. Dom and Phil seem condescending to Luke. Treating him like a child, or worse.

Hutch is the happy one. The bond that seems to tie them all together. His positive energy is half the reason they decided to take this trip in the first place.

Adding additional stress for the group is the fact that Dom and Phil are ill-prepared for this type of holiday. As in, they’re out of shape AF.

The group is not making the mileage they need to be making per day to reach their goals. Because of this, Hutch suggests they take an off piste short cut.

As a frequent hiker of the rugged mountains of Maine, this is a nightmare scenario for me.

Just the thought…

The men agree to Hutch’s plan, although they are definitely nervous and skeptical; particularly Luke.

The forest is so dark and thick, the rain not giving them a moment’s break. They are exhausted, they are physically no match for the rough terrain. They see things. Everything starts to go really badly.

Forced to take shelter for a night in what clearly is a haunted cabin, the men are finally pushed to their breaking points by what lay inside.

Y’all, these hiking scenes chilled me to the bone. I loved Nevill’s descriptions of being in the forest. How it swallows you, completely cutting you off from the modern world and returning your senses to their more primal nature.

I thought he captured that fear that the wilderness can evoke in us so freaking well. I absolutely loved the first half of this.

The second half does take a twist that shifts the feeling more from fear to anger, as the narrative directs focus from the devil we don’t know, to the devil we do.

I had jaw dropping, stomach-turning moments right up to the very end. The final scene was so intense. Overall, I think this is an extremely well done survival Horror story; especially depending on what your fears are.

My only negative would be that I felt certain sections dragged on a bit. Particularly some of the interactions between the men, although I do understand the author’s choice with those moments.

I definitely will be thinking of this one for a long time to come, especially on my next hiking trip!

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Review: The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands

The Blackthorn Key (The Blackthorn Key, #1)The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

In 1665, London, Christopher Rowe is a young apprentice to apothecary, Master Benedict Blackthorn.

Blackthorn saved Christopher from a no doubt, harsh and uncertain future, by adopting him from a local orphanage. Since that time he has acted as a caring father figure and mentor to the young boy.

Christopher is very clever, adept at following chemical recipes, deciphering puzzles and reading complex codes.

Along with his good friend, Tom, the baker’s son, Christopher gets himself into all sorts of wild hijinks with his experiments.

When the city’s apothecaries begin being systematically killed off, it is up to Christopher to figure out who is behind it and stop them before he too, falls victim.

Relying on his knowledge, acquired through his Master’s many lessons, as well as his own ingenuity, Christopher slowly pieces together the mystery of the Cult at the heart of the matter; putting his own life in danger along the way.

I really enjoyed so much about this story. It’s such a strong start to a Middle Grade series.

I loved the historical setting and the relationship between Christopher and Tom most of all. Tom was a perfect, lovable side kick, and those can go a long way in this type of story.

This does get really dark. I was living for it and even as a Middle Grader, certainly, would have been living for it. There are murdery bits, and evil villain bits and actually, fairly scary bits.

If you are a reader who is sensitive to that type of content, just go in knowing you will find that here.

As a science lover, I also enjoyed those elements included in the story. There were even codes for Christopher to work out, left for him as clues.

The narrative really made science exciting and I love seeing Young Readers exposed to a science is cool storyline. Not only is science cool, it saves the day.

I’m really excited to continue on with this series. I am definitely down for going on more adventures with Christopher and Tom.

If you are looking for a fun, fast-paced, slightly dark, Middle Grade Mystery series, I suggest you give it a go as well. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

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Review: Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked #1) by Kerri Maniscalco

Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked, #1)Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Emilia and her twin sister, Vittoria, are witches, who live secretly among humans on the island of Sicily. Their family runs a renowned local restaurant, where both girls work.

At eighteen years old, they’ve been raised hearing the lore of their family, and other beings of the underworld; mostly at the knee of their beloved Nonna.

But these stories become all too real after Emilia discovers the body of her murdered sister.

Overcome with grief, Emilia’s saving grace seems to be her need for vengeance. Her overwhelming need to find her sister’s killer keeps her from wallowing in despair for too long.

Pairing herself with a Prince from Hell, Wrath, Emilia begins to follow clues through the shadow-ridden Sicilian streets, as more and more witches fall to the same fate as Vittoria.

In the beginning, I’ll admit, I wasn’t sold.

The first couple of chapters seemed generic. Emilia felt like many YA characters I had read before. I was sceptical.

However, I am so happy to report, I had no reason to be. Once Emilia and Wrath met up, everything began to fall into place and I ended up really enjoying this.

While the format was slightly typical, as far as enemies-to-lovers tropes go, I still thought it was special; and I love that trope.

I thought the evolution of their relationship was perfectly paced and the way they worked together, two thumbs up. Until the bitter end, I was with them, hook, line and sinker.

As the story unfolded, I was so impressed with Emilia’s guts and determination. She’s up against some super scary forces, yet never backs down.

Pushing herself to the limits, her ability to stare straight in the face of danger was admirable. By the end, she’s one of my new favorite heroines.

As far as Wrath goes, we stan. Everything about him, from his snarky attitude, his knowledge of all things dark and hellish, his tattoos, his sexy outfits, I loved it all.

I also feel like we have so much more to learn about him. Fingers crossed this happens moving forward in the series.

The atmosphere is top notch as well and I liked that Maniscalco didn’t shy away from some very dark images and scenes. This last bit of this book was absolutely wild and I cannot wait for the next one to be released!!!

Seriously, is it too early to request a copy!?

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

I truly appreciate it!

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Review: Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke

Sour CandySour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved reading this book, which feels weird to say because of the content.

It is horrifying, grisly, stomach-churning, haunting, and I loved every minute of it.

I mean, what can I say, it’s what I like.

Sour Candy was my Halloween night read. I lit a pumpkin scented candle, grabbed an adult beverage, snuggled into my bed and read it from start to finish.

Coming in under 100-pages, this novella packs a lot in.

Phil Pendleton has his head in the clouds, straight off a hot night with his lady, as he enters his local Wal-Mart looking to buy them chocolates.

As he stands in the candy aisle making his choices, he hears a blood-curdling scream.

Glancing over he notices an ill-behaved child, pitching a fit, as often occurs in Wal-Mart, and a bedraggled mother who looks to be at the end of her rope.

When a manager intervenes, the situation, if anything, escalates.

Phil tries to assist, but as we all know, no good deed goes unpunished. That’s the last moment of normalcy Phil will have.

Certain aspects of that moment, and the debilitating health effects that followed, reminded me a bit of Thinner. I love Thinner, so comparing these is absolutely a compliment from me.

I also loved how Burke built the intensity in this. The story gets more strange as it goes along, and with that, the horrific nature builds and builds.

Playing off the classic creepy kid trope, this story took that to the next level. I was horrified for Phil.

I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a quick and memorable horror story!

You know who you are.

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Review: Tinfoil Butterfly by Rachel Eve Moulton

Tinfoil ButterflyTinfoil Butterfly by Rachel Eve Moulton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Tinfoil Butterfly is strange, heartbreaking, and beautiful.

Meshing real life horrors with subtle fantastical elements, there’s a lot to unpack for such a short novel.

Emma is hitchhiking across the United States, trying to reach the Badlands of South Dakota.

Along the way she gets picked up by a man named, Lowell. It doesn’t end well.

Fleeing for her life, Emma comes across an abandoned diner where she seeks refuge from an oncoming storm.

This is where she meets, Earl, a little boy whose face is hidden behind an odd tinfoil mask.

Earl ends up stealing Emma’s loaded gun and implores her to help him get rid of George.

Emma is stranded. Earl is her only contact and she gets pulled into his bizarre and dangerous world as the snow begins to fall.

This entire novel is steeped in an ominous atmosphere. As the reader, you go along with Emma as she tries to drag information out of Earl.

It turns out, he has lived a torturous life, the truth is hiding just under the surface, but you can’t quite get to it. Regardless of the past, Earl is scared to leave it behind.

Earl isn’t the only one with a dark past. Emma is on the run from her own. Damaged and broken, she is forced, while in the clutches of a crisis, to revisit each painful moment of it.

The truth of Emma’s past is admittedly difficult to read. Trigger warnings for: (view spoiler).

I loved the bond formed by Emma and Earl.

I though the evolution of that relationship over the course of the story was very special. It brought the humanity of the characters to life in a way that filled my heart with empathy for them both.

Paired with the beauty of their relationship, however, is equal amounts of horror. We’re talking horrific, realistic, painful content.

There were times I felt sick to my stomach, but honestly, the story is worth it.

The feelings of violence and fear boiling just under the surface really never let up, making this a tense read.

With this being said, it also feels quiet and subtle at times. I have no idea if I am explaining this accurately.

It’s almost something that you just need to experience for yourself.

I do recommend this for people who enjoy darker contemporary stories, or slow burns with equal parts violence and beauty.

You know who you are. Pick it up!

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Review: In the Hall With the Knife by Diana Peterfreund

In the Hall with the Knife (Clue Mystery, #1)In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

In the Hall with the Knife was so much fun and the exact vibe I was hoping for.

This story brought all of the Clue movie over-the-top drama and I was living for it.

I decided to pick up this novel over Halloween week. I had no idea how perfect that choice would end up being.

Set at a posh boarding school, Blackbrook Academy, on the coast of Maine, this story follows multiple perspectives including Peacock, Green, Mustard, Scarlet and Mrs. White.

When a winter storm hits, the academy’s access to the mainland gets cut off, stranding a hand full of students, the headmaster and a couple of other school employees.

They corral everyone into Tudor House, which seems to be a highpoint and therefore escaped major flooding and damage.

The manse generally acts as a girls boarding house, with Mrs. White at its head, but they manage to find room for everyone.

The house includes all of the stately charm you would anticipate with hardwoods, stained glass, and rooms such as the lounge, billiard room and conservatory. Oh, and secret passageways, don’t forget the secret passageways.

When on the first night, the headmaster ends up dead, our intrepid characters are left to figure out what happened.

Some suggest an accident, other suggest suicide, but very quickly it is clear that it was murder.

I had a ton of fun reading this. It was campy, it was ridiculous and I thought it was a blast.

I think if you go into it with the right mindset, you will have fun with it to. It is definitely not a story to take too seriously.

I’m actually really excited to pick up the next installment. This one left off at an interesting and sinister spot.

I want more!!!

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Review: Even If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp

Even If We BreakEven If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I don’t even know what to say. This book was a huge disappointment for me.

I knew going in, the reviews were not the greatest. Regardless of the super interesting synopsis, it seemed a lot of readers were not enjoying it.

Frequently, I find myself in the minority opinion on polarizing books, however, so I still wanted to give it a shot.

I love slightly cheesy, teen slashers, particularly with weekend getaways or gaming elements. This book sounded like it would be a great fit for my tastes.

We follow five friends, who I believe are in high school, who head off to a cabin in the Arizona mountains for a weekend getaway playing a RPG they created.

There are costumes, a murder mystery to solve and things go south fairly quickly. Before you know it, we have a real life murder mystery on our hands.

I would surmise that incorporating a high fantasy RPG into a narrative story would be a complicated task, and I think I’m right, because I found it confusing AF.

I was still sort of intrigued, but then it went off the rails.

The big baddie was super obvious, so no real suspense there and then the drama to reach the conclusion was ridiculous. I’m sorry, but it was.

There was also a lot of hard-hitting contemporary topics sprinkled throughout that seemed oddly out of place. It made the overall intent of this novel confusing.

There were some diverse characters in here, which I love to see, but in a way, it felt overplayed; like it was just an effort to get them in there for that sake alone.

I don’t know, it didn’t come off as genuine? Perhaps because they were portrayed so one dimensionally.

This is just my opinion, of course, and I would love to see OwnVoices reviews on this story.

If you are unaware, this novel features trans-rep, nonbinary-rep and disability-rep. I also would really like to see reviews from individuals who actually participate in RPG; I would love to hear people’s opinions on how that was represented here.

Without belaboring the point, I didn’t like this. If you pick it up and enjoy it, or even love it, I am so happy you had that experience with it.

Sadly, it just wasn’t the right fit for me. On to the next!

Original:

1. A Weekend Getaway.
2. A Game.
3. Deadly Secrets.

I will
never
skip a book with these buzzwords.

Sign me up!

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