Review: Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Cinderella Is DeadCinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cinderella Is Dead is set in a stark-Fantasy world, 200-years after the legendary Cinderella’s happily ever after with Prince Charming.

We follow 16-year old, Sophia, who on the eve of her first Ball, can think only of how she wants to be with her girlfriend, Erin, forever after, not with some man, or boy, she doesn’t even know.

Even though it’s risky, Sophia pleads with Erin to run away with her. Erin refuses. In their society it is treacherous to be different; to want something different for their lives. Erin is scared to be caught, to put herself and her family at risk.

Within the kingdom, all young ladies of a certain age are required to attend the King’s Annual Ball, where they are paraded around in the hopes of being selected to be a man’s wife. They are given a limited number of chances. If not selected, it’s sort of unclear what becomes of them, but many forfeited girls are never heard from again.

The girls are chosen for completely superficial reasons, so it’s important to look your best; to be seen, but not heard.

On the night of their Ball, one of Sophia and Erin’s friends isn’t as prepared as she should be. The King reacts harshly and the poor girl’s fate is sealed.

After witnessing the King’s cruelty, and the citizens impotence in the face of such evil, Sophia can’t stand it anymore. She makes up her mind that she needs to get away. Feeling she has no other option, refusing to bow to these ridiculous traditions, Sophia runs.

Now a wanted criminal, on her own for the first time, outside the grip of the kingdom, Sophia begins to learn more about the kingdom’s history and finds that the lore the society is based upon is nothing but a bag of lies.

Together with her new friend, Constance, Sophia vows to return to the kingdom and dismantle the hurtful, unfair and savage system. It may not be easy though, as the King’s power stems for a formidable and unusual place.

While this started strong for me, with an intriguing premise and set-up, the further I got into the story, the more it lost my interest.

By the end, I was ready to move on. I still think this is a solid idea and build-up, however the final execution just didn’t match my tastes.

As the story opens, I was intrigued by the system and I still find that interesting. I also like how Bayron framed the society around the legend of Cinderella. It was a clever plot device for setting the stage for some serious examination of a patriarchal society.

I also really enjoyed and appreciated how well the dystopian tone blended with the fantastical backdrop. That was nicely done.

I think where this started to lose me was the melodramatic interactions between Sophia and Constance. I didn’t like Constance at all. I was disturbed at how quickly Sophia shoved aside her once-proclaimed super powerful feelings for Erin the second she met Constance.

That didn’t feel genuine. It kind of turned me off to both characters. I also didn’t vibe with how quickly and easily the girls seemed to be able to overpower, or influence, others. This was especially evident in the final scenes, although I don’t want to say too much here because, spoilers.

Overall, I think this was creative and had a very solid set-up. The ideas explored were interesting and I loved the use of the actual fairy tale to set up the basis for the functioning of this system.

Even though the execution of this didn’t quite blow me away, I am still definitely looking forward to reading more from this author!!

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Review: This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno

This Thing Between UsThis Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The exploration of grief is a fairly common topic in Horror. It’s also something I really enjoy sinking my teeth into.

I knew that was going to be an aspect of Gus Moreno’s This Thing Between Us, but it still hit me like a gut punch. I’ve rarely, very rarely, experienced it done so well.

At the start of this story we find our main character, Thiago, working himself through the early stages of grief after the sudden, tragic loss of his beloved wife, Vera.

The narrative is second person and Thiago is expressing his thoughts and feelings to Vera, even though she’s gone. I loved this choice by Moreno. It made it feel so intimate and frankly, real.

I did listen to the audio version and the narration by Robb Moreira was so well done. He was Thiago to me.

Thiago takes us through their relationship with his musings. There was a lot of love there and many good times. There was also a smart device that started to go a little wonky. That’s where the creepiness really begins to set in.

Thiago, unable to rest comfortably in the home he and Vera once shared, decides that getting out of Chicago would be the best thing for him. Thus, he packs his bags and heads to a remote cabin in Colorado.

From here, I cannot go further into a synopsis. You’ll have to discover that for yourself. Just know, it gets crazy, weird, disturbing and I’m not quite sure I know what actually happened in the end.

I have my own conclusions I have drawn and choose to live with. Regardless, I was impressed with this. Overall, Moreno has me intrigued.

This story was weird in such a good way. It definitely made my mind work overtime, I’m not going to lie. If you pick this one up, which I recommend you do, prepare to be scratching your head at the end.

I would love to go back and annotate a physical copy someday. Maybe I could glean just a tiny bit more out of it if I did that. It would be worth it.

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Review: All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris

All Her Little SecretsAll Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

I loved my time reading All Her Little Secrets. Ellice Littlejohn was an interesting main character and I really meshed well with Morris’s writing style.

I listened to the audiobook and was completely swept up into the story. It was really well done with the narration just fitting to the story perfectly.

Wanda Morris has a second book releasing in October of this year, Anywhere You Run and it is loosely connected to this novel.

The main character of the new novel, I believe, is a side character in this novel and I’m looking forward to learning more of her backstory.

If you are looking for an engaging and thoughtful Legal Thriller to keep you at the edge of your seat, you should absolutely give All Her Little Secrets a try.

IMO, Wanda M. Morris is one to watch. This was an impressive debut. I selfishly hope Morris, a corporate attorney, has quit her day job, because writing is her jam!!

((although I am more than confident she’s a phenomenal attorney as well…))

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Review: Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie

Scritch ScratchScritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read Scritch Scratch in a 24-hour period at the beginning of June. For some reason, even though I absolutely adored this Spooky Middle Grade story, I completely forgot to review it.

I am here to change that. The thing is, I really want more people to pick this one up. I need to hear more chatter about it. It’s so fun, clever and immersive.

This story follows Claire, whose Dad runs a ghost-themed Chicago bus tour.

Generally speaking, Claire chooses to distance herself from her Dad’s business. She’s a science-girl at heart and all that supernatural mumbo-jumbo is just not for her.

Unfortunately, one night her Dad needs her help on the tour. No one else can do it and he can’t do it himself. Their family can’t afford to refund all the tickets, so Claire begrudgingly agrees to assist for one tour.

As the night slowly progresses, it seems to be going okay, but then Claire notices a little boy all alone. He’s dressed strangely, like his clothes come from a different time and he doesn’t seem to be interacting with anyone.

Claire is disturbed by his presence. She doesn’t know what to think about it. At the end of the tour, when she goes to check on him, he’s gone. Did she just imagine the whole thing?

It’s after that night that the scratching starts and the number 396 begins popping up everywhere for Claire.

It doesn’t take long for her to put tw0-and-two together. She is being haunted by that boy from the bus, or at least by his spirit. He seems to want something from her, but what?

Claire tries to parse out the identity of this mystery boy. Maybe if she learns something about his life, she’ll be able to help him in some way.

An investigation ensues, full of Middle Grade clues and logic. I absolutely adored that aspect. Actually there were many aspects about this story I enjoyed; pretty much of of them.

Currie’s writing was fantastic and it absolutely drew me in from the start. I did listen to the audiobook and highly recommend that format.

I felt like due to the top-notch narration, the story was made even more creepy. If you are a fan of Spooky Middle Grade, you need to check this one out. It’s so much fun!

I’m super excited to read more from Lindsay Currie. If this story is any indication of her overall style, I feel like we are going to have a long and beautiful friendship.

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Review: Where I Left Her by Amber Garza

Where I Left HerWhere I Left Her by Amber Garza
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Whitney’s teenage daughter, Amelia, is at an especially difficult phase. She’s moody and secretive. Whitney hardly recognizes her sometimes.

Whitney tries her best to remain patient. Things have been challenging for them both since the divorce, since Amelia’s Dad moved to Europe with his new wife.

Recently, Amelia has stopped hanging out with her old friends in favor of a new friend, Lauren.

When Amelia asks if she can spend the night at Lauren’s house on the weekend, Whitney is definitely hesitant. She doesn’t know this girl’s parents and has always had a rule that she must know the family before sleepovers.

At this point though, Whitney is at wit’s end. She gives in. Amelia can stay at Lauren’s on one condition, that Whitney can drive her there and drop her off.

So, that’s what they do. Whitney really wants to walk Amelia to the front door, but Amelia is adamant that is not going to happen. Once they arrive at Lauren’s home, Whitney watches as her daughter walks up the front steps, is greeted by Lauren at the door and disappears inside.

The next day, after being unable to reach Amelia on her cell for several hours, Whitney returns to the home for pick-up.

She’s surprised when an elderly couple answers the door, claiming there are no teenage girls there. She must have the wrong house.

Initially, she’s embarrassed. She could have sworn this was the house, the one with the rose bushes out front, but truth be told, all the houses do sort of look the same.

Whitney leaves, drives around the neighborhood looking for anything familiar and ends up right back there. She knows this is the house. Something is very wrong.

She calls her best friend, she calls the police, she calls her ex-husband. They need to find Amelia.

From there, the Reader gets a front row seat to the drama as Whitney desperately searches for her missing daughter. All will be revealed, but we’ve got a long, bumpy road ahead.

After my experience with Garza’s 2020-novel, When I Was You, I was super stoked for this next release. Where I Left Her is an over-the-top, ridiculously far-fetched drama.

We love it. Okay, maybe not ‘we’, but I LOVE IT!!

I really vibe with Garza’s writing and this one totally sucked me in. It was crazy fun.

Once I started, I was completely invested 100%. Honestly, both Whitney and Amelia made me angry. They aren’t making the wisest choices, but no one makes the best choices all the time…

I had a lot of fun learning about Whitney’s past and how it may have come back to haunt her. It was quite intriguing the way Garza pieced it all together.

I would definitely recommend this, particularly if you’ve enjoyed Garza’s writing before.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Mira Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I had fun with this and will definitely pick up anything else Garza releases!

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Review: Steelstriker (Skyhunter #2) by Marie Lu

Steelstriker (Skyhunter, #2)Steelstriker by Marie Lu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Steelstriker is book two in Marie Lu’s Skyhunter duology.

I really enjoyed my time reading the first book, learning about the world and being introduced to the characters, so in comparison to that, this one felt a bit lackluster to me.

As this is the second book, there may be details within this review that seem like spoilers to some. I will not include anything that you couldn’t find in the publisher’s synopsis, but regardless, I just want to put the warning out there.

Turn back now if you want to know nothing regarding the end of the first book…

Assuming we have narrowed it down to the people who aren’t afraid to know…after the concluding scenes of book one, Mara has fallen. The last outpost to hold out from Karensa’s control is no longer.

With her friends gone and her mother captured by the Premier, Talin has no choice but to serve him and the Karensa Federation. It goes against everything she believes and holds dear, but with her mother’s life on the line, Talin is more than willing to bend.

Using the same process they used to turn Red, the Federation transforms Talin into their newest Skyhunter; the most dangerous weapons around.

From afar, Red is trying to make contact with Talin via their telepathic connection. He’s no stranger to the tortures of the Federation, so he hates to think about what she may be going through on her own in the Skyhunter labs. Thus, he constantly tries to make his presence known.

Will Red and Talin be able to reunite and combine their powers to save Talin’s mom, as well as countless others before it’s too late?

As mentioned above, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first book. It’s certainly not the writing. Lu’s writing is flawless always.

To me, I think a lot of the joy and excitement for me with the first book was just learning about the world and characters. Learning how the world got to the point where Mara was the last nation outside of the Federation’s control.

Also, how Talin and her mother ended up in Mara, as well as learning about the Striker Force versus the Federation’s Ghosts.

Watching Talin’s relationship with Red grow was fun as well. So in this novel, with Talin on her own for the majority of the book, I felt it was lacking those deep character interactions I had enjoyed so much in the first.

Additionally, maybe I wasn’t paying as close attention, but I didn’t feel like I learned that much more about the world in this one. It could be that I wasn’t as interested so my mind was wandering a bit.

Either way, while this is still a good book, a solid conclusion to a duology, it didn’t blow my hair back like Skyhunter did.

Have no fear though, I will continue to pick up everything Marie Lu writes.

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Review: Dustborn by Erin Bowman

DustbornDustborn by Erin Bowman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Dustborn the world has been reduced to a desert wasteland. Danger lies around every corner and humans are forced to travel in packs just to up their chances of survival.

Delta of Dead River has lived her whole life in this world. Delta is very special, for she is the keeper of a map that could lead to the Verdant, a Garden of Eden of sorts, and a place that many people want to find.

The tricky part is the map is tattooed on Delta’s back. She’s never even seen it clearly and couldn’t read it anyways, as it’s drawn in old hand that she is unable to decipher.

When her village gets attacked by a band of raiders lead by a man known as the General, Delta believes they may be looking for her and the map.

Delta’s pack is taken by the General and his people, therefore Delta must go on a quest to get them back. Along the way she runs into old friends and makes some new ones.

Let’s cut to the chase, this wasn’t my favorite from Bowman. I can definitely admit it is a good story, it just never captured my attention like I was hoping. Not once!

The thing I appreciate the most about the story was the setting. I love a dusty, dangerous post-apocalyptic wasteland. Who doesn’t?

What I was never able to care about was the main character and her mission. I got to the very end and was like, what’s this girl’s name? Her entire story was forgettable for me.

There were aspects of the story that had some promise for me, but ultimately I just couldn’t get behind it. Also, there was the unnecessary slaughter of an animal about halfway through that completely turned me off. The narrative was never able to grab me back after that.

Overall, while I completely understand why a lot of Readers love this one, the content just wasn’t a fit for me. Bowman’s writing is strong and I have enjoyed other novels from her; specifically, the Contagion duology.

Thank you to the publisher, Clarion Books, for providing me a copy to read and review.

While this one wasn’t quite to my tastes, I look forward to picking up more from Erin Bowman in the future.

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Review: The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Games, #2)The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Hawthorne Legacy is the second installment in the hugely popular Inheritance Games series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

This rags-to-riches inheritance mystery offers Readers a lot of riddles, a lot of intrigue and a lot of romantic drama. It’s like a tiny bit The Princess Diaries meets a lot of Knives Out.

This story follows Avery Grambs, who after the death of her mother, really struggled to get by. She moved in with her half-sister and was working hard just to complete high school. She dreams of a better life.

In an unbelievable turn of luck, Avery received word that eccentric billionaire, Tobias Hawthorne, has just passed, leaving Avery the vast majority of his fortune. The strangest part is, Avery has no idea who Tobias Hawthorne is. She’s never even met him.

The kink is that Tobias had a pretty big family that he has snubbed with his surprise bequeathment to Avery.

Now poor Avery has to live in Hawthorne Manor with the very same grandsons who were all but cut out of the elder Hawthorne’s will. That isn’t awkward at all.

While the first book, The Inheritance Game, gets you up to speed on all that, this second book builds on the mystery of Avery’s windfall, as well as a building of the relationships within her new world.

And keep in mind, this is an entirely new world for Avery. She is now in the realm of the uber-rich; the jet-setting elites who she has never interacted with before. With this comes a new set of challenges, including PR-issues, something Avery never would have thought of before.

If only that were her biggest issue though. Someone out there isn’t happy with Avery’s new found fortune and is willing to try anything to get her out of the picture. Permanently.

There’s also a bit of a love triangle happening. The Hawthorne family is full of handsome and charming young men, such a plus for our Avery.

Two of the boys in particular, Grayson and Jameson, are attracting a lot of her attention and thanks to the power of DNA-testing, it’s not creepy at all.

I had a lot of fun with this continuation. The Hawthorne Legacy may not be perfect, but it’s pretty freaking fun.

I need answers; so excited for the next book. Where’s this going from here!?

I am so intrigued with what the truth is behind this family. I love the continuation of the use of riddles and games, as well as Avery getting the chance to team up with the brothers to solve different aspects of the mystery.

I know a lot of Readers aren’t fans of love triangles, but I think this one is great. It’s not overplayed. It feels natural. There’s no catty fighting, or behind the scenes backstabbing. Avery is genuinely feeling a connection to both boys. Girl, I get it.

I’m so excited for August so I can get my hands on the third book. I need answers!!!

If you haven’t picked up this series yet, and love a fast-paced, fun-filled YA Mystery, you should absolutely start this series now. It’s completely addicting!

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Review: Payback’s a Witch (The Witches of Thistle Grove #1) by Lana Harper

Payback's a Witch (The Witches of Thistle Grove #1)Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

After she graduated from high school, Emmy Harlow, left her small town of Thistle Grove and moved to Chicago. Since that time, she really hasn’t been back.

She’s forged her own life in the city completely separate from her magical family in Thistle Grove. Perhaps, now is a good time to mention that Emmy is a witch.

During her time in Chicago, she’s felt her powers waning. Apparently, it’s important for her to remain somewhat tied to her magical roots.

With the approach of a traditional spell-casting tournament occurring in Thistle Grove, Emmy finally decides to return for an extended visit. Her parents will be so happy.

Emmy’s family normally acts as the arbiters for the competition and because of where she falls within the family line, it is her turn. She could have passed the duties on to her overzealous cousin, but Emmy feels like it is finally time for her to be involved.

Upon returning to town, it doesn’t take long for Emmy to be right back into the small town circle: gossip, run-ins with ex-boyfriends, flirting with old classmates, amongst other things.

We learn more about the reasons behind Emmy leaving town, more about her and her relationships with her family.

I love the trope of a character returning to their hometown after an extended absence. As someone who moved away from my own hometown as soon as I graduated high school, I can totally relate to those feelings.

When you go back, it’s so mixed. You’re from there, of there, but also, feel like you are out of place. Life moves on without you while you are away and it’s like learning about a whole new place once you finally do go back.

I really enjoyed that aspect of this book. Emmy being reintroduced to her roots and really reconnecting with the people she had left behind.

The tournament was interesting as well, although I could have used more of it. It’s basically like the Triwizard Tournament, but for the founding magical families of this town. I wish there would have been more of that aspect.

Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with the romance. I wanted to be interested, but I just didn’t care either way. It was fine, but I wasn’t sold on how quickly Emmy and Talia fell for one another. Also, I’m not really sure Gareth’s vices were worth the efforts the ladies went to in order to get back at him. Not to be mean but, get over it.

With all of this being said, this was a super cute story overall. I loved the town of Thistle Grove. It felt to me like an Adult version of The Babysitters Coven and I’m not mad about it. I will absolutely be continuing on with this series.

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

I am looking forward to returning to this town and this great cast of characters when the second book releases in May!

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Review: What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

What Big TeethWhat Big Teeth by Rose Szabo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Here’s the thing, normally when I finish a book, I like to let it stew for a while before I write my review.

Generally, I will rate a book, write a couple of quick thoughts and return at a later time to compose a full review; giving myself permission to alter that initial rating.

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I will raise or lower the rating depending on how the story has impacted me more long-term.

Unfortunately, What Big Teeth is the type of story that I feel like if I wait any length of time at all, I will remember nothing about this.

Here I am minutes post-turning that final page and I already feel the details of this book flying out of my brain like dust in the wind.

This story follows Eleanor Zarrin, who was sent away from her family home many years ago. She was shipped off to a private school and never even returned to visit.

Now as a teenager, after being the perpetrator of a violent act at her school, Eleanor is forced to flee and return to the unopen arms of her estranged family. The Zarrin Estate is set on the coast of Maine in a little town called Winterport.

Over the course of the story, Eleanor becomes reintroduced to the monstrous relatives she had left behind. She begins to come into her own in this strange place; learning more about herself and her family history than she ever knew before.

And that’s really all I’ve got by way of a summary for this book. I didn’t recognize much of a compelling plot for me to sink my teeth into other than learning about the family.

It was just sort of an odd family drama following a Lovecraftian-Addams family. While I understand that the author probably had more in mind when writing this, whatever it was went 100% over my head.

The reason I am rounding this up to three stars, silver linings, is because of the quality of Szabo’s writing. It really was beautiful. It felt so fluid and I really enjoyed the tone. The point though, yeah, that was completely lost on me.

For this one, these are my full and final thoughts. I am obsessed with this cover. I will keep this on my shelves and I will definitely pick-up Szabo’s future works!

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