Review: A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

A Spindle Splintered (Fractured Fables #1)A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two girls destined to die have their fates crossed, perhaps altering their once doomed outcomes, in this whimsical modern-day reimagining of Sleeping Beauty

Due to an industrial accident, Zinnia Gray, was left with a rare and fatal condition. The prognosis of which means she won’t live to see her 22nd-birthday.

As bleak as that is, Zin has had a great life, surrounded by people who love her so much. Including her best friend, Charm, who decides to throw Zin a Sleeping Beauty-themed party for her 21st-birthday, complete with tower and spinning wheel.

Zin, not really in the mood to party, goes along with it nevertheless. Charm put in so much effort. As the festivities come to a close, Zin pricks her finger on the spinning wheel at midnight, and is thusly transported into another world. It happens to be where the real Briar Rose lives.

It is there that the two women’s lives become intertwined, as they work together to try to save themselves from their fates.

It’s no secret that I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Ten Thousand Doors of January, but I never give up on an author off after only one try. This story is the perfect example of why. Oh, my goodness!

Wow, holy smokes. I am floored by how different my opinion of Harrow’s writing is now; after only 128-pages. Alix E. Harrow redeemed!!!

As mentioned above, this is a fairly short novella, but no less impactful because of it. It is a rollicking good time, with adventure, friendship, danger and just the right amount of hat tipping to the original story.

I loved the feminist undertones woven throughout, as well as the relationship formed between Zin and Briar Rose. The dynamic between them was just so fun. Because they were from completely different worlds, they had a lot to discover about one another, but Harrow kept it so witty and fun!

I’m really interested to see if Harrow tackles other fairy tales in this format. If so, I would definitely be willing to pick them up.

Thank you so much to Macmillan Audio for providing me with a copy to read and review. I listened to it all in one night and had an absolute blast doing so!!

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Review: The Heron’s Cry (Two Rivers #2) by Ann Cleeves

The Heron's Cry (Two Rivers #2)The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Heron’s Cry is the second release in Ann Cleeves’ Two Rivers series, following DI Matthew Venn and his team.

The first book in the series, The Long Call, was a standout Mystery for me in 2019, so I was highly anticipating this next installment.

Unsurprisingly, Cleeves did not disappoint. This woman could teach a master class on writing an engaging Police Procedural.

This particular Mystery kicks off when Venn is called to a crime scene at a rural home occupied by a group of artists. A man has been killed, stabbed in the neck with a shard from one of his glassblower daughter’s vases.

Dr. Nigel Yeo, the victim, is a dedicated public servent, a loving father and valued member of his community. It’s perplexing as to why anyone would want him dead.

His daughter, Eve, the glassblower, is particularly distraught, as is Venn when he discovers Eve is actually a good friend of his husband, Jonathan. Of course, sometimes it seems everybody knows everybody in a small community.

The detectives discover a line of inquiry Yeo was following with regards to his work for the health ministry. It involved the suicides of two young men and the possible failure of the health system in providing them appropriate care.

Could someone have been meaning to silence him?

When another body is discovered, killed in the same fashion, Venn and team fear they may have stumbled across something larger than they initially anticipated.

I really enjoyed my time with this novel. Being back with DI Venn and learning more about him and his team, it felt comfortable. Cleeves has created a great cast of main characters for this series. I enjoy how she includes a few different perspectives.

The coastal community in North Devon provided an insular, small town atmosphere, which I tend to enjoy in my Mysteries. I loved learning all about the town’s secrets; the underbelly of an otherwise picturesque place. Every community has things they would prefer to keep from the outside world.

I also enjoyed how this story incorporated a group of artists, randomly thrown together into a sort of communal living situation. That whole subculture feel was quite interesting.

I’m not sure if there are going to be more books in this series, but I truly hope there will be. I could picture this one running for a long time. If that’s the case, I will be so happy that I got in on it early.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out this series yet, and you love Police Procedural Mysteries, you really should. Now is the time!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I highly recommend the audiobook. It’s completely absorbing.

I am definitely looking forward to more Ann Cleeves!

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Review: Walking In Two Worlds by Wab Kinew

Walking in Two WorldsWalking in Two Worlds by Wab Kinew
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Walking in Two Worlds is Indigenous author, Wab Kinew’s, YA Fantasy debut.

Set in the near future, following two teenagers, Bugz and Feng, this narrative swerves between our world and a VR-gaming world both teens are involved in, known as the Floraverse.

Bugz, an Indigenous teen, who grew up on the Rez, is shy and self-conscious in our world, but in the Floraverse, she’s strong and confident. She’s also the most powerful and popular player in the ‘Verse.

Feng is a Chinese boy, recently sent to live on the Rez with his Aunt, the new family practicioner there. Feng was forced to flee China after his online activities suggested he was leaning towards extremist sympathies.

Feng plays in the same game that Bugz dominates and is actually part of a group called, ClanLESS, who is promoting her downfall. Violently.

When Bugz and Feng meet at school, they hit it off right away. He doesn’t recognize her from the ‘Verse, as her persona there looks a lot different than she does in real life. As they build their relationship, it is finally revealed to him who she is.

He’s impressed. Instalove ensues and Feng’s loyalties are put to the test. Can Bugz overcome the odds stacked against her?

Clearly, this is an over-simplification of the plot, but I think it is best to just go in knowing you will get great representation, exciting gaming elements, eye-opening commentary on some aspects of the Indigenous experience, as well as heartbreaking examinations of social anxiety, self-confidence and feelings of being powerless, voiceless or helpless.

Certain details of this story hit me hard, but it was a mixed bag. While I genuinely appreciate the level of creativity Kinew brought to this story, including some really great current social issues, I couldn’t help but feel that Bugz and Feng played second fiddle to all of that.

It felt like they weren’t built-out as much as they could have been. Maybe it was because the book was fairly short, but the insta-love was too heavy for my taste and their personalities felt very flat. I wanted to know them more and I don’t think Kinew had the chance to really allow them any growth.

The gaming elements were quite well done. I thought it was exciting and vividly-described. Even though I knew that was a virtual reality, it still hurt my heart when events happened in the game that had a negative impact on Bugz.

The game is so much a part of her life. It is where she feels the most strength; the most like her true self. That was impactful. Well done by Kinew.

Towards the end, there were a couple of plot points that didn’t sit quite right with me; for example, an event involving ClanLESS in real life. I believe I understand the symbolism behind that being included, but it just didn’t make practical sense.

Also, I was hoping for more personal growth from Bugz. I will admit to being a little unsatisfied with her trajectory.

With this being said, this is a very good story. It’s fast-paced and I really feel like I got a lot out of it.

My hope is that this makes it into a lot of school libraries in the United States and Canada. I think YA-Readers will really relate to a lot of the topics explored within this story and the representation is so needed.

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

I had a lot of fun spending time with Bugz and shed a few tears along the way. I really hope that Wab Kinew continues to write in the YA-Fantasy space. I would love to read more from him!

Walking in Two Worlds releases tomorrow!!!

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Review: My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

My Heart Is a ChainsawMy Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

My Heart Is a Chainsaw is Stephen Graham Jones most recent, brilliant, love letter to the Slasher genre. It’s also one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint.

I actually finished this on September 2nd. Subsequently, I wrote a full review, which if I do say so myself, was pretty darn good.

Then due to major stupidity on my part, my laptop got inadvertently shutdown and all of my efforts were erased.

Normally, I would try to find another person within striking distance to blame, but unfortunately, there was just me, my dog and a potentially haunted ceiling fan.

But I digress…

Jade Daniels is a social outcast in her small, lakeside town of Proofrock, Idaho. A half-Indian girl, forced to live with her abusive father, Jade changes her hair color often and views the world through a prism of her vast knowledge of the Horror genre.

As her high school career comes to a close, there’s not much on the horizon for Jade. She works as a janitor for the local public school system, and it seems she may be doing so into the future. That in and of itself is fine. If she could just stay away from her Dad and his pervy friend, it would be okay.

When mysterious events around town start mirroring the plot structure of her favorite genre, however, Jade knows it’s finally happening. She’s excited by the prospect.

Proofrock has a slasher on their hands!

Therefore, she does what any logical Horror aficionado would do and tracks down the most logical choice for final girl, so she may teach her how to save herself and the town.

Sure, there will be a high body count, it’s almost time for the annual 4th of July celebration, after all. We all know Slashers cannot resist events like that, but the final girl should still be able to stop him. Eventually.

I’m always amazed by how much Jones can pack into a story. Each page feels like a Master Class in the Horror genre; full of references and rules that make my heart soar.

In addition to that though, he always doses us full of hard-hitting real world issues as well. There are many layers here, as there are in other novels of his that I have read.

This story was so much fun to read. It’s intricate, gritty, bloody, gory, smart, sarcastic, biting and fierce. The writing is top-notch and it’s going to remain in my mind for a long time to come.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Saga Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I am sure there are a lot of things I am forgetting to mention about this, but what can I say? I’m silenced by greatness!

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Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

The Last House on Needless StreetThe Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

In a quiet town, at the end of a typical neighborhood street sits a well-worn home with boarded-up windows. In the house lives an eccentric man named, Ted.

Ted has a daughter named, Lauren, who sometimes visits. Although never seen playing outside, the neighbors can hear her sounds of joy and sometimes discontent, well enough, ringing through the walls. Also, residing in the home, is Ted’s little furry companion, Olivia the cat.

Told through the alternating perspectives of Ted, Olivia and a neighborhood woman who just moved to the street, their intertwining tales of horror begin to unfold and their connections are laid bare.

It’s clear Ted’s musings may be unreliable. Can you trust what he is thinking? The way he wants you to see the story? What about Olivia? She’s just a cat. Could she possibly understand the intricacies of the human mind?

And what of the neighbor woman? She seems to have an unhealthy obsession with Ted, but is she correct about what he is?

Y’all, this is definitely one of those books that it is best to go into knowing as little as possible. I listened to the audiobook and feel it’s an excellent way to take in this story. I was pulled in from the very start.

The writing style is quirky and a perfect fit for this story. In my experience, it added to the overall sense of unease, because it took my mind a couple of seconds after each sentence, or statement, to string it all together.

That sounds like a negative, but it’s not. It’s like my mind was clicking through all it had heard, trying to figure out the truth, but couldn’t.

You know intensely from the start that all is not as it appears to be. It’s not cut and dry.

It’s a headscratcher and beyond compelling. There are clever misdirections, shocking revelations and soul crushing snaps back to reality. It’s a dark and heavy tale that breaths sinister unknown out of every pore.

Overall, I found this to be a satisfyingly unique and stirring Horror novel. It’s 100% memorable and will stick with me for a long time to come.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. It was an ideal way to kick off my Spooky Season reading!!!

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Review: Pahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M. Lee

Pahua and the Soul StealerPahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M. Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

11-year old, Pahua Moua, is a bit of an outcast amongst her peers. Because of this, she spends her summer days babysitting her little brother, Matt, and hanging out with Miv, a cat spirit no one else can see.

That’s fine with Pahua though. Matt and Miv are her best friends, who else would she want to hang out with.

Pahua’s Dad left them, so her Mom has to work a lot, leaving Pahua and Matt home alone quite a bit. That makes Pahua sad and she frequently wonders why her Dad went away. Her Mom has never really offered up an explanation.

As a Hmong-girl, living in a mostly white town in Wisconsin, Pahua also has that setting her apart from those around her; making her feel isolated at school and in her neighborhood.

Pahua also carries a secret. She can see spirits!

One day, exploring near the local haunted bridge, she notices a little ghost girl. Pahua tries to be friendly to her, but this is no innocent appariation and before she knows it, her brother’s life hangs in the balance.

Matt has fallen into some sort of deep sleep and cannot be awoken. Pahua must risk it all and travel into the spirit realm, battling all sorts of unknown dangers, in order to try to save him.

Surprising no one, I absolutely adored this story. The Rick Riordan Presents imprint is such a gift. Giving Readers the opportunity to learn about myths, legends and cultures from around the world through engaging, action-packed, heart-warming stories is so special.

Lori M. Lee’s Middle Grade debut, Pahua and the Soul Stealer, is actually one of my favorite releases thus far and I have read almost all of them.

Pahua is an incredible character. Her spirit, determination and strength, in the face of terrifying odds, never faltered. Her love for her brother kept her going, pushing through some really difficult obstacles.

The entire story was full of the perfect mix of humor, heart and action. From the very first chapter, I was laughing and grew so attached to Pahua as her narrative played out. I listened to the audiobook and it was so well done; highly recommend that format!

I feel like I am forgetting a ton of things that I wanted to say about this, but in the end, that’s probably for the best. Everyone should go into this knowing as little as possible.

Let the fun and adventure wash over you. It’s a heck of an entertaining, soul-warming, nail-biting ride!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Audio and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy to read and review. It was so much fun!

I am looking forward to more releases in this world with Pahua and friends!!!

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Review: Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

Rock Paper ScissorsRock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Rock Paper Scissors, Feeney examines the age-old question, how well do you know the one you love?

After Amelia wins a mystery weekend away at a historic chapel in the Scottish Highlands, she thinks it may be just what she and her husband, Adam, need to spice up their marriage. Amelia feels like they need some time, and distance from his work, to reconnect.

Surprisingly, Adam agrees and the two set off. The weather isn’t great and rapid snowfall makes the travel difficult.

By the time they, and their sweet dog, Bob, have made the very long journey, everyone is going stir crazy in the car. Arriving at the chapel, they’re taken aback by how isolated it is. There’s literally nothing around as far as the eye can see.

It’s at this point, the couple begin to recognize just how peculiar this entire holiday actually is. Who did she win this trip from again?

The lodgings are strange, eerie and ominous. With the weather getting worse, tension among the couple continues to rise. This is definitely not going as they expected. The power source is questionable and at the rate the snow continues to fall, they may not be able to get out.

Told between alternating perspectives, as well as through annual anniversary letters, the truth of their frightening holiday in the Highlands, as well as their marriage, begins to come to light.

Y’all, Feeney dropped the mic on writing a suspenseful Thriller with this one!

I enjoyed this so much. From the very first chapter I was hooked. Feeney’s clever plotting and magnificent twists kept me glued to the pages. I had to know the truth; who was lying and why?

There was a dark tone glistening just along the surface. I knew it went deeper than what I was getting. The reveals were perfectly paced; what a treat!

This did have quite a few tropes I tend to enjoy, but they came as surprises to me. I don’t even think I read the synopsis prior to picking this up. I saw, Alice Feeney, printed on the cover and that was enough.

If you are fan of things such as isolated locations, creepy houses, hidden secrets, marital strife, jaw-dropping plot twists, characters who are authors and people being stranded places, you should absolutely check this one out!!!

Also, I was impressed with the character work. All of the main characters were just so interesting and besides some lightly-sprinkled craziness, were all quite unique.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flatiron Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I have already bought a finished copy for my shelves.

One of the best Thrillers of the year!!!

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Review: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Certain Dark ThingsCertain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Certain Dark Things was originally published in October 2016, but is now being rereleased, by Tor Nightfire, with this splendid new cover!!

With vampire fiction making a bit of a resurgance and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, justly, gaining in popularity, I believe it was a smart decision. I knew the second I saw this cover that I would read it.

This noir-style story takes place in an alternate version of Mexico City, where vampires are real and everyone knows it. Please note, we’re talking dangerous, brutal vampires versus the sparkling romantic ones.

We love to see it.

Domingo is a street-kid who collects garbage to make ends meet. When he spies Atl, the most beautiful girl he has ever seen, he is immediately drawn to her.

As much as she tries to resist, Atl eventually succumbs to Domingo’s charm. Atl is on the run. She has many dangerous people looking for her and Domingo insists on helping; even though he is clueless to the ins-and-outs of the vampire world. He’d do anything to stay with Atl though.

There’s a gritty texture to this entire story. It’s violent and dangerous. I really enjoyed the overall idea and the setting; particularly, how humans and vampires live side-by-side.

For me, I feel like I needed it to be built out more to become fully invested however. It felt quite surface-level, which is fine. It’s a good story. A solid world creation, but for me, I would need a little more substance before I could say that I really enjoyed it.

With this being said, it is a quick, fun read, quite atmopsheric and I think a lot of Readers will have fun with it. I do think it is a very solid example of Moreno-Garcia’s style. I’m a fan!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I really appreciate it!

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Review: Where the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey

Where the Truth LiesWhere the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Anna Bailey’s debut, we get a deep dive into the small town of Whistling Ridge, Colorado, where a 17-year old girl, Abigail, has gone missing.

Abi’s friend, Emma, is wracked with guilt because she left Abi behind at a party on the night she disappeared. Abi was supposed to be meeting up with a boy in the woods and insisted Emma leave her, but she never should have.

Not only does Emma feel bad about leaving Abi there, others in town blame her as well.

The police believe Abi ran away, but Emma knows that’s not true. Abi would never have left without her. Emma decides to take the investigation into her own hands. She needs to find out what happened to her friend.

Abi’s family is a mess, but truth be told, they were a mess before she disappeared. Her two brothers live in constant fear of their father’s unpredictable temperment, while their mother frequently appears checked-out.

Over the course of the story, multiple town secrets are brought to light. There’s all sorts of racism, prejudice, bigotry and religious fervor. There’s a lot of unlikable characters and unsavory circumstances.

Personally, I never felt connected with this story. None of the characters were distinct to me and I had a difficult time tracking it all through the multiple perspectives and then/now timelines.

I decided to give this 3-stars because I know there is a good story hidden in here somewhere. It tackles a lot of important, sensitive issues and I would never want to take away from that. However, for me, this reading experience was more of a 2-star.

I couldn’t wait for it to be over. With this being said, just because this wasn’t my cup of tea, doesn’t mean it is not a good book. If you read the synopsis and it sounds interesting to you, please give it a shot. It could very well be a new favorite for you.

Maybe I was just in a mood or something. Who knows? Crazier things have happened, but yeah, as of today, not a great experience for me. Extremely forgettable and bland. Solid, mehhh.

Thank you to the publisher, Atria, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it. On to the next!

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Review: How to Kill Your Best Friend by Lexie Elliott

How to Kill Your Best FriendHow to Kill Your Best Friend by Lexie Elliott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Georgie, Lissa and Bronwyn have been best friends since their days together on their college swim team.

In the years following school, their friendship group, which includes a few male swimmers, have remained close, frequently taking swimming holidays together.

Lissa and her new husband recently purchased a beautiful island resort, somewhere in the South Pacific, and the group takes full advantage of the lovely waters there.

On their most recent holiday at the resort, Georgie chose not to attend. She’s now living in New York and it would have been an extremely long trip. That’s the excuse she gave at least. She did have some other reasons for not wanting to go.

It’s on this occasion that Lissa, taking an unimaginable solo night swim in the dangerous waters of Kanu Cove, drowns. Her body assumed swept out to sea, is never recovered. Fisherman in the area did spot the body at one point, but before they could recover her, she slid back under the dark surface.


Georgie is out of sorts from the very start. She arrives late, she didn’t get the memo on the dress code, and most importantly, she cannot believe that Lissa would have made that swim at night, alone, voluntarily.

Bronwyn is out of sorts as well, but for different reasons. She’s receiving threatening messages, she’s distracted, constantly looking over her shoulder, but why?

The group is set to stay at the floundering resort for a long weekend and a heck of a lot happens during that time. There’s creatures surfacing from the depths, mysterious occurrences, flaired tempers, entirely too much booze and a storm of epic proportions. Will any of them get off the island alive?

How to Kill Your Best Friend is the second novel I have read from Lexie Elliott. I absolutely love her writing style.

While I did feel this was a bit of a slow burn, I didn’t enjoy it any less because of that. I love the way Elliott builds her characters and the way she allows us to see inside their heads; learn about their pasts and motivations.

I generally enjoy competition tropes, or tropes where characters are members of a team or club. This definitely had that dynamic, even though the women are well past school age. There’s still something about the interactions of people that compete, or train together, that I just find so relatable.

It’s like when you are in that kind of relationship with a group of people, it can feel like you are closer to them than anyone else in the world. There’s an assumption that you know everything about each other, but everyone’s keeping secrets, aren’t they?

Additionally, I loved the setting. The close to abandoned resort. The fact that the characters were stuck there. No matter how uncomfortable they got, or how much they wanted to leave, that wasn’t an option.

Secluded locations allow for the tension to really build and Elliott captured that claustrophobic feeling so well here. Especially towards the end, as the weather picked up, so did the stakes.

Overall, I thought this was a really well executed story. It was dramatic and tense, I had a lot of fun with it!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I am a huge Lexie Elliott fan and will continue to pick up anything else she writes.

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