Review: All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle

All the Bad ApplesAll the Bad Apples by MoΓ―ra Fowley-Doyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Break the stigma, break the curse.

An absolutely enchanting feminist tale!

I was so enthralled by this story, I could not put it down. As Deena begins to unravel the mysteries of her family tree whilst on a search to find her sister, Mandy, assumed dead, I was completely swept up in their family lore. I wanted to know everything about the Rys family.

Fowley-Doyle seamlessly blended past and present together as the narrative unfolds. The reader takes a front seat as history repeats itself again and again. Women and girls are stripped of their power and choice, made to live false lives. It was heart-wrenching and felt extremely genuine.

At the beginning of the novel, Deena, our teenage protagonist comes out to her family with a mixed reaction. She is a student at a Catholic school and has been raised within a conservative household. She is struggling with her identity and being able to live her truth.

I thought this aspect of the story was so well done, as were all aspects really, but the feelings evoked as Deena questions whether or not she is a ‘nice, normal girl’, were just so powerful. That’s how the story kicks off and as far as gut-punching, hard-hitting topic choices, never lets up.

I loved the format the author chose to slowly reveal the truth at the heart of this tale. I am going to be thinking about this one for a long time to come. I am not going to say anything else in regards to the plot because I think it would best serve the story, and your reading experience, to go into this with as little information as possible.

A story of family, identity, secrets, truth and power, I am still reeling by how much this story has impacted me. Truly stunning.

While this is a fully fictional story, the topics explored within were well researched by the author and are based on true events that happened throughout the course of Ireland’s history. As the author lives in Ireland and is Irish herself, that is where the story is focused, however the issues the girls and women faced are universal.

Please read this book. Please read this book. Please read this book and as always, this includes the Author’s Note at the end. Read that too!!

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Review: Contagion (Contagion #1) by Erin Bowman

Contagion (Contagion, #1)Contagion by Erin Bowman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

OHHHH BABY!!!

Zombies in space! Y’all know, everything is better in space.

When an SOS goes out from a mining crew on a distant planet, a quickly assembled team heads out to investigate. Their number one selling point, they are the closest individuals to said planet.

They don’t seem to be prepared with manpower, experience, equipment, you name it, but off they go anyway. Once arriving they discover an abandoned site and a bunch of dead bodies but is there someone else there? Are there any survivors?

The rest of the book is a high-octane race to escape the planet before they too are are turned by the contagion infecting it. Zombie chases and fight scenes. Brutal zombie slayings. Bodies dropping. Dark, cold landscapes and abandoned space ships. All pretty stellar stuff.

This does follow multiple POVs which at times seemed perhaps a little unnecessary but in a way, I do understand the author’s choice. Because of the multiple POVs, jumping back and forth, it did gain some intensity from that. I know that is a personal choice as a reader, whether or not you enjoy that format. I can honestly say, I didn’t mind it at all.

I would definitely say this is more of an action-based story to a character-based story. For me, the action was high pretty much the entirety of the story. The ending was the perfect leave in anticipation of the sequel which I have already purchased and am hoping to get to real soon.

In short, if you like horror or science fiction involving remote planets, zombies, mass infections and / or rescue missions, you should definitely give this book a try!

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Review: The Town That Feared Dusk by Calvin Demmer

The Town That Feared Dusk (Short Sharp Shocks! Book 17)The Town That Feared Dusk by Calvin Demmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Short Sharp Shocks! Book 17

DEMMER!!!

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I don’t know how he does it. The ability to elicit such an ominous atmosphere with so few words, it’s a true talent.

This short-story follows intrepid reporter, Sylvia Bernstein, as she travels to a small town to investigate their abnormally high suicide rate. All the alleged suicides seem to take place at dusk on a certain bridge in the town.

Sylvia decides to visit the bridge on her own, scope it out a bit. Once there, she has a bit of a supernatural experience and comes to some heavy realizations. Now she knows there is way more at play here than just a bunch of suicides.

I just adore Demmer’s style of writing. It’s like every word is carefully selected to pack the most punch. There are always moments in his stories that hit you like an adrenaline jolt. Moments of quick and genuine fear that are so enjoyable!

Thank you to the author, Calvin, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I loved it and cannot wait for more!!

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Review: 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

10 Blind Dates10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I have an new favorite YA Contemporary!!

This is the most adorable, sweetest book about family and self-discovery that I have EVER read.

It’s so true, guys! I loved this with my whole heart and soul.
This book is a blessing, Ashley Elston is a blessing.
I am even having a hard time forming legitimate sentences right now.

This precious story follows Sophie, who on the eve of Christmas break, is looking forward to nothing more than spending some quality time with her boyfriend, Griffin. Her parents are traveling to stay with her older sister, Margot, who is pregnant with her first child and having a slightly complicated pregnancy.

The stated plan is that Sophie will be traveling to her Grandparent’s house to stay with them for the entirety of her holiday.

Secretly, she hopes to sneak back home as much as she can to be with Griffin. Unfortunately, when she overhears Griffin tell one of his friends that he wants a break from Sophie, the only thing broken is her heart.

Later that same night, when her Grandmother, Nonna, finds Sophie crying outside her house, she hatches a scheme to get Sophie’s mind of stupid-ole’ Griffin. Her plan: have family members set poor Sophie up on 10 blind dates to keep her busy each night of her Christmas break.

I know this book sounds like the perfect plot for a romantic comedy and it definitely is. At the same time however, my biggest take away from this was the power of a supportive family. At the heart of this, it is about ties that bind that go way deeper than any high school relationship ever could.

Sophie has a LARGE dramatic Sicilian family and I ABSOLUTELY loved the positive family dynamic. There were Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Mom, Dad and her Sister involved. All rooting for Sophie’s happiness and she was such a good sport about everything that was thrown at her.

The dates were all unique and a little wacky. I looked forward to reading each on as they unfolded. It was such a fun and creative format. Elston’s storytelling is just top-notch, there is no denying that.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I loved this so, so much!

Ashley Elston is an auto-buy author for me and obviously that’s not changing any time soon. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!

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Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation (Dread Nation, #1)Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in a historical United States, where the country is plagued by the walking dead, Jane McKeene is just trying to get by at Miss Preston’s School for Girls. Life hasn’t always been kind to Jane and she has developed a thick resolve to help push through hardships.

Being trained as an attendant means not just etiquette and other basic schooling, it means weapons training as well. A lot of it. You see, Jane’s job will someday be to protect some rich family she’s not a part of.

But before she knows it, things go a little…astray. She gets caught in the midst of some snooping on some powerful people and is punished by being sent away from Baltimore Country entirely. A prisoner aboard a train with her picture-perfect frenemy, Kate, and her ex-beau, Red Jack, Jane finds her situation pretty helpless.

Their destination, Summerland. A sort of Western outcrop community reminiscent of Deadwood. Once there a whole host of drama ensues, including standoffs with the undead, known throughout the novel as ‘shamblers’.

There were so many compelling things about this story. The historical landscape was wonderfully done, I thought, as well as the frank representation of race relations in this time period and place. In fact, I feel that the level of historical elements woven throughout the story was perfect.

I also really enjoyed the relationship between Jane and Katherine, who Jane always calls Kate, even though she is asked not to do so. They start out not caring for one another but their relationship evolves so much over the course of the story. It was truly moving. I always enjoy that kind of friendship in a story, particularly female/female.

I also thought the zombie element was really tastefully done. It is descriptive enough, and concept-driven enough, to make this a full-fledge tale of a world fighting zombies, without overwhelming and negating some of the other important plot points.

It’s like zombie-light and I do mean that in a good way.

My only, very slight critique, is that it seemed a little long to me. I would have been just as happy with this story if 30 or 40-pages, or so, had been edited out. As I always say, however, that is 100% personal preference and opinion.

I do think this left off at an incredible spot for a continuation. California here we come! I will definitely be continuing on with this series and look forward to watching Jane be her brutal, badass self.

If you are looking for a fun, zombie-inspired tale to pick up this Spooktober, I would definitely recommend this!

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Review: The Best Lies by Sarah Lyu

The Best LiesThe Best Lies by Sarah Lyu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two girls adrift in the world find each other and develop one of the most disturbingly codependent relationships I have ever read.

This hard-hitting YA Contemporary follows Remy and Elise as they explore the bounds of friendship and cross them in the worst possible ways.

They seek comfort and safety in one another, calling themselves tragic heroines, because they don’t feel there is anyone else in their lives they can count out.

Both struggle with intense emotional issues due to unstable, and at times, dangerous, home lives. Both feel unwanted and under-valued but in each other, find a sense of belonging and love they were lacking.

Unfortunately for them, and everyone around them, in particular Remy’s new boyfriend, Jack, the truth of their attachment is much more twisted than it would initially seem.

This book is nothing like I expected it to be. The subject matter is heavy, dark and way more mature than I was expecting. The psychological consequences of both these girls upbringings are absolutely devastating. I think it will take me a while to get over this. I felt bad for them in such a visceral way as I know this type of circumstance happens all the time.

The timeline was well done, although there is a lot of back-and-forth, so if that is not your jam, maybe steer clear. The writing was also fairly engaging and I felt drawn into Remy and Elise’s story. I definitely understand where the Thelma & Louise comparison comes from.

If you are looking for a dark YA Contemporary to pick up this Fall season, I would definitely recommend giving this one a try. There are a lot of good topics here worthy of examination. I will definitely continue to read from this author.

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Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of JanuaryThe Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

((awkward silence due to unpopular opinion))

((sound of crickets))

I’m sorry, everyone. I just did not enjoy this book. I really wanted to, I was so hyped for it, then I saw all the reviews coming in and they were fantastic! I couldn’t wait to get into it.

Then I started reading. The writing was a little quirky at first but my interest was still high. Then it just seemed to not be going anywhere. I wasn’t feel anything. I didn’t like anything about it. The writing was flowery and beautiful but I felt like the plot got lost in all of that. I dreaded picking it back up and really struggled almost the entire way through.

There was a sweet spot for me that really picked up between 50% and 80% but that’s just not enough. If you read through the reviews, I am clearly in the minority opinion. I have read the reviews. I know.

When I first finished, I contemplated giving this a 2.5-star and rounding up to 3, but then I slept on it and came to the conclusion that I would just be doing that to appease people. I genuinely did not enjoy this book.

I can understand why so many people have loved this and I am happy that they found something in here that resonated with them, that’s just not me.

I love portal fantasy; The Dark Tower or Wayward Children series are great examples but this fell so flat for me. The characters seemed one dimensional and I had zero connection to any of them. I don’t need to like characters but I do need to actually care about what happens to them.

The only character I cared about was the dog, Bad. I was so worried about that dog, and traumatized by things that happened to him, that I was never able to relax into the story. That is 100% a personal preference and it has spoiled books for me in the past — see my review for The Deep by Nick Cutter — but yeah, there’s not much here to save this story from that pitfall.

With all of this being said, I would never want a personal review from myself to keep people from picking up a book that really interests them. If you think this sounds intriguing, please pick it up and try it for yourself. There is a book for every reader and a reader for every book. Sadly, this just wasn’t my cuppa tea.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Redhook Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly appreciate the opportunity and know that many, many readers are going to absolutely adore January’s story.

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Review: Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files, #1)Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A truly delightful reading experience. All the SCIFI stars!

When Rose Franklin is 11-years old, she falls into a hole while out riding her new bike. When she is found and rescued, it is discovered that she is laying atop a giant metal hand. Less than 8-hours later, the U.S. Military takes over the scene.

Years later, when Rose is working for the University of Chicago, the opportunity presents itself for her to study that very same hand, along with 4-enormous panels with writing from an unknown language on them. Could the writing perhaps solve the mystery of where the hand came from? Of what it truly is?

Armed with a large grant from the NSA, Rose sets to work. Soon there is a world-wide search for the missing pieces of this ginormous robot.

With action, mystery, political intrigue and entertaining science, this heart-pounding novel kept me glued to the pages from beginning to end, and oh, what an end it was!!! I am so happy that my Sci-Fi September lead me to some new favorites, this one definitely being up there.

I cannot wait to move on with the Themis Files and highly recommend this series to any science fiction fan, particularly those who enjoy a mixed media format!

Bottom line:

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Review: The Fire Keeper (The Storm Runner #2) by J.C. Cervantes

The Fire Keeper (The Storm Runner #2)The Fire Keeper by J.C. Cervantes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Prophecy of Fire was only the beginning.

After the tumultuous events of the first book, The Storm Runner, our young protagonist, Zane Obispo, is living a fairly cushy life on a private island with his closest companions. All should be good from here on out but unfortunately, as life often goes, it’s not.

He discovers that the book he recently wrote, detailing his time with the Mayan Gods, has endangered other Godborns. They are being kidnapped at an alarming rate and being spirited away to the Gods don’t even know where!

Making matters worse, his own father, Hurakan, the Mayan God of wind, storm and fire, is set to be executed for reasons I won’t go into here.

Zane sets out to save them all. A quest is no fun alone however, so he brings along his hellhound, Rosie, a new friend, fellow Godborn, Ren, and an old enemy. As to be expected severe hijinks ensue.

As with the first book, The Fire Keeper keeps up the action-packed adventure we have come to expect from Zane and the crew. I love this group. They are caring, loyal, funny and fearless.

Zane’s Uncle Hondo is one of my favorite characters. I just find his energy so charming but Zane himself is the true hero. He is just the sweetest boy and I am enjoying watching him grow. He has been put through so much but always faces what is in front of him with optimism and spunk!

This is a really great Middle Grade series. I am going to be impatiently waiting for the third book to release in the Fall of 2020. It sounds like we are going to have some sort of training for the Godborns, which y’all know, is one of my all time favorite tropes.

Bring it on!

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. As always, I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to more from J.C. Cervantes!

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Review: Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus

Two Can Keep a SecretTwo Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

QUESTION:

Did I just read this book in June?

ANSWER:

Yes.

QUESTION:

Am I heavily considering reading this again in October?

ANSWER:

Yes.

**4.5-stars**

O.M.G.

I don’t think I have ever been that chilled by a final line.
Well played, McManus.

I seriously don’t even feel like I can review this.

Just know, she good and she has hella Autumnal vibes. A great one to pick up this September/October!

Get it on your Spooktober list, y’all.

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