Review: Black Tide by K.C. Jones

Black TideBlack Tide by K.C. Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beth is a bit of a hot mess and she’s the first one to admit it. She drinks a tad too much and has been known to flee in the face of responsibility; at least before.

Lately though, Beth has been turning things around. She’s been pet-sitting and feels like she is getting good at it. She’s even getting referred to new clients by happy patrons.

That’s how Beth ends up at a beach house on an empty stretch of the Oregon coast on the day the world ends.

She is staying with the best good dog, Jake, and all has been going well. She’s been spying a little bit on the man next door, but that’s to be expected, isn’t it?

He’s handsome, in a mysterious, scruffy sort of way. He seems lonely. Beth is all kinds of curious about this mystery man.

So, when she sees him drinking expensive champagne on his deck one evening, she heads over to introduce herself.

His name is Mike and he is a film producer. The two hit it off and spend the evening enjoying each other’s company in every way you can imagine.

That night, at Mike’s place, Beth doesn’t sleep well. Her drunken dreams are full of horrifying images that are still rattling around in her brain upon waking.

She finds Mike and Jake together on the beach. Apparently, Mike had gone to the dog’s rescue. Beth can’t believe she left Jake alone in the house next door overnight.

That’s what the booze can do; great decision-making, Beth.

Mike tells Beth all about the insane meteor shower he witnessed from the beach. There’s still evidence of the destruction it wrought. Plus, there’s the thing that he found.

The power is out, so they have no way of listening to any news. How wide spread was the event and what exactly was it?

They decide to drive up the beach and investigate where they believe one of the meteors actually struck. Maybe there will be someone around who knows more of what’s happening.

Black Tide is the most intense book I have read in a long time. Edge of your seat doesn’t even begin to describe it.

From that very first night, as the meteors start to fall, the tension begins. Driving down the beach the following day, they become stranded and the circumstances continue getting worse for the trio; yes, I am counting Jake.

The entire thing was a nail biter. I was yelling at the book, advising them what they should do: protect Jake at all costs!!

I love Sci-Fi Horror and I found this one to be incredibly fun. The concepts were unique, the character development was great and the build-up of intensity was fantastic.

It had such a claustrophobic feel. Oh My goodness, I am squirming even thinking about it!

I grew to really care for these characters. In particular, Beth and Jake. I felt like I was able to relate to Beth so much. It made the stakes feel a lot higher for me. I just wanted them to be safe.

I would definitely recommend this to any Horror Reader, but particularly to those who enjoy a lovely blend of Sci-Fi and Horror elements.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Black Tide releases on May 10, 2022.

Be sure to add it to your Spring TBR!!

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Review: Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester

Such a Pretty SmileSuch a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Lila Sawyer, at 13-years old, is grappling with many things. One of the largest is coming to grips with her own sexuality. This issue is constantly at the forefront of her mind, but there are other things too.

Someone is taking and murdering girls in her area; girls that are about her age. Because of this her Mom, Caroline, has become really paranoid and strict about Lila’s whereabouts and movements.

It’s more than that though. It’s like her Mom knows something about what is going on and she’s keeping it, and her entire past, secret from Lila.

It appears that the killer, dubbed The Cur by media, has struck before. Lila hears her Mom talking about it; something about the past, about New Orleans.

Caroline Sawyer is a single-mom and successful artist, whose macabre sculptures composed of artifacts from nature, such as twigs and leaves, is heavily disturbed by the murders of the young girls.

She desperately wants to keep her daughter, Lila, safe. This monster has affected her life before and she can’t have it happen again.

Such a Pretty Smile follows the perspectives of both Lila and Caroline; Lila in 2019 and Caroline mainly in 2004. The narrative alternates until past and present slowly begin to merge into one horrifying showdown.

I really enjoyed this story. I found it to be wildly creative, brutal, bizarre and extraordinarily thought-provoking. DeMeester’s got a lot to say and she’s not afraid to say it.

She’s clearly not going to just be quiet and smile pretty. We’re here for it.

While I recognize this won’t necessarily be for every Reader, for me it was an impressive display of feminist Horror. The biting social commentary, my word, I doff my cap.

DeMeester’s writing is incredibly rich with dark, evocative imagery. I was essentially watching this entire story play out in my mind. I loved how she revealed certain aspects of Caroline’s past and how that played into their present.

This is the first that I have read from this author, although she has been on my radar for a while. I actually own a copy of her short-story collection, Everything That’s Underneath, and definitely plan to pick that up this year.

If you like dark, no-mercy stories, with vivid imagery and brain-rattling social commentary, you should absolutely give this one a shot!

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

This story will stay on my mind for a long time to come!

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Review: All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

All of Us Villains (All of Us Villains #1)All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once every generation, in the city of Ilvernath, seven families must choose a champion who will represent them in a tournament where the contestants fight to the death.

The prize is an inexhaustible supply of high magick, the most powerful resource in the world. The family whose champion wins, gains control over that magick for their family until the next tournament.

Obviously, this is extremely important and puts a whole load of pressure on the contestants.

With this tournament in particular, thanks to a recently released tell-all book, the contestants are thrust into the spotlight like never before.

Will the contestants be able to use this difference to their advantage, or will it distract them to the point of death? Can anything ever change the cycle of the Tournament? Does their world have to be this way?

All of Us Villains is basically The Hunger Games if it were fought exclusively by members of Slytherin House.

Well, Slytherin and maybe one Gryffindor.

If you read this statement and you’re thinking, why would I want to read that? I’ve read those stories. I want something new. I will just stress, this is something new!

Even though it channels those vibes. Particularly, the vibe of Knockturn Alley at night in the midst of a thunderstorm, this is its own thing.

I loved how the authors formatted this, with the Reader finding out who the champion of each house would be along with the rest of the citizens of Ilvernath.

Following some of the contestants perspectives, we get to know each one of them and the challenges they face in pursuit of their goals. There’s plotting, scheming, strategizing and like a good season of Survivor, a lot of alliances.

The writing in this story is just beautiful. It’s exceptionally detailed, lush and dramatic.

I could definitely feel both Foody and Herman within these pages; the darkness, monsters, violence, despair, but also highly developed and likable characters, even in all their antihero-ness.

Honestly, these two authors working together is everything I have ever wanted. I feel like they have created something truly memorable here.

You may be wondering after all of my gushing, why I only gave this 4-stars, as opposed to 5. For me, I don’t think I ever truly understood the magic system.

I am not sure if it is because I was so distracted by the characters themselves, that perhaps I missed out on some details, but I feel like there was something missing.

With this being said, I still really enjoyed this story and would love to read it again actually. Most likely, before the next book is released, I will do so.

Basically, this book is the love child of Draco Malfoy and Katniss Everdeen. It’s amazing and feels like a dark fantasy reader’s dreams come true. Yep, that’s right.

Thank you so much to the publishers, Tor Teen and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint. I cannot wait for more collaborative efforts from these authors!!!

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Review: Gilded by Marissa Meyer

GildedGilded by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gilded is the latest release from the ultimate Queen of Retellings, Marissa Meyer.

Pitched as a haunted retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, Gilded was one of my most anticipated 2021-releases. I preordered the heck out of this book and am so pleased that it now graces my shelves.

The narrative follows, Serilda, a miller’s daughter, who spends her days spinning tales for the children in her village. Her stories are wildly entertaining and full of untruths, even though to hear her tell them, you would think everything she says is possible.

Serilda is a truly gifted storyteller. Cursed years ago by the God of Lies, Serilda’s talent was bound to get her in over her head eventually.

When one of her stories draws the attention of the Erlking and his wild hunters, Serilda gets drawn beyond the veil into a world of ghouls, phantoms and other mythical creatures.

Based on her story, the Erlking demands that Serilda weave straw into gold for him, locking her in a tower, threatening her life if the task isn’t completed by morning.

After a mysterious boy appears in her tower room, Serilda discovers he has the exact magic she needs to save herself.

But who is he and what does he want with her? As the two get to know one another, their fates become intertwined in Serilda’s epic battle to free herself from the Erlking’s clutches.


As mentioned above, I had been really excited to get my hands on this book and it did not disappoint. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the audiobook from the publisher, Macmillan Audio. I decided to go with the audio version because of that and I am so glad that I did!

I previously listened to the entire Lunar Chronicles series on audio and had such a blast with it. To my sheer delight, I quickly discovered this audio is performed by the same fantastic narrator, Rebecca Soler!

She just has the perfect voice for Meyer’s stories. Whimsical and captivating, she breezes through Meyer’s whip-smart dialogue like she had written it herself.

In fact, that is one of my favorite aspects of Meyer’s writing; the dialogue. It is always so witty and fun, keeping me smiling even during the most intense scenes. Serilda’s perspective provided plenty of opportunity for Meyer to show off that comical style.

I actually read this entire story believing it to be a standalone novel. Surprise and elation, it is not!

This is actually the first in a duology, with the second book expected to be released next November. I cannot wait to find out the conclusion to Serilda’s story. I will definitely be rereading this one prior to that release.

If you have enjoyed previous works from Meyer, or just love a dark fairytale retelling, you absolutely need to pick this one up and give it a shot.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy of this to listen to and review. It’s an incredible story with some phenomenal narration to boot!

I cannot wait for the continuation of this story. 2022, here we come!!!

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Review: Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn

Flowers for the SeaFlowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

For me, this reading experience was very similar to my time spent with The Deep by Rivers Solomon.

My first reaction upon completion with both novellas was, what in the heck did I just read?

Followed shortly thereafter by thoughts such as, that was gorgeous writing, this is beautiful and important, and finally, I wish I had a better understanding of it.

Flowers for the Sea is Dark Fantasy novella centering around Iraxi, a headstrong, powerful woman trapped on a claustrophobic-feeling ark sailing the high seas.

For a good portion of the story she is struggling through the last moments of, what seems to be, an unwanted pregnancy.

Iraxi’s emotions take center stage as she works through anger, pain, revenge and motherhood. It’s a lot.

A story set at sea, with a sea creature aspect, this is an intriguing premise and the writing shows so much promise. I would love to read more from Zin E. Rocklyn; hopefully at some point in a longer format, so I can really settle into their style and ideas.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dreamscape Media, for providing me with an Audio-ARC to listen to and review. I am really happy I had the opportunity to check this one out. It was memorable!

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Review: The Keeper of the Night by Kylie Lee Baker

The Keeper of Night (The Keeper of Night, #1)The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ren Scarborough has never felt like she belonged. Even though she has been collecting souls from the London streets for over two centuries, she nevertheless feels like an outcast among the Reapers.

As half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren has been treated very poorly by the other Reapers with whom she frequently needs to associate.

Because of this, the only person she has ever felt really connected to is her half-brother, Neven.

When Ren has an altercation with some fellow Reapers who are bullying her, yet again, her Shinigami powers come through in a way she shouldn’t have let them. Now she needs to flee to save herself.

Against her better judgement, Neven insists on going with her. Sacrificing the life he has known for a very unknown future. A sacrifice he is more than willing to make.

Their destination: Japan, where Ren hopes she can learn more about her Mother and her Shinigami roots.

Arriving in Japan, Ren discovers she isn’t necessarily accepted there either! It’s so frustrating. She’s out of place no matter where she goes.

In order to try to gain acceptance at last, Ren takes on a difficult quest from the Goddess of Death. She must find and eliminate three extremely dangerous Yokai demons, each one more frightening than the last.

This novel is absolutely enchanting. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator, Rebecca Yeo, completely drew me into the story. I was transfixed.

I immediately felt attached to Ren and Neven. Even though Ren feels out of place due to her mixed-race, Neven also feels out of place due to his general personality. He just wasn’t cut out for death work. Both of them are outcasts and you can’t help but feel invested in and protective of them.

After their arrival in Japan, they meet a man named Hiro. He was also extremely intriguing. A bit mysterious, is a he a rogue, or is he a charmer?

I was on the fence about him, but loved having him along for the quest. It added an interesting dynamic amonst the group that would have been missing otherwise.

The quest was fast-paced, high-stakes and absolutely steeped in stunning imagery from Japanese folklore, which I generally love to read.

I definitely recommend this to anyone who may be a fan of series such as Shadow of the Fox or Death Note. Also, highly recommend the audiobook as a format ot take in this story. It’s really well done.

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

I had a great time reading this. It was deep, dark, haunting and heart-breaking; a stellar combination, if I do say so myself!

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Review: All These Bodies by Kendare Blake

All These BodiesAll These Bodies by Kendare Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the Summer of 1958, a string of unsolved murders, dubbed The Bloodless Murders, plagued the Mid-West.

In each case, the bodies are found completely drained of blood. Defying explanation, there is also no blood to be found anywhere at the scene, or any other evidence, for that matter. How is the killer getting away with this?

In September of 1958, the spree ends in a small Minnesota town with the killing of the Carlson family. 15-year old, Marie Catherine Hale, is found at the scene absolutely covered in blood.

Initially mistaken for a survivor, it turns out, none of the blood is hers and Miss Hale didn’t previously know the Carlsons. She is the only lead.

Michael Jensen, the Sheriff’s son, soon gets pulled into the investigation when Marie declares that he is the only person she is willing to tell her story to.

Michael can’t believe his luck. With dreams of becoming a journalist, and leaving his small town behind, Marie’s story could be exactly what he needs to help him reach that goal.

However, it’s more than that. He’s drawn to Marie. The pretty girl is not like other girls he knows. She fast and world-wise. He can’t help but be intrigued by her.

Over the course of several jailhouse confessionals, Marie Catherine reveals a tale to Michael that includes a bit of a supernatural twist to the killings.

Certainly, there’s nothing more to that than the active imagination of a young girl trying to avoid blame for truly heinous acts, right?

Nevertheless, Marie couldn’t have acted alone, so who was her accomplice? Will the police be able to locate him based on the information Marie Catherine has put forth?

You’ll have to read it to find out! Y’all, this was really good. I enjoyed it so much.

When I first started, I was instantly reminded of Truman Capote’s masterpiece, In Cold Blood. The whole 1950s-era Mid-Western feel channeled that, for sure. If you are unaware, ICB is my favorite True Crime book of all time.

My In Cold Blood vibes were definitely not far off, as the Author’s Note at the end did mention the Clutter murders and Truman Capote.

Overall, I found All These Bodies to be unique, compelling and fast-paced. I loved how Blake built-out the relationship between Michael and Marie Catherine.

I also really enjoyed the pace at which Marie Catherine’s story is told. It kept me completely focused and engaged.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Quill Tree Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I will remember this one for a long time to come.

Definitely recommend!

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Review: Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

Summer SonsSummer Sons by Lee Mandelo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Andrew and Eddie were best friends, closer than brothers. Their level of attachment to one another went above and beyond what you would even expect of the closest of friends.

When Eddie left Andrew behind to begin his graduate studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, it was unsurprisingly a tough transition. At least from Andrew’s perspective.

Six months later, just before Andrew was getting ready to join Eddie in Nashville, Andrew receives news that Eddie has died, an apparent suicide.

Now Andrew has inherited Eddie’s house in Nashville, complete with a roommate he doesn’t know, or necessarily want. Andrew is also left with the haunting suspicion that Eddie’s death isn’t as cut and dry as the authorities are making it out to be.

As Andrew begins to settle into the Nashville house, becoming involved in Eddie’s University studies and his friend group, he learns there was a whole side to Eddie he didn’t know.

Street racing, hot boys, late nights, hard drugs, ominious topics of study and dark family secrets; Andrew doesn’t understand how all of this could have been going on with Eddie without him knowing it.

The deeper he gets into Eddie’s secrets, the more out of control he feels. Not helping matters is the strange presence haunting him, wanting to possess him.

Summer Sons is a Queer Southern Gothic story incoporating a cut-throat academic setting with the dangerous and exciting world of street racing. With this description in mind, this should have been a great fit for my tastes.

I did get some of the Southern Gothic vibes I was hoping for, as well as a desirable level of angst and grief. I also got a touch of academic atmosphere. Unfortunately, I also got bored and confused.

I did end up listening to the audiobook, which I actually feel is the only way I was able to get through it. I may have given up otherwise.

The narrator was fantastic. I loved how he had the accent to fit the story; that’s always a plus for me. I definitely recommend if you are interested in checking this one out, that you give the audiobook a go.

Overall, I think this just wasn’t the story for me. The writing is strong, and I can get behind the ideas that set the foundation of the story, the execution just fell flat for me.

I know a lot of Readers are going to absolutely adore this story, however, you can tell that already by the reviews!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

I am glad I gave this one a shot and look forward to seeing what else Mandelo comes up with in the future.

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Review: She’s Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard

She's Too Pretty to BurnShe’s Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Veronica and Nico are best friends. They’re both artists; she’s a photographer, while he is into edgy performance art.

As the summer days draw on, a girl enters their orbit, who will throw them both off course and away from one another.

Her name is Mick. She’s quiet, serious and shy; a swimmer, who works as a life guard. She’s also Veronica’s dream girl.

Mick’s strained relationship with her mother forces her to seek sanctuary outside of her home. She finds it with Veronica first, and then secretly with Nico.

When Nico’s artistic pursuits get riskier, both girls find themselves in over their heads. Events begin to spiral out of control.

No one knows who they can trust. It’s full on friendship chaos!

Described as being inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, I definitely enjoyed the art scene aspects of this novel. Particularly, Nico’s brand of subversive street art.

While the themes made this feel like a subtle, modern interpretation of Dorian Gray, I feel like Readers anticipating more of a retelling, may be disappointed.

I definitely recognized opposing philosophies for Veronica and Nico; art for art’s sake, versus art for a purpose.

I also enjoyed how Heard framed the societal reaction to art in this narrative; capturing the idea that beauty and youth, through the viral photo of Mick, are of the utmost importance.

Regardless of any immoral actions taken by Mick, her beauty was what mattered.

These were interesting characters. While the beginning took a while to take off, by the end, this narrative was wild as heck! It certainly went places I didn’t expect.

Overall, I think this is a good story. I feel like if you can connect in anyway to the art scene portion of this book, you’ll enjoy it, as I did.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Henry Holt and Company, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it!

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Review: The Unleashed (The Haunted #2) by Danielle Vega

The Unleashed (The Haunted, #2)The Unleashed by Danielle Vega
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

**Please note, as this is the second book in a series, some mild spoilers are contained in this review. Proceed with caution.**

After the devastating events of The Haunted, Hendricks and friends are trying to return to normal. Not an easy task with Eddie gone and Raven remaining in a coma.

Hendricks, Portia and Connor, received intense group therapy and in some ways, it did help. However, Hendricks is still having a really hard time letting go of Eddie.

In fact, she believes his spirit still remains in Drearfield and with the right method, perhaps she’ll be able to reach him.

She looks to Ileana for help. With Ileana’s guidance, they gather a circle of seven and perform a seance with the hopes of summoning forth Eddie’s spirit. The seance is of course performed on the grounds of Steele House.

Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t go as planned.

Soon thereafter, Hendricks begins to experience hauntings quite similar to before. However, they are no longer restricted to just being within her home. Now evil entities seem to be everywhere; no place is safe.

The high school itself seems to be a hotbed of activity, with ghost girls in the hall and phantom music being played.

With prom on the horizon, Hendricks has been spending extra time there, as she agreed to the join the planning committee with Portia.

When Portia becomes the victim of a supernatural attack, Hendricks knows they didn’t bring Eddie back. They brought back something else, and it’s angry.

They need to redo the ritual and hopefully send this malevolent spirit back from whence it came.

This was a strong continuation from the first book.

Personally, I was devastated by the ending of the first book and honestly, that pissy mood sort of carried over into this one. I missed my favorite character too much.

With that aside, I did enjoy this. The first half especially. I loved how the characters involved in the seance were willing to help Hendricks out, even though some of them thought she was bat shit crazy.

I also really enjoyed the horror imagery. Vega definitely excels at that.

It did start to lose my towards the end. There was a great scene, that as far as I am concerned, could have been the final scene, but it continued on.

After that point, I was sort of out of it. It went way over the top after that and took away a bit of the seriousness of the earlier parts of the story.

Overall, this is a solid Teen Scream duology and I am very happy that I read it.

I would definitely consider picking up future releases from this author!

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