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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Review: The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst

The Bone MakerThe Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Twenty-five years ago, the five heroes of Vos, waged an epic battle against the evil magician, Eklor. Although they were victorious, only four survived.

This fight, now the stuff of legends, was memorialized in songs and stories, but the ones who fought it went their separate ways when it was over.

Kreya, the group’s leader, lost her husband, Jennt, tragically in the battle. Saving his body, she has moved the two of them into a tower in the mountains, far from other people.

Kreya is a bone worker and continuously resurrects Jennt for short periods of time. She is busy formulating a spell she believes will bring him back for good, but it requires copious amounts of human bones to work. A resource she doesn’t currently have.

She knows where to find all she will need, however; the old battlefield. It’s illegal though and will be dangerous as heck. She’s going to need help.

Thus, she goes to her old friend and fellow fighter, Zera. Even though Kreya ghosted her for 25-years, Zera is a good sport and agrees to go on the mission.

Reunited, the two women, embark on a cross-country quest to steal some bones; all for a good cause.

Once on the battlefield, however, they discover their battle may not actually be over.

Kreya and Zera stumble upon evidence that indicates Eklor’s reign of terror may be resurrecting itself.

Eklor had created an inhuman army from animal bones. It was believed all had been destroyed, but they find a few of his horrifying constructs still functioning and still murderous. They rush back to the city, assemble the old crew, and prepare for round two!

The Bone Maker is a story of second chances. It is creative, pulse-pounding, nail-biting, full of danger and twists and turns. I had a lot of fun with this story.

The characters were fantastic. I loved the five heroes. Their relationship dynamic was heart-warming. They supported one another and played off of one another’s strengths and weaknesses beautifully.

Even though they had moved on, and some would consider them past their prime, they were still willing to put it all on the line for one another and to fight for what was right.

Eklor was a marvelously constructed villain. His motivations, powers, abilities to deceive; it was all so well done. I also enjoyed how Durst framed Kreya’s relationship with Eklor. They were similar in a lot of ways. It sort of reminded me a bit of the dynamic between Harry and Voldemort.

Additionally, I was impressed by the magic system. The bone magic was fascinating. The different types of bone workers and what powers they could wield.

Certain aspects had a sort of steampunk feel that I rather enjoyed. So, yeah, overall, really good standalone Adult Fantasy. I would absolutely recommend it.

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

I really appreciate it and will definitely be picking up more from Sarah Beth Durst!

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Review: Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

Down Comes the NightDown Comes the Night by Allison Saft
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wren Southerland is a magical healer and the niece of the Queen, but that hasn’t won her any favors. In fact, her Aunt treats her very poorly.

After Wren’s empathy causes her to make a mistake on the battlefield, she gets banished from the Queen’s Guard and sent back to live in a remote abbey.

Most upsettingly, this causes Wren to be separated from her best friend, Una, a Captain in the Queen’s Guard. She also happens to be the woman Wren loves.

Wren is kicking herself for her mistake and just trying to figure out a way back to Una. Certainly her Aunt will find it in her heart to forgive her.

While at the abbey, stewing in her misery, Wren receives a letter from Lord Alistair Lowry, inviting her to his home, in order to help him with a little problem.

His servants are sick and dying from a mysterious illness. One man is still alive, suffering and he wants Wren to try to heal him before it is to late.

She considers it a great opportunity and decides to take him up on his offer, traveling to the neighboring kingdom of Cernos, to Lowry’s estate of Colwick Hall.

((cue the gothic ambiance))

Her movements weren’t exactly approved by the Queen, so Wren finds herself a bit of an Outlaw. In her eyes, it is worth it though.

Shockingly, her new patient turns out to be someone she knows. Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria, her kingdom’s sworn enemy.

There’s political gains to be made here. Perhaps Wren can still work her way into the Queen’s good graces and be reunited with Una.

As she begins to get to know Hal, however, she starts to question a lot of her previous beliefs. Soon, Wren and Hal are working together to solve a murder mystery chilling enough for even the sturdiest of characters.

Down Comes the Night was such a pleasant surprise. A great debut for Saft!

There were so many aspects to this that I enjoyed, but first and foremost would be the atmosphere. Colwick Hall felt like the creepy, gothic mansion of my dreams. Reading this, I felt like I was there. I could smell it, feel the cold and dread what was hiding in every shadow.

Hal and Wren working together, watching their relationship evolve, was fantastic. They were complete opposites, but grew to understand and appreciate each other because of that.

I was genuinely afraid for them. The dangers they faced as the explored the secrets of Colwick Hall were palpable.

I also thought the magic was well done. Wren’s work as a magic-based healer was quite detailed and I liked that it was a bit on the gruesome side.

Saft definitely didn’t shy away from blood and gore, so if you enjoy that, as I do, you should definitely check this one out. You know who you are.

Overall, I think this is a very fun standalone YA Fantasy. There were a few little things that didn’t work as well for my tastes, but they were definitely overshadowed by the aspects I enjoyed.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I had a great time with it and look forward to reading more from Allison Saft!

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Review: The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry

The Ghost TreeThe Ghost Tree by Christina Henry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

The town of Smith’s Hollow has suffered quite a few tragedies over the years. The eerie part is, no one seems to remember.

When two girls from out of town are found slayed in a backyard, literally cut to pieces, it does grab everyone’s attention. At least momentarily.

Lauren has grown up in Smith’s Hollow and now, just shy of her Freshman year in high school, she begins to sense something is severely wrong with their quiet town.

For one thing, her father was murdered in the woods just last year. His heart cut out of his body.

When she hears about the murdered girls, she doesn’t hold much hope for the police finding the culprit. They never solved her Dad’s murder.

Everyone just seemed to move on, but Lauren remembers and she wants to get to the bottom of it.

The thing I loved the most about this story was the atmosphere. The setting of Smith’s Hollow, that eerie small town vibe where you can instantly tell something is off.

Additionally, I found Lauren to be a likable character and the relationships within her family were interesting.

Since her father passed, her mother has been struggling and seems to take a lot of her frustrations out on Lauren. Nothing she ever does is right, her mom is always nagging at her.

Then there is Lauren’s little brother, Danny, who she loves dearly, but he’s a strange kid. He seems to know things he shouldn’t and he says the oddest things.

When Lauren begins to have visions as well, of a horrible monster and the murdered girls, she starts to investigate.

What is going on in Smith’s Hollow and what is her connection to it? Her first stop is her Grandmother’s house and boy, does she have a tale to tell!

There’s witches, there’s curses, there are sacrifices that need to be made.

Lauren sees it as her job to put an end to the madness. Along with a friendly policeman, a cute next-door neighbor and a roving reporter, Smith’s Hollow had better watch its back.

Throughout this story I was reminded of other stories. I felt Sawkill Girls, Strange Grace, The Devouring Gray and The Wicked Deep all rolled into one.

It was fun, I’m glad I read it. I love how Christina Henry’s mind works, but this isn’t my favorite of her books.

Lauren’s best friend, Miranda, drove me batty. I was hoping she would be the first victim, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Also, there were some subplots I wasn’t as interested in and I found those portions dragging for me. I think I could have enjoyed it a lot more if those had been shaved back a bit, including the racist neighbor.

Overall, this is a solid story. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy a dark atmosphere with some gruesome deaths steeped in mystery.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I adore Christina Henry and will continue to pick up anything else she writes!

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Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRueThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

With the tagline: A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget. I should have known this was going to happen.

The infamous book hangover.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is an experience. I don’t feel like I have ever been this beaten up by a book.

It was literally like Schwab was taking an ice pick to my heart and slowly chipping pieces away the entire way through.

There were times I had to set it down and step away.

I couldn’t be held accountable for my actions in those moments. It’s all a blur.

Addie LaRue is a character who has an extraordinary story to tell, yet no way to tell it.

In 1714, she entered into a Faustian bargain granting her eternal life. The downfall, she will be forgotten by every person she ever meets, unable to do even the simplest of things, like telling someone her name.

She flounders for years, trying to determine how best to live.

It is a struggle. Her only connection, the dark being who granted her wish, Luc.

These scenes of Addie grappling with how to survive, were hard to read. In fact, they were some of the most melancholy scenes I have ever read.

It was gripping and beautiful and painful, all at the same time. The writing was able to elicit such empathy for her position. I found it to be extremely powerful.

Addie eventually develops a semi-comfortable pattern for living, until one day, in 2014 New York City, a boy in a bookstore changes everything.

He remembers.

Intricately weaving together both past and present timelines, Schwab sweeps you away in a love story centuries in the making.

There’s love, sacrifice and tasty bites of food for thought the entire way through.

I loved the exploration of the power of the arts to transcend space and time. There’s an underlining theme of art, in many different forms, creating a sort of timeless influence.

It felt like a love story to artistic expression and I was so into that whole vibe.

Overall, I think this is a very special story. One that will have a great and lasting impact on a lot of people.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I will never forget Addie, or her story.

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Review: The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

The Initial Insult (The Initial Insult, #1)The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Tress Montor and Felicity Turnado were best friends when they were younger. Not anymore.

Now in high school, Tress has an ax to grind with Felicity. She wants some answers to a long-standing mystery and she believes Felicity has them.

When the girls where in the fourth grade, Tress’s parents disappeared late one night while driving Felicity home from their house.

Felicity was found bruised and bleeding at the side of the road, but the Montors were never seen again.

After that, Tress loses her life as she knew it. With no parents, and no one else to claim her, she is forced to live with her drunken grandfather at what the locals call the ‘white trash zoo’.

There are animals that Tress helps to feed and care for. A zebra, an ostrich, an alligator, a panther, among other things. Life is hard.

Tress is not cared for as a child should be and becomes a social pariah at school. Literally abandoned by the entire town, she has no one to advocate for her.

Felicity feels guilty for all that has happened to Tress. Part of her wants to comfort and care for her ex-best friend, but she doesn’t dare. What would people think?

Felicity keeps her true thoughts tucked deep inside her, like she’s been taught, all whilst exuding that Queen Bee attitude that everyone expects.

She’s rich, beautiful, popular and has a secret way to suppress her negative thoughts.

Tress has had enough of it all, so she develops a plan to get the answers she seeks.

It involves a crowded costume party at a deserted house, a coal chute, a lot of bricks and mortar. Felicity is going to talk, one way or another. Tress has nothing to lose.

Alternating between Tress and Felicity’s perspectives, this novel follows the girl’s friendship from the start, to the present, and through various stages in between.

Both girls keep a lot of things to themselves. There is anger, guilt and plenty of low self esteem to go around.

This story is extremely heavy. There is a ton of baggage between these two girls. Even when they aren’t the ones doing things to one another, they are there to bear witness.

They’ve been intertwined in one another’s lives for a long time. As a reader, you can feel the weight of that history. It’s almost tangible.

I found this entire storyline unique and completely engaging. Once I started reading, I could not put this down.

It’s just so well written. I know that this story will not be for everyone, but I think the people who are going to enjoy it, are REALLY going to enjoy it.

McGinnis was not afraid to go dark and stay there. There is not one moment of lightness in this novel and I was here for it.

I cannot believe how this one ended up. The final few scenes, my word.

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

I really, really enjoyed this and cannot wait to see how this duology turns out!!!

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

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

**4.5-stars**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I truly appreciate it!

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Review: Tinfoil Butterfly by Rachel Eve Moulton

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

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Tinfoil Butterfly is strange, heartbreaking, and beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I loved the bond formed by Emma and Earl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know who you are. Pick it up!

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Review: Ruthless Gods (Something Dark and Holy #2) by Emily A. Duncan

Ruthless Gods (Something Dark and Holy, #2)Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ruthless Gods, the second installment of Emily A. Duncan’s debut YA Fantasy trilogy, Something Dark and Holy, continues to bring the dark atmosphere I cherish.

Significantly darker than your average YA Fantasy, this second book especially, toed the line of Horror and I’m here for it.

Our three main characters, Nadya, Serefin and Malachiasz, return and, y’all, they go through it.

This world is hella brutal. The magic, the landscape, it seems everything is out to get them, maybe even each other.

I enjoyed the character growth in this sequel, as each of them is faced with their own private battles. As they seemingly grow closer towards one another, outside forces are simultaneously pushing them apart.

Each is conflicted with their own demons, causing conflict amongst them. Meddlesome Gods play them like pawns in a game. The intensity is constant.

This was definitely an action-packed ride!

I’ll admit, I wish I would have taken the time to go back and review the first novel, particularly the ending, prior to picking this one up.

Up to around the 50% point of this book, I was confused. I was enjoying it, but it was a confused enjoyment.

My plan is to reread the first two books prior to the release of the third. I absolutely will be following through with this until its, no doubt, brutal conclusion.

I love this world. Based on an Eastern European culture and landscape, I find that the aspects of terrain and local folklore and legends, really add to my overall enjoyment of the story.

If you are a fan of Grimdark Fantasy, Blood Magic and Gods who manipulate the greater worlds around them, then you should definitely pick this series up!

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

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