Review: Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Velvet Was the NightVelvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

In 1970s, Mexico City, Maite works as a legal secretary by day, and reads romantic comics by night; dreaming of a different life for herself.

Elvis is an enforcer in a group called the Hawks, whose main objective is to suppress political activists within the city. His life is surrounded by violence. He’s also hoping for more; maybe to be more like the King himself, Elvis Presley.

Elvis and Maite are about to have their lives intertwined, all because of a girl named, Leonora.

Leonora is a beauty, a free-spirit, a student, an artist. She lives across the hall from Maite. Although the two have never really socialized, Leonora comes to Maite one day for a favor and then disappears.

Intrigued by the young woman’s disappearance, Maite begins looking into Leonora’s life. The mystery infuses Maite’s life with an excitment she’s never really had before.

Elvis is looking for Leonora as well, but for completely different reasons. His employer is desperate to find Leonora in order to gain access to something he believes she is in possession of.

During the course of his hunt, Elvis begins to notice the quiet, mousey woman living in Leonora’s building. There’s something about her that he is drawn to.

As the narrative evolves the two strangers begin to orbit closer and closer together, but will they collide?

Velvet Was the Night wasn’t what I expected, although that’s my own fault. This is true noir, take that seriously. It’s a slow burn, with relatively low-stakes.

The tone is lush, the narrative richly-atmospheric. Initially, I wasn’t sold. It starts slow. I was wondering where it was going, when it was going to pick up and while I was wondering that, Moreno-Garcia was subtly sucking me in.

The next thing I knew, I was being transported to Mexico City. I was fully immersed within this story, with the characters, with their inner musings. I couldn’t put it down.

It was a unique reading experience for me. I don’t read a lot of books like this and while I really enjoyed it, it still won’t be a genre I will seek out.

I feel like the magic of this for me was in Moreno-Garcia’s writing; it was the way it unfolded, the beauty behind the slow drama of it all. It’s a special book, although admittedly, not for everyone.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy to read and review. While not necessarily in my comfort zone, I did really enjoy my time reading this one and will continue to pick up anything Silvia Moreno-Garcia writes!!

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Review: The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

The Nature of Fragile ThingsThe Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

When Sophie Whalen, an Irish immigrant, comes across an ad in a NYC-newspaper of a rich widower in search of a new wife and mother for his young daughter, she doesn’t think twice about it.

She responds and puts herself forth for the position. She’s got nothing to lose.

The widower, Martin Hocking, lives in San Francisco and Sophie wants nothing more than to escape from New York.

After she arrived from Ireland, her circumstances didn’t end up as she expected. She’s been living in an overcrowded, unsanitary tenement building, barely making ends meet.

Upon arrival in San Francisco, Sophie marries Mr. Martin Hocking that very day at the city Courthouse. He then takes her home and introduces her to his 5-year old daughter, Kat.

Kat is a beautiful girl, bright, though quite serious. The young girl has been silent since the loss of her mother.

Sophie is taken with the child from the very start. She can tell sweet Kat is hurting and she vows to do whatever she can to make the child feel safe and loved.

For his part, Martin is very handsome, as well as a good provider, but he is rarely around, traveling frequently for work. Even when he is home, he isn’t affectionate with Sophie, or Kat.

It is on one of these occasions while he is away, that a stranger comes knocking on Sophie’s door and changes everything.

Shocking revelations regarding Martin are revealed immediately prior to the entire city erupting in chaos. The year is 1906, and one of the most powerful earthquakes in history has just hit San Francisco.

While the drama of this novel revolves around an earthquake, it felt like a roller coaster!

The highs, lows, drops and turns that Sophie goes through were intense and emotional. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

Meissner has such a gift with storytelling. I am always transported while reading her novels and it is hard not to become attached to her characters.

I do not read a lot of Historical Fiction, but I will continue to pick up anything Susan Meissner writes. I loved how she added a real mysterious tone to this novel. It’s intriguing from start to finish; there was never a lull in the pace.

This one didn’t bring me to tears as some of her other novels have, but it was definitely impactful nonetheless. Sophie’s story is one I will remember for a long time to come.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I really appreciate it and look forward to Meissner’s next release!

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Review: Eventide by Sarah Goodman

EventideEventide by Sarah Goodman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

In 1907, Verity Pruitt and her little sister, Lilah, arrive in Wheeler, Arkansas, aboard an orphan train.

The girl’s mother has passed away and their father, apparently suffering from overwhelming grief, has been committed to an asylum.

With no family to take them in, the girls become wards of the state, in spite of the fact that Verity is close to turning eighteen.

When they arrive in Arkansas, it is clear that a family is already waiting for Lilah, but poor Verity will not be going with them.

She does still luck out though, as an amazing family is willing to take her in and they live only a couple of miles from Lilah’s new home.

Of course, Verity’s position is more as a farmhand initially, than an adopted child. She’s okay with that though, a little hard work never hurt anybody.

As Verity settles in at her new home, enjoying her work on the farm and her new friendships, she discovers that something lurks in the woods surrounding the town.

It’s unsettling the things she sees as she accidentally ventures into the woods one night.

As she works to uncover the truth behind the strange things she has seen and experienced, Verity begins to uncover some truths about her own family instead.

Goodman definitely succeeded at bringing a fun, creepy atmosphere to this historical fiction tale.

I really enjoyed the setting and the cast of characters.

Some of the plot was a bit too simple for my tastes, as well as slightly campy towards the end, but it was still a quick, enjoyable read!

I definitely recommend this to readers who like the idea of a creepy read, but they don’t actually want to be scared.

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

As a debut, this is impressive. I look forward to reading more from Sarah Goodman. I hope she stays in this lane. It works for her!

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Review: The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

The Devil and the Dark WaterThe Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

1634 — Our story begins with a mixed bag of passengers, and crew, preparing to board the Saardam on a voyage from Batavia to Amsterdam.

On the docks, a leper appears high atop a pile of crates and issues a warning that the voyage will end in merciless ruin.

He subsequently bursts into flames and dies a painful death. The observers, although chilled by his damning proclamation, shrug it off as the ramblings of a madman.

It’s harder to ignore the devil’s mark that suddenly appears on the sails, however. The incident, understandably, casts a sense of foreboding over all.

Samuel Pipps, a detective of some note, happens to be aboard, but as a prisoner.

Due to that status, he is locked in a grimy, claustrophobic cell, without even enough room to stand up.

Luckily, his faithful bodyguard, Lieutenant Arent Hayes, is aboard and he happens to have a close connection to the Governor General, Jan Haan.

Through Arent’s suggestion, Samuel earns the right to be taken out of his cell every night to get his exercise and fresh air upon the decks.

As mysterious happenings continue to plague the ship, paired with reoccurrences of the devil’s mark, Arent teams up with Jan Haan’s lovely wife, Sara Wessel, to try to get to the bottom of it.

An important piece of Arent’s past, the lore of a demon named Old Tom, plays a large role in this story. Some say Old Tom is aboard this ship; he’s the cause of all the problems.

There’s a ghost ship stalking them, their food source is threatened, a storm like no other threatens to sink them, people die, things disappear and throughout it all, Old Tom is trying to sway all aboard to his side.

This book has such a vibe. I don’t quite have words for it, but I love it!

As with The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, The Devil and the Dark Water is such a complex, suspenseful mystery.

The tone of this novel, the is it supernatural, is it not-feel of it all was masterfully done. Additionally, the use of Arent and Sara as an amateur sleuthing team was incredibly executed.

Together they are trying to work out who among them has been possessed by Old Tom. Their investigation has a lot of twists and turns, casting doubts on numerous passengers and crew.

All of the characters were so interesting. Anyone could have been the baddie. I had no clue who to suspect!

The entire story was completely original. I have never read anything quite like it. Turton’s imagination knows no bounds.

Apparently, 17th-Century Supernatural Mysteries are now my jam, because I am OBSESSED with this!

Thank you so much to the publisher, SourceBooks Landmark, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. This was by far, one of my most anticipated reads of the year, so I certainly appreciate it.

I am such of fan of Turton’s writing and look forward to seeing what he comes up with next!

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Review: The Light Between Worlds

The Light Between WorldsThe Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Light Between Worlds is a much more complicated story than I anticipated. There’s a lot to unpack here.

If you’re expecting a light YA portal Fantasy, you’re wrong. This is a deep dive into codependency, mental health, guilt and trauma.

Broken into two distinct sections, this book follows sisters, Evelyn and Phillipa, and their complex, codependent relationship.

During WWII, the girls, along with their brother, Jamie, cowered in a London bomb shelter during a ferocious air raid. Somehow, whilst there, they are able to flee the shelter through a portal into a fantasy world known as the Woodlands.

They remain in this new world for five years, living amongst the creatures of myth and legend.

Ultimately they return to their world, where no time has passed at all. Jamie and Phillipa are ready to be back, but Evelyn, whose heart belongs to the Woodlands, finds it close to impossible to adjust.

Every day is a struggle for her. All she wants is to return to the Woodlands, which she considers her true home.

The first half of the book follows Evelyn’s perspective exclusively. We get present day portions, as well as various flashbacks to the children’s time in the Woodlands.

Through Evelyn, we learn more about her sister, Phillipa, who has since moved to America for University.

Evelyn is clearly struggling with Phillipa’s departure. She’s like a boat set adrift. She spends a lot of her time at her private school, Saint Agatha’s, exploring the woods on her own, hoping to find the portal to return to the Woodlands.

During Evelyn’s portion of the book, I developed one opinion on who Phillipa was as a character. I had the impression that Phillipa would be meek and mild, that she was scared to live in the Woodlands and that by going to America, she was running away.

Then the second half of the book is told solely from Phillipa’s point of view. It was a true perspective shift indeed.

It quite took me by surprise. What I thought I knew was flipped on its head.

The first half of the book seems choppy and random, although beautifully written, I found it a little disjointed and confusing. However, upon reflection, I believe that was intentional to set up the state of Evelyn’s mental health.

As we meet Phillipa, we discover she is bold and steady. Not at all how I expected. Evelyn is the one who is scared. She is afraid to live in the real world, where she suffered so much trauma, and was actually escaping into the fantastical world of the Woodlands.

When Phillipa receives a call from her brother, Jamie, she knows it is not going to be good news. She has been so worried about Evelyn, having cut herself off from her, and indeed, the news does concern her sister.

It appears Evelyn has gone missing and Phillipa must return to aid in the search.

Y’all this is a heart-breaking story. Once it starts to evolve, it’s so compelling. I couldn’t put this down once I figured out where it was going and what it was really about.

Please read the content warnings at the bottom of the synopsis before you pick this up. It certainly was much deeper, and more intricate, than I ever would have guessed in regards to trauma, PTSD, depression, and suicidal ideation.

I felt the relationship between Evelyn and Phillipa was incredibly crafted. Their codependent relationship was one of the best I have ever read. It definitely reminded me mildly of The Wicker King. If you enjoyed that book, you would probably also really enjoy this.

This is one of those books that the longer I sit with it, the more I gain an appreciation for how well-written it actually is. Weymouth made some very clever choices with how she told this story.

The Light Between Worlds is so much more than your run of the mill, YA Fantasy, so if you like stories with a bit of depth and real world bite to them, you should absolutely give this one a go.

Just keep in mind, though the writing is beautiful, this story is very heavy. Be prepared.

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Review: Fountain Dead by Theresa Braun

Fountain DeadFountain Dead by Theresa Braun
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Mark and his family move to an old Victorian house, he can feel right away that something is off.

There is a fountain in the courtyard that he has seen before in a dream. It wasn’t a good dream.

When odd things begin happening around the house, his suspicions are confirmed. This house is haunted as hell.

Unfortunately he seems to be the only one to notice it.

Like moving away from his old life wasn’t bad enough, now he has evil spirits to content with.

Same house, 1862, Emma is living with her sadistic father and pyscho brother. Things do not go well.

That’s correct. This novel follows two alternating timelines. One in 1988, following Mark and his family. The other in 1862, following Emma and hers.

Eventually, it is exposed how the earlier timeline begins to influence the later.

I wasn’t crazy about this format, if I’m being honest. It just didn’t work for me.

I preferred the 1988 timeline a lot more and found myself rushing through the 1862 sections in order to get back to it. Therefore, the pace for me was off. The more modern portions were much more exciting, in my opinion.

Additionally, I found some of the supernatural portions at the end to be rushed and confusing. It seemed to take a long time to get to a conclusion and then, BAM, it was done.

This is a good book, just uneven for me. I know a lot of people have really enjoyed this, so please do not let my less than stellar reaction sway you from picking it up. There is a reader for every book and book for every reader!

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Review: The Hunger by Alma Katsu

The HungerThe Hunger by Alma Katsu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Reimagining the true life events of the infamous Donner Party, Alma Katsu brings mega atmosphere to this Historical Horror novel.

I must say, the atmosphere was my favorite part of this story. The circumstances the wagon train found themselves in were dangerous and you could feel that.

It was like watching a movie that is dark for a large portion of the time. It leaves you squinting, trying to figure out what is coming next.

After a series of unfortunate events, rations become depleted, the weather is getting progressively worse and tempers flare.

Looking for someone to blame, whispers begin to circulate that a witch may be among them.

Tamsen Donner is used to being blamed and misunderstood. It certainly doesn’t stop her from going about her business; she’s a pro at ignoring others opinions.

Going into this, you know this party is doomed, but what will the ending bring?

I thought this was interesting, if a little slow. I wasn’t blown away by anything, but it was a solid book. I am happy to have crossed it off my TBR list.

I seriously do not have much more to say about it, I wish it di. It was good. I could have done with a bit more of the supernatural elements, but it was fine.

My biggest take away, regardless of what was lurking in the mountains, the biggest threats came from within the traveling party itself. Proving once again, man is the most dangerous monster of all.

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Review: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

The Kingdom of BackThe Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

In the Author’s Note to this enchanting tale, Marie Lu tells of her real-life inspiration for the story. A book over a decade in the making, you can tell that she has poured her heart and soul onto the pages.

Lu, known for her complex and forward-thinking YA science-fiction, takes a sharp turn with The Kingdom of Back, a dark fantasy with lyrical prose.

Even though this is not the typical story for her, I think it shines a bright, bright light on the level of her skill as a writer.

I am the first to admit that I am a big sucker for any story involving music or musicians, particularly classical musicians.

Growing up, I played classical violin, piano and dappled with the clarinet. I was in multiple orchestras, yes, first chair violin, and I think that world always remains a part of your soul.

Lu mentions that she too was a musician in her early life and after reading a biography of Mozart developed the idea for this story.

Unlike my normal reviews, I am not really going to give details as to what this story is about. I feel strongly that it is best if you go into this not knowing what to expect.

Mainly following Mozart’s unknown sister, Nannerl, this story quickly transforms from a historical fiction account of the Mozart family’s life to a dark fantasy with a portal to another world.

In addition to the fantastical elements of the story, there is also a great examination of the role of women in this time period and the affect that society’s expectations had on their productivity and spirit.

If you do pick up this book, I implore you to please, please, please read the Author’s Note at the end. Hearing Lu’s words and thoughts on this story and why she wrote it, bumped this up from a 4, to a 5-star read for me.

I was so impressed with this story. It was a dark, delicious delightful read and further solidifies my belief that Marie Lu is an absolute treasure!

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Review: Blood Countess by Lana Popovic

Blood Countess (Lady Slayers #1)Blood Countess by Lana Popović
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Anna Darvulia, daughter of a peasant midwife, gets summoned in the night to attend to the Countess Elizabeth Bathory, she learns a secret that she promises to keep.

In turn, she earns the favor of the Countess, a woman she greatly admires. Although Countess Bathory seems a tad dangerous, she is also glamorous and powerful. A combination young Anna is in awe of.

Before too long, due to her strong first impression, Anna is summoned by the Countess again. This time to go and live in the castle as one of her scullery maids.

Once there, Anna’s relationship with Elizabeth continues to grow. Ultimately, she is selected to be her chambermaid, a huge step up in position and responsibility.

As the relationship turns romantic in nature, Anna begins to be swayed to do things for Elizabeth that she would have never guessed herself capable of.

Elizabeth is cruel and hot headed, but Anna sometimes has a hard time recognizing those flaws within her. In her search for the key to vitality however, she goes too far, and Anna finally sees her for who, or what, she truly is.

This book was good, but it was not what I expected it to be. While I feel I was pitched an historical YA horror novel, what I actually got was straight YA historical fiction with a hint of romance.

I definitely would not classify this as a horror story, so if that is what you are looking for you may want to look elsewhere.

The writing was pleasing, but it was very, very slow. I kept waiting for something big to happen and it just never did. There was nothing mysterious, suspenseful or haunting about this.

It felt like a love story gone wrong. Anna fell in love with the wrong person, end of story. Of course we all know Elizabeth Bathory was insane, so really nothing surprising there.

I don’t know. I think if I had gone into this, thinking gothic historical fiction, as opposed to horror , I may have been less disappointed.

It’s not a bad book. It’s a good story, it just read slow for me and I sort of lost interest. I think this would be a great place for younger readers to start who are looking to get into darker works of fiction however.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Amulet Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the WarThe Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

If you are looking to have your soul crushed in a beautiful way anytime soon, pick this book up!

In 1943, when Elise Sontag is just 14-years old, her Father is arrested under suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer.

A neighborhood boy, in their small Iowa town, claimed that Mr. Sontag told him he was ‘making a bomb’. A completely baseless accusation.

Sadly, that was all it took for the FBI to show up on the Sontag doorstep. The lives of the family would never be the same.

Ultimately, they, along with numerous other Japanese, German and Italian families were sent to an internment camp in rural-Texas, only taking with them what they could easily carry.

Their lives before nothing but a distant memory.

As a teen, Elise didn’t fully understand what was happening to them. She tries to take it one day at a time and just make the best of it. That’s a hard task for anyone, let alone a kid.

Early on, she meets a fellow internee, Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American girl from L.A., and the two become fast friends, bonding over their shared experience.

This story follows them through their time at the camp and beyond into adulthood. Told by an elderly Elise, I found this story heartbreaking.

Although this is purely a work of fiction, this situation did in fact happen to many, many families. That is a humbling thing to think about.

The strength of spirit it would take to overcome what the families in this story went through. I can’t even imagine. I really enjoy when historical fiction is able to bring the past to life in such a palpable and touching way.

It was overwhelming for me at times. Particularly the moments told by present day Elise, as she struggles with her pending memory loss and slide into the grips of Alzheimer’s. That hit very close to home for me and was hard to read.

I thought, as always, Meissner tackled each of the topics explored in here with care and grace. She has a beautiful storytelling ability and I was definitely swept away in Elise’s tale.

There were a few minor details that I wasn’t crazy about, some descriptions that I thought were a little odd, but overall, this was a wonderful book and I know a lot of people will enjoy it!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I apologize for taking so long to get to it and am kicking myself for not picking it up earlier!

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