Review: Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough

Dead to HerDead to Her by Sarah Pinborough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At this point in her life, Marcie Maddox, has firmly established herself as the hot, younger second wife to her successful husband, Jason.

In their posh Savannah community, replete with sumptuous mansions and a country club lifestyle, image is everything. Marcie appears to have it all and she feels that way, most days.

The older, blue blooded women they socialize with have come to accept her and include her in their luncheons and tennis dates, but Marcie will always feel a bit like a second class citizen around them. She can’t help it.

When Jason’s boss, the wealthy, recently widowed, William Radford IV, returns from a trip to London with a much younger, sexy as hell, second wife on his arm, the whole of Savannah society gets thrown for a loop. Marcie especially.

She’s no longer the youngest, or the most supple for that matter. The way Jason devours the new Mrs. Radford, Keisha, with his eyes, makes Marcie’s skin crawl.

Keisha is brazen in a way that would be refreshing if it wasn’t so shocking to their social norms. The way she plays housewife to the old coot, while also being sure to flirt with Marcie’s husband, what exactly is she after?

After Jason asks her to befriend Keisha, Marcie learns a lot more about the girl than she bargained for!

The ladies quickly become two peas in a pod, but their friendship soon threatens everything Marcie has worked so hard for.

Full of secrets, deceptions and a touch of Southern voodoo and superstitions, this book had me flipping the pages at a rate to set my fingers on fire!

I felt this was completely unique, full of unlikable characters and drama fit for daytime programming.

While I had a ton of fun reading this, I can see how it might not work for everyone. I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending, but things can’t always work out how we would choose.

I will definitely remember this one, that’s for sure.

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

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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: Coral by Sara Ella

CoralCoral by Sara Ella
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Coral, through the platform of a Little Mermaid reimagining, follows three perspectives through their struggles with mental illness.

Coral: A little mermaid who lost her oldest sister to Red Tide, a condition that mirrors depression.

Estranged and misunderstood by the rest of her family, Coral sets out to find the Prince she blames for her older sister’s demise.

Merrick: A young man whose controlling father is definitely the villain of his story.

After his little sister attempts suicide, and their mother runs off, unable to cope, he blames his father for the entire situation.

When his father announces that he is planning to send his sister, Amaya, to a residential treatment program, Merrick disagrees. He thinks she should be with family and essentially kidnaps her to avoid her going into treatment.

Brooke: The most mysterious of the perspectives, Brooke is struggling with depression and anxiety and currently residing in a treatment center. She is the most challenging to decipher.

As a reader, you can tell all three perspectives are related somehow, as the storylines begin to run parallel but you don’t know exactly how.

Once all is revealed, it makes sense and is a very heavy story to take in.

While I understand how important the topics tackled in this book are, I personally had a hard time connecting with the story.

The writing is strong and I know for the right person, read at the right time, this book could mean so, so much.

For me, the perspectives began to run into one another and I just never felt fully engrossed in the story. With this being said, I am still glad that I read this.

I think it is a completely unique way of exploring very serious mental health issues.

I urge you to read the author, Sara Ella‘s, review for this book as she includes a full list of trigger warnings. I definitely think that is important for this one.

Tread cautiously if you are at all worried that something may be harmful to your mental state.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I do consider this a heartbreakingly beautiful tale and appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

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Review: All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Joline Courtney

All-American Muslim GirlAll-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Allie Abraham is a regular girl. Living in the South with her close-knit family, she excels in school and participates in the general activities that most kids her age take part in.

The thing is, Allie is keeping a secret from the outside world. Her family is Muslim and she’s not sharing that fact with anyone.

This book opens up with a blatant display of discrimination against her father and it really never lets up from there.

Although this story may make some people uncomfortable, I think it is an important story and a powerful examination of identity and societal prejudices.

While it is true that this is a story that needs to be written, and more importantly read, it wasn’t necessarily what I was expecting which decreased my enjoyment level just a smidge.

I was sold on this book as a sweet romance between a Muslim girl and a boy whose father is one of America’s most notorious shock jocks. It is true that this exists in this story, however, I wanted more of Allie and Wells.

For me, the focus of the book was obviously Allie’s own exploration of her identity and owning and embracing her faith. A lot of the time we follow her with a new group of friends she discovers over the course of the book and their discussions of Islam as it relates to their lives and the larger world around them.

I did appreciate those discussions but as mentioned earlier, I picked this up with romance in mind and really wanted more of that.

As a Contemporary exploring self-identity and the Muslim faith in general, this was really well done. Courtney has a smooth and easy writing style and I would definitely pick up more books from her.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly appreciate the opportunity and am so happy this book is out in the world!

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Review: Murder, She Wrote: A Time for Murder by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land

A Time for Murder (Murder She Wrote #50)A Time for Murder by Jessica Fletcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When a young woman seeks Jessica out to question her about the first murder case she ever solved, under the guise of being for her high school newspaper, plenty of memories are drawn to the surface from that time 25-years previously.

Jessica was a young woman herself then, working at a high school in Abbott, Maine, living with her loving husband, Frank, and their nephew, Grady. The Principal at her school ended up being murder and Jessica helped to nab the culprit, or did she?

Once that same inquiring young lady ends up dead, Jessica discovers she wasn’t who she was purporting to be. She wasn’t a high school student at all.

It turns out she may be related to that same Principal who was murdered all those years ago. But why was she choosing now to ask about the case? And are the two cases related?

The plot thickens…

Racing to the conclusion, we follow both past and present timelines, as the cases converge into a wild finish.

It was such a joy to be back with one of my idols, Jessica Fletcher, for this, the 50th installment to the beloved Murder, She Wrote mystery series. As many fans of the series know, the long time author for this series, Donald Bain, sadly passed away in 2017.

The series has since been taken over by Jon Land, a veteran Thriller writer. This is the third book published since he has taken the reins and my first that I have read since the transition.

With this being said, I can definitely tell a difference in tone since the change and although it is different, I do not dislike it. I will continue to read the series as long as they are being published.

If you are looking for a fun, quick and cozy mystery series with no shortage of volumes to pick up, I highly recommend this one!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy to read and review! It really was such a pleasure. Keep them coming!

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Review: The Long Call (Two Rivers #1) by Ann Cleeves

The Long Call (Two Rivers, #1)The Long Call by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Darkly evocative and smartly written!

My first Ann Cleeves did not disappoint. I consider myself already anxiously anticipating the next installment to this all new, Two Rivers, series.

I was so pleasantly impressed with this. By far the best traditional mystery I have read this year. It is obvious from the first pages that Cleeves is a skilled, veteran mystery writer.

Following Detective Matthew Venn and two of his junior colleagues, Jen and Ross, was an absolute delight. I felt like I was there with them, learning the evidence as they were. Matthew was just a lovely protagonist. Thoughtful and introverted, extremely smart and dedicated to the idea of truth and justice for all.

At the beginning of our tale, Matthew is attending his estranged Father’s funeral. Standing in the back he observes neighbors, and other locals, he might once have considered friends.

But he has left that part of his life far behind after the strict evangelical community his parents were a part of could not accept that he is gay. Basically excommunicated from the community, he hasn’t spoken with either of his parents in many years.

Upon quietly making his exit from the church, he receives a phone call from one of his colleagues. The body of a murdered man has just been found on a beach not far from his current location. He of course rushes to the scene and thus begins an investigation into the community of which he was once a part.

I loved the tone of this novel. From start to finish the writing was so intelligent and gripping. It gave me strong Broadchurch vibes whilst also reminding me of the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith. I would say if you enjoy the Cormoran books, you should DEFINITELY pick this one up.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I am in love with it and cannot wait to continue on with the series!!! Well done, Ms. Cleeves!!

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Review: Tristan Strong Punches A Hole In The Sky by Kwame Mbalia

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1)Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Holy smokes!!! That was a debut?

Y’all, Tristan Strong is a hella ambitious first novel that felt like an entire world being built in front of your eyes. I am really dang impressed with this!

Okay, now with the initial swooning out of the way, let’s get into it.

Tristan Strong is a 7th grader who has had a tough time of late. After losing his best friend, Eddie, in a horrific bus crash, Tristan is struggling with his grief and feels like no one understands him.

His parents decide to send him to Alabama for a month with his grandparents to help with his recovery.

Yeah, he’s not super crazy about the idea either. Nonetheless, he heads off with them with only his best friend’s journal to truly remind him of home.

On his first night there, the most bizarre thing happens. Some sort of little doll baby thing steals Eddie’s journal from him and takes off.

Tristan gives chase. It’s all he has left of Eddie. He needs that thing back. He follows the doll baby into some creepy woods and around the mysterious bottle tree.

There as he is wrestling to retrieve the journal, he inadvertently punches a hole in the fabric of the universe, opening up a hole to another world, named MidPass.

This is where things get crazy. I can’t even go on to describe all that happens next, you will just have to read for yourself. This story is full of action, African folklore, mythology, African-American history, the power of words, stories coming to life and a boy finding the hero within himself.

I was so impressed with the level of Mbalia’s writing. So detailed, so funny, so engaging. All of the things. You may wonder why I decided to give this 4.5-stars versus a full 5 and really it boils down to the scope.

I think the book was a little long for my taste. I sort of feel like this story could have been broken down into two books. There were moments too, that there was so much going on, I felt a little confused.

However, with that being said, that is such a minor thing and totally personal preference. This is such a fantastic, important story. I urge everyone to pick it up!

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. I greatly appreciate it. Kwame Mbalia is a gift to the world and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!

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Review: The Furies by Katie Lowe

The FuriesThe Furies by Katie Lowe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

A girl found dead on the grounds of a prestigious, all-girls private school. So, the mystery begins.

As a reader, you do not know the identity of the girl. Fun, right? Then begins out protagonist, Violet, telling of her days at the school and the events leading up to the mysterious death.

You grab your popcorn and settle in for what is sure to be an intense murder mystery and then it’s not.

There was so much about this book that should have worked for me. It was described as being set at a private school in a sleepy, coastal town. YES! Give me that.

I love that type of atmosphere and literally seek it out in books. I live on an island out in the middle of the ocean for goodness sake! My life is a sleepy, coastal town. I never really felt that sense of place though while reading this. The atmosphere just wasn’t there for me. It could have been anywhere.

Violet, the new girl at the school, is odd and unsure and desperate to fit in. When Robin befriends her, she is smitten right away. Robin seems dangerous and way more mature than Violet. Two other girls, Alex and Grace, ultimately make up their group of four. This set-up was very reminiscent of The Craft which also should have worked for me as that is one of my favorite movies, EVER.

Again, it just fell flat for me. The relationships were never intriguing or captivating enough. I didn’t believe it. The girls are in sort of a secret group that is headed up by one of their teachers. She teaches them about the classics and the history of the school itself, which was once the setting for witch trials and executions.

Okay, great. That all sounds interesting as well but the school stuff was just so boring to me. Perhaps if I was a bigger fan of the classics in question, of myths and legends, such as ‘the furies’ I would have been more into that aspect. Sadly, I am just not so fear it went heinously over my head.

Then the girls beginning dabbling in occult practices trying to harness magic for themselves. As expected they push it way too far with dire consequences. This was the one aspect of the book that kept me reading but even this, used in their eyes for revenge, I ended up feeling lost amidst all the details.

I’m not sure if it was the format that put me off or the fact that the writing, although using intelligent topics, words, structure, etc., it just felt so technical. It lacked heart. I am not sure if I am expressing this correctly or not, I just felt the entire story lacked emotion. I never, ever connected with it.

I know a lot of people are going to enjoy this as all the basic elements are in place for a solid story. Just personally, it wasn’t for me.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with an opportunity to read and review this book. I know this is a debut for this author and I would be interested in reading whatever she releases next.

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Review: One By One by D.W. Gillespie

One by OneOne by One by D.W. Gillespie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When the Easton family moves into a decrepit old house they are divided as to whether it is a good thing. Alice, the youngest, and her father, Frank, are excited to learn the secrets of the old house, while older brother, Dean, and mother, Debra, are less enthused.

Frank insists the fixer-upper is exactly what the family needs. A project to draw them closer together. As they start to settle in, Alice, discovers a child’s drawing under some tattered wallpaper. She calls the rest of the family to look and after the entirety of the drawing is revealed it becomes clear it is a drawing of a family. A family exactly like theirs.

When the family pet in the drawing is mysteriously drawn over with a giant black X and their aloof cat, Baxter, disappears, you are hit with the reality that something is very wrong with this house.

As with any horror story, the Easton family doesn’t initially react to this as you would expect them too. They each suspect that someone in the family has done it as a sort of misguided trick. However when the X appears over Dean, they start to take things a little more seriously.

This story has a nice, eerie intensity running throughout, making it a perfect read for Spooktober. There is a found diary element to this that I also really enjoyed. You learn a bit about the mysterious family that lived in the house prior to the Eastons. As that is filled it, the horrific truth is finally revealed to the reader and it was pretty disturbing!

The Epilogue really tied everything together and I loved that the author chose to include that portion of the story. It was a really satisfying conclusion. This was my first Gillespie book and I definitely look forward to reading more from him in the future.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flame Tree Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. If you are looking for a quick spine-chiller to round out your October TBR, you should definitely check this one out!

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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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