Review: Wild and Crooked by Leah Thomas

Wild and CrookedWild and Crooked by Leah Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

This is the story of the friendship of Kalyn Spence and Gus Peake. Two kids whose stories were tragically intertwined before they even knew that the other existed.

You see, Kalyn’s Dad is in prison, accused of murdering Gus’s Dad. When Kalyn moves to Samsboro, into her paternal Grandmother’s home, she is forced to attend school under an alias for fear of repercussions if people knew she was a Spence.

She tries to fly under the radar but finds her new found persona exhausting. She befriends Gus, who definitely stands out in a crowd, and finds his honesty and quiet demeanor refreshing.

Gus has lived in Samsboro his whole life with his Mom, who has never fully recovered from the loss of his father, and her wife, Tamara. Gus, who has cerebral palsy, spends most of his time with his best friend, Phil, but longs for a bigger life outside of Samsboro.

Once Gus and Kalyn begin spending time together, they grow close rather quickly and are both shocked when they discover how their lives are tied together.

Soon the kids are uncovering long-held, small-town secrets and exposing evidence that has never before been brought to light.

I really enjoyed this story. I don’t think Leah Thomas could have fit more hard-hitting topics in here if she tried!

This is a story of identity, perceptions, reality, love, hate, forgiveness, moving on; in short, it’s about life. The characters are great. I loved Kalyn and Gus both so much and even Phil, self-proclaimed antisocial personality disorder and all.

I was pleasantly surprised when the book took a mysterious turn and the kids started their own investigation. I had a lot of fun reading that aspect of the story.

I need more people to read this and be talking about it. I think there is a lot of really great rep in here and the various stories were so honestly told. It was really moving. So, yeah, if you are into Contemporary, pick this one up! It’s so worth it!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Bloomsbury, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to reading more from this author!

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Review: The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

The Girl in RedThe Girl in Red by Christina Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Red needs to get to Grandma’s house but this is no fairytale land she is traveling through.

This is a postapocalyptic war zone where a disease, known as ‘the cough’, runs rampant and has decimated the population. The world is a dangerous place with enemies around every corner, or so it seems. Most people have been rounded up into quarantine camps but Red would rather take her chances on the road.

Alternating between now and before, we get a pretty good idea of Red’s home life and family dynamic prior to the sickness. Red, who has a prosthetic limb, after being hit by a car at the age of 8, is used to people underestimating her. She becomes frustrated with this and constantly feels compelled to be tough and prove people wrong.

Highly risk averse, Red feels well prepared for this. Certainly more prepared than your average Joe. She knows the rules. She has been studying them via horror movies and other like media for years. I loved this aspect of Red’s personality. Hello, relatable.

Traveling with her whiny brother, Adam, Red feels like she needs to not only carry her weight but his too. Put simply, Adam was a huge pain in the ass. Red has the patience of a Saint, frankly, putting up with him as she did.

I loved how quickly the action in this kicks off and I thought that the postapocalyptic world was well imagine. The two timelines worked well playing off each other to reveal the entirety of the story. Watching Red’s character gain strength over time was so satisfying.

This being said, I did want a bit more. I know that not every book can be 500-pages but this was just so interesting and the ending, to me, felt rushed.

Overall, I think this is a very solid story. I enjoyed Henry’s imagination quite a bit. This is my first book from her but it definitely won’t be the last one I pick up.

A hearty thank you to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I would definitely recommend this to readers who enjoy darker content and women who kick butt!

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Review: While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt

While You SleepWhile You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Zoe Adams needs to get away. Recently separated from her husband, she rents a newly renovated home on a remote Scottish island. It doesn’t take long after arriving at McBride house for her to discover that some places hold long memories.

Soon Zoe begins researching the history of the house and what she uncovers is far from comforting. Ailsa McBride, the original owner, was reportedly a witch who murdered her own child. In fact, just the previous year, another boy had disappeared from the grounds.

Constantly on edge, Zoe sleeps fitfully and begins having visions and visitations from the past. She can scarcely make it through a few hours at the property without something going awry.

Befriending a few men in the village, she begins to discover long-held island secrets and in turn, finds herself the hot topic for the island rumor mill.

The number of different leads and exposed secrets in this left me spinning. The lore of the island and overall atmosphere was excellently portrayed. I enjoyed the melding of past and present and the characters were well fleshed out.

At times, bordering on erotic, this was an unexpected twist of a classic ghost story with the incorporation of an incubus; something I had never read about previously and certainly was not expecting.

Although this was a slow burn, there was definitely enough intrigue to keep me turning the pages. The last 10% dropped my rating down a half star. I wasn’t sold on the way the story ended. It seemed to wrap-up a little too neatly after the strong build-up.

Overall, I was impressed by Merritt’s writing. If you are a reader that enjoys a bit of sexy times with your horror or mystery stories, you will definitely want to check this one out. Also, haunted house fans, this is worth a read. There were moments that I was absolutely freaked out while reading this.

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

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Review: Just One Bite (Timothy Blake #2) by Jack Heath

Just One Bite (Timothy Blake #2)Just One Bite by Jack Heath
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My favorite cannibal returns to the page in this second installment of the Timothy Blake series!

Timothy Blake is brilliant. He’s also as morally grey as you can get. Working as a civilian consultant for the FBI, Blake contributes a lot to the investigations he works, as it is easy for him to get into the mind of a killer.

In this second book, Blake is moonlighting as a ‘body disposal expert’ for a local crime lord and during the course of that work, stumbles across a naked corpse in the woods, which he promptly brings home. As you do.

Unfortunately, the next case he gets called in on to help the FBI with is to look for that missing man. The man now currently residing in his freezer. How is Blake going to solve the crime and get away with hiding the body?

Guys, I am so into Jack Heath’s writing. It is so good. It draws you in. It is easy to read, never overwrought. It is dark, grisly, disturbingnot for the faint of heartmorbidly humorous…all these things and more!!!

If you are sleeping on this series and you like dark, original stories, you need to make time for this. Hangman, the first book in the series, was one of my favorite police procedural thrillers of 2018. It really stuck with me. I was so psyched to be getting a second book with Timothy Blake. Now, where this one leaves off, there DEFINITELY needs to be a third book!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Hanover Square Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I am so in love with this series and I will never stop recommending it to readers who enjoy darker content. I am highly anticipating the next book!

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Review: Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

MiddlegameMiddlegame by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mind Melt Alert!!

What is Middlegame?
Admittedly, I stared at the wall for a good 20-minutes once I had finished.

I don’t even think I can begin to attempt a synopsis.
Can I just say, what an achievement for Seanan McGuire?!

A tour de force of science fiction. Expertly crafted from start to finish in order to make you feel like the secrets of the universe are being exposed to you.

There are so many intriguing concepts in here and the narrative is so vast, following our two main characters, Roger and Dodger, from the time they are children up through adulthood.

I can’t lie. It’s a challenging read but so worth the effort. You shouldn’t be multi-tasking whilst reading this. It needs deserves your full attention.

This gave me Dark Tower vibes a bit, a huge positive for me, in how prodigious and all-consuming the narrative was. I absolutely adore McGuire’s writing. Each and every word seems to have been carefully selected and placed where it would be most effective.

I am really excited for more people to read this. I am so interested to see what others think. I know it will not be for everyone but I know a lot of people are going to be just as impressed as I was.

At this point, I will read anything, ANYTHING, that Seanan McGuire writes. She is a gift.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor, for providing me with an early copy to read and review. I certainly feel blessed to have received it. I appreciate the opportunity and know it will be a huge success!

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Review: The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta

The Lost CoastThe Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Danny and her mom move to Tempest, California after Danny picks it out on a map. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the choice but what is drawing her there?

The Grays, a group of high school girls, who happen to be queer witches, also live in Tempest. One of their group, Imogen, has recently turned up without her personality and with sea glass eyes. What happened to her?

Then she wanders into the woods and doesn’t come back out. She’s their Regina George, so obviously this is upsetting to the rest of the Grays.

They basically recruit Danny into their group and discover she has a power for ‘finding’ things. They begin a quest to get Imogen back. All of her; mind, body and spirit.

I love this cover.
I love the representation.
I am intrigued by the premise.

The format did not work for me.
I was as lost as Imogen most of the time.
I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I had to start a chapter over because my mind was wandering and I had no idea what was going on. There were so many perspective jumps and time jumps. I normally do not mind that at all but this just was all over the place.

The writing is pretty but is it possible to be too pretty?

In my opinion, the substance of the plot got buried under all the whimsy. I am sure there will be many readers who will absolutely adore this story. I just unfortunately was not one of them.

If it weren’t for the great rep and lush atmosphere, I most likely would have given this two stars. It hurts my heart to write this as I have been greatly anticipating this release. Alas, there is a reader for every book and I am just not the reader for this one.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Candlewick Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion on new releases.

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Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal BlueRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alex Claremont-Diaz is the FSOTUS (First Son of the United States). His Mom, the first female president of the United States, is a hard-fighting Texas woman who knows how to get things done.

Alex is making his way through college and planning to sky rocket into politics straight out of school. He already has years of experience working on various campaigns and it is truly where he sees his life going.

We all know I love politics and political strategy in books, so right off the bat, I’m all like…

But Alex still has some growing up to do. As he should, he’s in his early-20s y’all! Give the boy a break. So he still parties a bit to hard and feuds with foreign dignitaries…

Oh yes, Prince Henry. Prince Henry is all sorts of swoony but Alex sees him as a bore and his #1 enemy. When an incident occurs at the Prince’s brother’s wedding, toppling over the super expensive wedding cake, the boys are forced to pretend to be friends in order to save face.

Alex would rather do pretty much anything else. Unfortunately, his wants are fairly inconsequential at this point, and so begins the relationship that is: Alex + Henry.

If you are reading this, I am sure you already know what this book entails. It is getting so much hype right now and for good reason. A mainstream title that is humorous and steamy New Adult romance, featuring a male/male, enemies-to-lovers relationship? What’s not to love?!

I personally was swept away from the very first pages. It is so fun. Pure fun on the page but also thoughtful in its presentation. I truly feel this is ground-breaking and we will all be talking about it for years to come.

McQuiston did such a great job of making this so contemporary without feeling forced in any way. The dialogue was super believable and the storyline provided a lot of food for thought.

I have heard a few people mention that it is too optimistic?? To me, I didn’t really think so. It is a happy story overall but our characters have struggles just like real people. As Alex and Henry both grapple with their sexuality and what that means in terms of their lives, what their family’s response will be, what the world’s response will be…they really struggled with that. They had hard decisions to make, just like in real life.

I applaud Casey for writing this. I think this will mean a heck of a lot to a lot of people and McQuiston is definitely on my list of autobuy authors after this spectacular debut! Bravo!

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity. I think this will be making a lot of reader’s ‘Best of 2019’ lists!

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Review: The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Lovely and the LostThe Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cady Bennett found Kira in the forest when she was just a little girl. That’s what Cady does. As a Search and Rescue (SAR) professional she has found countless lost peoples.

When she came across Kira, it was clear she had been on her own in the woods for weeks. Dirty, scared and practically feral, Cady took her in and raised her as her own.

Now in her late teens, Kira has been in training, along with her brother Jude and closest friend, Free, to be a SAR professional herself. Although she still has a hard time trusting others and has a fuse as short as a fingernail, when it comes to tracking lost things, she’s a natural.

When a call comes in about a missing girl back in Cady’s hometown, the whole family, including their trained SAR canine companions, load up and head out to help. They end up staying at the house Cady grew up in, along with her estranged father, Bales, and his companion, Ness.

Cady has not spoken to her father for years and tensions are running high. That paired with the pressure of the search for missing girl, Bella, makes for a ticking time bomb.

The kids begin to discover some long held family secrets and what unfolds answers questions about all of their pasts, including Kira’s which has remained locked in her mind since the day she was found.

I really enjoyed this book. The mystery, the tension, the drama, the high stakes search and rescue, the DOGSSSSSSS!!!!!

The human characters were super enjoyable as well. I loved the themes of found families and loyalty woven throughout. Cady’s son, Jude, is such a precious popsicle, his witty banter made me giggle pretty much nonstop. I also enjoyed Kira so much. The way she connected with the dogs and her strong-willed spirit had me rooting for her the whole way.

In my opinion, this is a great YA mystery/thriller, that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. It was completely unique, I have never read anything quite like it, and I was really impressed with Jennifer Lynn Barnes writing. She drew me in and had me needing to know what the heck was going on.

I would definitely recommend this book and plan to pick up more of her books. I would also be totally stoked if there was a continuation to this; whether a companion novel, a prequel or a direct sequel. I am so not ready to be done with these characters.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly enjoyed it and appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: The Last by Hanna Jameson

The LastThe Last by Hanna Jameson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Jon Keller is attending an academic conference at the L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland on the day the bombs fall. Nuclear war has broken out and cities all over the world have been decimated. Through early news alerts he learns hundreds of thousands of people have been killed.

Jon’s wife and two children are home in San Francisco but he can’t really worry about that now, he needs to focus on his own survival. Jon and twenty other survivors hunker down in the relative safety of the hotel and that’s truly where our story begins.

A historian by trade, Jon takes it upon himself to begin writing the account of the survivors and that is how the narrative is told. For me, this worked so well as a way to tell this story. I loved the feel of it and how we were able to learn not just what was going on currently but also a bit of the survivor’s back stories, as well as some of the history of the hotel itself.

While opening up the top of some water tanks in an effort to start catching rain water, they find the body of a dead girl. It is clear she ended up in the tank by nefarious circumstances and Jon becomes obsessed with finding out who killed her. He starts a legit investigation and that is how he focuses most of his energy.

Tensions are running high and the survivors begin to form alliances and develop a social system unto themselves. When supplies begin to dwindle and winter is approaching the survivors start to send out mini-expeditions in search of food and other supplies. As you can imagine, these are dangerous undertakings and add quite a bit of tension to the plot.

I had a great time reading this book. I was absolutely entertained the whole time. I felt there was just the right level of tension the whole way through to keep you on the edge of your seat. I loved the exploration of people pushed to their limits and how they would organize themselves in order to function with some baseline of decency.

The last little bit seemed a little rushed to me but I wasn’t disappointed with how it ultimately turned out. I would recommend this one to anyone who likes post-apocalyptic stories. This is nice and modern and fitting for our times. Very well done!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Atria Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to reading more by Jameson in the future!

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Review: The Lies We Told by Camilla Way

The Lies We ToldThe Lies We Told by Camilla Way
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Clara’s boyfriend, Luke, doesn’t return home one night, she prays there is some sort of logical explanation. He had too much to drink and slept it off at a mate’s flat, or he worked too hard prepping for an interview and fell asleep at the office. But as the hours tick by, she begins to suspect something much darker may have happened to him.

Increasingly concerned about his whereabouts, she ends up contacting their old friend, Mac, as well as Luke’s parents. No one has seen or heard from him. After some prodding, she notifies the authorities and he is formally listed as a missing person.

After the police find CCTV footage of Luke getting into a mysterious van, Clara knows for sure, something sinister has happened to him but what?

Along with her good friend, Mac, Clara begins an investigation of her own and discovers Luke may not be the person she thought he was.

I had so much fun with this book. I flew through it, I couldn’t put it down!

There’s no boring domestic drama prattle here. This is a right and proper Adult Thriller.

The dual narrative kept the story flowing at such a sensational pace with reveals coming just when you needed them. I trusted no one. Everyone was a suspect in my eyes and that made it so exciting. The ending — chills. LOVED IT.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I am only sorry I didn’t pick it up sooner.

If you are an Adult Thriller fan, and you have been sleeping on this one like I had been, just stop. Pick this up. I would be shocked if you were disappointed!

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