Review: Winterhouse by Ben Guterson

Winterhouse (Winterhouse, #1)Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars!!!**

Elizabeth Somers is an orphan being raised by her miserable Aunt and Uncle in the equally miserable town of Drere. Just when Elizabeth thinks things can’t get any worse, her Aunt and Uncle ((…like these people could give the Dursleys a run for their money)) tell her they are shipping her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel for three weeks over Christmas Holiday. Are they going with her? No, of course not. They are taking their own, much more glamorous holiday, abroad.

Thus, Elizabeth embarks on the holiday that will change her life forever. Strange events begin occurring to poor Elizabeth before she even sets foot on the Winterhouse property. On the train enroute to the hotel you can tell something is amiss. This book has a wonderful blend of mystery, intrigue, fun and adventure throughout. You follow Elizabeth as she makes new friends, including her new constant companion Freddy who is also spending his holiday sans parental figures, and as she explores the hotel and the many mysteries held within its walls.

The cast of characters in this was one of my favorite elements. You have the two kids, Elizabeth and Freddy, both major word nerds, who develop a very strong friendship rather quickly. You have Norbridge Falls, the eccentric owner of the hotel who spews forth droplets of wisdom onto the children with every turn. ((e.g. “The moment we start feeling better than other people because of our capabilities is the moment we start to lose ourselves.”) And of course, as every good Middle Grade novel should, this story also has a very malevolent set of baddies, the Hiemses, a husband and wife pair that seem to pop up at the most inconvenient times and in the most inconvenient places.

For all of us booknerds, there’s more! There is a library! A library with a very special book hidden on its shelves. The Book. It is when Elizabeth comes across this book that things start to really heat up for her. There is so much here to enjoy: messages hidden in paintings, skeleton keys, codes, orbs of red light, coffins hidden in back bedrooms, long-held family secrets and so much more.

As mentioned before, this story occurs during the Christmas holiday season and I would highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself, or that Middle Grade reader in your life that will be haunting your halls this holiday season looking for something to do because he or she is bored!!

This entertaining little book could be the perfect cure for that! Additionally, the next book in the series is releasing at the end of December so they won’t have long to wait for the sequel!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., for providing me with a copy of this delightful book to read and review. As always, I truly appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback on a book and I cannot wait to pick up the next book in this series!

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Review: The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston

The Lying WoodsThe Lying Woods by Ashley Elston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Lying Woods follows teenage protagonist, Owen Foster, in the aftermath of his Father being exposed as a white-collar criminal. Mr. Foster steals millions of dollars from his company – the largest employer in town – and leaves Owen and his mother behind to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. People in the town are furious, they believe Owen’s Mom knew what he was doing and they begin threatening her and Owen. Forced to leave his posh private school when they can no longer afford the tuition, Owen returns to his hometown public school where he finds it close to impossible to fit in. A great number of the students come from families directly effected by his Father’s crime. Luckily, Owen is able to rekindle a relationship with his old friend and neighbor, Pippa. Through her guidance, Owen begins to understand the destructive scope of his Dad’s actions.

Angry and confused, Owen vows to learn the truth about what happened. How can the Father he knows and loves actually have done this? He is having a hard time grappling with what seems to be a secret side of his Father’s personality. When he first returns to town, Owen secures a job on a local pecan farm and quickly learns that his Dad once worked there as well and and even lived on the property. The owner for the pecan farm, Gus, was not only his Dad’s employer but also a mentor to him. Owen feels if he sticks around the farm long enough he may be able to piece together his Father’s past; he hopes this will help him to understand the present.

This story reads like a hard-hitting contemporary but there is a strong mystery element that runs throughout. The format was great because you get half of the book from Owen’s present day perspective and the other half from his Dad’s perspective at the time that he worked on the pecan farm and first met Owen’s Mom. You get to see their relationship build and learn about the obstacles they overcame to be together. I liked this structure a lot as I felt it was a very creative way to reveal the truth at the heart of this story.

Elston’s writing is smooth and organic. She is really a fantastic storyteller. You sit down to read a few pages and the next thing you know hours have gone by. I truly felt drawn into these characters and this story and I needed to know how Mr. Foster could have done what they said he did. It seemed so out of character with the person you meet through his own perspective. The major twist in this gave me chills. It was completely unexpected and then everything unraveled to the truth very quickly.

This is a story of first love, redemption, discovering who we really are and what is truly important in our lives. I loved the dual perspectives and also thought it was interesting to explore white-collar crime as a topic in YA. I don’t think I have ever read something like this before. Elston has very quickly become one of my ‘autobuy’ authors and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for giving me the opportunity to read this book early and provide my opinion. I cannot wait for more readers to get their hands on this so I can finally discuss it with some of my book buds! This is definitely going on my favorites list for the year.

Original: Starting tonight!!! One of my most anticipated books of the year. I am actually proud of myself for holding off until release month. A feat I frequently FAIL at!

I love how they kept the cover to this along the same vein as This is Our Story even though they are completely unrelated. They’ll still look great next to each other on my shelf!

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Review: Abandoned (Max Revere #5) by Allison Brennan

Abandoned (Max Revere, #5)Abandoned by Allison Brennan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Investigative reporter, Max Revere, sets out to solve the most important cold case of her career in this 5th installment of the Max Revere series. Abandoned by her Mom at the age of 9, Max was left in the care of her very wealthy grandparents. Eventually her Mother stopped sending postcards on Max’s birthday (always belated) and withdrawing from her trust fund; she disappeared without a trace. Now aged 32, and a successful television personality and author, Max is finally ready to uncover the truth behind her Mother’s disappearance.

This is actually the first book I have read in the Max Revere series and I don’t think that diminished my enjoyment for this book at all. You could definitely pick this up as a stand-alone novel if you wanted. After reading this, I am absolutely interested in reading the other books in the series. I loved Max as a character. She was smart, strong, independent and not afraid to make it through life on her own. No matter how dangerous her investigation became she never backed down. She was willing to do whatever it took to get to the truth and I respect that.

Overall, this is a very solid mystery with strong investigatory elements. There were a lot of leads to follow as there is so much going on in this book: family drama, small town secrets, art theft and forgery, con-men/women and more! I usually do enjoy mystery/thrillers where the protagonist is a journalist but this one is especially well done in my opinion. The story leaves off with a lot of changes going on for Max so I definitely think this series will be continuing and this won’t be the last time I read about Max Revere. That’s for darn sure.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. Max is just the kind of protagonist I love so I had a really great time reading this!

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Review: Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser

Forget You Know MeForget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Forget You Know Me is a lovely examination of relationships and different types of love. It follows multiple perspectives and for me felt more like a domestic drama than the ‘thriller’ I am used to reading. The book starts off with a bang – BFFs, Liza & Molly, who have grown apart in recent years, decide on a catch-up Skype date while Molly’s husband is away. As Molly is away from her computer momentarily, checking on one of her children, Liza sees a stranger enter Molly’s house and it all goes wild from there. However, again, I wouldn’t classify this as a ‘thriller’. As a portrait of adult life, f/f friendships, marital relationships, m/f friendships and new loves, it is wonderfully done. As a thriller, it is lacking a bit of the thrill. Besides that first chapter, I was never on the edge of my seat anxiously awaiting a big reveal. A creepy thing happened and we just sort of moved on. In the end, it is wrapped up but the end was just sort of okay for me. It was a good book for sure but I don’t anticipate lying awake tonight thinking about it.

I did really enjoyed Stawser’s writing style and absolutely plan to read more of her books. The prose is well-thought out and rich in detail. As far as the characters go, they were all very well developed and we spent a good amount of time learning the main characters thoughts, past and motivations. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys contemporary literature, especially those that revolve around the complications that can arise within adult relationships.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it so much and as always, look forward to hearing other reader’s thoughts on this one.

Original: Why am I starting this book when I said I was going to wait until October…and it doesn’t even come out until next February!? Because I have ZERO chill. Just none.

Previously: ARC received!! The synopsis of this sounds incredible – right in my comfort zone and the perfect book for the Fall. Psyched to get started on this one – #spooktober read for sure!

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Review: Priest of Bones by Peter McLean

Priest of Bones (War for the Rose Throne #1)Priest of Bones by Peter McLean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Priest of Bones by Peter McLean is the start to a new adult grimdark fantasy series. Gritty, violent and highly addictive this book kept me glued to the pages until the very end. The story begins with our badass MC, Tomas Piety, returning to his hometown after fighting in a long, brutal war. He brings with him a hodgepodge group of men, including his righthand ‘man’ Bloody Anne, and the mysterious child, Billy the Boy. Not far behind comes his younger brother, Jochan, with some of his men, returning as well. The two groups band together and set out to reclaim the territory and businesses previously owned by Piety that have been pirated during his absence.

This story has everything I am looking for when I open a grimdark fantasy. I want dirt. Lots of it. Dirt, grime, blood, stink, cussing, fighting and no mercy. Just me?

This book had all of those things in spades but it also had a lot more. It deals with some heavier topics that I think were handled really well; rather impressively in fact. For example, a lot of the men returning from war struggle with PTSD – I believe they call it battle sickness in the book – and it didn’t gloss over that fact; it discussed it, showed what that meant amongst the men and how they helped one another. It also examined the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse – the effects that has as an individual is growing into an adult. There are issues with grief, with guilt, and sexual identity. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few that I noticed and appreciated. That is pretty much all I want to say on the plot, as I don’t want to reveal anything else that may spoil the paced reveal of the story to anyone.

“All you want is more blood, and more fucking death, and it’s never enough for you, is it? You’ve become a fucking priest of bones!”

I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes grimdark fantasy; particularly people who may like stories like, The Song of Ice and Fire series, that have a lot of political intrigue in them and complex relationships. This story left off in the perfect place for the second book to start and trust me, I cannot wait to get my hands on it. Well done, Peter McLean, well done!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkeley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to hearing what other readers think of this incredibly dark and delicious story!

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Review: Nyxia Unleased by Scott Reintgen

Publication Date: July 17, 2018    |    Rating: 5-stars!!!!

Nyxia Unleashed is the second book in The Nyxia Triad. Just like the first book, I absolutely loved this and gave it FIVE well-deserved stars. This is a YA science-fiction novel that is incredibly inclusive and has a strong undercurrent of social commentary which I thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed.

In this book, our MC, Emmett Atwater and the rest of the kids from Book One have now arrived on the planet they have previously known as Eden. Throughout their training, Babel, the corporation they work for, had taught and prepared them for meeting the ‘aliens’, who they called Adamites, of this planet. Once on Eden, the kids are assigned local emissaries that ultimately end up teaching them in the true ways of their planet, which they call Magnia and refer to themselves as the Imago people. They travel through the various communities of this planet meeting with the peoples and learning their history, political structure and immediate societal issues. The kids, disenchanted with Babel Corporation, after their excruciating training period, begin to realize that Babel’s goals are much more sinister than they had previously expressed. Without giving too much away, they must ultimately decide who and what they are willing to fight for.

What happens next will change the fate of worlds. We are genesis.

This novel is much darker than the first as the subject matter settles down and becomes more serious. Throughout the book I had an incredible feeling of something ominous just at the edge of the horizon. As the storyline began to unfold, I had no clue as to where it was leading. I loved learning about the Imago and experiencing the wonder of learning about their society, past and future. This story is an excellent examination of colonizing powers, indigenous populations and how people choose to treat other people.

Do we treat others with the dignity they deserve, regardless of where they come from?

There are some things a person should never stand by and watch…Pops taught me that much.

The above are thoughts of Emmett Atwater, our protagonist. Emmett is such a sweet, precious little cupcake. He is a great kid, raised but loving parents in the city of Detroit, where although poor, he never lacked for love or a strong kick in the backside, whichever he needed more. Seeing Emmett grapple with good versus evil, standing up for what he believes is right, overcoming adversity, is such an enjoyable thing to read. I loved watching him gaining strength and confidence throughout these two books and I am so excited to see where the third book takes him. He could lead a revolution, this one!

The other kids working with him are from all over the world – we really have everyone represented here – there are kids from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America, Europe, we have LGBTQ+ characters and we get to learn a bit about all of their perspectives; it’s a great thing to see in a YA book. We learn the most about them in Book One but I thought it was important to bring up again here for people searching for diverse representation in their books.

I’m an angel without wings. I’m a demon without fire.

The ending of this book was INCREDIBLE! I have no idea how I am going to make it until next April waiting for the last book in the series. (cue letter writing to publisher begging for early copy…) We are on the edge of a major precipice here – a battle of good versus evil – a battle where fates and worlds will indeed be changed. Are the kids on the right track? Have they made the right choices? Are they siding with the right people? I DON’T KNOW!!!! But I am incredibly ready to find out! If you like sci-fi, if you like diverse books, if you like books with a point, please, please, please pick up this series! It deserves all the love it can get!

Thank you so much to Crown Books for Young Readers for giving me the opportunity to read this book early. It was one of my most anticipated books of the year so I am very grateful!!!

Review: Wicked River by Jenny Milchman

Publication Date: May 1, 2018    |    Rating: 2-Stars

Wicked River. What can I even say? Firstly, I waffled between a 1- versus a 2-star rating. Ultimately, I decided on 2-stars because it makes me feel bad to give anything a 1-star unless it has offensive or inappropriate content. This one wasn’t offensive it was just not my cup of tea. At all. This book and I just did NOT get along. The good news, I actually made it through the entire thing, so there’s that.

I knew within the first 30-pages that perhaps this wasn’t going to be the strongest story for me but I trudged on because I had hopes that it would get better. The premise sounds great. The execution of said premise, not so much. It kicks off at the wedding of our two main characters, Natalie and Doug, which was cheese-factor level TEN and had me audibly scoffing over the dialogue and lame characters. Then they head off on the their honeymoon, a trek into the wilderness on a hiking / canoe trip for which I feel neither of them was even remotely prepared for.

The main characters dumbass choices aside, we also have a psycho guy living in the woods whose odd perspective we get every couple of chapters. Then there is a 13-year old whiny girl, Mia, the niece of Natalie, whose perspective we also get which was completely disjointed for me from the rest of the story. Oh, yah, and there is this totally unrealistic side plot involving Doug’s childhood friends that contributes to the story as well.

I don’t know, for me, the whole thing was just a mess. I couldn’t stand Natalie. She was so weak. All she seemed to care about was ‘her husband’ – she admits to losing any friends she ever had because all she cared about was being with him. She could barely scrounge together two bridesmaids for her wedding and tells us they were literally the bottom of the barrel who would probably disappear again into nothingness once the wedding was over. She let Doug make all of her decisions and just goes along to go along, I guess. She was horrible – I wanted her to be lost in the woods.

Now, let’s talk about the term ‘her husband. This had to have been in the book 1,027,432 times. If I ever hear that again, I am going to punch the speaker in the face. This is not a quote but to give you and idea what I’m talking about, it would go a little something like this, ‘her husband forged ahead through the trees. Her husband’s arms easily broke through the branches so much better than hers ever could because her husband was so much bigger and stronger than she was. Natalie felt so happy that her husband would be willing to go ahead so that she could drift along unscathed behind him.’ If reading this makes you go, what? Yah, it’s like that. This book is 464 pages long and I think it could have been edited down to 300 if the term ‘her husband’ had been taken out.

I have no clue who I would recommend this to – maybe someone who doesn’t read a lot or is new to the ‘thriller’ genre; although, I am not even sure I would classify this as a thriller. There was nothing really thrilling about it. It kind of took the suspense out of it when the 4th part of a 4 part book is titled, Saved. Really? No other word could have been chosen to title Part 4? You get there and are like, ‘geeeee, I wonder if Natalie and Doug will be SAVED????’

I would like to thank the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I do always appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback. This one just wasn’t for me but as we all know there are readers for every story!

What’s the last book you read that you didn’t get along with? I want to know!  Leave a comment below or contact me through my social media links to the right – Cheers~

Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Publication Date: July 3, 2018    |    Rating: 5-glorious STARS

Riley Sager has done it again!! Thrilling from beginning to end. This one kept me guessing until the final pages!

When Emma Davis first went to Camp Nightingale she was late; her parents doing. Subsequently, she got stuck in a cabin with girls much older than herself. Luckily, the pretty and popular bunkmate, Vivian, quickly took Emma under her wing and she began to have a camp experience unlike anything the other girls her age were experiencing. Unfortunately, one night, on the 4th of July, her three cabinmates disappear, never to be seen again. That night continues to haunt Emma, even fifteen years later when we meet her. Now a successful painter living in NYC she continues to meld the haunting images of her camp experience into her work. Invited back to Camp Nightingale by the wealthy owner, Franny Harris-White, to be an art instructor, Emma begrudgingly accepts, thinking she can finally figure out what happened to her friends.

Once Emma returns to Camp she is reunited with many individuals who were also there her first time round; including the handsome Theo Harris-White, Emma’s crush from THAT summer. This story is darkly atmospheric and filled with mystery and dread. For me, Sager’s writing is so cinematic – as I am reading, the entire drama is unfolding in my mind with the perfect clarity of a movie – I felt the same way with Final Girls. His descriptions and feelings are so easy to follow and imagine and are definitely one of my favorite things about his writing.

As the story unfolds, there are multiple occasions where you think you know what happened all those years ago, but those thoughts are quickly dashed away by new information becoming available. The cast of characters was fantastic and past and present unfolded with such ease and excitement that it made this novel very fast-paced! I have absolutely nothing negative to say about this book – I loved it – would read it again and would recommend to any thriller or horror reader. I cannot wait to see what Sager comes up with next! You better believe I will be waiting for it and buying it on release.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dutton Press, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. It was a highlight of my year for sure and I greatly appreciate the opportunity!

Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Publication Date: March 20, 2018     |     Rating: 5-STARS!!!

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James is pretty much perfection in my opinion. This book exceeded my expectations in every way possible. I went into this book knowing two things: prep school for girls/mystery. This book is so much more than that. The novel is replete with a gothic atmosphere that transports you in time and place into the storyline. It is the perfect blend of mystery/thriller with extra special paranormal goodness sprinkled the whole way through!

The main portion of the story alternates back and forth between 1950 and 2014, following different girls/women in and around Barrens, Vermont, and more importantly Idlewilde Hall. I do not want to say too much about the story itself, as I wouldn’t want to risk giving anything away to potential readers. Just know this – I put off reading this book for many months. I don’t know why – I can’t explain it – it just kept getting shuffled down the ole’ tbr. Now, I can say, I am physically distraught at not having read this as soon as I got it. Okay – that may be taking it a little far but I do wish I would have picked it up immediately. I honestly do not have even one constructive criticism of this. Because of that this will be a very short review: This book is incredible. This book wants you to read it. This book will keep you up nights after…read it!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy to review. I apologize to you, as well as to myself, that I didn’t get to it until now. I am even going to run out and buy myself a copy so that I may read it again and share it with others – I love it that much!

Review: Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

Publication Date: May 8, 2018

5-stars!! 

I finished ‘Our Kind of Cruelty’ last night right before bed so figured I would take the night to consider what I had read before formulating my review. Here I am, the next morning, still trying to wrap my head around this book. Firstly, what a unique way of telling this story. Unique and impactful. Mike Hayes, our MC, and narrator of this story is unhinged and you get a front row seat to obsession. Verity, the object of focus, is a young lady you struggle throughout the book to understand; at least I did. Mike and V were involved in a long-term relationship which began while they were in college and eventually ended. This story follows that break-up and relives pieces of it through the mind of Mike.

How much of his thoughts are reality and how much are fantasy. The author did a phenomenal job of keeping you guessing. Is Mike as crazy as he seems? Is he creating a fantasy or she is feeding into his behaviors somehow. I absolutely loved the format of this book and how the author never let Mike slip from character. You are full force in this ‘love story’ from start to finish gaining insight into his infatuation with this young lady.

The culmination of the tale takes place in a courtroom where we see side characters, as well as both Verity and Mike, be questioned by attorneys regarding the exact nature and events of their relationship. I will admit even I was questioning Verity and her honesty at that point – which to me is humorous – an extension of how women can be blamed or treated with suspicion when it comes to a man’s behaviors in regards to her. Questioning the victim, blaming the victim, shaming the victim – these are all prevalent occurrences in our society – and I myself was guilty of it. I didn’t trust V, the whole way, even though I was witness to Mike’s mental fixation with her. I questioned what she was doing to fuel that fire. I continually questioned her choices: why didn’t she tell someone, her husband, the police? Why did she continue to correspond with him?

This was an incredibly intricate, mind-shaking story that gave me chills on the regular. I applaud the author for this effort – it is a truly distinct book for the thriller genre. I would highly recommend it. I hope my thoughts on this make some sort of sense – I am still boggled by this one. Thank you so much to Farrar, Straus & Giroux for providing me with the opportunity to read this book early and to provide my opinion. I cannot wait to see what other readers take from this one! What was the last book you read that really got under your skin? I want to know!  Leave a comment below!