Review: The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor

The Burning GirlsThe Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

After a scandal at her church, unconventional vicar, Jack Brooks, and her teenage daughter, Flo, are relocated to the village of Chapel Croft.

This is quite a shift from their life in Nottingham, but they are both determined to make the best of it.

The location is peaceful and remote. It feels a million miles from their old life. Upon arrival, they are a little surprised by the untidy condition of the old chapel and their new residence, but still determined to make it work.

They also discover that Chapel Croft, like many small towns, has a dark past that lies not far from the surface. Five hundred years ago, eight Protestants, including two young girls, were burned at the stake for their beliefs.

This incident has shaped the town in many ways and the descendants of these original martyrs are still held in high regard.

They also have a slightly disturbing tradition of making little stick dolls in memory of The Burning Girls; a few of which Jack and Flo stumble upon shortly after arriving in town.

More recently, the village has been plague by other unfortunate events, like the disappearance of two teen girls thirty-years earlier.

In fact, just two months ago, the previous vicar took his own life. A fact Jack was unaware of when she accepted the position.

The people of the village have been through a lot. Secrets and suspicions abound amongst the residents, and when outsiders move in, it tends to cause quite the stir.

Flo unfortunately runs into the local bullies fairly soon after arriving in town and they latch on to her as their newest target. She also makes a friend, Lucas Wrigley, who because of a neurological disorder, finds himself bullied as well.

For her part, Jack is doing her best to learn what she can about her new congregation and ingratiate herself to its people.

Jack knows establishing strong personal relationships is key. She needs these people to trust her, if this placement is going to last.

However, some folks are easier to appease than others and Jack happens to be hiding a few secrets of her own, including the circumstances surrounding her departure from her former church.

The Burning Girls was such a fun read. It’s a slow burn, but once Jack and Flo are settled in their new home, disturbing occurrences begin happening with more regularity.

From there, the pace continues to increase through the jaw-dropping finale.

There’s some interesting subplots, where I wondered how it was all going to connect. Once the puzzle pieces fell into place, I was absolutely chilled.

I loved how Tudor brought this all together and honestly, didn’t see it coming!

Additionally, I loved the overall atmosphere. Chapel Croft came to life within these pages. It felt ominous; that feeling where you know something is not right, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.

There was a tremendous cast of characters. It felt like Jack and Flo against the world, which really increased the intensity. I just wanted them to pack their bags and move!

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

I had an absolute blast with it and can’t wait to pick up more of Tudor’s work!

View all my reviews

Review: Into the Dark (Star Wars: The High Republic) by Claudia Gray

Into the Dark (Star Wars: The High Republic)Into the Dark by Claudia Gray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Into the Dark is a 2021-Canon release set within the era of The High Republic; known as the golden age of the Jedi.

The events in the three recent High Republic books all take place concurrently in the year 232 BBY.

As you discover in this novel, this is the year of the Great Disaster, an event that caused numerous ships galaxy-wide to be suddenly launched out of hyperspace.

It also destroyed moons and created a great amount of debris causing further problems for ships and navigators.

To be clear, the events in this book take place before any previous media you may have watched or read.

We’re talking all new Star Wars goodness! Now with that little bit of timeline info out of the way, let’s get into the review, shall we?

Jedi Padawan, Reath Silas, dreams of days spent pouring through the archives versus deep space adventures. He’s comfortable in Coruscant, known to be the center of the Core System and home to the Jedi Temple.

When his Master, Jora Malli, gets assigned to the new space station, the Starlight Beacon, in the Outer Rim territories, he has to go with. An assignment he’s not happy about.

Malli takes off early, leaving Silas to travel aboard The Vessel, a civilian transport ship, with three other Jedi: Master Cohmac Vitus, Orla Jareni and Dez Rydan.

The only other passengers aboard The Vessel include its Captain, Leox Gyasi, Co-Pilot, Affie Hollow, and Navigator, Geode.

It’s during their journey to Starlight Beacon that the aforementioned Great Disaster occurs, virtually ejecting them from the hyperspace channels and stranding them in deep space.

As you can imagine, that’s not good.

The group discovers an ancient space station, the Amaxine, that seems to be abandoned. Unfortunately for the intrepid crew and passengers of The Vessel, they aren’t the only ones to discover the station and not everyone is friendly.

Making matters worse, the dilapidated Station may not be as abandoned as it appears.

Claudia Gray, surprising no one, did an exceptional job bringing this story to life.

It was an absolute joy to read and learn about this earlier era of Star Wars history. The characters were incredibly well done. I loved their interactions with one another and getting to read from all of their perspectives.

My favorite character was obviously Geode. If you read the book, you will quickly discover why. He was the best and I loved every scene that he was in.

There is a ton, a ton, a ton of action, with some very serious baddies that need to be stopped. A lot of the action focuses on some ancient idols that were discovered on the station, thought to have been left there by the Sith.

I would highly recommend this story to any Star Wars fan, or really even someone who is just looking to get into the books. This is the literal beginning. What better place to start?

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney LucasFilms, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. It was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it did not disappoint!

I cannot wait to pick up the rest of The High Republic materials!

View all my reviews

Blog Tour: The Iron Raven (The Iron Fey: Evenfall #1) by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Raven (The Iron Fey: Evenfall, #1)The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

The Iron Raven is the first installment to a new trilogy set in the world of Julie Kagawa’s, Iron Fey series.

There have been seven previous full-length novels, as well as a handful of novellas, in this series. This is the first to feature Robin Goodfellow, aka Puck, as the narrator.

I must confess, I have never read any of the novels set in this world. In spite of that, I still had a ton of fun reading this story and loved all of the characters!

I’m sure for long-time fans of the series, this book is full of nostalgic content and it will be even more wonderful for them to read.

I was excited to pick this up because Kagawa’s Shadow of the Fox trilogy is my favorite YA Fantasy trilogy of all time.

Her witty and vibrant writing style mesh extremely well with my tastes. In fact, after this, I am quite tempted to go back and read the Iron Fey series from the beginning!

This novel is a classic adventure story, complete with a dangerous quest, set in the lands of the Fae.

It begins with Puck chancing upon the King of the Forgotten, Kierran, who needs to get a message to his mother, Meghan, the Iron Queen. He is trying to warn her of a vicious monster currently wrecking havoc in the Between.

When the monster does show it’s face, it is unlike anything Puck as ever encountered. He’s injured in the process, as well as his new friend, the lady’s assassin, Nyx.

They set out together to find Meghan and engage her help with putting a stop to the monster’s reign of terror before it is too late.

I really enjoyed Puck as narrator. He is sarcastic and funny even in the most dire of situations. He is also a character struggling with past hurts and negative aspects of his own personality.

I always love a quest, as a hodge-podge team of traveling companions are constructed, you just know that you are in for an action-packed good time. That was certainly the case here.

Puck and Nyx are ultimately joined by Meghan, Ash, Coaleater and Grim, as they try to find out the truth behind the monster and what threatens the lands of the Fae.

They encounter some dangerous obstacles and a whole host of magical and mythical creatures along the way; all while trying to navigate their own interpersonal challenges.

I was completely swept up into this world. As always, Kagawa’s character interactions stole the show for me. I love her dialogue and laughed out loud numerous times.

The ending is a compelling cliffhanger, leaving off with a prophecy that definitely let’s the Reader know this adventure is far from over!

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

I had so much fun with it and cannot wait for the next book to be released!!!

View all my reviews

Review: The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

The Echo WifeThe Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Oh wow, you really brought this full circle, didn’t you, Sarah Gailey?! You clever, clever, clever human.

I read the majority of The Echo Wife in one sitting today and I had so much fun with it. There are a lot of great themes and ideas to think about with this one.

This is the first novel I have read by Sarah Gailey, but absolutely will not be the last. I have already added three of their other books to my TBR.

This novel follows Evelyn Caldwell, who is an award-winning research scientist in the field of genetics; more specifically, her work deals with genetic cloning.

We hear this entire story through Evelyn’s perspective, which personally, I found quite refreshing actually. It seems like most novels I read are multiple perspective, so it was nice to just sit with one narrator the whole way through.

Evelyn’s husband, Nathan, has betrayed her with another woman who just so happens to be a clone of Evelyn.

Essentially, he has replaced her with a version that will be more compliant with his wants and needs. More docile in their relationship, something Evelyn never was.

When Nathan ends up dead, Evelyn’s clone, Martine, suddenly becomes a very real problem for her. One that could end her career as she knows it.

Evelyn needs to get control of the situation, and Martine, before everything she has worked for is taken from her.

As Evelyn and Martine begin to work together, Evelyn is shocked when she begins having actual feelings for the clone; like she is a real person.

This novel explores so many fascinating, and frankly, frightening topics. Set in the not too distant future, it examines the ethical issues that arise when you are involved in cloning and cloning research.

What makes something human? What are the parameters that should be followed in this type of research? What if something goes wrong, or a clone goes rouge? Who has the authority to decide the clone’s fate?

In addition to the fabulous scientific elements, I really enjoyed getting to know Evelyn Caldwell. I felt she was such a well-developed character.

We learn how Evelyn’s parent’s relationship shaped the woman she would become. Her parents had quite a contentious relationship and Evelyn was the silent observer to it all.

Her Father was brilliant, he taught Evelyn so much and set her on the career path she ends up on, but he also was a raging tyrant.

Her Mother taught her another set of skills entirely. While she viewed her Mother as mild and cowardly, her experiences with Nathan and Martine caused her to re-evaluate those beliefs.

While this is just a subplot to the greater story, it contributed quite a bit to my enjoyment. I felt it added a lot of depth to Evelyn’s character and allowed me to better understand her choices and motivations.

I really connected with Evelyn. I’m sure many will find her cold, but I think she is more determined and driven than uncaring. Choices she made, if made by a man, would probably be viewed differently by a lot of people.

Overall, this is an extremely intelligent and well-constructed story. My one very small negative, was that I was pitched Thriller and was expecting that. To me, this really isn’t much of a Thriller even though it is quite compelling.

I do highly recommend this. I think it would make an incredible Book Club selection, or Buddy Read, as there are a ton of deep issues to discuss.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I cannot wait to pick up more titles from this author!

View all my reviews

Review: Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan

Good NeighborsGood Neighbors by Sarah Langan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Welcome to Maple Street. Located in a Long Island suburb, it’s a setting we all know.

That picturesque cookie-cutter neighborhood where all the kids play together and everyone knows each other’s business; bad and good.

The Wilde family is new to Maple Street and it’s clear from the start that they don’t necessarily fit in.

Arlo, the man of the house, is a has-been rocker who, gasp, has tattoos.

His wife, Gertie, is an ex-beauty queen who dresses trashy and speaks with an accent. As sweet as she is, anyone can see she’s a hot mess.

Then there’s the kids. Julie, the preteen daughter, stole a pack a cigarettes when they first got to the neighborhood and showed the other children how to smoke. The little boy, Larry, carries around a doll!

When the Queen Bee of Maple Street, Rhea Schroeder, seems to take Gertie under her wing, the rest of the neighbors chill a bit. If the Wildes are good enough for Rhea, they must be good enough for them.

Seemingly out of nowhere, however, Rhea begins to snub Gertie and her family.

The main confrontation occurs at a block party and during this very party, a sinkhole opens up in the neighborhood park, sending residents scurrying to the safety of their respective homes.

It’s utter chaos.

The tension continues to mount on the street in the days that follow. Rhea’s daughter, Shelly, who has been told not to talk to Julie Wilde any longer, defies her Mom and confesses a dark secret to Julie.

This dramatic conversation ends with Shelly falling into the sinkhole. Lost to its dark depths.

Some crazy accusations are thrown around after this event and the target is, unsurprisingly, Arlo Wilde. Thus creating a boogie man to focus their anger and fear at. The infamous other.

Reading Good Neighbors was like peeling back the layers of a very quirky onion. I was so impressed with this!

The Wilde family, by moving to Maple Street, were hoping to provide potential upward mobility for their children. They had the best of intentions and although not perfect, were good people doing their best.

The reaction of the neighbors to them was absolutely fascinating and in a depressing way, 100% realistic.

Langan incorporated a lot of mixed media aspects into the telling of this story, which I loved! I always think that is a fun way to add energy into a storyline.

It is set in the not too distant future and the sinkhole, as well as a few other details, were clearly caused by climate issues. I liked how that was a backdrop, but none of the characters acknowledged it. So, like I said, real.

I also really enjoyed the group of kids in the neighborhood, coined the rat pack.

Sure, they weren’t perfect. There were some real assholes in the bunch, but when things were at rock bottom, they were the ones that banded together, showed some courage and solved a problem. All while their parents hid behind their closed doors and gossip channels.

Additionally, I really enjoyed the unconventional narrative style.

It felt like a season of Desperate Housewives if it were directed by Wes Anderson; and yes, at least one of the Wilson brothers would have been in it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Atria Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I really enjoyed my time with it.

It’s actually one of those books, that the longer I sit with it, the more I appreciate it.

View all my reviews

The Project by Courtney Summers

The ProjectThe Project by Courtney Summers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After a terrible car accident, which killed both of her parents, Lo Denham lies close to death herself.

She’s young though and ultimately pulls through, but with lasting repercussions.

Lo’s older sister, Bea, abandons her after the accident, leaving Lo in the care of their Aunt.

Lo, understandably curious about why her sister would leave, only knows that Bea has joined a mysterious group called The Unity Project.

The Project has deeply embedded itself within a few towns in Upstate New York through extensive charitable works and community outreach.

Even with their good deeds enhancing their image in the eyes of some, many assume The Project is a cult, led by a charismatic leader, Lev Warren. Lo is one of those who believes something is not normal about the group.

Years later, when a good friend of her boss loses his son, Jeremy, to suicide, he blames The Project for driving him to his death. It turns out Jeremy had been a member and as such was purportedly kept from his family and friends.

Looking through photos of the man’s son, Lo stumbles upon one with Bea and Jeremy together. Lo has been desperate to be in contact with her sister again and vows to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Lo works for a magazine, currently in an administrative position, but she dreams of being a writer. Getting the scoop on The Project could not only help her find her sister, but also help her to reach her goals.

She infiltrates and things progress from there.

The Project is a slow burn. Unfortunately for me, one that fizzled out rather than ignited.

The last quarter of the book started to intrigue me more, but prior to that I felt nothing for it; no passion, no intrigue, no curiosity, it was just sort of meh.

As always, Summers includes a lot of hard-hitting subject matter and that’s important.

I love her examination of difficult familial relationships. Lo, as a character, is really struggling to find her place and meaning for her life. Her need to reconnect with Bea is palpable. My heart did ache for her.

However, I did struggle with some of the back and forth between perspectives and timelines, as the narrative shifts from Lo to Bea at different times.

I would often forget whose perspective I was reading from, as I didn’t find them particularly distinct, as odd as that may sound.

Also, the timelines that it switched between were all fairly close together, for example 2012, 2017, 2018, and I am just not used to that type of format.

I think I am used to larger gaps in time, say for example from 2000 to 2020, but that is a me problem, not a book problem, however it did impede my enjoyment.

Since I was so highly anticipating this, I am left with a sense of disappointment. Even though it is a good book, there’s nothing wrong with it, for me it fell flat. I wanted it to go darker, the atmosphere to be more ominous, and I wanted more suspense.

With all this being said, there’s a Reader for every book, so please do not let my slightly unenthusiastic review stop you from picking this one up. If the synopsis intrigues you, absolutely pick it up and try for yourself!

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

I appreciate the opportunity!

View all my reviews

Review: We Hear Voices by Evie Green

We Hear VoicesWe Hear Voices by Evie Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

During a mysterious flu pandemic, Rachel’s son, Billy, lies close to death. Rachel is so distraught. He is just a little boy, how could this happen?

Defying all odds, Billy fights through and survives, but he brings a friend back with him from the brink. An imaginary friend who he calls, Delfy.

Rachel knows that many children develop imaginary friends to help them cope through difficult times, so she’s not too concerned about it.

From what Billy is telling her, Delfy is encouraging him to get stronger and that can’t be a bad thing, can it?

But when Billy’s behavior takes a frightening turn, Rachel knows Delfy is to blame.

Billy’s older sister, Nina, also thinks Delfy’s influence is harmful, and she is determined to get to the bottom of it. Her theory is that the flu is the root of the issue and she believes other children may be experiencing the same phenomenon.

There’s a lot going on in this novel; some of the subplots being more interesting that others. One of my favorite aspects was reading about the pandemic, obviously made more eerie due to everything happening in our world.

This novel follows multiple perspectives as it builds out the dreary post-apocalyptic atmosphere. We follow Rachel, a struggling mother, Billy’s sister, Nina, who is part of a space program for teens, and a doctor, whose name I can’t recall, who treats children hearing voices post-flu.

While many of the aspects of this were interesting to me, once they were mushed together, it became a bit much. It was like the plot suffered a little because there was almost too much going on.

The pacing was off because of this as well, with me much preferring particular perspectives to others. Frankly, I could have done with just Rachel and Nina’s points of view.

Even though this is pitched as Horror, I would categorize it more as a Sci-Fi Thriller.

In spite of the tiny criticisms mentioned above, I still found this be to an engaging story and Green’s writing style to be quite pleasing. I would definitely pick up future work from this author.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly appreciate it.

On the heels of 2020, now is the perfect time to pick this one up! You’ll know what I mean once you read it.

View all my reviews

Review: The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry

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

**3.5-stars**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View all my reviews

Review: Possession by Katie Lowe

PossessionPossession by Katie Lowe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ten years ago, Hannah’s husband, Graham, was brutally murdered in their bed.

Hannah, along with their baby girl, Evie, were both in the London home that evening, but Hannah claims not to remember a thing; a mysterious head injury apparently to blame.

The police arrested a man, Mike, for the crime. A stranger to both her husband and herself, this man is now in prison for Graham’s murder.

Hannah moved from the city after that, unable to stay in the home where such a traumatic event took place. Her and Evie, along with Hannah’s long-time love interest, Dan, now reside in a comfy home in the suburbs.

Even though, for the most part her life is going well, Hannah is still troubled by flashbacks to that night and to her troubled marriage with Graham.

Unfortunately, things are about to get stirred up even more, as a popular True Crime podcast sets sights on the decades old murder case and decides to feature it on the next season of their show.

Conviction host, Anna Byers, believes Mike, the man currently in prison for Graham’s murder, was set-up by the police and she claims to have the proof needed to set him free.

The show’s suspicions focus on Hannah and thusly, popular opinion begins to sway that way as well, churning up all sorts of issues for Hannah and her family. This negative focus on her, causes Hannah to spiral out of control.

Alternating between past and present timelines, as well as incorporating podcast episodes, the truth behind Hannah’s past begins to come to light.

Hannah is a hugely unreliable narrator, so that definitely added to the overall suspense, as you had to question even her most basic memories.

I did feel like the pace of this was a little slow for my tastes, however, and frankly, I never found myself really invested in the mystery.

Some interesting choices were made in the plot progression and I thought the ultimate conclusion definitely tread into over-the-top eye roll territory, but that could just be me.

Overall, it is a good story that I think a lot of people will have a lot of fun with. It will not go down as particularly memorable for me, but I’m still glad I gave it a shot.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity.

View all my reviews

Review: City of Villains (Book #1) by Estelle Laure

City of VillainsCity of Villains by Estelle Laure
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

City of Villains is the first book in an all new Fairy Tale-inspired Crime series from Disney Books.

We follow Mary Elizabeth, a teenage girl living in the Scar, an area where once magic was prevalent, but now supposedly no longer exists.

Having lost her family tragically, Mary’s main goal is to one day become a police officer. In addition to her schooling, Mary currently works as an intern for the Monarch City Police Department.

While her main duties generally involve pushing paperwork, when a classmate of hers, Mally Saint, disappears, the Chief actually assigns her to the case, partnering with a young detective, Bella.

Mary is over the moon to finally have the chance to prove to the Chief what she can do. She sees this as her opportunity to seal a position within the department after she finishes school.

Mary and Bella begin their investigation, but instead of gaining any clarity, the mystery only thickens.

After Mary’s best friend, Ursula, disappears as well, Mary knows something more sinister is happening than just kids running away from the Scar, but who will believe her!?

Even though I found this story intriguing, I did want to get to the bottom of the disappearances, the writing and overall plot are a little basic for my tastes.

I think this could have used another round of editing, perhaps cutting out some of the romantic aspects, changing Mary’s age, and allowing this to fall more into a higher Middle Grade, or Tween, category.

I just personally feel it is a better fit within that space than in YA; and that’s okay!

Tweens and Middle Graders deserve great stories as well!

I did like the appearance of some of my favorite Disney characters, Maleficent, Ursula and Captain Hook, with aspects of this story providing possible origin stories for all of them.

Overall, I think this is a solid premise for a series and I would be interested in picking up the second book. I’m not entirely sure where it will go from here, but I would like to find out.

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

View all my reviews