Review: Final Girls by Mira Grant

Final GirlsFinal Girls by Mira Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Mira Grant’s novella, Final Girls, originally published in 2017 is now being released in audio format.

This story features Dr. Webb, who has created a ground-breaking VR technology that she purports helps clients overcome long-term psychological damage and trauma.

With this process, the clients get taken back to significant times in their lives and run through situations that basically equate to scenes straight out of a horror movie.

I understand the idea to be that the scientists take the clients back to these pivotal moments, break them, shock them so severely, that they are able to rebuild new memories and thus rewire their brains; resetting their psychology.

Another main player in this one is Esther Hoffman, a journalist, who has her own very strong opinions on this type of science.

Esther ends up in Dr. Webb’s lab for a story. She observes a couple of clients running through the process themselves, as well as observing the resulting aftereffects. Then Esther agrees to undergo the treatment herself.

When a real world threat enters the lab during Esther’s scenerio, Esther and Dr. Webb, once on different sides, are suddenly forced together in a fight for survival.

Final Girls explores a unique concept that I was definitely intrigued by. I would definitely pick up a full-length novel tackling these futuristic ideas.

My experience with this story overall, however, can be broken down as follows:

Concept: 4-stars
Plot: 3-stars
Characters: 3-stars
Writing: 5-stars

Mira Grant’s writing is something to experience in and of itself. I love it. Every word carefully placed, themes thoughtfully examined, well-paced and nuanced. I always eat it up.

While I don’t think this story will stick in my memory from now until forever more, I am really glad that I listened to it. The narration was fantastic and it definitely is interesting to think about this type of futuristic therapy.

Thank you to the publisher, Tantor Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I had fun with this one and will continue to pick up any Mira Grant work I can get my hands on!

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Review: Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi

GhostwrittenGhostwritten by Ronald Malfi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ghostwritten is a collection of 4-novellas by one of the most compelling voices in Horror Fiction today, Ronald Malfi.

I didn’t know anything about this collection going in, seeing Malfi’s name on the cover was enough for me, but was so pleased to discover the connecting theme amongst the stories contained therein: BOOKS!

We all love books, don’t we?

How about haunted books, evil books or murderous books? Color me intrigued! I would definitely check them out.

This collection starts out with a bang with The Skin of Her Teeth. I adored that story. It was giving me Secret Window, Secret Garden vibes and I was living for it. The tone and suspense of it all helped me to fly through it so quickly.

It was crazy fun!

The second and third stories, The Dark Brothers’ Last Ride and This Book Belongs to Olo, were both enjoyable as well. They were so dark, fast-moving and creative. How does he come up with this stuff?

With these middle two though, for me, I wasn’t captivated to the same extent as I was with the first story. I began to think that maybe the first story would end up being my resounding favorite. Then I started the fourth and final story, aptly titled, The Story.

The Story involves a very dark web, twisted version of a Choose Your Own Adventure story. I was obsessed with those types of books when I was a kid.

I always wondered just what would happen if the choices I was making in the book actually had an effect on my real life. I guess Malfi once upon a time wondered the same thing…

I loved this one so much. It was horrendous in all the right ways. The way it ended, sheer perfection.

Overall, this was a completely enjoyable, sure to be memorable collection.

For me, since the first and fourth stories were 5-stars, and the second and third were around 3.5-stars, I decided to slice it right down the middle with a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ final rating. Also, I definitely recommend the audiobook!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Titan Books and Tantor Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

If you are looking for a creepy collection to pick up this Spooky Season, you should absolutely get your hands on Ghostwritten. There’s something for everyone here!!

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Review: Elevation by Stephen King

ElevationElevation by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

I picked up Elevation as Book #9 for my TBR-Haul Project.

I hauled this all the way back in October 2018 and had planned to read it immediately. Unfortunately, I didn’t pick it up as soon as I wanted and then it got buried on my shelves and forgotten.

This happens a lot, hence the need for the creation of my TBR-Haul Project. If I actually followed through on things, we wouldn’t need this type of self-improvement project.

But enough about me, let’s get to Elevation, which happens to be a Castle Rock story. That fact alone ups its rating. I love that twisted little town.

We follow Scott Carey, who has a disturbing health ailment he’s trying to make sense of. It sounds insane and he’d prefer not to have the whole town gossiping about it, therefore, he confides only in his good friend, retired General Practitioner, Doctor Bob Ellis.

Scott is losing weight, a lot of it and rapidly. Yet, his physical appearance looks no different.

It’s bizarre and no matter how long the two friends discuss it, they just can’t come up with an plausible explanation. However, scales don’t lie. He weighs the same dressed, or not, with heavy things in his pockets or not.

The problem is there seems to be no end in sight, besides reaching zero on the scale. What will happen then? Basically, Scott believes his life now has a rapidly approaching expiration date.

During the midst of all of this, he also is dealing with regular life stuff. Including befriending some new neighbors, a married lesbian couple who own a local dining establishment, and seem to be the talk of the town.

The women, Dee-Dee and Missy, are new to Castle Rock and not everyone is happy about the restaurateurs presence.

As the town starts preparing for its annual Thanksgiving Day 12k, Scott begins to notice the discriminatory behavior directed at the couple. In his own bumbling way, he decides to try to help.

Then there’s the actual road race, the turkey trot. An odd and well-detailed road race that Scott not only participates in, but excels at.

Unlikely friendships are formed and the rest of the book plays out with all the characters learning a lesson or two.

This story is like the Aesop’s Fable of Stephen King’s written work. It’s short, concise, a bit fantastical and I think he had a point to make; maybe a lesson for all of us.

In fact, I believe at the time, this story may have gotten a bit of heat for being too political. I personally have no opinion on that either way, but what I did take away from this was the quality of the storytelling.

As always I found the writing to be absolutely fluid and engaging; top notch stuff. However, if this had been included in a short-story collection, it wouldn’t really stand out to me as a favorite, as say something like Secret Window, Secret Garden, 1922 or The Body.

The book itself is gorgeous. The end pages and the illustrated chapter headings, loved them. 5-stars for the packaging. I’m happy to have it on my shelves as part of my vast King collection.

Overall, while this won’t stand out as one of my favorites of King’s work, I am glad that I finally made time for it. It always feels good to check something off a list!

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Review: Stuck with You (The STEMinist Novellas #2) by Ali Hazelwood

Stuck with You (The STEMinist Novellas, #2)Stuck with You by Ali Hazelwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

After the elevator grinds to a halt, Sadie cannot believe her luck. The worst luck in the world!

She’s stuck in the smallest elevator known to man with one of the largest men she’s ever met, who just so happens to also be the man who broke her heart just weeks ago.

For his part, Erik barely seems phased. It’s like he goes around getting stuck in elevators all the time. The close quarters force the two to talk, really talk, for the first time since everything went so wrong.

Through flashbacks that begin on the day they first met, with a meet cute over a barely edible croissant, the Reader gets filled in on their quick and passionate relationship.

Stuck with You is the second of Ali Hazelwood’s adorable STEMinist Novellas. Even though it is technically the second, it’s actually the third one that I have read. My trilogy experience is complete. I loved them all.

I listened to all three on audio and definitely recommend that format for these sweet and sexy stories. Unless it makes you uncomfortable listening to a narrator read fairly graphic sex scenes, then you may want to read it with the privacy of your eyeballs.

I love the idea behind Hazelwood’s stories, showcasing women in STEM seems like a simple idea, but I haven’t seen anyone do it like her. Highlighting smart, sexy women will never get old.

Science is cool, y’all, and Hazelwood proves it in her books. I take this as scientific proof. The evidence is right in front of you. Go ahead, pick them up. You’ll see.

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Review: Below Zero (The STEMinist Novella #3) by Ali Hazelwood

Below Zero (The STEMinist Novellas, #3)Below Zero by Ali Hazelwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Below Zero is the second of the STEMinist Novellas from Miss Ali Hazelwood that I have read.

Being aware that this is technically the third in the series, it interested me the most, so I was super pumped when my audiobook hold came through from my local library. I couldn’t put it off. I had to dive in right away!

Throughout this trilogy we follow the stories of a trio of girlfriends: Mara, Sadie and Hannah. This is Hannah’s story.

Out of the three, Hannah has the most difficulty letting people in. She is fairly guarded by nature and even found it uncomfortable at first getting close with Mara and Sadie. She has her reasons.

Fresh out of graduate school Hannah finds herself new in her career as a NASA aerospace engineer. Some may say she got there via some helpful tips from a man named, Ian, but she would never say that. He’s irrelevant.

Although if we’re being honest, Ian is never far from her mind. Ian is her rival, her nemesis and the man who haunts her most lurid dreams.

When Hannah finds herself on the brink of disaster, injured and stranded at an Arctic research station, Ian is the one who risks everything to save her. Hannah’s so confused. Why would he do this?

He legitimately tried to stop her research and sabotage her career. What could be his motivations now and why does her stomach feel so queasy anytime he’s around?

This novella bounces around a little as the different stages of Hannah and Ian’s relationship is pieced together. I enjoyed it so much. Watching the blanks be filled in and their connection grow.

I related a lot to Hannah. I found her to be such a convincing main. I liked that she was the type of person who didn’t let people in easily. It made you really recognize how special those people she has chosen to be in her life are.

This had some steamy scenes. In the novellas there aren’t a ton, it’s only 124-pages, so obviously there’s not going to be that much. However, what is there is top notch stuff.

Hazelwood can get your motor running, that’s for sure.

I’m really looking forward to getting to the final novella, Stuck on You, soon. I’m sure it won’t disappoint!

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Review: A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables #2) by Alix E. Harrow

A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables #2)A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Mirror Mended is the second installment to Alix E. Harrow’s fairy tale-based novella series, Fractured Fables.

The first in the series, A Spindle Splintered, was such a delightful surprise for me when I picked it up last fall.

In that story we meet our protagonist, Zinnia Gray, who due to an industrial accident is left with a rare fatal condition. She’s told she won’t live to see her 22nd-birthday. In spite of this, or maybe because of this, Zinnia tries to live her life to the fullest.

Her best friend Charm, knowing this about her, decides on her 21st-birthday to throw Zinnia a Sleeping Beauty-themed party. It’s at that party, at the stroke of midnight, that Zinnia pierces her finger on a spinning wheel and first gets transported into another world.

It happens to be the world in which the real Briar Rose lives and the two women work together to try to halt their doomed fates.

In this installment, we find Zinnia still fixing fairly tales. She has traveled throughout the fairy tale multiverse always seeming to find herself in her comfort zone; Sleeping Beauty.

That’s why Zinnia is beyond shocked when she looks into the mirror one day and sees a face looking back at her. A beautiful, slightly evil face.

It seems Zinnia may be on to a whole new story, which just so happens to be one of my favorites, Snow White.

The Evil Queen has come seeking Zinnia’s help. She’s found out how her story ends and she is desperate for a better ending. Zinnia’s intrigued.

Not only is the Evil Queen beautiful, but as Zinnia gets to know her, she feels like maybe the Queen is a bit misunderstood. Zinnia wants to help, but will she be able too before the story ends for them both?

This installment was just as much fun as the first. I forgot how incredibly smart and witty the writing is. It hooked me in from the start.

I’m seriously obsessed with this series. I’m not sure exactly how long this series is slated to be, but I am hoping for many, many more. Zinnia Gray is life.

I would definitely recommend the audiobook format as well. The narrator really brings spirit to the story and breaths life into Zinnia. It’s completely immersive and fun.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I can’t wait for whatever comes next!!

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Review: Under One Roof (STEMist Novellas #1) by Ali Hazelwood

Under One Roof (The STEMinist Novellas, #1)Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Perfection in 112-pages!!!

Ali Hazelwood taught me something last year. A very important something. If you’ve read The Love Hypothesis, you may know exactly what I am talking about.

Essentially, Hazelwood taught me that steamy STEM romances are definitely something I am into!

Luckily for me and others like me, while patiently awaiting Hazelwood’s 2022-full length release Love on the Brain, there are three all new STEM novellas to enjoy.

Under One Roof is technically the first of these novellas, but after reading this one, I would say that they can really be read in any order.

In this one we follow Mara, an environmental engineer, who moves to D.C. post-graduate school after inheriting half of a house from her academic mentor.

The other half of the house is owned by said mentor’s extremely dreamy nephew Liam, who just so happens to be an attorney for big-oil.

Liam expresses from the start, with all the swagger he can muster, that he is not down for a random roommate.

Unfortunately for him, Mara is not taking no for an answer. She really doesn’t have the option to say no with her new job in D.C. starting soon and she literally hasn’t the money to find another place. Plus, she has just as much legal right to the premises as he does.

After they move in together, anger and annoyance eventually leads to sparks. You know the drill.

Y’all, how did Hazelwood make me feel so invested in only 112-pages?! Seriously, how?!

I did listen to the audiobook for this one and the narration was straight-up fabulous. Loved, loved, loved. I cannot wait to get to the other two novellas!!

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Review: Apart in the Dark by Ania Ahlborn

Apart in the Dark: NovellasApart in the Dark: Novellas by Ania Ahlborn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Apart in the Dark contains two chilling novellas from one of my favorite voices in the Horror space, Ania Ahlborn.

The first, The Pretty Ones is set in 1977, New York City and follows mousey underdog, Nell Sullivan.

Nell’s life is very contained. She lives in a dingy apartment with only her brother and a teddy bear for company. She goes to work and comes home; that’s about the extent of it.

At work, she is part of a secretarial pool where she is mostly ignored, but sometimes bullied, by the other girls. They’re pretty, polished and definitely look down on Nell. She doesn’t fit in.

It’s the Summer of Sam and a monster lurks in the city, murdering pretty girls. For once, Nell is happy to be flying so far under the radar. She’s clearly not the killer’s type.

When girls in her office start being killed, Nell begins to wonder if it is just a coincidence, or if it actually has something to do with her.

I liked this story. If I were rating it on its own, I would have given in 3-stars. It was subtle, but it did keep me interested.

There was one major reveal, which I felt was pretty clear from the start, so I wouldn’t say it was particularly suspenseful. However, it does display how great Ahlborn’s writing is. She can hold your interest even when not a lot is happening plotwise.

The atmosphere she created in this was very well done. It felt like 1977-NYC. It had texture and grit. I could picture everything in regards to Nell’s apartment, her commute, her workplace, the grime and desperation. I could feel it.

The second story, I Call Upon Thee was B-Horror on the page. It was great and for me, really amped up the pace in comparison with the first story.

Please keep in mind, when I say B-Horror, I do not say that with shade. I love B-Horror. The vibe of those movies is what this story brought me and frankly, I was living for it!

We have Maggie Olsen returning to her childhood home after the tragic death of her sister, Brynn.

This isn’t the first tragedy to strike the family. Both of Maggie’s parents have also passed away under mysterious circumstances at their house.

The narrative alternates between the present and the past, showing Maggie and Brynn’s relationship when they were kids and how some of their actions then may have actually shaped their present.

We have a local cemetery they like to visit, the legend of a dead girl, a creepy-ass porcelain doll and a Ouija board. What could go wrong, am I right!?

Basically, this story is a cornucopia of Horror elements that I love to see!!

This story was fast-paced, gripping and had some genuinely terrifying scenes. I really enjoyed this one. I would give it a 4.5-star if I were rating it individually. It was a very strong story for me, one I will remember for a long time to come.

I have had this book on my shelves for years. I am so happy that I finally made the time for it. I would definitely recommend this to Horror Lovers.

I think it perfectly showcases the range of Ahlborn’s writing; so well done!

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Review: Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4) by Martha Wells

Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries, #4)Exit Strategy by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Exit Strategy is the fourth novella in Martha Wells’ beloved Sci-Fi series, The Murderbot Diaries.

I have really enjoyed my time with this series so far. It’s hard to believe how attached I have become to the unconventional protagonist, an antisocial SecUnit, Murderbot.

I have read all of the novellas in this series via audiobook. Part of the reason for that is because they’re narrated by Kevin R. Free, who is the absolute perfect narrator for this series. He is Murderbot in my mind.

In this installment, we reunite with Murderbot, who continues on their galaxy-wide quest to find answers regarding their past, all while gathering info on the mysterious and sinister GrayCris Corporation.

After Milu, Murderbot chooses to return to HaveRatton Station, which may turn out to be a big mistake. It hopes to meet with Dr. Mensah, but it looks like Dr. Mensah may be in a bit of trouble.

Experiencing something that could be defined as a feeling ((yuck, says Murderbot)), it decides it will do what it needs to in order to help save Dr. Mensah; pairing up with some old acquaintances in the process.

I was pleased with this novella, although I feel like it didn’t quite capture my attention in the same way that the previous three have. I think for me, it felt like it wasn’t quite as humorous as the earlier books.

Perhaps, that’s because Murderbot didn’t have the same lovable AI characters to exchange witty banter with. Yeah, that is probably it.

I am loving how Murderbot continues to evolve, as far as its relationships with humans go. I am particularly into whatever is happening with Mensah; it’s quite intriguing.

The next book in the series, Network Effect, is the first full-length novel in this series, coming in at 350-pages. I am super excited to get into that one!

I highly recommend this to Readers who enjoy action-packed, light-hearted, often hilarious Sci-Fi stories. Look no further, Murderbot is where it’s at.

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Review: Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn

Flowers for the SeaFlowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

For me, this reading experience was very similar to my time spent with The Deep by Rivers Solomon.

My first reaction upon completion with both novellas was, what in the heck did I just read?

Followed shortly thereafter by thoughts such as, that was gorgeous writing, this is beautiful and important, and finally, I wish I had a better understanding of it.

Flowers for the Sea is Dark Fantasy novella centering around Iraxi, a headstrong, powerful woman trapped on a claustrophobic-feeling ark sailing the high seas.

For a good portion of the story she is struggling through the last moments of, what seems to be, an unwanted pregnancy.

Iraxi’s emotions take center stage as she works through anger, pain, revenge and motherhood. It’s a lot.

A story set at sea, with a sea creature aspect, this is an intriguing premise and the writing shows so much promise. I would love to read more from Zin E. Rocklyn; hopefully at some point in a longer format, so I can really settle into their style and ideas.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dreamscape Media, for providing me with an Audio-ARC to listen to and review. I am really happy I had the opportunity to check this one out. It was memorable!

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