Review: Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Broken ThingsBroken Things by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Five years ago, Summer Marks was brutally murdered and left in the woods of her hometown.

The belief is that she was killed by her two best friends, Mia and Brynn, in a horrific, ritualistic style.

The girls were obsessed with a fantasy book called, The Way Into Lovelorn, and apparently, something found within those pages whipped them into a murderous frenzy. The thing is though, they didn’t do it.

Broken Things begins with Brynn finally being forced to leave the rehab center she has been residing in. She’s really never lived on the outside since Summer’s death.

Mia has continued living with her Mom in her childhood home, now packed to the gills due to her Mother’s hoarding habits.

During an effort to do a major clean out, Mia finds the old copy of The Way Into Lovelorn under a mass of garbage. This discovery hacks open old wounds and reinvigorates Mia’s desire to find out the truth of what happened to Summer.

Since they were separated during their police interviews, Mia and Brynn have not spoken. As Brynn is released, they are suddenly and unexpectedly reunited.

Rejoining is cold at first. It’s hard for them to communicate, but as time passes, they begin to open up with one another and it becomes clear they both have information about Summer’s death that they’ve never revealed before.

I was so immersed in this novel. The toxic friendship, the mystery, the side characters and the exploration of sexuality were all so well done. I read it incredibly quickly. Once I started, I could not put it down.

I was getting heavy Slender Man vibes, which was great. The way the girls backstory was told, it sort of gave this is this supernatural, is it not feeling; especially in the beginning. I dig that vibe.

Additionally, I loved the book-within-a-book portions in regards to the Lovelorn content.

There were portions from the original book, as well as excerpts from the fanfic sequel the girls were writing together. It was clear Summer was the most passionate about their project and she sort of steamrolled the other girls to get her way.

It’s funny, although we never met her in the current timeline, and she was the murder victim, to me, Summer was the least likable character.

Watching Brynn and Mia struggle through years of abuse in the public because of something they were accused of doing, but were innocent of, also made me feel protective of, and attached to them in a weird way.

I thought the mystery of Summer’s murder was intriguing.

Of course, Oliver also incorporated one of my favorite tropes, amateur sleuthing, as the girls, Mia and Brynn, try to piece together what actually happened on the day Summer died.

For a backlist book I never hear anyone talking about, I was really impressed with this. I thought it was engaging the entire way through and I enjoyed the overall way the story was told.

I will definitely be picking up more from Lauren Oliver in the future!

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Review: Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

Clown in a CornfieldClown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Quinn Maybrook moves to Kettle Springs, Missouri, after her father accepts a position as the town’s General Practitioner.

He didn’t really ask for her opinion on the matter, but due to everything they have been through recently, Quinn is willing to forgive him. She just wants to see her Dad happy again.

And to be honest, Quinn is ready to leave Philadelphia as well. Since her Mom died, it’s just too tough to be there, to deal with everyone’s pitying looks.

When they arrive at their new home, the same home as the previous town doctor, they discover a dilapidated old farmhouse. Quinn can’t say she’s surprised. It’s even pretty much in the middle of a cornfield.

Cue the eerie atmosphere. Does anyone else find cornfields to be hella creepy?

No, just me?

Unpacking in her new room, Quinn gazes out over the expanse of fields surrounding them. She notices an abandoned factory in the distance.

There’s a mural painted on the side. It’s a giant clown face and the pervy skeeve seems to be staring right into her window.

She can’t believe this is her life now. It’s all surreal. This town seems like something straight out of a movie.

Attending school the following day, Quinn begins to get acquainted with the local kids. An over-the-top teacher having a temper tantrum, even kicks her out of his classroom on her first day. It’s a lot to process.

Because of this event, she ends up hanging out with some of the more popular kids in the school. They seem a little wild, but not all bad.

They end up inviting her to a party Founder’s Day weekend. What could go wrong?

Y’all, I had so much fun reading this. Clown in a Cornfield was EVERYTHING I was hoping it would be!

Once I picked it up, I could not put it down. It is the perfect book to read to transition into spooky season. It has all the Fall vibes and I was living for it!!!

Is this a perfect book? No, it’s not, but was it the perfect book for me?

Abso-freakin-lutely!!

Those of you who know me, you know that clowns are my biggest fear. I actually have never read a book with clowns in it.

Not even It.

It’s true. I knew after seeing this around and reading the synopsis, that I wanted to give it a try.

I am so happy I went outside my comfort zone and picked this one up. It truly had everything I love in a Teen Scream, which incidentally is one of my favorite subgenres of Horror.

Clown in a Cornfield features the new girl trope, the final girl trope, kids behaving badly, corrupt town officials, an ominous atmosphere, a huge teen party, biting social commentary, a cleverly positioned ending, and plenty of jumps along the way!

This is just pure fun on the page. It’s a must read for the Fall!!! Don’t miss out, Frendo will be mad if you do.

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Review: Dark Celebrations by Calvin Demmer

Dark CelebrationsDark Celebrations by Calvin Demmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dark Celebrations includes 12-short stories from one of my favorite Horror authors, Calvin Demmer.

Each of these tales is centered around a particular celebration or holiday around the world, which I felt was such a creative way to structure a short-story collection.

This book absolutely has something for everyone. Moving through, I couldn’t help but think this was a pure monster mash at its finest!

You have everything in here: zombies and vampires and mummies…

No matter what your favorite creature feature, you will find something to sink your teeth into.

Demmer’s writing is hella dark and quirky. The way he can set a tone and pack a punch within such a short number of pages just astounds me.

And, good news, after you pick up this stellar collection, you can then dive into The Sea Was a Fair Master, my favorite collection of 2018.

Basically, you have a lot of good reading ahead of you!

Thank you so much to the author, Calvin Demmer, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. If you know me, you know this has in no way swayed my review.

Demmer is so fire. That’s all there is too it. I look forward to picking up anything he writes!

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Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican GothicMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

When Neomi Taboada’s father asks her to go check on her recently married cousin, Catalina, she really doesn’t want to. Why her? She’s got so much going on in the city.

Catalina currently resides at a remote manor home, known as High Place, with her husband, Virgil’s, family.

As posh as that sounds, according to Catalina’s desperate letters, the home is a desolate wasteland where she is currently very unwell, or else is in incredible danger.

Neomi’s father urges her to go and check on Catalina’s health and living conditions. When urging doesn’t work, he bribes her.

Neomi wants nothing more than to attend University, so that’s exactly the carrot he dangles in front of her.

Before you know it, Neomi is packing her bag and heading to High Place.

Once there, Neomi immediately feels at odds with Virgil’s stuffy, overly proper family. She is a modern, society-girl, who is used to having her own way, or at least being able to have a conversation over dinner.

In addition to the regimented, claustrophobic feel of the house itself, Neomi begins feeling spooked out by her surroundings and dreaming frightening things. Something is definitely going on here.

Her interactions with Virgil and his family get more disturbing as the days go by, until Neomi doesn’t fear just for Catalina’s well-being, but also her own.

Y’all, I was highly anticipating this novel. I have really enjoyed previous works from Moreno-Garcia and the gothic vibes of this are totally my jam.

While there is no denying that Moreno-Garcia’s writing is lush and captivating, something about the pace of this was off for me.

The premise is super intriguing, the atmosphere was top notch, but for me, the characters were not as well developed as I would of liked. I feel like I should have been attached to Neomi, but I just wasn’t.

The horror elements were interesting. I found the ideas behind that aspect intriguing for sure.

There were also scenes that legit grossed me out. I may even have gagged once or twice. I am telling you, Uncle Howard. The descriptions. I had to take a shower after.

Overall, this is a good book, bordering on really good for me. I think if this pace wasn’t so variant from lull to extreme intensity, I could have enjoyed it more.

I hope that Moreno-Garcia continues in this lane though. This gothic horror is fantastic for her writing style. I’m on board for anything else she writes, believe that.

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Review: Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Moody, dark and secretive, just like me.

Ninth House was a delightfully intriguing start to the all-new, Alex Stern series by Leigh Bardugo.

I have been fascinated by the idea of this book for a while. What’s not to love about the Yale campus, secret societies and magic.

On a recent road trip, I finally decided to give this one a shot.

I have to say, while I really enjoyed the audiobook, particularly the two narrators, I think I may have enjoyed it even more if I had read a hard copy.

I feel like I may have been able to concentrate more on the story if I had been holding the book in my hands and there’s a lot to take in here.

A lot of details regarding the setting of the Yale campus, the magic system, the lore of the secret societies, as well as back and forth timelines, I think just got lost somewhere around mile marker 50.

I was intrigued by Alex’s character. Here was a girl who had a rough start at life, raised by a hippie Mom in California, who ends up at one of the most elite institutions in the world.

After a close call that could have ended her life, Alex instead ends up being offered a seat in the Freshman class at Yale, but why? Her academic transcript certainly wasn’t recommending her for the slot.

Regardless of any trauma experienced in her life, Alex is a survivor and a fighter. I loved that about her.

When she starts at Yale, Alex gets tapped for Lethe House; the ninth of the secret societies at Yale and the one with the closest ties to the occult.

It’s also the responsibility of Lethe House to oversee the other houses to ensure there are no bad actors.

Alex, as it turns out, is well-suited for her new house, as she has an arcane ability she has been struggling with her entire life. This allows her a close connection to the spiritual underworld surrounding her.

Essentially a murder mystery, this novel offers up a lot of darker real world topics for consideration as well.

One of these topics that I found extremely interesting, was the great amount of privilege on the Yale campus, and the way uneven power dynamics can contribute to an extremely harmful environment.

There is also quite a bit on page of drug abuse, sexual assault and rape culture in general. If you are sensitive to these topics, I would tread cautiously.

With this being said, I was impressed overall with Bardugo’s transition to the Adult space. This is definitely an Adult novel. There are some real dark scenes in here and frankly, I am glad that she went as dark as she did.

It made this seedy underbelly of a privileged world seem so incredibly real.

I think as the series progresses the stories will continue to get stronger and stronger.

I may even read this one again, my hard copy, before the second novel is released.

I would love to experience this entire story in a more controlled environment than an SUV whizzing down the highway.

Also, does anyone else want to go snoop around New Haven in the middle of the night now, or just me?

The atmosphere, as always with Bardugo, was really something to behold; loved that aspect so much. I am really looking forward to getting back into this world when the next book releases!

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Review: Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

Night of the MannequinsNight of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Delightfully brutal and mentally horrific.

Jumping into this Stephen Graham Jones novella, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

To be honest, I never even read the synopsis. I see his name and immediately pick books up. It’s a compulsion.

Night of the Mannequins follows Sawyer and his group of childhood friends when a prank goes horribly wrong.

Disguising a discarded mall mannequin as a patron at the local movie theater seemed like the perfect way to get back at the stuffy assistant manager, who happened to recently punish the friend group for sneaking into a movie unpaid.

What starts off as a fairly innocent prank, however, turns more deadly than this group of teens could have ever imagined and it seems Sawyer is the only one with a plan to limit the destruction.

First, let me just swoon for a bit over how much I love SGJ’s writing. I promise not to let it go on for too long.

The style is edgy AF, yet feels like classic horror all the same. I love the humor and witty dialogue that he is able to bring to such dark tales.

Also, his books always go there, all the way to the deepest, darkest crevices of the human mind. It’s weird. It’s powerful. It’s freaking disturbing.

With this being said, I was really into this novella, loving everything about it until about the 70% mark.

Then I started feeling lost. While I understand the ending, some of the choices of events leading up to the ending didn’t seem to fit. It made the ending seem a little abrupt and disjointed for me.

Overall though, this novella is fantastic. You cannot deny the level of creativity it takes to write a story like this.

One that leads you in one direction, flips that on its head and then smacks you in the face with a healthy dose of depressing reality.

Sawyer is a very special protagonist. One whose inner thoughts will stick with me for a while.

I would highly recommend this to any horror fan or any person who just enjoys a bizarre tale.

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

I was really looking forward to more SGJ and this did NOT disappoint!

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Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good IndiansThe Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brutal. Haunting. Visceral.

Ten years ago, Lewis, Ricky, Gabe and Cass, did something on the last day of hunting season that they will ultimately live to regret.

They knew it was technically wrong, felt it at the time, but spurred on by each other and the adrenaline of the hunt, went against their better judgement anyway.

Close to the ten year anniversary of the event that came to be known as the Thanksgiving Classic, Lewis, now living far from the reservation, begins to be haunted by images of that day.

When a new work colleague, a Crow woman, reaches out to him and a loose friendship begins, Lewis confides in her, thinking she’ll understand.

From there, sh*t hits the proverbial haunted ceiling fan pretty quickly.

This is my first novel by Stephen Graham Jones and to say I was impressed would be putting it very mildly.

His writing has such a texture and grit. Oftentimes you are waiting for a novel to take it all the way and it never does. This one goes the distance.

It is bloody, brutal, fast-paced, genuine and horrifying. The nature of the storytelling feels so classic and traditional whilst also being cutting edge.

The only issue I had while reading it, which is completely a personal taste issue and nothing to do with the quality of the writing or story, was a lot of the animal content was hard for me to make it through.

While this is a personal taste issue, I still rate books I read based upon my reading experience and I had to be honest that those scenes did bother me.

With this being said, I will mention that I do not think in anyway that the author threw those scenes in recklessly. They definitely served a purpose in the narrative. I get it.

Overall, I think this is a purposeful, creative and engaging horror story. I will absolutely be picking up anything else SGJ writes.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Gallery / Saga Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. It will haunt me for a long time to come!

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Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Home Before DarkHome Before Dark by Riley Sager
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

RILEY SAGER!!!

He has done it again, and actually, I think this is his best work yet!!!

Loved. Loved. Loved.

Perhaps I should throw together some coherent thoughts? Yeah, let’s try.

Upon the death of her father, Maggie Holt, is shocked to discover she has just inherited Baneberry Hall, the allegedly haunted mansion her and her parents abandoned some 25-years earlier.

Quite literally fleeing in the middle of the night, her parents refused to ever return to the property. Her father then published a best-selling non-fiction account of their time there. As you do.

For Maggie’s part, she remembers nothing of her time at Baneberry. Of course, she was just 5-years old and apparently her little mind wiped the slate clean after they departed.

She has read her father’s book, House of Horrors, numerous times, but doesn’t believe a word of it. Her parents, whose relationship didn’t survive the Book, wouldn’t tell her anything, even though she pleaded with them frequently to do so.

Returning all these years later, Maggie hopes to piece together a bit of the truth while she is renovating the home for sale.

As soon as she steps foot on the Baneberry property, however, she’s knows it is not going to be as easy as she had hoped.

Alternating between Maggie’s current perspective and full chapters from House of Horrors was an absolutely delightful way to read this story. I loved how Sager set that up.

The pacing was perfection!

I was so engaged with this throughout. It got into my mind.

I was racing towards the conclusion trying to discover how much of House of Horrors was the truth.

Baneberry Hall was such a presence in the story. It was ominous and creepy AF.

I can’t imagine being Maggie and actually staying there on my own!

Home Before Dark is without a doubt going to be on my top books of the year list!

If you haven’t read anything by Sager yet and are wondering where to start, I highly recommend giving this one a shot. I think it is a perfect example of his style.

If you have read Sager before, and are a fan, what are you waiting for!?

I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next!

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Review: Duma Key by Stephen King

Duma KeyDuma Key by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Duma Key has climbed the ranks and officially entered my ‘Top 5 Kings’ List. This is quite an accomplishment, if I do say so myself.

Edgar Freemantle is a successful businessman.

Living with his wife of 20+ years in Minnesota, they have raised two healthy girls and have a good life. A solid life.

This is, until the day Edgar is involved in a horrific accident on one of his construction sites.

Crushed by a piece of heavy equipment, he is lucky to be alive, although losing his right arm, injuring his hip and scrambling his brain doesn’t seem so lucky to him immediately after the fact.

His recovery is extremely difficult, putting a lot of strain on his marriage, with him and Pam ultimately separating.

His psychologist, Dr. Kamen, suggests perhaps a change of scenery would be best for his recovery efforts, as well as a hobby. Edgar figures, why not? He has the money, what is he sticking around Minnesota for?

He rents a beach house on a remote, undeveloped piece of land on the Florida coast, Duma Key. The house, something of an artist’s retreat, is perfect for him, as he is feeling like doing some sketching himself.

Edgar begins to settle in and does indeed begin to create amazing art.

He’s unsure where some of it is coming from. He just seems to be compelled. The drawings and paintings pour out of him at an incredible rate, becoming more intricate and astounding as he progresses.

During this time, he makes a new friend while out for one of his daily beach walks. Jerome Wireman lives at the big house on Duma Key, caring for its aging lady of the house, Elizabeth Eastlake.

It is mainly through these characters that Edgar begins to learn of the dark history and lore of Duma Key and the Eastlake family.

However, Duma has a lot to say itself and that’s when things really start to get dangerous.

There is so much to love about this story. I knew absolutely zero about it going in. I don’t even think I ever read a full synopsis.

I was delighted as the story unfolded. The relationships, as is to be expected with King, were so deep and well done. The friendship between Edgar and Wireman is easily one of the best I have ever read.

In my opinion, King is great with this type of human dynamics. Further, I really appreciate how none of the relationships in this story were romantic.

It’s friendship, it’s family, and none of them are perfect, but they’re all so real and compelling.

Duma Key itself was incredibly well done. He has such a sense of place, always incorporating the idea that places remember; pieces of history live on through the lifeblood of the land and structures themselves.

You see this type of idea a lot throughout King’s works, from this one, to The Shining, Pet Sematary and everything in between.

Overall, I could wax poetic about this novel for hours. There is so much to unpack with this story. It’s extremely intricate, I would love to read it again someday and most likely will.

If you are a Constant Reader and haven’t picked this up yet, delay no more. It’s a stunner!

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Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

The Sun Down MotelThe Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My main hope going into this book was that I would love it as much as The Broken Girls. I am happy to report, I loved it even more!!!

While The Broken Girls dipped a toe in the supernatural, The Sun Down Motel dives in headfirst and these waters run deep and dark!

In 1982, Viv Delaney ends up in Fell, New York completely by chance.

Her original intention was to head to New York City, but after stopping in Fell, she ends up staying, working the night shift at a roadside motel.

Never one to shy away from the macabre, Viv isn’t scared off when she notices mysterious happenings around her workplace.

The motel itself isn’t the only scary part of her new life, however, the clientele of The Sun Down also leave a bit to be desired. Not to mention the missing and murdered young women in the area.

Viv decides to begin an investigation. She’s going to get to the bottom of what is going on at the motel, and with the missing girls, one way or another.

We follow Viv’s perspective as her time at The Sun Down edges towards her final night, a cold night in November when she disappears without a trace.

We also follow the perspective of Viv’s niece, Carly, who arrives at The Sun Down thirty-five years later.

Things fall into place fairly rapidly for Carly. It’s almost like she was meant to be there.

She gets hired to work the night shift at the motel, just like her Aunt Viv, and ends up living in Viv’s old apartment.

Carly, who is actively researching her Aunts disappearance, will end up discovering way more than she bargained for.

I absolutely loved every second I spent reading this book.

I was a fan of St. James before, but this, was magic for my mind. The alternating perspectives where fantastic. I felt drawn to each woman and comfortable listening to their stories, in their time.

The pacing was excellent. No filler to get through, just meat. It was perfectly plotted as you raced towards the conclusion.

The side characters were all well developed and each added their own dimension to the story. Both Viv and Carly had allies in their search for answers, even though they often felt alone in their missions.

Of course, the atmosphere was fantastic as well, something St. James definitely excels at writing.

Additionally, I enjoyed the theme of particular dangers to women and how that can make you feel powerless to know you always have to have your guard up. That you can be harmed at another’s will.

At the end of the day. Simone St. James is an autobuy author for me. I hope she continues down this same path for a long time to come. She has such a great gift for eerie storytelling and I’m here for it!

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

I truly appreciate it and have since purchased a finished copy for my shelves. I look forward to seeing what twisted tale St. James will think of next!

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