Review: The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass

The Taking of Jake LivingstonThe Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Jake Livingston seems like an average teen. He struggles with many of the same issues that his peers do, however, Jake’s life is made a little more complicated by the fact that he can see dead people.

For the most part, the unsettled spirits are harmless, stuck in their death loops, repeating the same actions over and over again.

Then there is Sawyer. A troubled local teen, who a year prior, shot and killed six kids at a nearby high school and then subsequently took his own life. His spirit is still so angry and he’s not done. Sawyer has plans and intends to use Jake in order to execute them.

Suddenly, everything Jake thought he knew about navigating the world with this gift is flipped on its head. He’s in unchartered waters.

When bodies start turning up in his neighborhood, Jake knows he needs to learn the new rules, no matter what it takes. His life and all he loves depends on it.

The Taking of Jake Livingston was one of my most anticipated books of the year. I preordered it months ago and was so excited to get to it.

I decided to listen to the audiobook on my annual Labor Day Weekend road trip. One of my favorite things to do is pick out which audiobooks I will listen to on the journey. I travel alone and can be in the car, depending on traffic, anywhere from 4-to-6 hours, each way.

So, there and back, listening on 1.8 to 2x speed, I can get a lot of precious reading done.

While I enjoyed many aspects of this story, I will admit, it wasn’t quite gripping enough to keep my mind from wandering. The beginning, as I was meeting Jake and learning about his life and gift, I was completely focused. After that, it sort of wavered in and out for me.

Now thinking back, I don’t remember much. I’m not blaming the book entirely. I am sure a lot of the blame lies within myself. I had a lot on my mind and wasn’t giving it the attention it deserved.

There was some good humor and I felt the premise was unique. I actually would like to read it again someday, at which time I will read my hard copy. I certainly enjoyed it enough not to unhaul it and would recommend it as a Teen Scream for the Spooky Season!

I think the bottom line is, I didn’t read this under the best circumstances and my reading experience suffered because of it. With this being said, DO NOT let my experience stop you from giving this one a shot.

This is a good book. It’s well written with interesting characters and fun Horror elements. I will definitely be picking it up again at some point and giving it another try!

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Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

The Last House on Needless StreetThe Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

In a quiet town, at the end of a typical neighborhood street sits a well-worn home with boarded-up windows. In the house lives an eccentric man named, Ted.

Ted has a daughter named, Lauren, who sometimes visits. Although never seen playing outside, the neighbors can hear her sounds of joy and sometimes discontent, well enough, ringing through the walls. Also, residing in the home, is Ted’s little furry companion, Olivia the cat.

Told through the alternating perspectives of Ted, Olivia and a neighborhood woman who just moved to the street, their intertwining tales of horror begin to unfold and their connections are laid bare.

It’s clear Ted’s musings may be unreliable. Can you trust what he is thinking? The way he wants you to see the story? What about Olivia? She’s just a cat. Could she possibly understand the intricacies of the human mind?

And what of the neighbor woman? She seems to have an unhealthy obsession with Ted, but is she correct about what he is?

Y’all, this is definitely one of those books that it is best to go into knowing as little as possible. I listened to the audiobook and feel it’s an excellent way to take in this story. I was pulled in from the very start.

The writing style is quirky and a perfect fit for this story. In my experience, it added to the overall sense of unease, because it took my mind a couple of seconds after each sentence, or statement, to string it all together.

That sounds like a negative, but it’s not. It’s like my mind was clicking through all it had heard, trying to figure out the truth, but couldn’t.

You know intensely from the start that all is not as it appears to be. It’s not cut and dry.

It’s a headscratcher and beyond compelling. There are clever misdirections, shocking revelations and soul crushing snaps back to reality. It’s a dark and heavy tale that breaths sinister unknown out of every pore.

Overall, I found this to be a satisfyingly unique and stirring Horror novel. It’s 100% memorable and will stick with me for a long time to come.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. It was an ideal way to kick off my Spooky Season reading!!!

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Horrid by Katrina Leno

HorridHorrid by Katrina Leno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After her Father’s unexpected death, Jane and her Mother, Ruth, are forced to leave California behind and move to the distant state of Maine.

Due to money troubles, Ruth wouldn’t be able to keep them in their family home, however, she fairly recently inherited the home she grew up in. Problem solved, off they go.

While it’s not ideal, Jane seems to be handling it all fairly well. Maybe it is due to the numbness she feels about her Dad’s passing. It’s like she’s seeing the world through a haze; it’s surreal.

Arriving at North Manor, they find it in quite a state of disrepair. Add it to the list of unpleasant circumstances lately, but regardless, they know they can make it work.

As Fall, the most perfect season of the year arrives, Jane begins to settle into life in their new town. While she makes a couple of good friends, she also seems to draw the attention of the local bully, Melanie.

Melanie seems to have a particular distaste for Jane; it’s a little strange considering they only just met. It’s like Melanie’s holding a grudge against her, but why?

It’s not just Melanie though. There’s something about the house itself that’s off. Jane feels unsettled there and she’s experiencing things she can’t explain.

Her Mother also seems to be spiraling back in her childhood home. Jane suddenly feels the need to learn why Ruth left all those years ago, and why did she never choose to return?

Horrid is an another fabulous example of Katrina Leno’s unique style. Leno’s writing is beautiful, introspective and always seems to tackle fairly heavy topics with grace.

In this one, as the truth behind North Manor, and all that occurred there, was slowly revealed, I was completely drawn in. I could picture it all playing out extremely vividly.

The Horror imagery was well done in my opinion and I enjoyed how Leno structured the reveals. It kept me engaged throughout. I needed answers!

As always, I appreciated how much substance Leno brought to the table with this. Jane is a character struggling with grief, loss and self-doubt; all while outwardly projecting that she is okay. I think masking one’s negative emotions behind a cloak of, I’m fine, is something a lot of Readers will be able to relate to.

Additionally, Jane finds comfort in books and there was quite a few references to Dame Agatha Christie and her works. It’s hard not to find that endearing.

I will mention a trigger warning for self-soothing via (view spoiler)

Overall, I felt this was really well done and I enjoyed my time with it. It included a lot of tropes I tend to enjoy, such as long-buried family secrets, returning to a hometown and haunted houses.

I am also a big fan of Leno’s writing and this only served to reinforce that fact.

Now that we are in the midst of Spooky Season, y’all know it starts September 1st, I encourage you to give this one a go. It’s wickedly entertaining!!

**Please note, I picked this up as part of Bookoplathon ((my favorite Readathon ever)) as a Poll Pick. This was the winner of a poll I ran on Twitter. I am so happy with it. Thank you to all on Twitter who voted!!

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Review: Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

Small FavorsSmall Favors by Erin A. Craig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The small town of Amity Falls is remote and truly secluded from the outside world. It’s set amongst the Blackspire Mountain range, at the edge of an almost impenetrable forest where monsters are said to lurk.

When a supply party goes missing, and evidence of a massacre are found in the woods, the townsfolk believe the monsters may have awoken and are getting closer.

Contention arises among the citizens, as they try to decide how best to proceed. They’re afraid to send anyone else for supplies, but with provisions running low and winter approaching, what choice do they have?

Ellerie Downing lives with her family in Amity Falls. On the cusp of adulthood, Ellerie finally gets to vote in the town proceedings. She struggles with her decision, but ultimately votes for the path she thinks best, even though it may differ from the opinions of those she loves most.

Shortly after the vote, tragedy strikes the Downing family, leaving Ellerie to look after her family farm and her younger siblings. It’s a lot, but Ellerie rises to the occasion.

She has also made a new, intriguing friend. A young man, a trapper, staying on the outskirts of town. Cloaked in mystery, the boy has never even given Ellerie his true name, but the two are drawn to each other like moths to a flame.

As winter progresses, tensions rise while the supplies continue to decrease, forcing people to hide in their homes, protecting what is theirs. Bizarre and spooky occurrences are also plaguing the town, driving everyone’s paranoia higher. Will Ellerie be able to get her sisters through until Spring?

Small Favors was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I absolutely loved Craig’s 2019-release, House of Salt and Sorrows and couldn’t wait to see what she would come up with next.

The synopsis comp to Needful Things is legit, but it is Needful Things if it were set against the backdrop of M. Night Shyamalan’s, The Village, and fused with Dark Fairy Tales.

I know, delicious, right!? Plus, Craig’s writing continues to impress. It’s lush, detailed and DARK. This entire story had such a vibe; the location, the atmosphere, it got into my bones.

I enjoyed how ominous it felt, even when nothing overtly scary was happening. It always felt like at any moment, a monster could appear from the periphery. The characters were compelling and I really liked the conclusion; it was unique and inventive.

I’m so happy with this and again, look forward to seeing what Craig dreams up next. I know I will definitely be adding it to my shelves, whatever it is!

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Review: Scream All Night by Derek Milman

Scream All NightScream All Night by Derek Milman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Dario Heyward receives a phone call from his older brother, Oren, inviting him to return to the home he fled three years ago, he is filled with trepidation.

Moldavia, the iconic castle that was Dario’s family home, also serves as the set, studio and home for the cast and crew of Moldavia Studios.

His father, the studio’s enigmatic director, is in poor health and apparently, there will be some mysterious, over-the-top ceremony to honor him and his first film, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tongue.

After being legally emancipated from his father, Dario has been living in the Keenan Group Home, where he has been steadily gaining in confidence and autonomy.

While he’s concerned about returning to Moldavia, he feels like he can finally face all that happened to him there. He needs that closure. Additionally, he’d love to see Hayley again, his childhood friend and crush.

At Moldavia, it seems to be life as usual. People buzzing around everywhere, working on strange projects. The whole scene like some sort of morbid hotel with quirky characters and equally zany props.

At the ceremony, true to his father’s normal drama, something horrifying occurs with disastorous consequences. Just like that, Dario is sucked back into Moldavia, and the life he thought he left behind. Now he needs to try to help save the floundering family business.

Scream All Night was a delightful surprise. A heartfelt, coming-of-age story for true Horror fans.

I loved the whole idea behind Moldavia Studios. The setting at the castle had such a vibe, macabre and eerie, made even more haunting by Dario’s early-childhood experiences there.

While this story does include some fairly heavy topics, including the abuse and neglect that Dario suffered while living with his family, as well as the death of a family friend, there was also a great amount of humor incorporated.

Milman had me laughing quite a bit. I loved his witty, sarcastic, dry humor and the way Dario thought about and processed the world around him. Dario is such a compelling character, one that is very easy to get behind and support.

Overall, I was really impressed with this. I fell in love with Dario and the setting of Moldavia. The tone and humor were creative and the storyline captivating throughout.

I definitely plan to pick up more from this author!

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Review: The Apartment by S.L. Grey

The ApartmentThe Apartment by S.L. Grey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

After masked men break into their Cape Town home in the middle of the night, and subsequently terrorize them as they ransack the place, married couple, Mark and Steph are understandably traumatized.

Although they, as well as their 2-year old daughter, weren’t physically harmed, the emotional scars run deep. They are having an extremely difficult time returning to life as normal in the aftermath.

Troubles sleeping, paranoia about leaving the house unlocked, feeling like someone has been inside; all classic PTSD-home invasion symptoms.

Confiding in a friend one evening over dinner and drinks, she suggests to them that they may need some time away to heal and regroup; a house swap site is mentioned and Steph’s interest is piqued.

While they really aren’t in a financial position to take a trip, if they participated in a house swap, they just might be able to pull it off.

Mark doesn’t seem as into the idea, so Steph, naturally, creates a profile behind his back and begins the search.

Finding a match, Steph ends up convincing Mark to take the leap. Paris here they come!!

Arriving in Paris, Steph and Mark quickly discover the apartment is not quite as advertised. Not by a long shot. They fear there has been some sort of mistake, but gradually come to accept that they have been had.

It’s dirty, creepy, terribly furnished and under-provisioned. There’s even mold. Plus, don’t even ask what’s in the closet.

Unfortunately, for the couple, circumstances are actually much worse than they appear. Not long after settling in, strange things begin to happen in the apartment building and their minds.

I picked this audiobook up after a friend of mine had listened to it and really enjoyed it.

She seemed so excited about it and I wanted to be able to discuss it with her. I hadn’t really heard any hype for it, so was pretty jazzed once I read the synopsis and realized it was just my kind of story. Creepy and weird.

The audiobook was fantastic. The narrators did a wonderful job of believably protraying Mark and Steph’s sides of the story; which you alternate between.

There was a constant feeling of dread, even when nothing overtly scary was happening. I always enjoy that type of narrative. When I am just waiting for the dark truth to unfold.

I felt Grey did a solid job steadily building tension throughout. With this being said, the story actually disturbed me from the very start; it had a great tone.

It was like when you are watching a slightly scary movie and the cinematography is very dark, or sepia-toned, and you’re just kind of squinting the whole time, anticipating what is going to be coming next. What’s just outside the lense that you can’t see. I love that.

In addition to the many real-world issues Mark and Steph were struggling with, I enjoyed the darker supernatural elements to this story as well. The ending was satisfying to me and I can definitely picture this being adapted into a movie.

The Apartment certainly may not be for every Reader, but I really liked it. It was especially fun to read with a friend and discuss the different disturbing and crazy occurences plaguing Mark and Steph.

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Review: Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares (Paola Santiago #2) by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Paola Santiago and the Forest of NightmaresPaola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares by Tehlor Kay Mejia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Half a year has passed since Paola Santiago took on the legendary spirit, La Llorona. Since that time, a lot has changed in Pao’s life and she wouldn’t say for the better.

She has grown distant from her two best friends, Emma and Dante. Truth be told, she barely speaks to them anymore. Add to this the fact that her Mom has an annoying new boyfriend practically living at their house. Yeah, not great.

Additionally, Pao’s still having nightmares. This time set in a dark, creepy forest where her Dad plays a role as a recurring character. The Dad she really knows nothing about and barely remembers.

When Dante’s abuela collapses right in front of Pao, some things she was saying just prior, prompts Pao to believe the two occurrences, her dreams and Dante’s abuela’s mysterious illness, are connected. Pao also believes that her father may be the key to saving Dante’s abeula.

It’s a race against time as Pao, begrudingly joined by Dante, hits the road to Oregon to try to track down her Dad. Luckily, the two are able to pair up with their old friend, Ninos leader, Naomi, who contributes quite a bit on their journey.

Again the kids must face down incredibly dangerous and frightening supernatural entities on more than one occasion. This book got scary, y’all. I mean it!

Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares is an incredible sequel. I felt like with this novel, even though it is packed full of action, I got to know the characters more.

Pao in particular. In the first installment, I felt a bit disconnected from her. There was so much action, it was chaotic and I never felt like I really understood her.

I was so focused on what was going on in the periphery. But with this novel, I feel like learning more about her family, her feelings of loneliness and self doubt, I truly came to care for her.

She is such a soft, sweet, yet strong character, who grew by leaps and bounds over the course of this story.

Mejia does a great job of tying creatures of folklore into a modern, compelling tale. It’s evident from this book that there is a lot more of Pao’s story to tell. I feel like we are just scratching the surface of complications for this spunky girl.

In short, this is a super fun Middle Grade adventure story, perfect for Readers who enjoy a bit of darker, don’t turn out the lights, content in their stories!

I am greatly looking forward to meeting up with Pao again and going on another adventure.

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

As always with books found within the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, this dazzled me with its high-stakes, page-turning content. Well done by Mejia!!

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Review: For the Wolf (Wilderwood #1) by Hannah F. Whitten

For the Wolf (Wilderwood, #1)For the Wolf by Hannah F. Whitten
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.

As the second daughter to the Queen, Red’s fate is set. While her sister will inherit the throne, Red will be sacrificed to the Wilderwood and the monsterous Wolf that resides there.

In her kingdom it is believed that the Wolf of the Wood has the ability to release the world’s captured Gods, and that with Red’s sacrifice, he just may choose to do that. Thus, Red could essentially be the savior of the world.

It’s never worked before, but now could be the time.

Red doesn’t know about all that, but she is hiding a mysterious gift that she learned once, the hard way, is dangerous. Because of this, she is ready and willing to go, if only to protect her friends and family from herself and the magic that lies within her.

Upon entering the Wilderwood, Red quickly discovers it isn’t at all what she expected. Sure, it’s dangerous, but she was planning on instant death. Not so much.

Also, the Wolf, he’s not a beast, he’s a man who lives in a castle, has an incredible library, two humorous roommates, a magical mirror and he needs some help.

Is this starting to sound like anyone you know?

For some reason going into this, I expected a Little Red Riding Hood retelling, but it’s straight-up, Beauty and the Beast. My favorite fairy tale of all time. I smiled every time I discovered another connection.

This is wildly creative. I loved the entire atmosphere of the Wilderwood and the Wolf’s castle. It’s dark, dank, murky and dangerous. The root magic, or earth magic, that Red and the Wolf had is quite captivating. I really enjoyed that aspect.

Red and the Wolf’s slow burn romance was also enjoyable, although when I say slow, I mean SLOW.

For me, it dragged on too long. I almost feel like this could have been broken into two books. While I liked all of the content, it failed to keep me entirely engaged. I was constantly checking to see how many pages I had left.

However, it’s good. It is a well thought out story with some great world creation, so please do not let my one small grievance affect whether or not you pick this book up.

In fact, please pick this book up. I want to hear your thoughts! If you enjoy Fantasy with interesting magic systems, you could end up loving this. Particularly if you are a fan of slow-burn romance.

I am absolutely planning to continue on with this story. There’s some complicated political maneuverings occuring, as well as intense family drama, so I can’t wait to see how that plays out.

Looking forward to it!

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Review: Come With Me by Ronald Malfi

Come With MeCome With Me by Ronald Malfi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Aaron and Allison Decker are happily married. They’re a great match. Life is good.

One December morning, as Allison heads out to a local shopping mall, she says to her husband, “come with me.” Aaron, feeling a little too comfortable lounging around, declines her offer.

That’s the last time he sees his wife.

Allison’s senseless death brings Aaron’s world crashing down around him. Overwhelmed with grief, he tries to take it one day at a time, but even basic things are taxing. He’s drowning.

Sifting through some of Allison’s belongings, Aaron discovers a motel receipt from North Carolina, paid in cash with Allison’s name on it.

They live in Maryland. He has no idea why she would have been at the motel for a two night stay; two nights that happen to coincide with a time Aaron was out of town on business. He’s sure Allison never told him she left home.

Aaron’s mind immediately goes to where yours may have when you read that last paragraph.

He wonders if Allison was possibly having an affair. Immediately he feels guilty. That couldn’t possibly be true. Allison wasn’t like that, was she?

The receipt gives Aaron something to focus on. He’s also insanely curious, thus he sets out on a journey to discover why Allison would have gone there. What exactly was she doing?

Y’all, I think this is my favorite book that I have read so far this year!!!

The more I think about, the more I appreciate just how incredibly well-crafted this story is.

Every moment of Aaron’s journey brings darker discoveries and new information that will ultimately lead him to the truth behind Allison’s secret life.

I was constantly floored by what was happening. The reveals, the connections, the red herrings; they just kept coming. Aaron becomes completely obsessed with his task, risking life and limb in order to solve it.

I love how Malfi beautifully wove together the exploration of grief, the supernatural and a tense and brutal mystery. Yes, it’s a legit mystery, which I had no idea when I started.

I had barely heard anything about this one, Malfi’s name is what made me pick it up and I’m so happy that I did.

I will be shouting from the rooftops about this for a long time to come. It’s incredible. Come With Me releases next Tuesday, July 20th, so make sure you add it to you TBR!

Thank you so, so much to the publisher, Titan Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to read it early and provide my thoughts.

All the stars in the universe!!!

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Review: The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

The Dead and the DarkThe Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Logan Ortiz-Woodley has been bouncing around the country most of her life. Her Dads are the stars of television’s most popular ghost-hunting show, ParaSpectors, and owing to this, she has traveled quite extensively with them filming.

When they tell her they need to return to the hometown they fled years ago, Snakebite, Oregon, she doesn’t think too much of it. Just another stop on the road for another episode.

What Logan wasn’t prepared for was the chilly reception the family would receive in Snakebite. The town seems to blame her Dad, Brandon, for unusual occurrences following his most recent visit.

Because of this, Logan and a group of local teens get off to a rough start. There’s been a lot of tension in the town since a popular boy, Tristan, went missing. In fact, on the day Logan arrives there is a vigil praying for Tristan’s safe return.

His girlfriend, Ashley Barton, hasn’t given up hope that Tristan will be found, although others aren’t so sure.

Disturbingly, Ashley begins to be plagued by visions of what appears to be Tristan’s ghost. Unsure what to do, she seeks help from the only person she can think of who may actually have knowledge of paranormal activity, Logan.

The girls begin a cautious friendship and start to investigate what is going on in Snakebite. As more teens disappear the stakes are raised, as is the creep factor.

In addition to all of this, Logan also learns a lot more about her Dads, their relationship and what caused them to leave Snakebite in the first place. She’s been desperate to learn more about them, as her relationship with her Dad, Brandon, has been particularly strained.

The Dead and the Dark is a darkly compelling YA Paranormal Thriller releasing Tuesday, August 3rd.

I really enjoyed diving into this story. There’s a lot of exploration of topics outside of the paranormal, such as family, sacrifice, grief, forgiveness, the idea of home being tied to people versus place and what it’s like to be different in a small town.

I listened to the audiobook and was completely transported to Snakebite. It’s that small town many of us grew up in. I felt like I had been there before and could recognize all the Town players.

For a debut, I was impressed with the flow of the story and the layers Gould was able to bring to the page. While the paranormal aspects, as well as the atmosphere, were a ton of fun, I think I enjoyed the family dynamic and character growth most of all.

If you enjoy Mysteries or Thrillers with a Paranormal twist, you absolutely need to be adding this title to your TBR!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies of this to read and review. I had a great time with it and cannot wait to see what Courtney Gould writes next!!!

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