Review: Ten by Gretchen McNeil

TenTen by Gretchen McNeil
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

On the ferry ride to Henry Island, best friends, Meg and Minnie, are mostly excited about the weekend ahead. A private house party with cute boys, booze and zero adult supervision. It’s bound to be a good time.

Meg does have her reservations though. She did have to lie to her parents in order to be there, meaning no one really knows where she is. This makes her nervous.

Minnie just wants to let loose and is hoping Meg will be able to relax enough to join her. They’re young, they’re momentarily free and it’s time to make some memories.

Once dropped off on the remote island, they discover their hostess isn’t even there yet; she’s stranded on the mainland.

Luckily, there is a group of teens there though, so they won’t be alone. The others have already settled in and are beginning to pregame. Meg and Minnie get their bags to their room and promptly join the fun.

There are some tense moments. It’s a mixed crew, but overall things are going okay. Then the inclement weather hits and things take a very sharp turn. Tempers flair and now it’s not as comfortable as it once was.

It’s the middle of the night when the first body is discovered. The teens have no way to contact the outside world because the weather has taken out the phone and wifi. They’re trapped on the island with a killer.

Will anyone survive the night?!

Ten is a good old fashioned Teen Scream that I am very happy I finally made time for. It wasn’t perfect and definitely reads a little dated, mental health wasn’t handled as well as it would be now, but overall, I had fun with it.

Another successful backlist bump!

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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 Unleashed (The Haunted #2) by Danielle Vega

The Unleashed (The Haunted, #2)The Unleashed by Danielle Vega
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

**Please note, as this is the second book in a series, some mild spoilers are contained in this review. Proceed with caution.**

After the devastating events of The Haunted, Hendricks and friends are trying to return to normal. Not an easy task with Eddie gone and Raven remaining in a coma.

Hendricks, Portia and Connor, received intense group therapy and in some ways, it did help. However, Hendricks is still having a really hard time letting go of Eddie.

In fact, she believes his spirit still remains in Drearfield and with the right method, perhaps she’ll be able to reach him.

She looks to Ileana for help. With Ileana’s guidance, they gather a circle of seven and perform a seance with the hopes of summoning forth Eddie’s spirit. The seance is of course performed on the grounds of Steele House.

Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t go as planned.

Soon thereafter, Hendricks begins to experience hauntings quite similar to before. However, they are no longer restricted to just being within her home. Now evil entities seem to be everywhere; no place is safe.

The high school itself seems to be a hotbed of activity, with ghost girls in the hall and phantom music being played.

With prom on the horizon, Hendricks has been spending extra time there, as she agreed to the join the planning committee with Portia.

When Portia becomes the victim of a supernatural attack, Hendricks knows they didn’t bring Eddie back. They brought back something else, and it’s angry.

They need to redo the ritual and hopefully send this malevolent spirit back from whence it came.

This was a strong continuation from the first book.

Personally, I was devastated by the ending of the first book and honestly, that pissy mood sort of carried over into this one. I missed my favorite character too much.

With that aside, I did enjoy this. The first half especially. I loved how the characters involved in the seance were willing to help Hendricks out, even though some of them thought she was bat shit crazy.

I also really enjoyed the horror imagery. Vega definitely excels at that.

It did start to lose my towards the end. There was a great scene, that as far as I am concerned, could have been the final scene, but it continued on.

After that point, I was sort of out of it. It went way over the top after that and took away a bit of the seriousness of the earlier parts of the story.

Overall, this is a solid Teen Scream duology and I am very happy that I read it.

I would definitely consider picking up future releases from this author!

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Review: The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones

The Last Final GirlThe Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

I am really torn on the rating for this. My heart says give it a 5, while my brain says, 4-stars is more accurate.

After contemplation, I’ve decided to slice it right down the middle for this ode to Teen Slashers.

I grew up watching all things Horror. I had two older siblings, who both enjoyed the genre, so I was exposed to it at such a young age. Honestly, I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t watching Horror movies.

From the years of being so freaked out by Poltergeist I couldn’t sleep in my own bedroom for 3-months, to watching The Gate on repeat because I had an 8-year old’s crush on Stephen Dorff, Horror movies have always been a positive part of my life.

In The Last Final Girl, Stephen Graham Jones brings the spirit of all that is great in Slasher Horror to the page.

The format of this story is unconventional, to say the least. It’s written in the style of a screenplay, with the narrator setting our scenes and describing characters actions, the POVs switch quickly and often, and there is a lot of rapid fire dialogue.

You really need to pay attention if you want to catch it all!

I listened to the audiobook and thought the narrator did a phenomenal job. I had a huge grin on my face the entire time.

I loved what SGJ did here. It was like he made a list of all things important to that genre, including movie names, characters, actors within those movies, fictional towns, tropes, themes, the well-known rules of Horror and then connected them all with an actual coherent story.

It was amazing and so fun. I could picture every scene because it was like I had seen it all before. The river, the discarded Halloween masks, the mysterious figure standing in the corn, characters like Lindsay, Izzy and Crystal, the scenes at the high school, the final showdown; I loved it all!

I would definitely recommend the audiobook if you are interested in this one. Having read some other reviews, it doesn’t sound like people who read the hard copy had quite the same experience with this that I did.

SGJ definitely took a risk with this one; it’s really for a niche market of die hard fans of this type of movie. If you are, as it appears SGJ is, a student, if you will, of the genre, this is an absolute delight.

Every reference had me giddy and there are a lot. I love SGJ’s edgy style and always appreciate his nods to the classics. I will continue to pick up his work. This was certainly a fun ride for me!

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Review: Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards

Five Total StrangersFive Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Mira lives in California, while her mother lives in Pittsburgh. It’s Christmas and Mira wants nothing more than to be over on the other Coast with her Mom.

Last year, her Aunt, her Mom’s sister and closest friend, passed away. They both took it hard, but her Mom really struggled.

Mira is concerned about her mother’s mental health as she tries to cope with that loss around the holiday.

So, when her connecting flight from New York to Pittsburgh gets canceled due to inclement weather, Mira needs to find another way to get home to her.

Luckily, the girl she was sitting next to on the plane, Harper, is renting a car, along with three of her college friends, Brecken, Josh and Kayla.

There is room and they are heading in the same direction, so Harper offers Mira a ride. It would sure beat any of the other options, like sleeping at the airport.

Mira accepts, but she has her reservations. She doesn’t know these people at all.

As they hit the road, the weather gets progressively worse. They see a lot of accidents and even have a few close calls themselves. As you can imagine, the stress level in the car is ratcheting up.

They’re now at each other’s throats and it’s not pretty.

Anything that could possibly go wrong, does for this group. Conditions get to the point where they are barely able to drive at all.

They make a few pit stops and yep, you guessed it, those don’t go well either!

I had fun with this one, y’all. Richards did a great job or bringing your typical Teen Scream to the page.

The cast of characters played well off of one another and it definitely kept me guessing. There’s some uncertainty as to what people’s motives are and I enjoyed that element a lot.

The suspense continues to build throughout the story. Items start to disappear from the car and it feels threatening rather than accidental.

Although there were some plot holes, and I wasn’t sold on the ending, I did have fun with it. I think if you don’t take it too seriously, it’s quite an enjoyable read.

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

Blizzard Scares are some of my favorite scares, so I am definitely happy that I had the opportunity to read this one. It’s perfect for this time of year!!

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