Review: I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall

I Am Still AliveI Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Alternating between After and Before sections, I Am Still Alive follows teenager, Jess, who has moved to Canada to live with her estranged, off-the-grid, father.

Battered, bruised and grieving, Jess has recently survived a car crash in which her mother was killed.

Like losing your mom isn’t hard enough. Like losing the strength in your own body isn’t hard enough. Now Jess has to leave the only life she has ever known behind and move to the wilderness to live with a virtual stranger.

Y’all, you can tell from the very start that this story is going to take you places. Those places aren’t going to be great, but what is great is the writing, pacing and format of this YA Survival Thriller.

After a shocking event, which is revealed slowly over the course of the story, Jess ends up alone.

The cabin where she had been living burned to the ground, leaving her, her dog Bo and a few meager supplies to try to survive on their own.

Jess is still in a lot of pain from her accident. Her muscles have atrophied in one leg fairly severely; as in, she was in therapy training herself to walk again prior to moving to the wilderness.

Because of this, even small tasks are literally exhausting for her. Her physical limitations present mental challenges as well. She truly must learn to listen to her body in order to push through.

This is a true survival story. Marshall does not shy away from pain, hunger, thirst, desperation and anguish. It is all on page and at times is agonizing to read.

There’s also some fairly painful issues involving family, guilt and grief. All handled extraordinarily well.

Reminiscent of Hatchet, the first survival story I ever loved, I really enjoyed reading this. I really enjoyed reading it, even though it tore my heart out and I legit cried like a baby at the end.

This is not a comfortable read, but it’s definitely a challenging, thought-provoking, adventurous read; not for the faint of heart.

I will absolutely be reading more from this author!

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Review: The Extraordinaires (The Extraordinaires #1) by T.J. Klune

The Extraordinaries (The Extraordinaries, #1)The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

The Extraordinaries brought an explosion of quick wit and good humor. Oh, and also Queer Superheroes and relatable fandom vibes.

Need I say more?

Set in the fictional landscape of Nova City, superheroes are very real. They’re called Extraordinaries and swoop in to save the city just as you would expect them to do.

Also, as you would expect, there are people who are obsessed with them and their own unique celebrity. Fangirls and fanboys alike swoon over their power and abilities.

Nick Bell is a regular teen in Nova City, who also happens to be the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom.

His biggest crush, Shadow Star, is currently one of the active Extraordinaries in the city. Frequently battling his archnemesis, Pyro Storm, the two sometimes leave destruction in their wakes.

Nick is invested in every minute of it.

The story follows Nick and his absolutely phenomenal friend group, as he sets his sights on a relationship with Shadow Star, even if that means he’ll need to become Extraordinary.

Y’all, the writing of this story is incredibly strong.


It’s so rapid fire and intelligent.

The dialogue amongst characters will definitely keep you on your toes. The main character, Nick, suffers from fairly severe ADHD, and in a way, the narrative seemed to reflect that.

I’m not sure if I am explaining that correctly, but it seemed as if the narrative accurately portrayed how Nick would have been experiencing, or reacting, to what was going on around him.

It felt extremely real, even though a lot of the storyline was actually rooted in unreality.

Overall, I was really, really in awe of how this story unfolded.

I loved all of the characters, the nod to classic superhero story arcs, the serious real world issues that were addressed; it was all quite impressive.

I definitely intend to carry on with this series, if there are more books planned. The characters were very easy relate to; so much so, you’ll want to be part of their friend group.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Teen, for providing me a copy of this to read and review. I was so impressed with T.J. Klune. I cannot wait to pick up more of their work!

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Review: In the Hall With the Knife by Diana Peterfreund

In the Hall with the Knife (Clue Mystery, #1)In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

In the Hall with the Knife was so much fun and the exact vibe I was hoping for.

This story brought all of the Clue movie over-the-top drama and I was living for it.

I decided to pick up this novel over Halloween week. I had no idea how perfect that choice would end up being.

Set at a posh boarding school, Blackbrook Academy, on the coast of Maine, this story follows multiple perspectives including Peacock, Green, Mustard, Scarlet and Mrs. White.

When a winter storm hits, the academy’s access to the mainland gets cut off, stranding a hand full of students, the headmaster and a couple of other school employees.

They corral everyone into Tudor House, which seems to be a highpoint and therefore escaped major flooding and damage.

The manse generally acts as a girls boarding house, with Mrs. White at its head, but they manage to find room for everyone.

The house includes all of the stately charm you would anticipate with hardwoods, stained glass, and rooms such as the lounge, billiard room and conservatory. Oh, and secret passageways, don’t forget the secret passageways.

When on the first night, the headmaster ends up dead, our intrepid characters are left to figure out what happened.

Some suggest an accident, other suggest suicide, but very quickly it is clear that it was murder.

I had a ton of fun reading this. It was campy, it was ridiculous and I thought it was a blast.

I think if you go into it with the right mindset, you will have fun with it to. It is definitely not a story to take too seriously.

I’m actually really excited to pick up the next installment. This one left off at an interesting and sinister spot.

I want more!!!

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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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Review: Straight On Till Morning (Twisted Tales) by Liz Braswell

Straight On Till MorningStraight On Till Morning by Liz Braswell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Meg’s current ratings for the Twisted Tales series:

1. Reflection (Mulan): 4-stars
2. As Old As Time (Beauty & the Beast): 3.5-stars rounded up
3. Straight on Till Morning (Peter Pan): 3.5-stars rounded up
4. Mirror, Mirror (Snow White): 3.5-stars rounded up
5. Unbirthday (Alice in Wonderland): 3.5-stars
6. Conceal, Don’t Feel (Frozen): 3.5-stars
7. A Whole New World (Aladdin): 3-stars
8. Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid): 2-stars

In this twisted version of Peter Pan, we follow Wendy Darling, who though she has written many stories of Peter Pan and his escapades with the Lost Boys, she has never actually met him or been to Neverland.

However, Peter has sat many a night outside of the window to the nursery, listening to Wendy’s stories. On one such night, he accidentally leaves behind his shadow.

Wendy keeps his shadow, tucking it away in a drawer, and when she stumbles upon Captain Hook, she uses it as a bargaining chip to gain passage upon the Jolly Roger on a voyage to Neverland.

Unsurprisingly, Hook has more sinister plans in mind than he lets on to Wendy, however, and now Neverland’s entire existence is in jeopardy.

Upon discovering Hook’s true intentions, Wendy must work with a tiny and surprising ally, Tinkerbell, in order to correct her mistake.

What was she thinking trusting a pirate!?

Overall, I enjoyed this installment. There were some spots that felt a little slow, but mostly it kept me quite entertained.

I really loved the development of Wendy’s character. She is 16-years old here, on the cusp of adulthood, dealing with her parent’s expectations.

She’s not ready to enter womanhood in the way they would like her too. She finds it unnerving.

Her romp through Neverland is her last ditch effort to hold onto the carefree time of her youth.

If fact, that theme arises a lot, with Captain Hook also struggling with his lost boyhood.

In addition to the exploration of the shift your life can take as you grow older, I also enjoyed the evolution of the relationship between Wendy and Tinkerbell.

Tink and Wendy’s relationship, as we know it, was often steeped in jealousy and petty acts of sabotage.

While that is how it begins here as well, we also see the two of them growing to understand and ultimately, even care for one other. I thought that growth was very well executed by Braswell.

For fans of Peter Pan, I think this will be a lovely take on the original. It’s definitely worth at least picking it up and giving it a shot.

As always, I am looking forward to seeing what stories Disney chooses to twist next!!!

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Review: The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

The Court of Miracles (Court of Miracles, #1)The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Set in the tumultuous time of 1828 Paris, after the Revolution has failed, the city is divided into the royal court, and nine criminal guilds.

Our protagonist, Nina ThĆ©nardier, is a young member of the Thieves Guild. Nina is a skilled thief, who has spent her life flying under everyone’s radar.

After her abusive father sells her older sister to the Master of Flesh, the Tiger, Nina desperately wants to save her, but never gets the opportunity.

While living on the streets, Nina gains a new sister, a sister of choice, little and beautiful, Ettie.

Unfortunately, Ettie is such a pretty girl, that she becomes dangerous to be around, for the Tiger has set his sights on her as well.

Nina then dedicates the majority of her time to keeping Ettie out of the monster’s hands. She has to get creative and make some unsavory allies, but she is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the young girl safe.

The Court of Miracles is a fast-paced romp through a fantastical and historical Paris.

The backdrop was dirt, grim, danger and intrigue. Nina’s world is definitely a dangerous one, but she throws herself full force into the game of the underground.

Although Nina seems extremely bold, I think it was more that she had nothing to lose. Ettie was literally her only connection in the entire world.

While many aspects of this were interesting, there was something about the flow that was off for me.

I felt like the structure was: set scene, problem, resolution, next scene, problem, resolution, next scene. It just had a choppy quality to it, in my opinion.

I’m probably not explaining this correctly, but to me, it lacked a smooth narrative flow.

In addition to that, I didn’t have a good hold over time in this story. When it started, Nina was very, very young, but at the end, she’s not.

There was one point where I think a couple of years had passed, but it wasn’t entirely clear. I felt like time was progressing along rapidly, but I had no idea how much time between different sections. Maybe I was missing something on my ARC?

I think it is important to point out that I have never read Les Miserables, or watched any movie or television adaptations. Therefore, I cannot comment on this story as a reimagining of that tale.

There were moments where I felt like I had no idea what was going on. I wonder if I would have gotten a lot more out of it if I had read the original source material?

Overall, I did think this was a fun story. I enjoyed very much the different criminal guilds and the dynamics between them. I found that extremely interesting.

I would absolutely consider picking up the next book in the series. I’m not sure where this story can go from here, but Kester Grant is clearly very imaginative, so I trust they’ll figure it out.

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

I had a lot of fun with it!

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Review: The Light Between Worlds

The Light Between WorldsThe Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Light Between Worlds is a much more complicated story than I anticipated. There’s a lot to unpack here.

If you’re expecting a light YA portal Fantasy, you’re wrong. This is a deep dive into codependency, mental health, guilt and trauma.

Broken into two distinct sections, this book follows sisters, Evelyn and Phillipa, and their complex, codependent relationship.

During WWII, the girls, along with their brother, Jamie, cowered in a London bomb shelter during a ferocious air raid. Somehow, whilst there, they are able to flee the shelter through a portal into a fantasy world known as the Woodlands.

They remain in this new world for five years, living amongst the creatures of myth and legend.

Ultimately they return to their world, where no time has passed at all. Jamie and Phillipa are ready to be back, but Evelyn, whose heart belongs to the Woodlands, finds it close to impossible to adjust.

Every day is a struggle for her. All she wants is to return to the Woodlands, which she considers her true home.

The first half of the book follows Evelyn’s perspective exclusively. We get present day portions, as well as various flashbacks to the children’s time in the Woodlands.

Through Evelyn, we learn more about her sister, Phillipa, who has since moved to America for University.

Evelyn is clearly struggling with Phillipa’s departure. She’s like a boat set adrift. She spends a lot of her time at her private school, Saint Agatha’s, exploring the woods on her own, hoping to find the portal to return to the Woodlands.

During Evelyn’s portion of the book, I developed one opinion on who Phillipa was as a character. I had the impression that Phillipa would be meek and mild, that she was scared to live in the Woodlands and that by going to America, she was running away.

Then the second half of the book is told solely from Phillipa’s point of view. It was a true perspective shift indeed.

It quite took me by surprise. What I thought I knew was flipped on its head.

The first half of the book seems choppy and random, although beautifully written, I found it a little disjointed and confusing. However, upon reflection, I believe that was intentional to set up the state of Evelyn’s mental health.

As we meet Phillipa, we discover she is bold and steady. Not at all how I expected. Evelyn is the one who is scared. She is afraid to live in the real world, where she suffered so much trauma, and was actually escaping into the fantastical world of theĀ Woodlands.

When Phillipa receives a call from her brother, Jamie, she knows it is not going to be good news. She has been so worried about Evelyn, having cut herself off from her, and indeed, the news does concern her sister.

It appears Evelyn has gone missing and Phillipa must return to aid in the search.

Y’all this is a heart-breaking story. Once it starts to evolve, it’s so compelling. I couldn’t put this down once I figured out where it was going and what it was really about.

Please read the content warnings at the bottom of the synopsis before you pick this up. It certainly was much deeper, and more intricate, than I ever would have guessed in regards to trauma, PTSD, depression, and suicidal ideation.

I felt the relationship between Evelyn and Phillipa was incredibly crafted. Their codependent relationship was one of the best I have ever read. It definitely reminded me mildly of The Wicker King. If you enjoyed that book, you would probably also really enjoy this.

This is one of those books that the longer I sit with it, the more I gain an appreciation for how well-written it actually is. Weymouth made some very clever choices with how she told this story.

The Light Between Worlds is so much more than your run of the mill, YA Fantasy, so if you like stories with a bit of depth and real world bite to them, you should absolutely give this one a go.

Just keep in mind, though the writing is beautiful, this story is very heavy. Be prepared.

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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: Unbirthday (A Twisted Tale) by Liz Braswell

UnbirthdayUnbirthday by Liz Braswell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Meg’s current ratings for The Twisted Tales series:

1. Reflection (Mulan): 4-stars
2. As Old As Time (Beauty & the Beast): 3.5-stars rounded up
3. Mirror, Mirror (Snow White): 3.5-stars rounded up
4. Unbirthday (Alice in Wonderland): 3.5-stars
5. Conceal, Don’t Feel (Frozen): 3.5-stars
6. A Whole New World (Aladdin): 3-stars
7. Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid): 2-stars

We all know the story of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, but what happened after?

In this installment of Disney’s popular Twisted Tales series, Liz Braswell examines just that.

Alice is now 18-years old and it has been many years since her last trip to Wonderland. In fact, it has been so long that the memories are starting to fade.

There are times when she wonders if it was even real and just the vivid dreams of a little girl with an overactive imagination.

Living with her parents and her slightly overbearing sister, Alice’s favorite past time is now photography.

She has a wonderful camera and wanders all over taking candids of various people and places.

When characters she met in Wonderland start magically appearing in the photos she develops, she can’t help but feel they are trying to get a message to her.

After more and more images come up, it’s clear, they need her help. Wonderland is in trouble and Alice is the only one who can save them.

Finding her way back to Wonderland is tricky, but she eventually succeeds and is able to reunite with old friends.

It appears the Queen of Hearts is more out of control than ever, continuing her reign of terror and executing Wonderland’s citizens seemingly for her own pleasure.

Does Alice have what it takes to defeat her once and for all?

Young Alice may have been afraid, but as an 18-year old, Alice is stronger and more willful than ever. You’ll have to pick it up to find out!

This novel is definitely an interesting one. It felt very different than the other books in the series; heavier in a way.

It follows Alice after her time in Wonderland, so there is no twist per se, to the original tale. It’s more of a follow-up, in my opinion.

A large chunk of the story follows Alice in our world with her interactions with her sister, parents and potential suitors.

There is also a large political element, as Alice’s sister is involved in local politics and tries to drag Alice along even if she is not as interested, or has conflicting opinions.

There was quite a bit of social commentary on nationalism and discrimination against minority groups and immigrant populations.

These are definitely important topics to explore in literature, but I must admit I was surprised to see it here in such depth.

I have read six other books in this series and this is the only one that I can recall having that type of narrative element. Normally, I am all for incorporating such discussions, but part of me feels like it was out of place in this story. It sort of made it feel disjointed for me.

The reason I say this is that when picking this up, I was expecting a magical jaunt through a nonsense world, spending time with some characters I know and love.

While I did get that, the story switched back and forth between the adventure in Wonderland to a very serious, more modern world, where the pace was slowed down quite precipitously. It made the book seem like it was too long.

With this small critique out of the way, overall, I did enjoy Unbirthday. It was nice to be back with Alice and the whole gang.

If you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland, you should definitely pick this up and give it a shot!

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

I absolutely adore this series and will continue to pick them up for as long as they are released!

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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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