Review: Never Coming Home by Kate Williams

Never Coming HomeNever Coming Home by Kate Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Unknown Island made its presence known via social media, it hit hard. An isolated, luxurious island vacation destination where young people, of a certain caliber and follower count, will get to stay free for a week at a time.

The claim is that an angel investor is funding the exclusive destination as a way for the best young minds to come together and share ideas. It’s invite only and no one over 21-years old will be included.

The initial marketing push is strong and everyone wants to be involved. If they can’t go in person, they’ll be watching it unfold via social media.

Who wouldn’t want a free vacation that the whole world is watching? The potential for publicity is off the charts. For some young influencers, this could be the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s so good, they can taste it.

After the First Ten are selected, the chosen ones slowly and complicatedly make their way to the remote island location.

Once they arrive, they quickly discover something is off. The scene they find is not what the promotional materials advertised. What the heck is going on?!

It’s soon exposed that these fresh-faced travelers weren’t invited to Unknown Island because of their individual follower counts. They were invited for the terrible secrets they hold. Someone knows and is looking to expose them.

Worse than that, it seems whoever is behind Unknown Island is hellbent on revenge. Will any of them be able to make it home alive?

I really like what Williams did with Never Coming Home. She gave me a classic-feeling mysterious slasher set on an abandoned island with a plucky group of diverse and unlikable characters.

That’s exactly the vibe I wanted going in and it’s exactly what I got. There were a few places when it dragged a little for me, but overall it’s a super fun Summer Chiller!

In addition to the fabulous horror elements, I enjoyed the underlining modern themes running through this one. It’s social media taken to the extreme, but it was interesting to think about.

Of course I couldn’t help but think of Fyre Festival with the set-up of this one. It definitely gives off that same sort of skeevy feeling. These poor kids was what I was initially thinking, but once the bodies started dropping, I stopped caring as much.

Williams kills were creative and a few definitely left me picking my chin up off the ground. She held nothing back!

This is the perfect quick read for a Summer Scare. I would definitely recommend it to people who love a good old fashion slasher. It checked all those boxes for me.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I had a lot of fun with this one and hope that Williams continues in this lane with her future work!

View all my reviews

Review: #Murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil

#Murdertrending (MurderTrending, #1)#Murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Gretchen McNeil’s futuristic YA Dystopian novel #Murdertrending drops you straight into a world where the federal government has privatized part of the prison system.

After that decision was made the Postman app was launched.

Essentially the app turns capital punishment into a lucrative business by broadcasting death row as the ultimate reality show. Survivor has nothing on this, trust.

In addition to following the inmates, viewers can also follow their favorite executioners, collectively known as the Painiacs. There’s fandoms involved. It’s a whole thing.

The executions are also broadcast, with each executioner coming up with their own creatively brutally ways of taking someone out.

We follow Dee, who after being convicted of killing her step-sister is sent to Alcatraz 2.0, the most famous prison island, to serve out the last of her term. She is set to be executed, but you never know when it will happen.

That’s half the fun, am I right?

The inmates in Alcatraz 2.0 live fairly freely on the island itself. They have jobs and can socialize with one another. Because of this, Dee ends up making some friends.

The friend group is dubbed DRBC, the Death Row Breakfast Club, through social media. Since they all claim to have been wrongfully convicted, they desire to uncover the truth behind Alcatraz 2.0.

But what is the truth?

#Murdertrending is a unique and interesting read. I enjoyed the themes explored regarding the criminal justice system and social media’s effect on society.

It did take me a wee bit to get my bearings with this one because you are literally plopped down in the middle of Dee’s world. I just had to relax into it and trust that McNeil would ultimately reveal everything I needed to know about the world and she did.

I enjoyed learning about the inmates and executioners. The executioners all had special names that reminded me of the type of punny names people use in roller derby, which added to the air of over-the-topness. It was fun.

I also enjoyed the mystery surrounding the Postman app. You can tell there is some sort of conspiracy happening, but how far does it reach? I tend to enjoy evil corporation vibes and this one definitely channeled that.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t crazy about the final reveals. I really wish it had gone in another direction, but that is simply personal taste.

With this being said, even though it lost me a bit in the end, I am so happy that I finally made time for this one. I don’t think that I will be continuing on with this series, but am still happy to have read this one.

Thank you to the publisher, Freeform, who actually provided me of a copy to read and review back in 2018. My apologies for not getting to it before now. I should have because honestly, I had a lot of fun with it!

View all my reviews

Review: Only a Monster (Monsters #1) by Vanessa Len

Only a Monster (Monsters, #1)Only a Monster by Vanessa Len
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Only a Monster is an engaging start to an all-new YA SFF trilogy. Admittedly, the first thing to attract my attention to this book was the gorgeous cover.

I’ve definitely fallen victim to the infamous cover buy on more than one occasion. Sometimes that works out and other times, not so much. I am happy to report, in this case, the content is just as fun as the cover.

This story follows 16-year old, Joan, who recently moved to London to live with her late-mother’s family, which includes an eccentric Grandmother and cousins.

Joan has secured a job she likes and has even managed to make a few friends. One of those friends is a handsome boy, Nick, who she happens to work with. When Nick asks Joan out on a date she’s so excited and nervous.

She’s been crushing on him for a while, so is elated that her feelings may be reciprocated.

As the date approaches, however, a wild and crazy thing happens to Joan, causing her to miss her date. That’s devastating, but worse than that, this event reveals the secret truth surrounding her family.

They’re monsters with hidden powers.

Part of their power is the ability to travel through time, which really throws Joan for a loop. It’s hard to wrap your mind around something like that out of nowhere.

Joan’s Grandmother had mentioned before that they were monsters, but Joan never took that seriously. She can’t believe it. Her world has been flipped upside down.

As the plot escalates, Joan finds herself under attack from a monster hunter, who happens to be the cute guy, Nick. Just her luck, am I right?

Joan is forced to pair up with Aaron, a boy from a rival monster family, to try to stop Nick and avenge their families.

I really enjoyed the world Len created here and am excited to see this narrative expanded upon in the next book. It was fast paced and ended up drawing me in a lot quicker than I anticipated.

I found the monster aspect of her family fascinating. They are never given a specific name, they are simply called monsters throughout, and I liked that obscurity.

Once you put a label on something, like zombie, werewolf or vampire, you put certain parameters around what those monsters can do. We all know what those creatures are supposed to be like, so to me it made sense for Len to write Joan’s family the way she did.

If I had to compare them to anything, I would say vampires would be the closest, but using time versus blood. If you’ve read Doctor Sleep this won’t be a foreign concept to you.

I did think the time travel element was done well. It was very interesting. There’s a lot covered in this book and I think it was a good foundation.

I definitely think there is still a lot of room to grow with this story and I am looking forward to seeing where Len goes with it.

I would recommend this to YA Readers, particularly if you like time travel, or a darker tone to your stories.

View all my reviews

Review: See You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon

See You YesterdaySee You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Barrett Bloom has really been looking forward to college. Her last year in high school was rough after an expose she wrote for their newspaper exposed a scandal involving the very popular tennis team.

Needless to say, her peers were not kind in the aftermath. Barrett is craving a fresh start and a new opportunity for journalism at the college paper.

Unfortunately, September 21st, Barrett’s first official day of college is an absolute disaster.

First, she gets an unexpected roommate who just so happens to be her high school nemesis. Then she gets embarrassed by another student, some cute jerk, in her Physics 101 class.

Next, she flops her interview for the newspaper. If she thought things couldn’t get worse however, she was wrong as that evening she sets fire to a fraternity house.

Finally, topping the day off, her roommate locks her out of her dorm room forcing Barrett to sleep on a couch in the dorm common room.

Barrett is horrified, mortified and mystified. This was not how she envisioned her first day going.

She still hasn’t chalked it up as a complete loss. There’s a lot of the school year left.

She can turn this thing around, right? She can. It’s fine.

The next morning, Barrett is surprised when she wakes up in her bed and gets introduced to her new, ex-high school nemesis roommate…again!!

What the heck is going on here?! Checking the date, Barrett is floored. It is September 21st; the most horrible day she just lived through mere hours ago.

The stream of events from the day prior are happening just as she knows they will. This time though, after her confrontation with the jerk from Physics 101, Barrett finds out he has been stuck in a time loop as well.

For months.

She’s scared, I mean obviously this would be terrifying, but Barrett is comforted a bit by the fact she now has someone she can talk to about it.

Even if it’s Miles. Frankly, he can be infuriating. Over time though, as the two work together to try to solve their predicament, they begin to soften towards one another.

Y’all. Y’all, y’all, y’all. Rachel Lynn Solomon is a gift to the world. This one seals the deal.

How the heck is she doing this?! She’s cranking out book after book, like it’s nothing and they’re all unique, heart-warming, thought-provoking, funny, relatable and swoon-worthy. I am in absolute awe.

See You Yesterday was completely engaging from the very start. Barrett is such a likable character. She’s been through some things and she not shy about working through them with the Reader.

I liked how relatable she was. I think a lot of us have probably been through similar things and taken similar blows to the ego that Barrett has. It helped me to connect with her and ultimately to become fully invested in her journey.

Additionally, Miles was such a fantastic love interest. He was smart, funny and quite interesting. He also wasn’t scared to be vulnerable around Barrett. I’ll admit to swooning over him a bit.

Their banter back in forth gave me life while I was reading this. I loved them as a pair. The perfect mix or personality characteristics. It was super sweet.

The nerdy time loop vibes were such a welcome change of pace for a YA Romantic Comedy. I need more of this.

Rachel Lynn Solomon is an absolute go-to author for me. She can do no wrong in my eyes. If you haven’t read any of her work yet, this would be a great place to start. I feel like it’s a perfect example of her style.

Thank you to the publisher, Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I absolutely adored this and cannot wait for more from RLS!!

View all my reviews

Review: Steelstriker (Skyhunter #2) by Marie Lu

Steelstriker (Skyhunter, #2)Steelstriker by Marie Lu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Steelstriker is book two in Marie Lu’s Skyhunter duology.

I really enjoyed my time reading the first book, learning about the world and being introduced to the characters, so in comparison to that, this one felt a bit lackluster to me.

As this is the second book, there may be details within this review that seem like spoilers to some. I will not include anything that you couldn’t find in the publisher’s synopsis, but regardless, I just want to put the warning out there.

Turn back now if you want to know nothing regarding the end of the first book…

Assuming we have narrowed it down to the people who aren’t afraid to know…after the concluding scenes of book one, Mara has fallen. The last outpost to hold out from Karensa’s control is no longer.

With her friends gone and her mother captured by the Premier, Talin has no choice but to serve him and the Karensa Federation. It goes against everything she believes and holds dear, but with her mother’s life on the line, Talin is more than willing to bend.

Using the same process they used to turn Red, the Federation transforms Talin into their newest Skyhunter; the most dangerous weapons around.

From afar, Red is trying to make contact with Talin via their telepathic connection. He’s no stranger to the tortures of the Federation, so he hates to think about what she may be going through on her own in the Skyhunter labs. Thus, he constantly tries to make his presence known.

Will Red and Talin be able to reunite and combine their powers to save Talin’s mom, as well as countless others before it’s too late?

As mentioned above, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first book. It’s certainly not the writing. Lu’s writing is flawless always.

To me, I think a lot of the joy and excitement for me with the first book was just learning about the world and characters. Learning how the world got to the point where Mara was the last nation outside of the Federation’s control.

Also, how Talin and her mother ended up in Mara, as well as learning about the Striker Force versus the Federation’s Ghosts.

Watching Talin’s relationship with Red grow was fun as well. So in this novel, with Talin on her own for the majority of the book, I felt it was lacking those deep character interactions I had enjoyed so much in the first.

Additionally, maybe I wasn’t paying as close attention, but I didn’t feel like I learned that much more about the world in this one. It could be that I wasn’t as interested so my mind was wandering a bit.

Either way, while this is still a good book, a solid conclusion to a duology, it didn’t blow my hair back like Skyhunter did.

Have no fear though, I will continue to pick up everything Marie Lu writes.

View all my reviews

Review: Alone Out Here by Riley Redgate

Alone Out HereAlone Out Here by Riley Redgate
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I always feel like I need to provide a disclaimer when I write a 3-star review. I definitely feel like that is the case with Alone Out Here.

If you see 3-stars and think that I didn’t like this, let me assure you, that’s not the case. This is a good book and I can appreciate what Redgate created here.

I know there are a lot of Readers out there that are going to adore this thoughtful-YA SF tale.

In 2072, moments before a volcanic eruption that is predicted to be an extinction event hits, several teens on a tour of a high-tech spaceship, the Lazarus, are able to escape the planet just in time.

The world’s greatest minds have been working on this issue for a while. Knowing that someday their only chance of survival would be to flee Earth. The Lazarus was just a prototype for the vast fleet they were ultimately planning to build and utilize.

Leigh Chen, first-daughter of the United States, is one of the lucky few to be aboard the Lazarus as it launches.

As the reality of their situation sets in, the teens begin to take stock of what they have. With 53-individuals aboard the vessel, they are going to need to ration their supplies.

In addition to that, and really more importantly, they need to decide on a game plan. Where are they going? How will they run this ship? This wasn’t supposed to happen. There were supposed to be Adults on board, professionals, who knew what they were doing.

This was originally pitched to me as Lord of the Flies set in space and I would definitely agree with that comparison.

As the situation really begins to set in for the teens, tensions rise. Certain characters stand out as leaders, some driven it seems mostly by power, but some for other reasons. There’s definitely a lot of thought-provoking content included here.

I was constantly wondering how I would handle certain situations the teens were facing. Would I stand out as a leader, or try to remain more in the background? How would I handle the stress of losing literally everything all at once?

The tone of this novel is definitely heavy. I think with a lot of YA-SF stories, there’s quite a bit of humor and snarky dialogue woven throughout. That’s definitely not the case here. This is a serious story and in a sense, it felt a bit depressing for me.

There’s also not a ton happening. I mean there is, but it doesn’t feel like it. I would say it is more character-focused, but I had a hard time remembering any of the characters and couldn’t tell them apart most of the time.

They all seemed interchangeable to me, except Leigh.

I appreciate the themes explored and the thought that Redgate put into it, but besides trying to picture myself living through something like this, I was really never engaged by the narrative.

I never felt invested and frankly, I’m glad, because the ending may have disappointed me if I had been more invested in these characters.

Regardless of all of that, even though I wasn’t completely sold on this one, I know a lot of people will love it. So, don’t take my word for it. If the synopsis sounds interesting to you, pick it up and give it a go. You may love it!

Thank you to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback.

View all my reviews

Review: Rise of the Snake Goddess (Samantha Knox #2) by Jenny Elder Moke

Rise of the Snake Goddess (Samantha Knox, #2)Rise of the Snake Goddess by Jenny Elder Moke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Samantha Knox and friends are back and they’re going on another 1920’s antiquities-filled adventure, this time to Crete off the coast of Greece.

After the near death drama of the first book, Curse of the Specter Queen, Sam, Bennett and Jo headed back to their normal lives. Sam and Jo now joining Bennett at college.

Sam has been looking forward to possibly being involved in a field expedition to Crete lead by her Archaeology Professor. Unfortunately, the Professor has other opinions and Sam is ultimately excluded from participating.

She’s definitely disappointed, but have no fear, you know Sam is going to get all up in it nonetheless.

After Sam, Bennett and Jo discover a letter asking for help with an ancient artifact, as luck would have it, located in Crete, the trio packs their bags and heads out.

Sam will prove to her sexist Professor one way or another that she is worthy of her position in school. As a matter of fact, she just may be the most valuable student he has.

Following a series of clues, Sam ends up discovering the artifact in question, the golden girdle of the Snake Goddess, buried deep in a tomb. Taking the girdle and proclaiming her find is not going to be easy though.

In fact, dangerous incidents begin occurring almost immediately upon the object’s retrieval. It’s even stolen from Sam and she needs to get it back; to protect it and its legacy.

The Snake Goddess has awakened and she’s not happy.

I’m happy to report there’s no second book syndrome here!

I actually enjoyed this more than the first book. To me it felt faster in pace and the writing has definitely improved. Overall, a good showing by Elder Moke.

In this installment, I felt like I got to know Sam’s character a lot more. Her motivations, aspirations and her steadfast dedication to her education and tasks.

Jo again brought such humor. I love her as a best friend and sidekick. Bennett frustrated me a little bit in this one, but I still like the idea of his relationship with Sam. I also like how their romance doesn’t overshadow the other plot points.

I also enjoyed the themes of women’s rights and power that Elder Moke brought to this story. The Snake Goddess was the perfect device for allowing that conversation to be had naturally.

I loved the growth Sam displayed in this one as well. She’s not a scared, uncertain little girl any more. She’s a woman truly coming into her own and I’m here for it.

I really hope we get to go on further adventures with Sam and her friends. I’m not sure how long this series is slated to be, but I’m truly hoping for more.

Thank you to the publisher, Disney Books and Disney Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I really enjoyed this one!

View all my reviews

Review: Together We Burn by Isabel Ibañez

Together We BurnTogether We Burn by Isabel Ibañez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is the daughter of famous parents. Her mother was the most cherished flamenco dancer in Hispalia prior to her death and her father is the most celebrated Dragonador.

For a time, the family seemed to have it all. Their own arena, their own dragons and flocks of adoring spectators arriving for all of their shows.

After the tragic death of her mother, however, things begin to spiral for the Zalvidars, made worse after another tragedy strikes during their 500th-anniversary show.

Zarela’s father is seriously injured during the incident, as well as many others, and since it involved some of the Zalvidar’s dragons, the family is being blamed.

Now they face punishment from the Dragon Guild and could potentially lose their ancestral home, as well as their livelihood.

Zarela must keep the arena running on her own. She has to keep money coming in. In order to do so, she decides she needs to take her father’s place in the ring. She needs to become a Dragonador.

To prepare herself for the ring though, she’ll need training, and more dragons. Therefore, she ends up reaching out to dragon hunter, Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, to basically beg him for his help.

While at first Arturo turns Zarela away, she is determined and not taking no for an answer. Ultimately, after an amazing show of will, he’s impressed by her stubbornness. It’s clear she’s not leaving without a yes.

Arturo agrees to help and along with two dragons, they return to Zarela’s home to train and prepare for the show.

During all of this, Zarela also has suspicions that the tragedies involving her family and their shows haven’t been accidents. She thinks someone is purposefully trying to bring them down and she means to get to the bottom of it.

Sweeping through this intricate and wonderfully-developed world, Together We Burn had me completely entranced from start-to-finish!

I absolutely adored this. It’s not a very complicated story, but what’s here is beautifully done.

It’s a story of family, tradition, legacy and a new generations forging their own path while simultaneously paying tribute to those who came before.


I found the world to be extremely creative. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it. The whole concept of the dragon fights, that practice, the similarities to traditional bullfighting, was very interesting to read about.

I liked that Ibañez gave her two main characters opposing views on the practice, as that let her give voice to both sides of the controversial issue. Personally, I thought that was handled very well.

At first I was a little concerned about that aspect of the story. I mean, even though dragons are fictional, I love them and don’t want to see them harmed.

I also enjoyed the characters so much and the mystery that ran throughout. Zarela was a great character to follow and the dynamic between her and Arturo gave the story just the right amount of humor and romance.

Finally, I really loved how this wrapped-up. I am more of a series girl, overall, as I feel some standalones leave me wanting more, but I was so pleased with the way this concluded. I walk away a happy girl!

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

I can’t wait to read more from Isabel Ibañez!!

View all my reviews

Review: Cherish Farrah by Bethany C. Morrow

Cherish FarrahCherish Farrah by Bethany C. Morrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Farrah and Cherish are best friends. They’re also the only two Black girls in their country club community. The girls bonded quite deeply around the 4th-grade. Now at 17, they’re closer than ever.

Due to her parent’s recent financial woes, Farrah’s family is in a bit of an upheaval. Thus, she spends the majority of her time at Cherish’s house. They have everything they could possibly want there and Cherish’s adoptive White parents treat Farrah like a second daughter.

Farrah deserves this luxurious life just as much as Cherish and if her parents can’t provide it for her, she’s not afraid to get it elsewhere.

Regardless of all that static though, Farrah really loves Cherish. Doesn’t she?

Told in a stream of consciousness narrative style from Farrah’s perspective, the Reader gets to be a fly on the wall observing this unique and possibly codependent friendship.

Disturbing and tense, I really enjoyed my time reading Cherish Farrah. I’m not quite sure why the rating is so low for this one, but I am happy to be an outlier.

I won’t claim to have understood all the nuance included within these pages, but I don’t think I need too in order to appreciate the care and commitment Morrow poured into this story.

I have previously read A Song Below Water and A Chorus Rises by Morrow and enjoyed both of those as well. I feel like the writing style is quite similar over the three novels, but obviously with this one being Social Horror, the tone is quite different.

This one is definitely more in my lane than the previous two.

I would certainly classify this as a slow burn, but to me, it pays off. I was uneasy the whole way through, which frankly is a vibe I tend to enjoy. I wasn’t sure who to trust. I kept flipping between the girls.

You can tell something is off, but who is causing that feeling? Is it Farrah, or is it Cherish? It was impossible for me to tell. It actually got a little stressful if I’m being honest. That just shows how invested I was. I felt it.

I also enjoyed the way Morrow explored race and privilege in this one. The dynamics of the characters families and relationships provided plenty of room for her to roam in that regard. I don’t think I have ever read anything quite like it.

I would recommend this to people who enjoy Social Horror, or uneasy feeling narratives in general. Stick it out and I think you’ll enjoy it. I certainly did!

Thank you to the publisher, Dutton Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it so much.

I’m such a fan of Bethany C. Morrow and will continue to pick up anything she writes!

View all my reviews

Review: I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

I Kissed Shara WheelerI Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

After being unexpectedly kissed by her only rival for valedictorian, Alabama High School Senior, Chloe Green’s life begins to unravel.

Shara Wheeler, the kissing bandit, then disappears, leaving nothing but a series of cryptic clues in her wake.

Chloe isn’t the only student being dragged along on this unconventional scavenger hunt. She’s also not the only person Shara Wheeler kissed.

Joining Chloe on this misadventure are Shara’s long-time boyfriend, hunky football player, Smith, as well as Shara’s bad boy neighbor, Rory, who has been crushing on the girl next door for years.

After the trio discovers the game includes them all, they put whatever petty grudges they may hold aside and begin to work together.

It’s a wild ride. Shara must have been planning this for months. It’s intricate and over-the-top.

Chloe becomes so obsessed with getting to the truth that she ends up neglecting her other relationships; her best friends that have been there for her all throughout high school. Will Chloe be able to mend those fences by graduation?

This novel is Casey McQuiston’s first foray into the YA space. Obviously, not a challenge for her; absolutely seamless. She kept her signature, lovable, heart-warming, sweet, sentimental, funny style all whilst keeping it relatable and applicable to a younger audience.

As for me, I’m all for snarky, funny, chaotic self-discovery, so I Kissed Shara Wheeler was a great fit for my tastes!!

I loved getting to know all of these characters. They were each well developed and had their own challenges that they were working through. Throughout it all, watching their interactions unfold was a lot of fun.

Chloe grows and learns so much about herself just through the process of trying to figure out Shara’s game. Chloe starts to recognize some blind spots she may have had over the course of her high school tenure.

Overall, this was a delightful read. It’s fun, smart and explores some important topics. It’s clear McQuiston delivers no matter what age group she is writing for.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me copies to read and review. I am already highly anticipating whatever McQuiston comes up with next!!

View all my reviews