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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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: 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 Dead Boyfriend (Fear Street Relauch #5) by R.L. Stine

The Dead Boyfriend (Fear Street Relaunch, #5)The Dead Boyfriend by R.L. Stine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

The Dead Boyfriend tells a story of teenage love infatuation gone terribly wrong.

Caitlin falls for Blade, the mysterious new boy, at first sight. She can’t believe her luck when he seems to be into her too. Like really, really into her.

They fall hard and fast, like many first loves do. Caitlin couldn’t be happier. That is until the night Blade cancels a date with her and she catches him out with another girl.

Caitlin confronts him, but he acts like she means nothing to him. She can’t believe it. How can he do this to her!?

Unable to let it go, she heads to his house to wait for him to return at the end of the night. When Blade arrives, he is acting completely normally, like nothing happened. It’s like their blowout didn’t affect him at all.

Caitlin sees red. Literally, on her hands. Blood. Blade is dead and she’s to blame.

Told mostly through a quasi-epistolary format, with the majority of the novel being presented as Caitlin’s diary entries, this story gets real wild.

In addition to the craziness with Blade, who make no mistake, doesn’t stop bother Caitlin just because he dies, there’s also her bizarre interactions with Deena Fear, of the infamous Fear family.

While I didn’t enjoy this story quite as much as I enjoyed, The Lost Girl, it is still a fun Teen Scream.

Brittany Pressley is the absolute PERFECT person to narrate these new Relaunch audiobooks. She is so believable as these characters; I am really caught up by her voice.

Overall, this is a solid YA-Horror; exactly what you would expect from a Fear Street book. The nostalgia is real!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to listen to. I had so much fun hearing Caitlin’s story and am looking forward to more Fear Street Relaunch audiobooks!!!

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Review: The Lost Girl (Fear Street Relaunch #3) by R.L. Stine

The Lost Girl (Fear Street Relaunch, #3)The Lost Girl by R.L. Stine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh my goodness, what a great listening experience. The Lost Girl is a super fun audiobook!

I felt all the nostalgia, all the chills, all the hilarious wacky over-the-top, spine-tingling teen horror moments…

The Lost Girl is part of the six-book Fear Street Relaunch that was released between 2014 and 2017. I believe this is the first time it has ever been released in audiobook format.

In this story, a new student has arrived at Shadyside High. Lizzy is gorgeous, mysterious and seems to have her sights set on popular student, Michael.

Michael doesn’t know what to think of Lizzy. Sure, she’s odd, but she just moved here and she doesn’t have any friends, they can at least be nice to her.

Michael’s girlfriend, Pepper, has a lot more to say about the Lizzy situation and it’s not good. However, Lizzy is still able to infiltrate their friend group, mostly due to Michael’s kindness.

During an afternoon of snowmobiling together, there’s a horrific accident. After which the group of teens make a decision that ultimately comes back to haunt them.

They begin to feel hunted and before long, bodies start dropping. Although many in the group believe the snowmobile accident is the cause of all their troubles, Pepper thinks Lizzy may be behind everything. Who’s right?

This is the present perspective. There is also a past perspective, a horrific murder from 1950 that seems to be tied to the current tragedies.

As the past and present perspectives begin to come together, the terrifying truth is revealed. Shadyside is a complex town with a long history of violence and mysterious happenings. This story is just one example of how crazy it can get!

I had so much fun reading this story. I haven’t read a Fear Street book in over 20-years and this definitely brought back a lot of nostalgia for me.

I think the audiobook format is an incredible way to take in this fun, fast-paced story. There are two narrators, one for the past perspective and one for Michael’s present perspective.

While both were great, the narrator for Michael’s perspective, Dan Bittner, really stole the show for me.

He put so much energy into his reading. I was on the edge of my seat. I was so engaged. I was literally exclaiming things randomly out loud while listening. I just couldn’t help it! It was fantastic.

I have two more Fear Street Relaunch audibooks to listen to soon, The Dead Boyfriend and Give Me a K-I-L-L, so stay tuned for those reviews!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. It was such a good time and I am really looking forward to getting to the others. I know a lot of Readers are really going to enjoy these audiobooks!!!

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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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Review: Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw

Mina and the UndeadMina and the Undead by Amy McCaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up **

🦇🖤🦇🖤🦇🖤🦇🖤🦇🖤🦇🖤🦇🖤🦇

Shortly after arriving in New Orleans, 17-year old, Mina, can already tell it will be a summer she’ll never forget.

She’s there to visit her estranged sister, Libby, who moved from their hometown, Whitby, in England, to New Orleans the prior year.

After their mother abandoned them, Mina and Libby went to live with their uninterested Aunt. When Libby left as well, Mina felt completely alone.

Mina is hoping that this summer with give the two of them a chance to talk about everything that’s happened and repair their relationship. After all, sisters are for life.

Their first stop is the Horror Mansion at which Libby works. The good news is, Libby has gotten Mina a chance to audition for a job there as well.

Fairly quickly after that, Mina is introduced to all of the people in her sister’s new life. Her girlfriend, Della, roommates, Jared and Lucas and her boss, Thandie.

At the conclusion of her audition for a position in the interactive walking tour of the Horror Mansion, Mina tries to find the girl she is supposed to hand her costume off to.

Mina discovers the girl’s very dead and mutilated body in the attic of the Mansion. She screams, chaos ensues.

When Libby becomes a suspect for that murder and others, Mina teams up with her new crush, Jared, to try to clear her sister’s name.

The two discover a dark underworld around them that ties to some of New Orleans oldest and scariest legends.

This was such a fun, nostalgic treat for my horror-loving heart! The vibe is campy, teenage horror, like Buffy, or The Lost Boys.

I live for that kind of story, as it takes me back to a time when life was simple, hair was big and vampires were real.

This story is full of classic horror tropes and 90s-pop culture. If you are looking for a light, easy, nostalgic read, I definitely recommend picking this one up.

While it’s not a perfect story, I think if you are in the right head space, it can be a hell of a good time. It certainly was for me!!

So, grab your butterfly clips, your VHS tapes, your wooden stakes and pick up a copy today.

I am really excited to see what Amy McCaw comes up with next! This is a super solid debut!!

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Review: Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters

Ghost Wood SongGhost Wood Song by Erica Waters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Mood. This book is a mood and I loved it!!

Shady Grove is a fiddle-playing high school girl, who has been struggling a bit since her father’s untimely death.

Her mother has since remarried and her step-dad, Jim, has a contentious relationship with Shady’s older brother, Jesse. This makes life at home far from peaceful.

Shady finds respite practicing her fiddle in the woods surrounding their trailer. At least for a while.

She’s also in a band with her best friends, Sarah and Orlando. While Shady enjoys playing with them, she really wants to play just bluegrass, the music she was raised on, but they have a different opinion; especially Sarah.

Making matters worse is the fact that Shady and Sarah were an almost couple. It never ended up happening and now it feels like there is a giant elephant in the room every time they are together.

When they compete in an open mic night and a boy in a rival band catches Shady’s eye, it seems like things may finally explode with Sarah.

Shady hardly has time to focus on that however, when something much more serious happens.

Her brother, Jesse, gets arrested; accused of murder.

Shady recognizes her brother has a temper and he admittedly, hasn’t been in the best place mentally as of late, but she also knows he could never do this.

Remembering the stories her father used to tell her, how he could channel spirits by playing his fiddle, Shady decides there’s only one thing for her to do.

She needs to find her Dad’s old fiddle and raise the spirit of the person Jesse is said to have killed. That way she can ask him what happened to him and use that knowledge to help free Jesse. Sounds fairly simple, right?

This novel has so many elements that I traditionally love.

There’s the storyline featuring music and musicians, a murder, a haunted old farmhouse, long-buried family secrets, a beautifully-constructed love triangle for our bi-girl protagonist and a haunting, gritty setting.

Tie all of this together with Erica Waters exceptional writing, how could I not absolutely love this story?

I was drawn in from the very start. Some of her descriptions of music, what it is like playing music, the way it can overtake your body; gahhhhhh, it was so well done.

The murder mystery was interesting and just added another level to an already intriguing tale.

Additionally, I loved how Waters weaved in the lore surrounding Shady’s family and their obviously haunted property. Shady’s Aunt Ena was one of my favorite characters.

Then there’s the overriding grief that permeates this entire story. It’s morose, it’s lyrical, it’s so many wonderful things.

I do recognize this story will not be for everyone, but for me and my tastes, it was close to perfection. I would respectfully and lovingly refer to this as a type of Hillbilly Noir. It’s enchanting and I can’t get enough of it.

I cannot wait to check out more of this author’s work! If I love any of it half as much as this one, I will be a happy girl.

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Review: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Harrow LakeHarrow Lake by Kat Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes the truth is scarier than the nightmare.

When Lola Nox was just 5-years old, her Mom ran off, abandoning Lola to be raised by her famous, Horror movie director father, Nolan.

They have a strange, strained relationship. Lola often feels like a bird in a cage; a pet, for Nolan to trot out to impress industry people and the press.

As Lola becomes a teenager, she begins to battle more against Nolan’s strict control over her life.

Their relationship is contentious, but when Lola returns to their NYC apartment one evening and finds Nolan bleeding out after a brutal attack, she is devastated.

She needs him to be okay. He’s all she has. Adding to her stress, Larry, her Father’s long-time assistant tells her it would be best for her to go stay with her maternal grandmother while Nolan is in the hospital recovering.

Lola can’t believe it. She’s never even met her Grandmother; she doesn’t want to go stay with her, but Larry is insistent that it is what Nolan would want. And Nolan gets what he wants.

Thus, Lola is shipped off to Harrow Lake, her Mom, Lorelei’s, hometown.

It also happens to be the town where her parents met. The town where her father shot his most iconic slasher film, Nightjar, in which her Mom played the starring role of Littlebird.

Immediately upon arrival at her Grandmother’s, the story transforms in vibe into an atmospheric, suspenseful and eerie tale.

I was constantly on edge, waiting for the truth of Harrow Lake and Lorelei to be revealed.

This felt like a classic-80s Horror flick. It had one of my favorite tropes, with the main character ending up in a small town where everyone is acting strangely and they are stuck there.

The town lore and traditions were super messed up, but nobody but Lola seemed to notice. Even the friends she made there seemed untrustworthy.

But is Lola trustworthy? I was scratching my head the entire way, definitely anxious for the conclusion.

I liked this a lot. It was fun and had some pulse-pounding, creepy as heck moments. I can see that this story won’t be for everyone, but I think die hard fans of this genre will have a good time with it.

I definitely plan to pick up more books by Kat Ellis! Well done.

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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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