Review: Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz

Anatomy: A Love StoryAnatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 1817-Edinburgh, Hazel Sinnett’s desire to be a surgeon is far from the norm. Seriously, a woman being a surgeon?

It’s true. It was the times. Women of a certain standing were meant to look pretty, take on inconsequential hobbies, be quiet and care for a husband and household.

Hazel isn’t interested in all that, but unfortunately, she knows the realities of her circumstance. In order to protect her position within society, she will need to be married.

In a way, Hazel is lucky. She’s been betrothed to her cousin Bertrand since the two were children. They’ve known each other forever and get along quite well.

Hazel feels that Bertrand may even learn to understand her passion with anatomy and helping people. At least that is what she hopes.

Jack Currer is a resurrection man, digging up recently deceased bodies and selling them to doctors and anatomists within the city.

It’s a dangerous job, but when Jack’s main source of income, his position at a local theater, gets taken away due to circumstances outside of his control, he has no other choice. Jack doesn’t come from wealth and has no family nest to crawl back into.

When their mutual arts of dealing with the dead bring them into contact with one another, Jack and Hazel are each set on a new course that will change their lives.

Anatomy: A Love Story reminded me a lot of my time spent with Down Comes the Night last year. Not because of its content, but because of its darkly gothic vibe that pleasantly took me by surprise.

I really enjoyed this. It had just the right ‘romance to darker bits’ ratio for my taste.

There is mystery, intrigue and a very slow-burn romance. Jack and Hazel are from different worlds, but together they work. They support one another in a way that neither of them have ever experienced before.

It was so comfortable watching their relationship blossom. It seriously filled my heart.

Another strong comparison would be to Stalking Jack the Ripper. Again, not so much for the content, but for the overall vibe.

Hazel is compelling, she doesn’t back down to convention. I always love that. Jack has a good heart in spite of his chosen profession. We stan a bad boy with a heart of gold. They shouldn’t work, but you know you’re going to root for them.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I was really impressed with this and look forward to reading more from Dana Schwartz.

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Review: Seven Dirty Secrets by Natalie D. Richards

Seven Dirty SecretsSeven Dirty Secrets by Natalie D. Richards
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

One caused the fall. One did nothing.
One saw it all. One didn’t care.
One used their head. One played the hero.
One was left for dead.

Reading the above at the beginning of the synopsis for Seven Dirty Secrets, I knew I had to get my hands on it.

I see something like that and automatically want to know all the scandalous details. In short, if someone has a secret, I want to know all about it.

Natalie D. Richards kicks this one off immediately. In the very first chapter you a diving into the drama. I really appreciated that.

We follow 18-year old, Cleo, who on her birthday receives a hella creepy invitation to participate in a scavenger hunt.

At first, although the initial placing of the first clue was scary for her, Cleo believes that perhaps her best friend, Hope, or her brother, Conner, are behind it.

However, when they both vehemently deny having anything to do with the hunt, she is forced to consider other culprits.

Cleo’s given a weekend to solve all the clues, or a deep dark secret of hers will be revealed. A secret that involves the drowning death of her boyfriend, Declan, the previous year on a rafting trip.

Cleo puts her head down and digs in, determined to solve this mystery, before it is too late for her and the rest of her friend group.

As mentioned above, Richards wastes no time getting into the nitty-gritty of this story. Cleo discovers the first clue within moments of the story beginning.

After that, it is non-stop action until the bitter end.

While the synopsis of this seems absolutely up my alley, I can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed this reading experience.

I listened to the audiobook on a road trip over Thanksgiving holiday and had to push myself to get through it. The narrator just did not work for me. Frankly, it was painful.

It felt so forced, with zero expression. The voices for the male characters, wow. I would have preferred she read their dialogue in her regular voice than the ones she was putting on.

Further, anytime there was any excitement in the narrative, where someone would be shouting, or freaking out, it felt like she was reading it out loud in her apartment and didn’t want her neighbors to hear what she was doing.

With this being said, I can’t really blame the narrative style completely. There were parts of this story that I found repetitive and I didn’t care for any of the characters.

While I don’t need to like characters in order to enjoy a story, I at least need to be invested in their outcome. I just don’t feel like I ever relaxed enough into this one in order to feel that for them. I think I was too distracted by everything else going on.

This is a solid premise and Richards does a great job of keeping the pace steady throughout. I wish I could have connected with it more, but just because I didn’t, doesn’t mean you won’t.

If this synopsis sounds intriguing to you, absolutely give it a shot. A hard copy could end up being one of your favorite books of the year!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dreamscape Media, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my honest opinions.

Even though this one didn’t hit like I wanted it to, I will absolutely continue to pick up Richards future work.

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Review: The Violent Season by Sara Walters

The Violent SeasonThe Violent Season by Sara Walters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

There’s a local legend in the town of Wolf Ridge, Vermont, that every November its citizens are struck with a sudden hunger for violence.

Wyatt Green knows first hand that its more than a legend; it’s true. Last November her mother was brutally murdered in their home and the culprit was never found.

Wyatt, who was the first to find the body, has been living with the shock and grief ever since.

But there is more in Wyatt’s life causing her emotional stress and grief than her mother’s untimely death. There’s also her relationship with the cute and volatile, Cash.

He’s the bad boy who swept into her life and became a sort of obsession. She doesn’t know who she is without him and no matter what happens between them, she is still drawn to him. She has to be near him.

After getting paired with Cash’s nemesis, Porter, for a school project, however, Wyatt’s outlook begins to change.

The closer she gets to Porter, the more her past seems to come into focus, including her relationship with Cash. Has she been wrong about him all along?

As the violent season deepens, the truth about Wyatt’s mom also comes to light, forcing her to face her own dark reality.

If this sounds a little bleak to you, you’re not wrong. It is, but it’s also addictive. I listened to the audiobook and once I started, I couldn’t stop.

It tackles some fairly serious topics, including toxic/abusive relationships and drug/alcohol abuse, so if you feel those could be triggering for you, please tread with caution.

Overall, I would equate this to a Lifetime movie, or one of those old After-School Specials. There’s nothing super groundbreaking about it, but while you are reading it, it will capture your attention and should keep you entertained.

I liked it. It’s definitely a good story. I think for some Readers, who may have experienced certain things similar to Wyatt, it could be even more impactful.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dreamscape Media, for providing me with an audio-copy. I would definitely read more from Sara Walters.

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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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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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